Can mindfulness transform your business?

Herb Carver on Mindfulness

There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there who run their businesses using older modalities and ways of thinking, and then there are entrepreneurs who know they need to be doing something different to transform their business, but perhaps aren’t sure what that is.

Mindfulness might just be the answer.

Herb Carver, President and Founder of Point Above Consulting, hopes to help businesses and individuals overcome obstacles and transform their lives and careers positively through mindfulness just as he has.

One thing that makes him unique in the world of life-coaching is his firm belief in guiding top-level executives through mindful performance, and his background in risk and crisis management that makes him particularly adept to dealing with the sudden changes that come with life.

Carver is based in Louisiana, and works with local businesses, as well as travels to offer presentations, training workshops, one on one coaching and more. He offers professional coaching and leadership development services to top managers, executives and entrepreneurs through leadership and mindfulness skills to help them experience significant increases in strategic focus, resilience and performance.

In this interview Herb talks to me about mindfulness in business.

How did you get started consulting companies on their mindfulness?

I’m an executive coach with a focus on high potential individuals performing leadership roles within their organizations. These leaders might be C-Suite executives, presidents, board members, senior executives, and management team members but are often key talent from elsewhere in the organization. I work with them and their organizations, one-on-one and in groups, in a thought-provoking and creative framework that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. And these relationships allow for a degree of observation – trends, behaviors, habits that are counterproductive (sometimes downright destructive) and yet alarmingly commonplace.

Hands down, the most common is living in a state of continuous partial attention – running on automatic, tending to the next item without significant awareness of what they are doing. Most seem to have accepted it. They seem to believe that this is just the way it is – living in a fast-paced, information driven, treadmill of work and life. And a good many seem to understand the toll remaining on the treadmill extorts. Still, they remain convinced that staying on is the only way they can accomplish their goals and even the thought of changing things seems too risky in relation to the responsibilities that we all carry. There is an alternative, of course – a way to step off the treadmill and get more accomplished, be more effective, achieve goals.

All of that being said, I’m seldom expressly announce that I’m providing mindfulness training as I’m doing so. Instead, I simply attempt to live my life as mindfully as I can and exemplify the behavior that is lacking. Most every client identifies the difference in our engagement in the first few moments, and over time we work on extending this connection into other areas of work and life.

The simple truth is I’m hired to make an impact, to increase awareness, and to better enable others to live the lives they desire. Mindful coaching encourages, challenges, clarifies, and listens to the “whole person” and is very effective in producing these results.

What kinds of companies do you usually work with? 

When it comes to size, industry, and market served, I really work with a wide variety of companies. What they tend to share in common is a desire to break through the barriers that they feel are currently holding them back so that they can reach a new level of performance. Many of them have something urgent, compelling or exciting at stake and I help them clarify (and sometimes discover) what they want to achieve and the solutions and strategies to get there.

What are the benefits of being more mindful in business?

Mindfulness has been clinically proven to help people build personal resources that are key to success and fulfillment such as managing their stress, remaining engaged and objective, being responsive rather than reactive, inspiring more innovation and creativity, showing compassion to themselves and others, and building trust with their colleagues and other stakeholders. In short, mindfulness contributes to increased performance.

Mindfulness does not change the world around us; it just changes how the world around us influences us and how we, in turn, influence the world. Mindfulness changes our relationship to our own lives. And in business that translates to better decision-making, increased engagement, and more effective performance.

How can a small business owner take their business to the next level using mindfulness techniques?

Like the vast majority of us, business owners have grown accustomed to never-ending busy-ness – the revolving door of meetings, emails, and calls – that encourages them to function in a partly attentive state most of time (and completely inattentive some of the time). Instead of searching for an effective alternative, most believe that this is what it’s supposed to be like – a fast-paced, distraction-filled world we live in. And that if we were to stop, or even slow-down, we would somehow be left behind.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is about being fully present – it’s about attending to the here and now, without being lost in thoughts about the past, or fantasies about the future – so the immediate and most noticeable gains come from eliminating those behaviors that hold us back. Consider these two:

First: stop multi-tasking. The idea that partially doing two things at once somehow makes us more effectual is absurd and the vast body of research on multi-tasking suggests that it’s neither effective, nor efficient. We miss experiencing a good portion of our own life because of a 24/7 attachment to devices that were ironically designed to keep us connected. A cursory look at the Fortune 100 will provide rules prohibiting the use of cell phones, tablets and laptops in meetings. Follow their lead; turn things off, set things down, and get engaged.

Second: Listen. Observe. Attend to events, emotions, and other behavioral responses, without trying to stop them when they are painful or prolong them when they are pleasant. When listening to others speak, for example, there is a natural tendency to begin formulating questions that often serve as more of a rebuttal. Instead, try to spend an entire day only allowing yourself to ask clarifying questions – questions that help the speaker better refine their position – without expressing your own opinion or getting entangled in debate.

Mindfulness practice improves your ability to be less immediately reactive (a skill that is essential in many business situations). It gives you a chance to take whatever time is needed before you react.

What's one piece of advice you have for a business owner who needs to be more mindful but doesn't know where to start?

The self-serving answer is to hire a coach – and that would certainly get things headed in the right direction – but I imagine that you’re after a bit more practical advice here. LOL. There are so many places to start – perhaps I can offer a general answer that most everyone can put to immediate use.

To get the most out of this exercise, eliminate all distraction for the next 10 minutes. You’ll want to get away from the computer or tablet, turn your cell phone off, and close your door. Just sit comfortably someplace with your own good company and ask yourself this question: What is it that I most want to get out of my business/career?

Just talk to yourself for a few minutes and really describe it to yourself. When you feel like you have it, set that answer aside for a moment. Now ask yourself the question again. What other answer comes to mind? Explore a little more with yourself until you have another good answer. And when you do, set that answer aside for a moment and ask the question again. Go deeper and see what you discover.

Of course several things can result from this. Perhaps you get to some new thoughts – a clearer understanding on what it is that you want. Or it may be difficult or uncomfortable to come up with three, successively deeper answers to what you want out of doing what you do. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with either – neither outcome indicates anything at all. The point of the exercise is simply to hold a question in ambiguity for a while. To sit with the idea that you don’t have to have all the answers – you don’t have to have every next step figured out – just be here, engaged with yours goals without judgment.

P.S. If you’re an action person, the follow-up questions are: what is one thing I can do today to make progress towards this want? What are the things I’m doing today that are preventing me from making progress toward this want? (And if this answer is “getting back to doing exactly what I was doing before I took this pause” then maybe go back to the first question again and look a little more.)

For more information about mindfulness in business, check out Point Above Consulting.

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