Purpose, decisions, behaviour – that is all!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A corporation can be viewed from many dimensions. Considering that it is a collective of humans, a corporate can be defined as an entity that has a purpose or a reason for existence, and that continues to take decisions that influence the behaviour of  human beings in that entity (slide 1).

These three can be arranged on a hierarchical basis with the purpose at the top and the behaviour at the bottom, which is the most visible of the three.

The existence of the corporation impacts itself and the environment in which it operates. The impacts can be internal as well as external and positive as well as negative. These are not mutually exclusive. Among the external positive impacts are economic and social benefits depending on the area it operates while the negative impacts can be environment pollution and corruption in the society by way of its operations.

The internal impacts will be felt by employees as motivation, meaning and satisfaction by working in the corporation the negative impact could be job related stress, and negative impact on human relationships and even occupational health issues (slide 2).

The sustainability of the corporate depends on how the positive impacts increase compared to negatives to all stakeholders or spaces.

The corporation does not have a conscience of its own. The conscience of the corporation is the sum total or the collective conscience of persons who are engaged in the decision making and acting as the corporation.

While society at large expects the corporate to act mostly in beneficial ways to all, most of the matrices that are being used to reward the leaders of the organisation not necessarily are in tandem with those expectations.

My hypothesis then is if we can introduce to the organisation three key value disciplines then such an organisation will develop an inherent system that is sustainable in the long term.

They are the universal principles of generosity, ethics and awareness. Though these essentially are qualities that seem operational only at individual level, I believe if and when more individuals embrace them the impact can be felt organisation wide (slide 3).

Generosity can be narrowly defined as giving with a view to reduce greed. But in a more holistic sense it is much more than that. If the mind has generosity it is a mind that has kindness and concern for the impact the organisation creates to its stakeholders. How the organisation treats its employees, what kind of products and services it engages in and how it impacts the environment, etc. will be of concern not merely from the compliance point of view but more from a responsibility point of view.

If it sounds very soft, then to practice and up hold ethics one has to be really strong. Strong enough to forego short-term gains for the long-term good. This is all about being ethical. Not to give in to the temptations of today disregarding the impact it can have tomorrow – even if you may be not there to reap the consequences. 

In order to lead and operate an organisation with these value systems it is essential is to be aware. That being the ability to look at what decisions the corporate takes objectively, without bias as much as possible. It is not only knowing but being able to use judgment immediately before taking action. This is a basic stage of mindfulness.

Various experiments done to make the space program successful have ended up as household products such as the handheld vacuum cleaner which is a result of the piece of equipment developed to collect stones from the surface of the moon. Similarly, mindfulness is part of the Buddha’s teachings towards a higher purpose but now it has found its way to many fields including management. 

For instance the Buddha has said, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of pain and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four foundations of mindfulness in the Maha Satipattana Sutta.

Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed by developing the right conditions that improves the innate ability to become aware, and become aware without any biases of like or dislike.

Though this is generally discussed without giving much reference to the ethics and generosity I would like to keep those aspects also in focus even in the context of applying mindfulness in the corporate setting.

What I propose is; if we can bring in the practice of mindfulness by the people within the corporation while cultivating a mind of generosity and adhering to ethics, then their mindfulness will go from strength to strength.

Since there is much written about how to practice mindfulness by individuals let me highlight key benefits that can be gained by the individuals and how they eventually impact the enterprise.

Focus – this is one of the worst affected human qualities in all aspects of life, not only the corporation. By learning to let go of mental objects the practitioner develops the ability to bring the attention back to the task at hand. This is an essential quality for better performance of the enterprise.

Observation – focus invariably improves the ability to observe. Observation is the essential prerequisite to identify trends, patterns, gaps, and phenomena that is essential in innovating.

Engagement – when the person works with high level of focus naturally that person gets better satisfaction and this leads to greater engagement with the organisation. It is well documented the benefits of engagement for corporate results and sustainability.

Communication – one of the biggest challenges corporation try to tackle is to ensure proper communication between individuals and across the organisation. The biggest barrier to communication is the lack of proper listening. Mindful listening will change this situation completely. Improved communication is the corner stone of better results.

Empathy – another casualty of the selfish work environment is the ability to empathise with fellow workers. When one is mindful and aware of own thoughts and feelings it is very easy to understand and share those of the other, in other words to empathise. This will certainly help improve organisational health.

Conflicts – those who practice mindfulness become aware very quickly of their own point of view and how it reacts to that of others. This paves the way to have less conflicts in the work place, thus improving performance because they spend more time doing things rather than fighting.

Happy employees – mindfulness practitioners know that happiness is a choice and not a state that is dependent upon external factors. Serious practitioners learn higher levels of happiness through their meditative experiences. These insights too help them see the transient nature of things thus the conditions that usually make the others unhappy do not affect them in the same manner.

Above positive benefits that can happen in the internal environment alone will position the corporation to a higher level of performance, and a higher level of consciousness. Such an organisation will always act ethically and responsibility.  Thus mindfulness coupled with generosity and ethics can provide a new blue print for the more responsible corporation to make decisions that affect behaviour. It is being proven that the newer generation of employees prefer such organisations, and customers of that generation are willing to pay a premium to do business with such organisations. Therefore it makes business sense to bring mindfulness to the heart of the corporation.

(This article is based on the presentation made by the author at the Global Mindfulness Summit 2018 held last week. The writer is an Author, Management Consultant, and Accredited Master Coach/Mentor. He can be reached via [email protected])

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