Jon's Blog

8 November 2013

Why are big companies turning to Mindfulness?

Posted by Jon Treanor

Mindfulness. That’s got to be a load of mumbo-jumbo, right? Well, I thought it was too until I spent eight days in silence at a monastery for a BBC TV series called The Big Silence in 2009. That’s when I went from a successful business workaholic to a man who’d found the answer to work stress and personal unhappiness.

OK. I can tell you still think it’s mumbo-jumbo! But let’s start at the beginning: what is Mindfulness and why do companies including Google, AOL, Astra Zeneca and General Mills, the company behind Cheerios cereal and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, think it’s a sensible way to help employees become more successful.

Mindfulness is a combination of eastern spiritual philosophies and its practice includes activities such as meditation and yoga. I know, it still sounds like New Age clap trap! But if you look at what it’s trying to tackle, and the amazing results you’ll get a better idea of why it’s so important in business and in your personal life.

In our daily lives we do 90 per cent of our activities on autopilot. We multi-task and before we’ve finished actually doing the first thing, our mind is on to the next one or the one after. Think about it. Where is your mind right now? You’re reading this article but you’re thinking about what you need to do next, aren’t you? And even if you don’t think you are, subconsciously your mind is playing with that to-do list in the background. It’s agitated, prodding you and rushing you along.

Our minds are incredibly easily distracted. They churn information at the speed of light. They’re always on the go. They never cease analysing the past. Anticipating the future. Planning. Worrying. Criticising. Judging. Our minds are never in the present. Never right now. Never in this precise moment. And that’s the problem. We’re so busy thinking about other things, other times, other places, other people, issues, ideas, that we never see what’s going on right now.

In business terms this is a massive problem. Imagine you own the Large Company of the UK - ACME UK, if you will. You’ve got 300k employees running around thinking about what to wear on Saturday night, what Andrew in Finance said about the departmental budget last week, what time to leave home for the business flight to Dubai, whether that piece of coding on the new system was implemented correctly and whether there’s enough cat food to last until the weekend. They are not concentrating on what they’re doing right now. And because they’re not concentrating, they will add the here-and-now activity to the other things they’ll worry about later. So you end up in a big stress loop. And this is not good for business.

Mindfulness is the answer. It helps ordinary people like you and me to live in the present. It slows us down. Makes us pay attention. Allows us to see things more clearly. Stops the autopilot. It helps us become aware of what we’re actually, physically, doing right now and also makes us aware of our own thoughts, feelings and emotions – and those of the people around us. It helps us stop reacting to things going on around us in a knee-jerk-response type way and allows us to respond more effectively to everything that’s happening. Crucially for many of us, it also allows us to stop judging ourselves and others and helps us to let go of negative thoughts.

In business terms this means people are concentrating fully on what they’re doing – which is pretty important! But it also lowers workplace tensions, helps reduce conflicts and improves communication. Mindfulness helps us become active listeners – people who are listening with both ears and 100 per cent of their brain. And one of the great things about Mindfulness is that once you’ve got rid of the excess brain activity, there’s much more space for innovative thought and creativity. Silicon Valley is a hotbed of Mindfulness and no one can accuse them of being anything other than supremely creative!

So what has Mindfulness done for me? Well, I am the former President and CEO of Celoxica PLC, one of the fastest growing University of Oxford spin-off companies. I am the Chairman of Conduit Partners and our clients include BAE Systems, Forensic Science Service, QinetiQ, Consensus Business Group, The Carbon Trust, Scottish Enterprise and Finance Wales. I was Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2001. I’m a high-achieving businessman. But in 2010, before I went for eight days of silence for the BBC series, I was constantly worried about the past and the future. I was not paying attention to the here and now.

The Big Silence changed my life. I’m now in my final year of training as a transpersonal psychotherapist and counsellor. I guide and mentor others in Mindfulness, I run training courses in the introduction to Mindfulness for businesses and employees and offer one-to-one Mindfulness mentoring to help high achievers to be the best they can be. My unique programme is based on research which proves Mindfulness can help turn round failing companies. And you know what? I’ve never, ever been happier!

If you would like to contact The Mindfulness Mentor call Jon on 07787 513205 or email jon@jontreanor.com


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