GHP July 2016

ghp July 2016 | 63 Education, HR & Skills As discussed in our new book, Working with Mindfulness (Pearson, 2016) the shift towards compassion in business can be summed up on a macro level by looking at how we can ensure that our businesses are thriving rather than simply surviving. There are many companies now using compassionate and co-operative practices, pioneering a ‘new wave’ of intelligent and sustainable business, amongst these are several football clubs, food retailers, farming groups, fashion companies, banks, tourism companies – in fact practically all sectors are represented from large corporations to small community initiatives. The reasons behind this move to encompass compassion at work are very much connected to theories about happiness, well-being and productivity. Compassionate companies are getting the best from their teams by creating happier employees, who feel cared about and acknowledged as valued members of their team, tend to be more loyal to their companies, willingly to work harder and longer hours, and to take less time off for stress-related illnesses. All these benefits are clearly good for business and reap huge economic rewards and increased profit margins. In addition, compassionate management sends a ‘top-down’ message through the company structure by modelling behaviours and company values to more junior staff who tend to emulate this. This really asks of teams to begin thinking of themselves as responsible, co-operative communities, to consider which values they wish to foster and how these align to the values of their company and work policies and practices. But it also calls for other significant practices and areas to be made a priority in the workplace. Compassion at work means acknowledging the suffering of humanity and making the intention to alleviate this through sustained and courageous behaviours that challenge ignorance, complacency and impulsive reactiveness; these behaviours are characterised by the qualities of: 1. Kindness – towards self and others; relinquishing reactive criticism in favour of patience, understanding and empathy. 2. Common humanity – recognising the intrinsic reality of shared human experience and suffering and seeing this as a potential strength to creating connected cohesive communities. 3. Mindfulness - Becoming aware of and practicing acceptance towards our experiences as they arise in the ‘here and now’ so that we can be compassionate towards ‘what is’ moment to moment (giving rise to authenticity, presence of mind and insight). If you are willing to accept, or even remain curious about, the theory of compassionate business for excelling as a team, including the copious amounts of research (too much to go into in this article but see our book and others) that back it up, then maybe you would also like to try some practice. If you are a sceptic, utterly convinced or only mildly interested, fine, why not try an experiment and make up your own mind? Consider the benefits you see in yourself and your co-workers when you try the following for at least a week, preferably a month, using the acronym W.A.R.M: When you next need to respond to a colleague at work with (more) compassion if something goes a little awry, gets a bit tense or you find yourself feeling irritable, try to follow these steps: W = Wait a moment before you respond to watch your breath mindfully, just follow one breath in and out through the mouth or nostrils, noticing the chest rise and fall and the belly contracting and expanding. You do not need to breathe in any ‘special’ way, or clear your mind of thoughts or try to block any feelings – just allow yourself to have a brief pause and a space to connect to the present moment as fully as you can. A = Accept that mistakes happen. Your colleague is as human as you are and, just like you, they have their limitations. Nobody is perfect. R = Relate to your colleague and empathise with them by ‘putting yourself in their shoes’. Empathising like this, and recalling that we all have imperfections and failings, helps foster greater forgiveness. You still don’t need to like, approve of or sanction the problem, but you may find that you can feel some common humanity and this may in turn help you to regulate your emotion and to feel less stressed. M = Mirror what you understand and what you have perceived about the situation and/or their predicament (remembering this is just one possible perspective). For instance you might say ‘I can see/hear/imagine why you would be so upset/angry/confused about the situation’. From this position of compassion, empathy and acknowledgement you will be in a stronger position to collaborate on finding a way forward from the problem together. Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel are the authors of Working with Mindfulness. It is out now, published by Pearson, priced £13.99