Is Mindfulness a Leadership Fad?

Are mindfulness programs a leadership fad?

This is the time of year when leadership teams announce new professional development programs and formulate their offsite planning agendas. Many companies are jumping on the bandwagon with Target, McKinsey, Royal Bank of Canada, and Google to incorporate mindfulness programs into their curriculum.

Is Mindfulness a Leadership Fad?

Sadly, mindfulness is dangerously close to joining the ranks of “corporate buzzword bingo.” Think back to the early days of LEAN, Six Sigma, Solution Selling, and the Total Quality Movement. While they have helped many entrepreneurs and corporate leaders move forward, many have simply run out of gas. They are now ridiculed as leadership fads.

Corporate mindfulness training has over-promised and under-delivered for a variety of reasons, which I outline in my latest FastCompany post. The primary causes are that they are too internally focused and poorly defined. Perhaps worse still, they are often divorced from most companies’ approach to a precious commodity: their customers.

In my post, I offer 5 guidelines to help you prevent mindfulness training from becoming a “flavor of the month” leadership fad. You can read it here.

I want to avoid painting a gloomy picture of mindfulness. Some leaders are getting it right. For example, Bill George, a seasoned board member, former Medtronic CEO, and bestselling author of Discover Your True North, can explain its benefits and seamlessly incorporates mindfulness into his daily life. He shared his perspective on self-awareness while speaking at the Mindful Leadership Summit last month: “I’m most worried when board members are more concerned about what people think about them, versus the impact they have on society. “ George brilliantly frames mindfulness as a gateway to self-awareness, not an end in itself.

All is not doom and gloom. I believe it is possible to change course with today’s mindfulness programs—to prevent them from becoming a leadership fad. Start with questioning your commitment to clarifying, codifying, and improving your customers’—and society’s—experience. When you take a holistic view, your teams will breathe more easily.

Is your company integrating mindfulness into your development curriculum? How has it been received? I’d love to hear in your comments below.

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Copyright 2015, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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