Business leaders ask: How can we bring more compassion and mindfulness into our workplaces?
On May 22, a leading wealth management firm in Seattle called Brighton Jones hosted a first-of-its-kind event in downtown Seattle – “Compassion and Mindfulness at Work” – spearheaded by the company’s Director of Compassion. Yes, you read that right! Cory Custer is Director of Compassion for Brighton Jones; he took my CCT class in 2017 and is intent on building a network of businesspeople working on these issues to learn from one another. The event asked attendees – 40-plus business leaders, HR professionals, coaches, and consultants with some of the most successful companies in the greater Seattle area – to put on their thinking caps and generate ideas to create more compassionate and mindful workplaces.
“The first step is to meet people where they’re at, looking at employees as individuals with a life outside of work, a family, and loved ones to take care of, and acknowledging their need to make sure their family has a home, food, and feels safe.”
I facilitated one of the group discussions, aimed at surfacing specific practices, structures or initiatives that might bring more compassion/mindfulness and asking “What would be the first step?”
One entrepreneur shared about her new business, a car detailing facility. She said that the first step is to meet people where they’re at, looking at employees as individuals with a life outside of work, a family, and loved ones to take care of, and acknowledging their need to make sure their family has a home, food, and feels safe.
Another attendee, an HR professional for a consulting group, offered that it was important to “bring the practices into life [outside of work],” while another pondered: “How do we sneak in the practices under the ‘wellbeing’ umbrella without being perceived as too woo-woo? Is there enough research out there? Can we still check the emotions at the door if we introduce these practices?”
A mindfulness coach wondered under what circumstances it is safe to introduce compassion practices and whether the corporate world believes there is enough data to back them.
A building group director described his company’s practice of starting every meeting with 5 minutes of a guided meditation, followed by each sharing something for which they’re grateful.
A real estate professional with a good sense of humor said that when dealing with difficult people, he reminds himself: “I don’t want this SOB to occupy my mind rent-free.”
A particularly inspiring moment was when a participant described a practice that Cory utilizes when confronted with a repetitive task of, say, inputting information on all 140 employees at Brighton Jones – or any tedious task he’s been stalling on for some time. Cory pauses to reflect on how to get through it with less frustration, sets aside ample time for the task, and with every new name visualizes the person in front of him and offers something like: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease…” The frustration melts away and the exercise of common humanity gives meaning and purpose to the task.
As CCT teachers, we may sometimes find our work a little daunting and draining. We hear and absorb the stories of overwhelmed parents, overworked healthcare providers, and depleted teachers. We witness the mental and physical penalties incurred by people trapped in a toxic environment, and we wish more corporate leaders would embrace compassion and mindfulness. It is hopeful to know that in the competitive, often cutthroat business world there is an emerging desire to make it more human, more mindful, and more compassionate.
It is hopeful to know that in the competitive, often cutthroat business world there is an emerging desire to make it more human, more mindful, and more compassionate.
Finally, here’s the copy for Brighton Jones’s invitation to the event, in case you’re inspired to create such an event yourself: Compassion & Mindfulness at Work is a gathering motivated by the question: How might we bring more compassion and mindfulness into our workplaces? Come and join business leaders, consultants and others who work with and for some of the most successful companies in the greater Seattle area to share ideas, opportunities and learning about this important question. Through a series of facilitated conversations and presentations, this event aims to leave attendees feeling motivated and empowered to bring more compassion and mindfulness to their workplaces. Please join us to begin building a community of professionals interested in helping to inspire more conscious and sustainable workplaces.