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Developing Leadership Skills – with Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence

Brief

An international airline overhaul and maintenance company wanted to develop the Leadership Skills of their Senior Management Team. Like many engineering managers, they were primarily ‘task focused’ and all emphasis to date had been on technical training. Yet, this team’s main responsibility and challenge was to lead and manage a complex mix of people, skills and interests, whose effectiveness was vital to success. Their role also required them to set the tone and create the necessary conditions so safety, problem solving & innovation could flourish. A further challenge was to manage themselves skillfully within the complex matrix reporting structure.

Shannon Aerospace Foto: Gregor SchlaegerShannon, Irland, 04.03.2008

Mindfulness at Work was invited to design and facilitate a Mindful Leadership & Emotional Intelligence programme. Research has shown that mindfulness is a foundational skill that underpins self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. These Emotional Intelligence domains predict leadership effectiveness, employee performance and organisational wellbeing. The programme devised provided a sequential pathway towards developing the competencies / skills of trusted leadership.

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Picture from Harvard Business Review, Feb 6 2017 (Emotional Intelligence has 12 competencies:
Which do you need to work on? Daniel Goleman & Richard Boyatzis)

The solution combined:

  1. Keynote Group Seminar to encourage participation and commitment
  2. Emotional Intelligence Assessments and personal feedback – ECR™
  3. Weekly group Mindfulness Training Tutorials over 8 sequential modules
  4. One full ‘retreat’ day offsite
  5. Daily mindfulness practice – 10 minutes
  6. 1 to 1 Executive coaching – 2 to 3 sessions for each manager
  7. Final evaluation.

Results

“Transformational training. The management team are more self-aware and have gained new communication and leadership skills so they can engage & empower their teams.”       –     Head of Human Resources

Significant improvements in the behavior, communication and interaction of all the senior management team were achieved. Reported outcomes support this and demonstrate tangible improvements in every skill addressed: Stress and reactivity decreased, managers became calmer, clearer, more self aware, discerning, effective, better listeners, more collaborative and relationship skills improved.

“I got a lot of new insights, about how essential it is to step back to see clearly… also to empower others. I listen more and stay open to new ideas, engage more proactively and sow positive expectations in the team. I am more aware of the downside of negativity on others and will try to celebrate successes. I hope to take my own advice and protect my energy and wellbeing.”

The Process – roll out of programme… getting sign up…

The Keynote Group Seminar

  1. was a first step to build engagement and interest, as the training was not obligatory. It presented the full team with an exploration and understanding of how:
  • Mindfulness is a foundational skill that underpins emotional intelligence.
  • Leadership is the by-product of self awareness, confidence, optimism, independence etc. (the skills of emotional intelligence)
  • Empathy and Relationship management matter in empowering and engaging teams and sustaining successful leadership
  • These ‘learnable’ skills can be developed and an outline of the curriculum
  • This programme works – core sequential elements and commitment required.

Outcome:      Almost full participation of senior management team (19 out of 21 people opted in. Others could not commit because of sickness and travel).

Individual Emotional Intelligence Assessment & Feedback – ECR™

Next, participants completed a self-assessment, which measured each individual’s emotional intelligence (EQ) as it pertains to effective leadership. Here is the group report, which shows average scores over the key competencies measured, as listed.

The group report shows a total EC score of 98 and average scores for each competency fall into the effective range. However, the individual assessments showed vast differences in scores across each competency. Therefore, it was helpful in giving managers clear visibility of their signature strengths and development opportunities as they relate to emotional intelligence and professional performance.

Scores and their implications, current work challenges, skill gaps, blind spots etc. were explored at a highly collaborative 1 to 1 feedback session. Each manager was then asked to complete the action plan including working on goals that emerged from the feedback process. Finally, this private time also gave each individual an opportunity to explore any reservations / questions they had about the training.

Weekly group Mindfulness Training Tutorials over 8 sequential modules

A series of eight sequential modules of 2 hours duration commenced weekly onsite, with themes as follows:

  1. Introduction to Mindfulness & skill development
  2. Self Awareness, focus, decision making
  3. Self Management, independence
  4. Resilience, confidence, achievement drive
  5. Values, vision, optimism, adaptability
  6. Teamwork, conflict, relationship skills
  7. Communication, influencing, difficult conversations
  8. Outstanding leadership, inspiring trust.

These tutorials were interactive and explored the weekly theme, as well as designed to help individuals push their boundaries and move outside their comfort zones. Over the weeks, managers became more open, courageous, respectful towards one another and willing to explore topics that would not have been possible at the outset.

Full Retreat Day

Towards the end of the training programme, the team had an offsite ‘retreat’ day in which they engaged in some practices, spent time in silence and in nature and finished up with teambuilding exercises with colleagues. According to the feedback, this was a very rich day for all in which the training culminated in insights, which changed perception and lead to breakthrough realisations and experiences.

10mins of daily practice

Research consistently shows that lasting change in emotional and social skills are developed through regular, consistent and directed practice over time.

Participants were asked to commit to engaging in 10mins of daily practice. The CEO or the HR Director led a group session in the boardroom at the end of lunch from Monday to Friday. People who preferred to practice alone did so.

1 to 1 Executive Coaching

Each manager received 2 – 3 individual coaching sessions as part of the programme to review ongoing progress and skill development. The action plan drawn up at the start of the training was reviewed and new goals chosen to embed and maintain new habits. These individual coaching sessions were vital in terms of allowing each individual address issues that were unsuitable for the group setting.

Outcomes

Participation in the full programme was strong despite the difficulties posed by travel, work commitments etc. After all the elements of the training programme finished, reported outcomes were captured in a survey. The numbers reflect the percentage of respondents who agree or strongly agree with the survey questions. Some verbatim feedback from respondents is also included.

  • 100% rated the trainer as good to excellent and
  • 100% of respondents wanted to maintain Mindfulness as part of Leadership.

Verbatim feedback: 

“I am more reflective and self aware, I am not giving myself such a hard time and have moved to being more real, more honest.”

“I am more aware of the impact of my emotional state on others. I need to listen attentively… I have a choice in how to respond in negative situations. I sleep better and notice I am less tired at the end of the day. The breathing is really helpful. I notice more support from team.”

Case Study Outcomes“Better able to put things in perspective. I now have the skills to recognise stress when its happening and to calm myself. I also have a strong appreciation of the impact I am having on my team and how to make that a more positive one. I listen more, I’m better able to empathise, not jump in and rush people to a conclusion but try to empower them.”

“I see people as whole entities, rather than just roles and I’m more aware of what’s involved if you want to bring people along with you, less direction, more listening and leading. I understand why empathy matters and it impacts everyone.” 

Case Study Outcomes“I am using what I learned to develop a clear plan of action to achieve my objectices and inspire others to follow. I’m more open hearted. I see lots of changes in people and how they view experience and deal with everything. It was a fairly large step outside my comfort zone which pushed me to extend my accustomed boundaries which is good.”

“I am more present in meetings and conversations. I am more relaxed and more focused on the current task. It’s like I got in touch with myself ‘under the surface’.  I realise that the practice really helps to calm my mind and settle me. The insights I got were too numerous to mention – but key amongst them was the importance of empathetic listening and not having to have an answer for everything.”

Feedback from the organisation

“This training has created a shift in how the senior management team manage themselves, behave under pressure, influence and lead their teams. They are more open, collaborative, people focused and optimistic; which is an essential transition if we are to sustain success. Joanne is a gifted facilitator…she helped us navigate difficult topics that needed to be addressed in the most skilled and sensitive way. I am committed to maintaining Mindfulness as a core leadership strategy.”
–       MD & CEO
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Joanne_large_transparentMindfulness at Work was set up by Joanne O'Malley to provide high quality Mindfulness Training. Research shows Mindfulness is effective to reduce stress, increase self awareness and deal more effectively with the demanding context in which we work and live... >> more

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Such a valuable experience! I got great tips for stress reduction at work / in my personal life in stressful situations. There was helpful sharing in group discussions and the…
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