Rousseau: “Life is tough”. Voltaire: “Compared to What?”
Some years ago, one of Gary Hamel’s articles on Harvard Business Review started saying that the world was becoming more turbolent faster than most organizations were becoming more resilient. In these very difficult times, that companies all over the world are currently facing, the urgent, continuous invite to cultivate and promote “excellence at work” have become the only means of survival in almost every professional context. And the meaning of excellence itself has come through a long evolution year by year. There have been a lot of misunderstandings in the sense of the excellence at work and the evaluation/motivation mechanisms used by a lot of companies gave a significant contribution to increase this confusion.
What is called world’s turbolence, is something that significantly reflects on each single individual’s experience, taking the shape of a constant uncertainty, an increasing level of complexity and pressure, together with a decreasing resilience. This situation is well described by the common and well-known expression “It’s a VUCA world!”, where VUCA means Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.
According to the human biological design, people respond to this difficult conditions with a constant, mental and physiological, activation, that is able to dramatically affect health, productivity, relationships, and leadership at any level. In a VUCA world, more than ever, QI, professional expertise, and “external” forms of learning about how a leader must be or become, are considered pillars but cannot be the only drivers; they cannot be helpful if people are not able to rely on resilience, or on the ability to handle their attention resources, or on the clarity of vision. Even technological excellence, if it is in the service of a lack of confidence, engagement, motivation, ability to inspire others and to drive the change, represents a huge waste of time, money, energy, and a missed opportunity to express excellence.
The myth of an excellence completely based on QI and technical skills, supported by the ability (or, more likely, the illusion) to keep emotions out of the scene as something able to inhibit the clear vision and to disturb the so-called rational thinking, has created a dangerous culture, founded on the blind belief that, to be excellent, we need to control events and conditions, to adjust reality to make it fit our expectations. This kind of culture keeps us in a constant sense of threat and has affected our social needs as well: our natural capacity to be connected to each other has been decreasing as a consequence of the lack of connection to ourselves. In fact we become really aware of others’ feelings only because we naturally reproduce these feelings inside ourselves. So we can be connected to others if, and only if, we are authentically connected to ourselves.
Very often people work in team as a group of singles beings each one having his own goals and pathway, preventing themselves from expressing the team full intelligence.
Supported by a vision like this, so many people operate in any role, making a lot of effort to convey values that cannot be of support for a healthy development of individuals, organizations and communities, although their potential as human beings is really high.
From our perspective, the very starting point, before even talking about the difficult conditions our world is currently coming through, is to understand what excellence really is and how it can be cultivated, promoted inside the workplace.
In the 70s, thanks to David C. McClelland from Harvard, we know that neither the QI tests nor school grades seem to have a significant power to predict real competence in the main life outcomes and real high-performance at work. Although this is well-known and widely accepted from an intellectual point of view, the importance assigned to this kind of measures is still too high and causes big investments without guaranteeing any result.
In the model proposed by McClelland a competency is defined as an underlying set of qualities of a person that enables them to deliver an excellent performance in a given job, role, or situation. When responsibilities grow and the roles become more complex, involving other people’s guidance, technical skills and knowledge are not enough to guarantee outcomes. Something more is needed to make difficult decisions, to drive the change, to be of example, to motivate and inspire others.
Mindfulness practice can drive a real change of perspective, as it allows to cultivate a focused attention, a flexible attitude, a strong intention, leveraging mind qualities like metacognition. Its effects are supported by a wide body of research and many companies in the world are working to integrate Mindfulness with their internal processes. Many of them report significant benefits in different areas of professional and personal life.
Katiuscia Berretta: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Certified Teacher by the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts – Medical School. Experienced teacher of Organizational Mindfulness and its applications on health promotion, engagement and productivity, leadership development and innovation. Former member of the Neuroleadership Institute and Certified in “The foundation of Neuroleadership”. Tony Buzan Licensed teacher of Mind Mapping and teacher of Applied Innovation. Former employee at IBM where she worked for 16 years Katiuscia has been has been operating in the R&D workload automation area and, before that, as a Research Assistant at the Department of Mathematics – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She is certified in UX foundations by Career Foundry and in Insight Innovation – Leading for Creativity by IDEO (Tim Brown). Katiuscia is an experienced practitioner of Yoga and Insight Meditation and regularly attends seminars and silent meditation retreats. In her activities, Katiuscia integrates together technical and scientific expertise with a long time practice. In cooperation with Centro Italiano Studi Mindfulness by Mondomindful, she offers a secure guide for positioning mindfulness and innovation pathways in companies and organizations.
Vicki Flaherty: Vicki Flaherty, Ph.D. was part of IBM’s Leadership Development team. She helped IBM executives lead with clarity, intention, and authenticity and her passion is awakening humanity in the workplace. She led the mindfulness movement at IBM and helped IBMers lead with resilience. As an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, her career is about helping people succeed through design of onboarding, mentoring, career development, leadership, and talent programs. Vicki has been an IBM Corporate Service Corps alumnus, an IBM Certified Consultant, and a member of IBM’s Coaching Community of Practice. She is a leadership facilitator and coach, speaks at global events about success, and she blogs about leadership. Traveling with her husband Jim, running and gardening are key ways she recharges and creates focus, and she finds great joy in yoga, reading inspirational books, journaling and writing, especially poetry. You can reach her at: LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow her at her Leading with Intention blog or via the Mindfulness series on IBM’s Jobs blog.