It seems like a turbo-charged irony that when Debbie Jeremiah was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Ferrari United Kingdom (UK), it was yoga and meditation that helped her to stay on track. In fact, she regarded a mindful brain and fast cars as fine friends.
I thought that driving a supercar was essentially a mindful experience. If you were driving the car of your dreams, how much attention would you be paying to the sights, sounds, smells and sensation of driving that car, versus driving your regular car … often with your mind on autopilot?
The pursuit to a mindful state usually attracts those with a natural bent towards the yogic but, as manager of GE’s Mindful Leader Programme, Jeremiah has the cynics in her sights.
She says that her core message, which she delivered in Sydney last month at the Mindful Leadership Forum, is that there are two ways to deliver a mindful message.
One is the standard way: mindful trainers, mindful apps, webinars and so on. This is great, but it has a limited audience, it’s hard work and it tends to appeal to people who are interested in the whole mindful thing anyway, and those aren’t necessarily the people I want to reach.
Jeremiah, a chartered accountant who has trained in neuroleadership, is charged with running a global programme to help GE employees improve their performance and resilience.
Given that the company is largely comprised of engineers, developers, scientists, researchers and sales teams, who are also experts in the technology they’re talking to customers about, Jeremiah is focusing her mindful training around brain science.
When people understand how their brain behaves in a work environment, they start to become naturally mindful. They check in with what their brain is up to, then they move forward in perhaps a different way, such as taking a quick break, stepping away from the situation, breathing … That is simply what being mindful is. Paying attention to your mind when you wouldn’t normally do so, stopping and then moving forward, perhaps in a different way.
GE employees in 180 countries around the world can tap into a host of digital mindful offerings, including free apps, webinars and brain-training classes, via the company’s Brilliant You programme. Feedback from the training includes: “I am always sceptical on things of this nature, however, I was delightfully surprised at how much I enjoyed this seminar. It … definitely appealed to the engineer in me.”
Jeremiah knows that she’s faced with Type A naysayers who think being mindful is about as important as alfalfa sprouts, but she’s confident that once people twig to the clear benefits that it can bring to their lives and careers, she’ll have a multitude of mindful evangelists.
From learning about how my own brain operated, I found myself regularly ‘checking in’ with my brain throughout the day, to see what it was up to and to determine what state it was in. Unlike smartphones, our brains can vary in performance throughout the day… I began to structure my day to make the most of my creative morning brain energy, leaving the admin and emails to later in the day. I deliberately took mini ‘brain-breaks’ to conserve mental energy so I had more left at the end of the workday, and I deliberately reduced the items needed to be held in my short term memory, which uses up precious mental resources. I was better able to regulate my own emotions, as I began noting and examining them, and overall I felt less overwhelmed and stressed. My work performance and resilience both improved.
There are few who wouldn’t welcome a similar shift gained via such a simple strategy, so even doubters will surely dabble in it. Jeremiah is now studying for her Ph.D. in “insight creation through smarter, mindful and more brain-friendly meetings.”
This post originally appeared on GE Reports.