Meditation for busy business executives
Not so very long ago, meditation and entrepreneurship rarely occupied the same bandwidth. Nowadays though, meditation—especially mindfulness—is everywhere, from education to therapies to management and beyond. And busy professionals are looking much more closely at mindfulness meditation and its benefits for both their private and professional lives. In entrepreneurship and leadership, some of the successful meditation champions are household names such as Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Huffington, William Clay Ford, Jr., Ellen DeGeneres and Phil Jackson. Countless other leaders at the top of their ladders manage their businesses and meditate effectively, but with less media attention.
Bart Mendel, founder and CMO—Chief Meditation Officer—of Mindworks, is one of the latter. With decades of dedicated meditation practice under his belt and widely acclaimed as a meditation teacher, Bart is also the founder and president of Stonemark Construction Management, an exclusive, highly successful construction management firm based in Los Angeles. Bart believes that a key element in Stonemark’s success story is his mindful leadership, so he built a meditation course especially for other like-minded entrepreneurs.
We spoke with Bart to learn more about how that works.
Mindworks: Bart, tell us what makes you qualified to offer a course on meditation, leadership and ethics. Why you?
Bart Mendel: Well, I’ve had two parallel careers since I was 20, one as an entrepreneur founding and managing various businesses throughout my career, and the other as a meditation teacher. I’ve been putting my heart and energy into both parts of my life for over 40 years. In the beginning, I thought they were two separate kinds of paths and I tried to keep them distinct, but soon I realized how much they can inspire each other. My business skills informed my meditation in that they made my practice much more practical—not in a philosophical or theoretical way, but in how I dealt with what was coming up in my mind.
Likewise, my meditation practice really informed my business by helping me develop skills that were tremendously useful in the business world. For example, I learned to listen and developed the clarity to understand where people are coming from and what matters to them—not just what they say but what they mean.
And so I’ve been very successful in both. I’ve had a long career as a meditation teacher with lots of rewarding programs and many students who have been able to apply what they’ve learned from meditation to their everyday lives. And I’ve built a very prosperous business in the construction field managing very challenging projects. I’m convinced that part of the skill set that comes from bringing the two together is that I really understand how to apply meditation to everyday life. And that’s whether it’s business or relationships or working with other people.
You know, obstacles, problems and difficulties arise and that’s what concerns people. And meditation practice is an incredible tool that allows us to first really dissect and understand the problems, and then resolve them in the best possible way. It’s not only helpful to oneself, it’s also helpful to others.
Mindworks: So in a company like yours where your employees are very highly qualified, do you encourage them to meditate?
Bart: Several of them have picked up on meditation on their own, but I have never specifically encouraged them to practice. For one thing, I think that to tell someone they have to do something or try to sell them on personal development is the wrong way to encourage them. I find that people I work with become interested in personal development by osmosis, because they notice my composure and my attentiveness to other’s concerns. They notice how I solve problems.
Mindworks: So when you’re a leader, there’s just a natural ripple effect whether employees have the same practice or not.
Bart: Precisely. I find that the people I’ve hired rise up. I look for that quality in potential team members to be able to stay open and to learn. Of course, they have to be very talented in what they do; they have to have the professional qualifications for their job. But I find that that’s really only half of what I look for. The other half I would just call some kind of basic human goodness: I want to feel that they’re a good, well-rounded person, that they’re open and willing to learn. They don’t have an arrogance about them that would prevent them from admitting when they’re wrong or anything like that. That’s to me a red flag. You have to learn spot people with the right kind of character. There’s a kind of a upliftedness, a genuine positive attitude.
Mindworks: A sort of earnest goodness.
Bart: An earnest goodness, yes. And I would add that there’s a sense of dignity about them, or an even an elegance. You can see it when people have that kind of strength and merit and goodness in them. And my clients recognize that as well. High net worth clients have had successful careers for a reason, they are accustomed to spotting people with strong character.
A business takes on the personality and the qualities of its leader. I think that’s true in nearly every field. And that’s why the leader or CEO is so important: they suffuse the company with their own qualities and values.
As an entrepreneur, this was never an intentional goal for me. I never set about creating an “awake” company culture, yet I am delighted to witness it in my staff. I have a story that neatly illustrates this. We were interviewing a potential employee. One of my project managers was present and we were asking this woman the usual questions. So we went through the interview and, as always at the end, we asked her if she had any questions for us. And the woman asked, “What is your company culture like?” I turned to my project manager and said, “Well, you should answer that.” And he said something I found very interesting. He said, “We have a culture of safety here. No one is afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes happen constantly because it’s the nature of our business. We have a very challenging business, and the attitude is always, okay, how do we resolve this? How do we work for the client’s benefit? How do we create the best possible outcome for this project, for this client? It’s a culture of safety.” And I was pretty blown away when he said that. I was like, wow, I’ve done something right. And without a doubt, I attribute my ability to inculcate this culture of safety to my meditation practice.
Interested in learning more? See our new course The Mindful Executive.
Check out part 2 of this series The Mindful Entrepreneur – Meditation, Ethics and Leadership.