The Mindful Entrepreneur | Meditation, Ethics and Leadership
Meditation enhances ethics and leadership qualities
This article is a continuation of our Mindful Entrepreneur series. We continue our interview of Bart Mendel, CMO—Chief Meditation Officer—of Mindworks. Bart is also the founder and president of an exclusive, highly successful construction management firm based in Los Angeles. In this article we focus on the how to augment the qualities of ethics and leadership in business.
Mindworks Team: Bart, one of the topics you often come back to when you talk about leadership and entrepreneurship is ethics. In the greater meditation community there’s discussion about how mindfulness is used—or misused—in certain situations, especially when the goal is to improve performance rather than to build a kinder, more ethical leader or team member. Could you please speak to that?
Bart Mendel: There are different ways of talking about it. It’s true that mindfulness can be extracted from the total practice of meditation and applied for all sorts of purposes. Some of those are very beneficial, such as better-managed stress, increased focus and better sleep. In the workplace, meditation can lead to higher performance because when you’re less distracted you can focus on your work more clearly and intensively.
But that’s not the complete meditation practice. A complete practice is about becoming the best person you can be—a total human being. It has to do with best personal development—becoming a better version of who you are—wherever you may find yourself. It’s much more than just learning how to focus; it’s also about having some insights into how your mind functions and developing basic ethics. Without the total practice, without the sense of ethics, without discriminating between what is beneficial for myself and others and what is not, meditation may be a very effective tool, but it will remain a tool related to some kind of mental gymnastics.
A full meditation practice involves not just your brain or your mind, but also your heart. It means opening up your heart, learning to listen and communicate, and being sensitive to and interested in others. And becoming even more interested in others and their well-being than your own.
Mindworks: Are you saying that when you apply that total meditation to leadership, the qualities you’ve developed through your practice will naturally spill over into the workplace and into your relationships with clients and potential clients?
Bart Mendel: Absolutely, and with your staff and your peers as well—all of the people you’re connected with. We all have networks of people that we relate with. There are the loved ones we’re closest to, and then there are business associates and people we work with every day, plus the people that we want to work with, like potential clients. A genuine meditator’s qualities naturally spill over into all of these relationships. You can’t even prevent them from spilling over! They become part of you; they’re an integral part of who you are.
Others can tell what kind of a person you are. Most of our clients are extremely successful business people. They’re exceptionally discriminating, and they rely on their intuition; they’ve learned to distinguish a person they can trust from someone who’s bullshitting them or trying to sell them something they don’t need. To my mind, they gravitate towards your uplifted energy if you have a genuine practice—it speaks to them. That sense of power, presence and genuineness in your being is what people pick up on. Who you are communicates much more than what you say.
Mindworks: How does that translate in the workplace with your employees?
Bart: I believe that people have basic goodness in them. Some people’s qualities are more masked than others, but I believe that it’s very important to recognize that everyone has their own qualities, their own personal sense of being genuine and real. Everyone has the ability to care about others, to be touched and be vulnerable. I believe that it’s really important to acknowledge that in people in general and to help them express their goodness.
As an entrepreneur and leader, my objective is to help employees develop and prosper both personally and professionally. When somebody comes on board, I put that objective in their job offer letter—it’s a stated goal in our organization. It’s not just lip service.
In order to succeed as an organization, there has to be a culture of safety. We’re willing to train people—we don’t care how long it takes. In effective construction management, there’s a very, very steep learning curve. There’s lots to learn in terms of software and systems because what we’re doing is very technical and requires a lot of control. And I don’t mind how long it takes someone to master that curve as long as they’re willing to learn. But if they want to take a shortcut, it’s not going to work out.
Every person we hire has the ability to master their learning curve and prosper. If you honor that, they’ll be able to express their best selves in terms of professional performance, and a solid sense of loyalty goes along with that. People really appreciate being appreciated, and they value not having an environment where they’re always worried about doing something wrong. We offer an environment everyone can relax and even—gasp—have fun. What we do is very difficult and we all work long hours, so why not have fun? We laugh a lot at our office; humor is encouraged and it makes for a very joyful work experience.
Of course, what employees really appreciate from leadership is hearing that they’re doing a good job. It’s well known that people treasure positive feedback more than compensation. Naturally, the compensation is important, but people stay at a job because they feel valued and acknowledged, and they feel that they’re living up to their potential.
Mindworks: Don’t good leaders already do that whether they meditate or not?
Bart: Yes, I think they do. And I think meditation augments that ability even more because it gives direct insight into the fundamental goodness we all possess. I’m convinced that meditation supercharges our ability, as leaders, to inspire employees to express their basic goodness and do their best work.
Interested in more? Check out our course The Mindful Executive!
Read Part 1 of the Mindful Entrepreneur, How to Meditate and Manage a Business Successfully.