Executive coaching and mindfulness meditation compelling

January 31, 2016

The benefits of mindfulness meditation for business leaders are increasingly appreciated and confirmed by empirical research. Executives and high performing professionals increasingly use meditation to manage stress, maintain strategic focus, enhance cognitive performance, promote emotional intelligence, and improve interpersonal relationships. Meditation programs are increasingly offered in the workplace to promote these benefits. Potential risks of mindfulness programs can be avoided and advantages enhanced when workers engage voluntarily and proactively in the process.

However, mindfulness meditation is usually a freestanding offering in workplaces and not tied to the user’s specific leadership development challenges. Mindfulness meditation has not yet been rigorously integrated into leadership development programs and executive coaching. These kinds of development programs can help emerging leaders to identify — and overcome — their limiting beliefs, behavior patterns, and interpersonal difficulties. Such programs can help them to develop new skill sets including the capacity to think strategically and motivate others.

Similarly, executive coaching helps individual clients to develop essential skill sets to manage direct reports, communicate more effectively, develop sound strategic plans, and implement action plans for success. But since most executive coaches and leadership development specialists are not also specialists in applying mindfulness strategies, important opportunities may be missed. While executives may benefit from pursuing meditation as a freestanding stress-management strategy, their development as vibrant leaders could be bolstered by vigorously integrating the two approaches.

When executive coaches and mindfulness specialists collaborate closely, they can help clients to identify their core challenges and focus in-depth on addressing those challenges in a synergistic fashion. They can hold clients accountable to commitments they’ve made to both processes. The executive coach can engage the client in dialogue about how mindfulness strategies (such as controlled breathing and guided imagery) are working in the service of leadership development and executive functioning.

Meanwhile, the mindfulness specialist can help the client to develop individually tailored meditation techniques that support the executive leadership goals (such as maintaining a calm, steady presence in essential meetings in the C-suite or with colleagues across the organization). The two processes can powerfully reinforce each other and promote enhanced quality of life, work performance, and leadership capacity. But that is only the case if the executive coach and mindfulness specialist maintain a healthy dialogue with one another.



(Kindly reproduced with permission from David Brendel and Emmie Roe Stamell, 29 January 2016, Harvard Business School Reveiw)

David Brendel, MD, PhD is an executive coach, leadership development specialist, and psychiatrist based in Boston. He is founder and director of Leading Minds Executive Coaching, LLC. Follow him on Twitter @DrDavidBrendel and on LinkedIn.

Emmie Roe Stamell, RYT, CAy, is a mindfulness meditation specialist, certified Kripalu Yoga teacher, and certified Ayurvedic practitioner. She is an associate of Leading Minds Executive Coaching, LLC and director of the Sukha Yoga practice in the Boston area.

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