Updated: Jun 17
On Thursday, We Yoga…
Using Yoga to Improve EI, Part 1: Management
Thursday’s posts for the next few weeks will explore the link between yoga/mindfulness and various aspects of workplace performance.
Today, we’ll examine how yoga (breathing, meditation, and asanas / physical practice) and mindfulness can help you be a better manager.
Think about some great managers you’ve had. If none come to mind, think of a really bad manager. What qualities did the good ones possess? Probably some combination of strong leadership, empathy, listening and communication, planning and decision making, and staff development skills. If you’re thinking about a bad manager, they were probably deficient in one or more of these categories.
One of the best ways to improve in these particular areas is to enhance your emotional intelligence (EI). But to do this, you must slow down and be present, which can be very difficult in the “always on” culture in which we live and work. If you are constantly moving from task to distraction and back again, when are you going deal with the stuff you need to deal with?
Even the best managers have bad days where they might fly off the handle at a minor issue, or struggle making what seems to be a straightforward decision.
Why does this happen? Maybe they’re distracted by an issue at home, a fight with their partner, or another deadline that’s approaching.
Part of EI is the ability to recognize and manage emotions effectively. Practicing yoga is proven to help you in both of these areas.
How does yoga accomplish this? Well for starters, it often puts us into challenging or uncomfortable shapes, and then asks us to hold them. This requires intense focus and, as the discomfort in the body grows, the brain starts screaming “QUIT!! This is challenging!”
Here you have two choices. Give into the emotion, or master it and expand your capacity to focus and perform under duress. You must stay present, and you must control your emotional response.
Similarly, in meditation, the goal is to be totally immersed in the present moment. Thoughts come up and the mind wanders, but through training you can minimize those distractions and remain focused and present.
Breathing practices and techniques slow the heart, calm the mind, and allow for focus and presence.
Now think back to that great manager again. Would you describe them as consistently focused and present?
Starting to see the connections? Imagine a staff member walks into your office with bad news: They just lost a huge sale you thought was a done deal, and it’s the end of the quarter. As a manager, do you allow the emotions welling up to explode in a tirade at that staff member? Or do you recognize the trigger, take a moment to compose yourself, and then objectively work to address the issue with both the client and the staff member? Which is likely to lead to a better outcome with the client? With the employee who already feels terrible?
What about a different scenario? Imagine working through a complex negotiation with a client. How would you benefit from improved focus on the task at hand? If I told you I had a way to improve your decision-making ability, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?
Advancing in the practice of yoga requires discipline and intense focus to master the body and mind. It requires to your silence that little voice in your head, and focus only on the task in front of you – aligning the body properly, maintaining balance, allowing your breath to move while remaining calm and centered, allowing those thoughts and feelings that come up to pass through you without attaching to them in the moment.
Finally, yoga provides us a platform for failure. No one is great their first day. It takes work and you’re going to struggle from time to time. This brings us back to that very important beginner’s mentality – humble, curious, inquisitive, non-judgmental – and helps build up resilience and will enhance your empathy.
Aside from enhancing EI, studies have also shown that yoga’s many benefits also include: improved memory, lower stress, and better planning & decision-making. What’s not to like here?
Ready to get to work? Reach out and let’s discuss adding yoga to your fitness routine or as part of a workplace wellness effort.
Not quite convinced? Here’s some additional reading.