Research shows that the development of mindfulness decreases the release of cortisol, which is often referred to as the stress hormone. Lower levels of cortisol are associated with feelings of relaxation, contentment and inner peace. Mindfulness allows us to essentially be happier and healthier people. Let’s look at how you benefit as a leader as you become more mindful.
Take the example of a soccer coach we’ve worked with. His team was in a horrible slump and he asked us, “We have two weeks to turn this team around to have a shot at the playoffs. What can you do?”
Our initial thought was probably nothing – not in two weeks. Anyone who’s worked with a professional sports team knows it’s difficult to turn a slumping team around in just a few hours of an intervention by an outsider. But the challenge was intriguing, so we told the coach, “I don’t know if we can do anything, but we’ll spend some time with your players and staff to see what we might do.”
We soon discovered that although there was a good sense of camaraderie among the players, there was also a palpable, collective negativity just below the surface. During practice, the head coach criticized the players, but didn’t teach them how to correct their mistakes.
So we asked the players what they thought of the coach’s style. They didn’t trust us, so they didn’t have much to say about their coach when we asked.
Nothing in my experience would work within the time frame we had. This was one of those moments where, in order to possibly find a creative solution, we needed to sit in our mindful moment for some time with the following questions:
- What was the end result we wanted ? For the team to play up to its potential within a week
- What did we have to consider ?
- The players didn’t know or trust us. We didn’t have time to develop trusting relationships with them.
- There seemed to be good camaraderie and trust between the players.
- They resolved to be their best.
- Soccer was not only something they loved; it was also the job that fed their families.
- The players had a cryptic negativity with the coaches that no one would talk about.
We had seven days now to identify and remedy what was causing this team to be in a slump.
In a flash of creativity, which in this case seemed like a euphemism for desperation, a possible solution emerged. What if:
- We could identify whom the players most respected and trusted on the team.
- We did. Almost everyone gave us the same five names.
- Once identified, we asked this small group if they would team with us to work through them to communicate with the whole team?
- We asked and all five agreed with the caveat of not sharing anything that the coaches could use against them. We agreed.
- We let the players know that it was clear to us that there were issues between the coaches and players and asked if they could confirm this without giving specifics?
- They said there were big issues and those problems were demotivating the team.
- If we could guarantee no repercussions from the coaches and that no specific persons would be identified to the coaches in bringing up an issue, would they work with us in a full team meeting without the coaches to identify what the issues were that were demotivating them?
- They agreed.
- The coaches agreed to let us hold a players’ meeting and have the five leaders work with us to help the whole team identify what was demotivating them?
- If after the five player shared the process (and they ALL gave input so no one could be identified as the guy who brought up an issue about a coach) and the two of us, the sports psychology team, would report the results of a whole team discussion to the coaches?
- The team quickly identified several major issues that had caused the players to feel extremely resentful of the coaches (the underlying negativity), as well as the reason they were underperforming on the field (athletes need a positive motivating focus to play their best).
- We could meet with the coaches in a separate room and outlined the team’s issues?
- The coaches were surprised by what they heard, but were absolutely willing to make necessary changes.
- The coaches joined the players and apologized for what they had unintentionally done to create the situation?
- The coaches made specific commitments to resolve the issues, which they did.
- In the next game, the team played better than it had all season and did make the playoffs.
In the very next practice, there was a demonstrable difference in the positive energy and physical effort of the team. From that day on, the team had great practices and played better in games than they had all season. The two-week turnaround was a success. They made the playoffs!
Our most profound challenges, even the ones that seem impossible, are often answered by being still in the mindful moment.
For questions about this post or for information on becoming a fearless leader, contact Dr. Cathy Greenberg and The Fearless Leader Group at (888) 320-1299 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.