Try free for 7 days.

Mindfulness.com
Meditation
See all Meditation

Browse

Top articles

How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners

10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation

What is Meditation?

Mindful LivingSleep
Community

Already have an account?

Sign in

00:00

00:00

How to Bring Mindfulness Into Your Work

In this interview, Rich shares practical and powerful tips to be less stressed and more mindful and happy at work.

Today's mindfulness masterclasses is with Rich Fernandez. And Rich was really one of the pioneers of bringing mindfulness into organizations and companies around the world. And he's done so in some very big name companies like eBay, Google, Salesforce and Ford, just to name a few. Rich was previously the head of learning at eBay, and he's also held leadership roles in JP Morgan Chase and Google. And now he's the CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, which is rolling out emotional intelligence and mindfulness programs for organizations and companies around the world.

Rich is truly an expert in the areas of mindful leadership and mindfulness at work. And in this conversation that you're about to hear, he shares some really practical and powerful ways to be more mindful in the workplace, to bring mindfulness into our organizations, but also he shares some of the hard data on the return on investment, in dollar value, as well as benefits in the organizations, the return on investment that big companies and organizations around the world are getting from rolling out mindfulness-based programs in their organizations. So the other thing, I think, that's a really valuable takeaway from this masterclass is Rich shares some incredible insights about the qualities that are seen in the most effective leaders. And these are qualities that are also seen in the most high performing teams at Google. And I think these insights are going to surprise you.

I hope you enjoy. So I'm curious about your backstory, and particularly, you have this background in organizational psychology and yet now you have this real focus on mindfulness as a central part of what you do, the primary thing. So, yeah, I'm curious about your story as to how that unfolded. How did mindfulness become sort of the primary focus of what you do and what you share? Yeah, I'm happy to share. Well, I have to really just say it's deeply personal and it always had been, really since I was a child.

So I was raised Catholic and I found myself, maybe when I was 10 or 11 years old, I went to a school that was attached to a church, a Catholic school. And I found myself wanting to go to church before school started, but specifically, because there was no service happening, but because it was quiet and still. And I enjoyed sitting there. So I would literally, 15 minutes before school started, excuse me, I would go into the church and just sit there a couple of times a week, maybe. And just really something about that just was important for me.

I didn't know why. I was young. I couldn't articulate it. But specifically, no, I didn't want to go in there when there was a service and ceremony, but just when there was no one, actually. So I think there's something about that stillness, that contemplative kind of time as a young person that was meaningful.

Fast forward to university, my very first year, for my first month in university, I started practicing Tai Chi. I was invited to a Tai Chi class. It was a sort of body centered mindfulness practice. And if I have to say it was a paradigm shift for me. All of a sudden, the world looked completely different.

First I felt it in my body and I came to my teacher and I said, what is this that we're doing? What is happening? Because I'm really feeling a different order of something or other. Something is shifting. And she wisely said, well, this is like meditation in motion. And I said, what's meditation. And so, I was 18 years old and she said, well, if you don't know, you should read this and sit and do this.

And so I did, and that was the beginning of a journey that continues to this day. It was deeply personal. It was a shift basically and I could probably articulate it by saying it was a movement that went beyond my self or the known parameters of myself into a much broader awareness and connection to something beyond the self. So for whatever that means, it was a real phase shift. It wasn't just sort of me and my narrow experiences and stories I was telling myself.

It was a much kind of broader experience of the world and my part in it. And it was a felt experience too, importantly, not a sort of intellectual one. So, I carried on with martial arts and meditation and yoga, eventually, throughout my adult life. It informed partially why I went into the field of psychology. I actually started more in the clinical arena, working in some very difficult populations.

And what I found was I gravitated towards organizations cause there was a lot of people who are kind of trying to activate their potential. So I started to, and all along, I was practicing, I was meditating. I was doing martial arts and yoga. And eventually fast forward, I eventually got my PhD, kept doing these practices as a personal set of tools for myself to navigate. Started working.

And then about 10, 11 years ago, as the financial crisis was coming forth, I found myself in a role where I was the Head of Learning at eBay. And I was seeing a lot of suffering around me. And people were coming to me for like tools and they're like, how come you're so calm? How come you're always smiling? Isn't the sky falling down around you? And I said, well, yes it is. And there's some space. And they're like, what is this space you're talking about? And I realized that my personal practice was helping me, continuing to help me navigate life's difficulties in life and work.

And that actually, especially given my role as Head of Learning, I actually owed it to the employees, it was my duty to bring this set of tools and resources to them. So I began to hold mindfulness workshops, doing a little bit of leading myself, inviting some very famous authors and teachers in, and they were wildly popular. I almost got in trouble because literally hundreds of people were coming to this. And all the executives were going, where are my people going? Why are they there? What is this meditation thing they're doing? Are they trying to like wake up in meetings? And I said, well, yeah, they're trying to wake up, period. They didn't really get the joke.

So that's where it began and how I wound up weaving it into the work practice. And that conversation with the executives, because this was back in the days when... 2007, 2008. I mean, like mindfulness was not out there at that time. Right? Really? And so, yeah, how did you explain, how did you justify that time that the employees were spending away from their desks? Because I imagine that could have been really tricky.

Yeah. Well as they say in business, if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist. Right. So, I knew that I had to do some sort of measurement. So, at the time, stress and burnout, employee engagement were huge metrics.

We were bleeding talent. We were, everybody was suffering. They were not, they were distracted and unproductive, by and large. It was a very challenging time in business. And so what I thought was, well, what if I did a mini pulse of these folks on all those indices, sort of before and after they experienced these series of mindfulness sessions.

And the scores posts were off the chart. I mean, out of 1 to 10. And I basically took the same questions we asked them on our annual employee pulse survey, they call it. Right. And just sort of, extrapolated those questions and asked them to what extent does this set of tools help you feel more engaged, more focused, more productive, more resilient, and so forth.

And if the answer is, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being good, it was 8s, 9s, and 10s. Wow. So when I actually got called in, because I got called in, I told the executives. You were eventually going to get called in, weren't you? I got called in. They said, what are you doing? Explain yourself.

Are you trying to keep people awake in meetings? Yes. It's about waking up. What do you mean? I said, well, maybe we should talk about the data and then we can use that to think of, use our, and so I showed them the data. And they were like, well, whatever it is you're doing seems to be helping. So just continue on with the experiment and so I did.

And it was, that's been my work ever since, in many ways. Yes, to bring mindfulness and these tools around integration at work and in life to organizations around the world. And I feel like, I'm glad that this work is so in the workplace, because I feel like, I was really thinking about it, pondering this recently. How there's this is kind of like strange mindset that comes in around work, which is different to life. It's almost like when we're in work mode, you can just, it's not about being happy anymore.

It's not about having a meaningful life anymore. It's just about getting stuff done. It's just, it's almost like all the human stuff, it can be a really dehumanizing environment and an environment in which we push our bodies and minds to the limit. We lose sight of what's really meaningful. It's a really, it's almost like a hypnotic effect.

So I really, that's why I have, I really think this is such valuable work that you do in allowing people, and not only to be more productive and effective at work, but also to actually maybe enjoy it more. Oh yeah. Certainly. It's so essential. I don't know if we all think about this, but we spend most of our productive time, energy, and focus at work.

And so, if you work, let's say a full work week from nine to five, five days a week, you're going to spend 90,000 or more hours at work, which is probably about 60% of your waking life. That's a lot. That's a lot of a life, right? And so where that distinction that you say, Melli, that artificial distinction between work and life and that life is the place you get to be mindful and integrated. That's a false distinction. So I think it's really important to be able to integrate this experience of being aware, of thriving at work.

And I think there's an increasing recognition of that. That's why there's also interest in bringing mindfulness into organizations and into the workplace. So it's over the last 10 years, especially, it's kind of become much more of the norm. Just as you might have a wellness center or some subsidy for, let's say a fitness center or some such as an employee benefit, some sort of mindfulness offerings seems to be increasingly along those lines as well. Yeah, there's no doubt that mindfulness is just growing in popularity in every domain, which is amazing.

And we need it right now on this planet. And at the same time, I know you and I are both kind of on the front lines. And so I'm sure that you see as much as I see that there's still lots of skepticism out there as well. Like I'm sure there's lots of business owners and executives out there who are kind of like going, pondering bringing mindfulness into their organization, but at the same time, just still kind of very skeptical about it. So if someone was to bring mindfulness into their organization, is it going to give them a return on investment? What is it? How is it going to change the organization? How's it going to help? Yes, so I'll just begin with the sort of hard metrics and then I can talk about the more sort of cultural components of this.

From a hard metric perspective, we know that for some of our clients, we've seen up to a 200% return on investment. And this is in, for example, I think it's public knowledge, but one of our main clients is SAP, probably the largest software, enterprise software manufacturer in the world, German company. I think over 300,000 employees. And they have studied the effects of running mindfulness programs, which is the SIY program we run internally, and they've seen about a 200% return on investment. They calculate that by measuring longitudinally, that is over time, from when pre, before participants really acquired mindfulness tools to post, and this is about six months afterwards, once they've continuously practiced these tools.

How were they on things like engagement, focus, productivity? What were their levels of stress and wellbeing? What was their capacity for building relationships, communicating effectively and collaborating effectively? And what they found is, compared to control groups is that our participants in the tools that we offered were significantly, statistically significantly higher than people who hadn't received these tools or had been practicing. And those particular indexes, things like wellness, things like focus, a decrease in stress, increase in creativity and collaboration correlated directly to business outcomes that they could put a dollar value to it. And that was about 200% return on investment. There was a large scale study done by Aetna, which is a large insurance provider of 12,000 plus employees who went through structured mindfulness and yoga training. And what they found was that on average, they saved about 62 minutes per week in terms of focus and productivity.

And that amounted to about $3,000 per employee in cost savings because they were more productive. So just from kind of a hard business metric standpoint, it seems like these outcomes are really positive on that side. On the cultural side, you're right, there's a lot of business people who probably think that this is just fringe and this is wishy-washy, and that business is a place where you just need to get your job done and not complain. And that's why they call it work. It's not supposed to be a vacation or pleasure.

What I would say is that's a particular mindset. I've come out of a set of companies like eBay and especially Google. Google, I worked at Google. I was the Head of Executive Education there. I led, which is leadership development for senior executives globally.

And what we found there was, actually there was a philosophy, let's put it this way, there was a philosophy, a view that the aspiration was to create the happiest, healthiest, and most productive workforce on the planet. But that you couldn't get to number three, if you didn't look after number one and two. Wow. So it is actually the business of business and of leaders to think about the happiness and health of the employees. And as you and I know, mindfulness is a core foundational quality that enables happiness and health.

Yeah. Wow. It's so interesting, Rich. I have a really close friend who was a school teacher for many years, and he's just gone to start working for a Steiner school. And we were just have this conversation about these kinds of mindsets where, and I think the Steiner school has a similar thing to Google where it's not about creating little productive consumers that get jobs, it's about creating happy, healthy human beings that can share their gifts with the world in a way that makes them happy, makes the world happy.

And I was kind of like, wow. What a novel concept. Right. It's like this I'm really sitting within and percolating on that difference that we have in school that we learn when we're really young and in work where we take that mindset. And the difference between what it feels like when a leadership team or a culture has this environment, this fragrance of caring about everybody's wellbeing and allowing them to flourish, and it being a place where you can be productive and do great things, but also be cared for, be happy, have fun.

So, yeah. And you've worked with, you were mentioning, some of your career arc and you also were the co-founder of Wisdom Labs as well. So over the years, you've had the opportunity to work with some really amazing big companies and rolled out these programs, mindfulness based programs in all kinds of different environments, in all kinds of different organizations and leadership teams. And if you were to ponder like a particular time when you've seen a really profound shift in an organization, is there a particular story that comes to mind in taking a company through a training and seeing something kind of magical happen? Yes. Well, it was an amazing blessing.

I left Google about five years ago and I started a company called Wisdom Labs that was focused on creating mindful, wise, and compassionate work cultures and helping organizations to do that. And the very first event, I was stunned that this happened, but it was an event where we had actually a CEO meeting of several CEOs, mostly in technology, here in the San Francisco Bay area. These are household names. And we had an opportunity and I had the opportunity to co-host that meeting with them and the famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. And it was a small group, there was 25 of us.

And Thich Nhat Hanh graciously agreed to come and facilitate a day of mindfulness with us. So we had this retreat. And I remember, it's all public knowledge so I can share this, but I remember when I sort of issued this invitation, one of the first people I issued it to is this guy, Marc Benioff who run Salesforce, a large tech company. He said, please come over to my house and let's talk about this. I said, okay.

And have tea with me. So we sat down for tea. He said, I'd like to host it with you. And I said, oh, well, thank you. Yeah, maybe.

And he said, what do you mean maybe? I said, well, I have some conditions. He said, Conditions? What? Tell me about the conditions. I said, well, I actually have three conditions. He said, three? And I said, well, I need first to know what your intention is, because if this is a sort of check the box, meet the famous Zen master and collect that experience sort of thing - then maybe not so much. And he goes, I apologize.

We don't know each other very well, but let me share with you that I've been an active meditation practitioner for 30 plus years and Thich Nhat Hanh was one of my earliest teachers. So it would be an honor. I said, okay, great. He said, what else? I said, well two, we make sure this isn't just a one and done thing along the same lines. Like if we're going to convene a group of people, maybe we can continue that, especially if they're your peers, business leaders like you.

And he said, sure, I'll help you do that. And he said, what else? And I said three, that this really is a community of practice. And we find ways to grow and nurture this community of practice as a business practice. And he said, I have to think about that one, but just like one and two, we'll work on that together and I can tell you that now. So we had this event.

It was a beautiful event. We did an afternoon of mindfulness meditation and some talks and then walking meditation and silence here in the Presidio, beautiful park here in San Francisco. And then it proceeded from there. And then we had followup meetings, other...Eckhart Tolle actually came to that same group. Arianna Huffington came.

And we proceeded. Al Gore. And really around mindfulness, the environment, the internal environment, external environment. He brought it to this Developer conference. So 10,000 people experienced the Day of Mindfulness the following year.

We had Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach leading meditations. I got to co-host that. I got to host that one. That was amazing. He said, what do we do after a Day of Mindfulness? I said, well, a Day of Compassion.

So we actually had the monks and nuns of Plum Village come, 24 of them and facilitate a Day of Mindfulness, also on the stage, also 10,000 people, a hundred thousand livestreaming. And then true to his word, every floor in the new Salesforce tower, this is the biggest building in San Francisco, has a meditation room and we were able to program, we have an iPad in every corner with guided meditations on them for employees to come and meditate and they can choose it by topic. So there's a way that the fruit of practice of these leaders becomes business practice. And that is perhaps the most memorable and inspiring experience I've had over the last number of years doing this work. Wow.

It's amazing. We were just talking before the interview kind of started in a more formal way about how sometimes these things just sort of flourish like that, don't they? They just have a life of their own and they, yeah, that's such a beautiful story. Yeah, there's readiness and a ripeness, and then you meet it on the ground of practice and nothing much has to happen other than just the connection and the intention to sort of bring practice forward. And I think there's something about that. There's something about the integrity of your intention, like having that talk about your three conditions and really being very clear about what it is that you're really wanting to do and what you're really wanting to give.

I think there's something really powerful about being very, very, very clear about that and staying very focused on that, especially when there's a lot happening in the mindfulness world and there can be different pulls in different directions. So I really honor that in you. I think that's very important. Thanks for that. And I'm sure that's serving you well in the rest of your work and the way that you're unfolding that in the world too.

It's a guiding sort of north star and as you've used the word powerful, there is power and energy in it. Right? When you're aligned, fully aligned and you feel like you're living with purpose and meaning, especially if it infuses the work that you're doing, then things become very clear. So that even when, it was a rather intimidating moment, I mean, I might've said it jokingly. I can imagine. This very influential person, in his house.

He's invited me for tea. He's like offered to host it. He's got all sorts of money and resources and I'm like, umm, let's think about this. Maybe. I'm not so sure.

Convince me. But it is because I had a very clear sense of what I was hoping was that this becomes truly a practice and it's kind of the blossoming of a practice amongst the business community. And if there's going to be something to take us off that mark, then that wasn't going to be good enough. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

And so now, you find yourself as the CEO of Google's, your back at Google, a CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Yes, I am. So it's more, we're more like now a cousin of Google. What happened, for those that don't know, Search Inside Yourself was a program that was developed at Google on really mindfulness as the foundation for emotional intelligence and leadership. And so I was an early instructor, a teacher at Google in this methodology.

It's a curriculum and eventually thousands and thousands of Google's employees have taken it and are taking it. It's the most popular class at Google. So eventually we had this realization when at Google that, oh we should open source it. We should, not really open source it, but offer it to the broader world. So we actually got permission from Google to spin off a separate nonprofit that offers Google's curriculum to other organizations, but would run independently.

So that is Search Inside Yourself. Search like in Google search, but inside yourself, And so now we spun off Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. The acronym is S I Y L I which spells silly, if you sound it out. So we are SIYLI and I run SIYLI now. It's a non-profit organization and we offer mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence curriculum to communities and organizations around the world.

There's one thing that I really get about you, Rich and I think anyone watching me has got this about you by now as well, is that you're a person that's very in touch with what's meaningful to you in life and thinks deeply about where you want to put your talents and energies. So, and now you're giving those, your talents and energies to the SIYLI program. What's so special about it. Why are you putting all your energy there? What does it mean to you? Well yeah, this is so interesting Melli, because these things that we're talking about, these practices, as we know, are thousands of years old, and they have origins in many different traditions, both East and West, actually. You can find different types of reflective or contemplative practices and meditation everywhere.

But what's different about what we're doing at SYI, I think, is that we're taking a very, very secular science based approach to what these practices are, conceptualizing them and then we're making them very practical and accessible for people. So that you don't feel like you have to go away to a mountain top retreat to have the experience of these things. We recently, for example, were invited by the Ministry of Education of the country of Bhutan to teach all of the school teachers in the country this curriculum. So 10,000 school teachers. That is so cool.

So I'm sitting there at dinner, I went to Bhutan and I'm sitting there at dinner with the Minister of Education who said, can you, will you please do this? I said, with all due respect, you have such a fine tradition, such an ancient tradition. What might we have to offer you? And he said the same thing to me. He said, look, our tradition involves, it's beautiful and it's ancient, but it involves temples and robes and incense and chanting. And he said, what about for the work-a-day world? What about for people who are just dealing with everyday challenges? And it seems like your curriculum, again, it's also secular, it's also really rooted in neuroscience and keys off of the sort of neuroscience to talk about these practices and the effect they have on the brain and the body. But then it puts them in very accessible ways.

So we have practices that lasts as long as three breaths, for example, that you can do between meetings or in a difficult situation. We have practices that are also not only sort of intra personal or contemplative, but have to do with interpersonal interaction that have to do with having difficult conversations or the expression of empathy, the creation of psychological safety which is a critical component for effective teamwork. So we really have, I think, put together a set of practices and tools that anyone anywhere can use in their life and then also in their work. So it's very accessible and it's science-based. I think it's going to be the answer.

And that's different from, I think, some of a lot of what's out there. Yeah. Well, I actually had the pleasure of doing the two day Search Inside Yourself training last year. And one of the things that impressed me the most, because I went, I had avoided anything to do with, I hadn't taught any mindfulness in the workplace or anything like that because I, like many other people had this, you hear this around, like, oh, it's going to be so diluted and it's going to be so kind of, there won't be any depth or heart left in it. And when I walked away from that two day training, I was very impressed and singing its praises and have been ever since, because what you've managed to do with this program is that it is very practical and accessible and it has got a lot of tools that are very, very usable like this very micro-practices and things like that.

But somehow there's still so much heart in it. Somehow there's still so much depth in it. And I really was so impressed by that. And I'm still kind of flabbergasted why I'm like, how is that mixed together? And I think it's sort of something to do also with the depth of knowing mindfulness from the inside out that the trainers have, because I know your trainers are very highly skilled as well. So, yeah.

Absolutely. And we do, we purposely start with embodiment and really understanding that as a basis and practicing that and then we go to all the other things. The other thing I should say is that we are actively always, we've been moving more and more, what's different about us, I think, is we've been moving more and more to train trainers in this exact thing. Right? And we have a 10 month experience around becoming a trainer of SIY, that's open to anyone. There's an application process and we really screen for the extent of involvement in mindfulness as a field, the extent of work in an organization or community because it's not just corporate or workplace.

It's really broadly, if you've work with any organization, school, healthcare government, is there a place there for you where you want to bring this in? And then we also, the neuroscience and all that other, the other pieces come. But it's really that unique combination of practitioner with facilitator that I think is who we aspire to train and who we have as trainers once they're certified. My practice that I've used the most, so I was going to say my favorite practice, but I don't know if it's my favorite, but it's the practice that I've used the most since doing the Search Inside Yourself, training, is the head-heart-gut check-in, which is one of those micro practices that you can do really quickly. But what I found is that it just gets me out of the ruminative cycle that when you're trying to make a decision, your mind can be like a dog with a bone, just chewing and chewing and chewing and not really actually getting anything, and you don't really... So what I've found, so for the viewers who are watching this, the head-heart-gut check in is a kind of process for making more a mindful decision, if you could say.

But what I appreciated about it is it has this, it's a practice of getting, acknowledging what is there in our intellectual intelligence, but then also tapping into our wisdom and our intuitions. And I feel like this is a question that I kind of get asked when I'm teaching courses and things like that. It's almost as if people feel like only our intellectual intelligence is really worth valuing, but there are these other forms of intelligence in our being. And I'm wondering what you see as the difference between intellectual intelligence and these other ways of knowing? And do these other ways of knowing have a place in our work life? Absolutely. Yeah, it's pretty profound.

That's a profound question, Melli. We've got time. Yeah, I think I may have, at least I have my sense of an answer. You referred to intellectual intelligence. It's cognitive, is the other way I might describe that.

Right? It primarily happens in the brain, it's cognitive, which means it has to do with mental processing, the speed and acuity of mental processing and also the capacity for things like mental abstraction and contextualization. Right? So it's a set of processes that happen largely in our brain and that are, there is certainly a thing about speed and horsepower or the ability to like have that mental strength, but then also abstraction. I think the other forms of intelligence are sometimes, what's referred to as wisdom, have less to do with conceptualization and more about perception and awareness which happen not only in our brains, but happen through our bodies, through our senses. And it's easy to dismiss those. It's like, well, that's just a sensation or a feeling, but there's actually intelligence in the sensations and in the feelings.

So for example, when we feel something in our gut, right, that's usually a source of intuition which is not a cognitive process, actually. It's a perceptual process. We primarily say, what does your gut tell you? That's an intuitive sense. What does intuition tell you? You usually check into your gut. Well, there's a good reason for that actually, because intuition, in many ways, for example, has been defined as pattern recognition.

We sort of have a sense that something is such and such a way based on multiple data points that aren't actually cognitive. Actually, there is a link between the basal ganglia, the base part of your brain, which is responsible for pattern recognition and your stomach. But there is no link between the basal ganglia and your language centers and the executive centers of your brain. So there's a direct link. From an evolutionary perspective, from a scientific perspective, there's good reason for this because the non-verbal parts of our brain sees a certain kind of berry and knows it's poisonous, and it doesn't have to think about it.

It just knows. And it feels. Don't eat that. That will kill you. That will give you a stomach ache.

Remember last time. And you don't need to put that into words. You have that in feelings. Yeah. So we've evolved this intuitive pattern recognizing sort of sensory awareness as a form of intelligence.

But it's not valued in our schooling and in our work. What's valued is the knowing-doing axis. Right. So you know as much as you can know, and then you go get to do stuff. What's left out is that perceptual and intuitive aspects, that awareness aspect of intelligence, which is equally as valid.

And that also finds expression, I think, in our interactions with other people. Right. And in the ways we're effectively able to work as a team. So you've heard, you may have heard that Google did a study on what's the most effective team at Google. They wanted to know what makes the most effective team.

And guess what? It wasn't the most technically, functionally expert team there. It wasn't about cognitive horsepower. It's actually about psychological safety. That was the number one quality of the most effective teams at Google, if they had a sense of psychological safety. People were comfortable.

They had a sense that they could try their best and succeed or fail and that they would be supported by their colleagues on the team, that they wouldn't be criticized, judged, or blamed. But that there would be a constructive outcome to whatever it was that happened, whether it was success or failure. And failure would result in learning and discussion and recalibrating and maybe trying again. But the critical thing is knowing how to put psychological safety into effect. It's primarily an interpersonal thing.

It primarily has to do with non-cognitive intelligence. It primarily has to do with understanding perception and understanding of the people you're working with or the person you're working with. And that's non-cognitive in nature because it's not about the content of what's being said, but it's about the feeling and the meaning underlying that content and to be able to key on that. And yes, it is a manager and leader's job to key on that because the content is just the content, but people feel things at work. People actually do have feelings at work, at least one a day, I think, in relation to the work itself.

So you don't have to be their therapist. That's not what I'm saying, but to be able to understand and empathize is really important and to work with a person at that level. Right. It's really important. So, yeah.

It almost sounds like what you're saying is that it's what's underpinning this is a sense of care for the other person as a being, not as a cog in a big machine, but as a human being who is fallible and maybe excellent, maybe brilliant, but absolutely fallible and will make mistakes sometimes. And, but to see them for who they are. Yeah. Just put yourself in their shoes. So the critical thing is to also see them.

And we actually, you'll remember, the exercise it's ancient exercise around empathy, which is called just like me. So you're seeing the person as a human just like me, has much importance is not to other them. Yeah. Not to say, oh, poor old person. I see they're struggling to get that work done.

I'm just going to emphasize with them. That's a misunderstanding of the nature of empathy. Right? The main nature of empathy is to simply take perspective of the other person and realize, just like you they're perhaps trying their best, or this is what they're struggling with, just like you would, if you were in their situation. And on that common ground, finding a way to work together. It doesn't mean you have to be their best friend.

It doesn't mean you have to be their therapist. But it means you have to really understand what's alive for this person. Yeah. Cool. Yeah.

It's like that recognition of common humanity. Isn't it? If that. We seem so different on the outside, but underneath where we're all so alike. I'm aware that we have not so much time left and I feel like I want to ask a really, really practical question. Sure.

Because I feel like there's going to be people watching this who on the individual level are wanting to know how they could really in practical ways bring mindfulness into their work day, their work life. So I'm wondering if, I know I heard a while ago, like I'm thinking along this lines of practicality, I heard that at Google, I heard this story years ago, they were encouraging people to write an email and then to take a pause and take a mindful break. And then reread the email and then send it. And that's an example of something that I feel is this beautiful, practical integration of mindfulness into our lives. So any kind of other practical tips like that, that people could use to integrate mindfulness into their work day? Yeah, I think that's generally along the lines of what I would say, which we'll call an integrated mindfulness practice.

So it's integrated into the daily flow of your work and your life. So within your work and your life, one suggestion would be, take one to three moments. Take them, in which you can take a mindful moment to pause between activity, between doing and being. So shift from doing to being for a moment, what does that mean? Just be in your body, be with your breath, bring your awareness and attention to the experience of your breathing and your body. And whatever arises for you - whether sensation, emotion, or thought arises - take a moment to just be with it, to be present with it, rather than just being on high gear, executing, executing, executing.

So, yes. Pause before you hit send on the email. Pause for a few breaths and pay attention to your breathing between meetings. Perhaps schedule a five minute gap between your last meeting and your next meeting instead of going back to back to back. If you're commuting, right? Whether you're walking, driving, or on a bus or a train, if you're feeling particularly fatooched, particularly frazzled.

I have never heard that word before. You never heard the word, 'fatooched'? Nup. It means frazzled. Note that and take a breath and actually be aware of what it is you're feeling. So it's really about bringing awareness moment to moment, but instead of doing it continuously, like you might aspire to do on a retreat, doing it in set moments during your day.

It doesn't just have to be like this mindful reflection. Usually we eat something during the course of the day. That's another opportunity. Take a look at what you're about to put in your mouth and in your body. Just take a look.

Right? And be aware of the colors, the textures, and everything that was involved in getting that, whatever that is, there. Okay. And then once you start to actually ingest it and eat it, be aware of the experience of eating. The taste, the texture, the sensation of it coming into your body. So there are these moments where you can inject.

And then the other piece is when you're interacting with other people, rather than being in sort of habit track. Right? And just going on autopilot or going with an idea or an agenda. You might have an agenda that you need to deliver to this person. But do you have a space to just stop and connect with the person without an agenda? And just say, oh, look at this person. And just be aware of whatever it is that's there.

Again, you don't have to do anything special. You can do this in stealth mode. You don't have to say anything special. You don't have to to act in any special way. This is not like a staring contest or like looking deep into their soul.

This is just noticing. Yeah. Becoming observer to your experience as you're having it with another person. So these are just different ways to bring awareness to different moments throughout your day. And they can really help.

What they will give, in my experience, is a little bit of spaciousness. What does that mean? A little bit of separation from the frantic activity of the day. And even if it's for a moment, to just pull back the lens for a moment, take a breath, be aware. Wow. I'm really just turned up about that.

You may find that even in just that pause, you can just inhabit a different way of showing up and engaging in your work that eventually adds up to like a less stressful day and a little bit more vibrancy. I think, as you're mentioning mindful listening, I think it's probably, in my own life, I find it to be the most powerful informal practice. If you want to even think of it as mindful listening. Basically if you simplify it down, it's just mindful listening because I find it challenging because humans can be challenging and sometimes I get caught up in my own stuff in my own head. So it's my favorite one.

If I can remember just to. And, and because I also value my relationships with other human beings so much, and I don't want to waste the precious time that I have with them. So yeah, thank you for those tips too. They're very practical and easy to integrate. So, yeah.

Yeah. And I love your addition there because that also for me is one of the most powerful. And for the folks listening, for me, mindful listening means giving attention and seeking to understand. It's really an intention to understand, rather than react, problem solve, impose agendas. It's like listening to another person for the sake of understanding.

And that's it. And it really is kind of radical because we always have narratives and agendas and we're trying to problem solve. And it's like, whoa. One person's talking, one person's listening. Now the listener, can they listen? Just listen to understand what's being said rather than anything else? Yeah.

And that's a gift too, when people really seek to understand. I was just thinking the same thing. I think it's the, I believe that it's probably the best gift that I can give another human being is to allow them to be fully seen and fully heard. And people respond to it in ways that are really magical. Sometimes they might start really, really revved up and you just sit there and just allow that, allow them to be in that space, allow them to be felt in that.

And often it just sort of... They do it for a while and then all of a sudden, maybe some tears come or maybe all of a sudden they get it all out, and then they breathe a big sigh. And then they sit there and often just go, oh, thank you. You're like, I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything really.

Right, right. But it's beautiful to allow someone to be. It is and I think it actually finds its expression for leaders, believe it or not. I think it is a leadership quality. So for me, leadership really is about cultivating trust, exercising influence, and then having a high impact.

Right. But it all starts with trust. And so if people feel understood, they'll trust you and then you can start to then exercise influence with good intent, but it really starts with trust. So for me, leadership as trusted influence is key and that mindful listening in some ways, empathy. That's why empathy for me and compassion which takes it a step further this a demonstration of wanting to be of service and benefit.

So if you understand someone and then as empathy and then compassion as the desire to be of service and benefit. If you put the two together, when people show up that way, I think it engenders, not only trust, but genuine like and positive regard. As a leader, I think those are critical elements to have if you want to be a leader. When you don't have that, you have serious conflict and friction and difficulty, I think. And we have many more examples of that in the world.

We certainly have people who are... There are some examples of not skillful leadership out there in the world at the moment. And by not skillful. I mean, it's creating suffering and stress, not only for the people intimate with them, but for bigger, for all of us actually. Yeah.

So, yeah. And it's interesting, Rich, just one thing on that is that what I'm hearing from you is that when you were talking about psychological safety and you're talking about these qualities of leadership, it's interesting because we often think of qualities like compassion and empathy as fluffy qualities. But what I'm hearing from you is that they're incredibly powerful leadership qualities and some of the key ingredients for creating high-performance teams in high-performance environments. I mean, Google doesn't get much more intense, high performance, constantly changing than that. So that's an incredible takeaway.

Absolutely. So no doubt in my mind, empathy and compassion are not soft skills. They're the fundamental skills of high-performing teams and effective leaders. So, and you'll hear this. There's many prominent leaders, Jeff Wiener talks about compassionate leadership, compassion as being the number one leadership quality.

He's the CEO of LinkedIn. I love basketball and my team, which is here in the Bay area, the Golden State Warriors, they're playing in the semifinals now. They're the favorites for the finals to win the championship, again. The third time in four years. And they have three key principles, mindfulness, joy, actually four compassion and competitiveness.

Hmm. So it's like the first three allow for the fourth, right? Which is like, be mindful, be aware, exercise joy, and compassion. Anyone who is actuated with those qualities has a spark. This is what Google knows. That's why they're trying to create the happiest, healthiest and most - that literally is their talent or HR philosophy.

Create the happiest, healthiest, and most productive workforce on the planet, do one and two. Spark joy, awareness, mindfulness, exercise compassion, you'll get competitive. You'll get, that's the only way you can sort of continue on with the hyper growth and just a super competitive trajectory that a lot of businesses are on or seeks to be on. So yes, you can treat people like a resource, as expendable, or you can see them kind of as sustainable people. Then sustain them and nurture them and nourish them with these tools.

So I think in contemporary work cultures, especially innovative ones, leading edged ones, mindfulness, empathy and compassion are core characteristics of leaders and of the culture. It feels like a natural place to wrap up. So again, yeah, just thank you so much for your time and I'm pretty stoked that you guys are in Search Inside Yourself is coming back to Australia in the very, very near future. So I will be going back for another ride because there's so much value in it. So and I know you guys have programs all around the world and training more teachers and expanding what you're doing.

So I wish you all the best on that journey. I know it will go well. And, yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you.

Thank you for this summit. And thank you all for who listened today.

Talk

4.4

How to Bring Mindfulness Into Your Work

In this interview, Rich shares practical and powerful tips to be less stressed and more mindful and happy at work.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Today's mindfulness masterclasses is with Rich Fernandez. And Rich was really one of the pioneers of bringing mindfulness into organizations and companies around the world. And he's done so in some very big name companies like eBay, Google, Salesforce and Ford, just to name a few. Rich was previously the head of learning at eBay, and he's also held leadership roles in JP Morgan Chase and Google. And now he's the CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, which is rolling out emotional intelligence and mindfulness programs for organizations and companies around the world.

Rich is truly an expert in the areas of mindful leadership and mindfulness at work. And in this conversation that you're about to hear, he shares some really practical and powerful ways to be more mindful in the workplace, to bring mindfulness into our organizations, but also he shares some of the hard data on the return on investment, in dollar value, as well as benefits in the organizations, the return on investment that big companies and organizations around the world are getting from rolling out mindfulness-based programs in their organizations. So the other thing, I think, that's a really valuable takeaway from this masterclass is Rich shares some incredible insights about the qualities that are seen in the most effective leaders. And these are qualities that are also seen in the most high performing teams at Google. And I think these insights are going to surprise you.

I hope you enjoy. So I'm curious about your backstory, and particularly, you have this background in organizational psychology and yet now you have this real focus on mindfulness as a central part of what you do, the primary thing. So, yeah, I'm curious about your story as to how that unfolded. How did mindfulness become sort of the primary focus of what you do and what you share? Yeah, I'm happy to share. Well, I have to really just say it's deeply personal and it always had been, really since I was a child.

So I was raised Catholic and I found myself, maybe when I was 10 or 11 years old, I went to a school that was attached to a church, a Catholic school. And I found myself wanting to go to church before school started, but specifically, because there was no service happening, but because it was quiet and still. And I enjoyed sitting there. So I would literally, 15 minutes before school started, excuse me, I would go into the church and just sit there a couple of times a week, maybe. And just really something about that just was important for me.

I didn't know why. I was young. I couldn't articulate it. But specifically, no, I didn't want to go in there when there was a service and ceremony, but just when there was no one, actually. So I think there's something about that stillness, that contemplative kind of time as a young person that was meaningful.

Fast forward to university, my very first year, for my first month in university, I started practicing Tai Chi. I was invited to a Tai Chi class. It was a sort of body centered mindfulness practice. And if I have to say it was a paradigm shift for me. All of a sudden, the world looked completely different.

First I felt it in my body and I came to my teacher and I said, what is this that we're doing? What is happening? Because I'm really feeling a different order of something or other. Something is shifting. And she wisely said, well, this is like meditation in motion. And I said, what's meditation. And so, I was 18 years old and she said, well, if you don't know, you should read this and sit and do this.

And so I did, and that was the beginning of a journey that continues to this day. It was deeply personal. It was a shift basically and I could probably articulate it by saying it was a movement that went beyond my self or the known parameters of myself into a much broader awareness and connection to something beyond the self. So for whatever that means, it was a real phase shift. It wasn't just sort of me and my narrow experiences and stories I was telling myself.

It was a much kind of broader experience of the world and my part in it. And it was a felt experience too, importantly, not a sort of intellectual one. So, I carried on with martial arts and meditation and yoga, eventually, throughout my adult life. It informed partially why I went into the field of psychology. I actually started more in the clinical arena, working in some very difficult populations.

And what I found was I gravitated towards organizations cause there was a lot of people who are kind of trying to activate their potential. So I started to, and all along, I was practicing, I was meditating. I was doing martial arts and yoga. And eventually fast forward, I eventually got my PhD, kept doing these practices as a personal set of tools for myself to navigate. Started working.

And then about 10, 11 years ago, as the financial crisis was coming forth, I found myself in a role where I was the Head of Learning at eBay. And I was seeing a lot of suffering around me. And people were coming to me for like tools and they're like, how come you're so calm? How come you're always smiling? Isn't the sky falling down around you? And I said, well, yes it is. And there's some space. And they're like, what is this space you're talking about? And I realized that my personal practice was helping me, continuing to help me navigate life's difficulties in life and work.

And that actually, especially given my role as Head of Learning, I actually owed it to the employees, it was my duty to bring this set of tools and resources to them. So I began to hold mindfulness workshops, doing a little bit of leading myself, inviting some very famous authors and teachers in, and they were wildly popular. I almost got in trouble because literally hundreds of people were coming to this. And all the executives were going, where are my people going? Why are they there? What is this meditation thing they're doing? Are they trying to like wake up in meetings? And I said, well, yeah, they're trying to wake up, period. They didn't really get the joke.

So that's where it began and how I wound up weaving it into the work practice. And that conversation with the executives, because this was back in the days when... 2007, 2008. I mean, like mindfulness was not out there at that time. Right? Really? And so, yeah, how did you explain, how did you justify that time that the employees were spending away from their desks? Because I imagine that could have been really tricky.

Yeah. Well as they say in business, if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist. Right. So, I knew that I had to do some sort of measurement. So, at the time, stress and burnout, employee engagement were huge metrics.

We were bleeding talent. We were, everybody was suffering. They were not, they were distracted and unproductive, by and large. It was a very challenging time in business. And so what I thought was, well, what if I did a mini pulse of these folks on all those indices, sort of before and after they experienced these series of mindfulness sessions.

And the scores posts were off the chart. I mean, out of 1 to 10. And I basically took the same questions we asked them on our annual employee pulse survey, they call it. Right. And just sort of, extrapolated those questions and asked them to what extent does this set of tools help you feel more engaged, more focused, more productive, more resilient, and so forth.

And if the answer is, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being good, it was 8s, 9s, and 10s. Wow. So when I actually got called in, because I got called in, I told the executives. You were eventually going to get called in, weren't you? I got called in. They said, what are you doing? Explain yourself.

Are you trying to keep people awake in meetings? Yes. It's about waking up. What do you mean? I said, well, maybe we should talk about the data and then we can use that to think of, use our, and so I showed them the data. And they were like, well, whatever it is you're doing seems to be helping. So just continue on with the experiment and so I did.

And it was, that's been my work ever since, in many ways. Yes, to bring mindfulness and these tools around integration at work and in life to organizations around the world. And I feel like, I'm glad that this work is so in the workplace, because I feel like, I was really thinking about it, pondering this recently. How there's this is kind of like strange mindset that comes in around work, which is different to life. It's almost like when we're in work mode, you can just, it's not about being happy anymore.

It's not about having a meaningful life anymore. It's just about getting stuff done. It's just, it's almost like all the human stuff, it can be a really dehumanizing environment and an environment in which we push our bodies and minds to the limit. We lose sight of what's really meaningful. It's a really, it's almost like a hypnotic effect.

So I really, that's why I have, I really think this is such valuable work that you do in allowing people, and not only to be more productive and effective at work, but also to actually maybe enjoy it more. Oh yeah. Certainly. It's so essential. I don't know if we all think about this, but we spend most of our productive time, energy, and focus at work.

And so, if you work, let's say a full work week from nine to five, five days a week, you're going to spend 90,000 or more hours at work, which is probably about 60% of your waking life. That's a lot. That's a lot of a life, right? And so where that distinction that you say, Melli, that artificial distinction between work and life and that life is the place you get to be mindful and integrated. That's a false distinction. So I think it's really important to be able to integrate this experience of being aware, of thriving at work.

And I think there's an increasing recognition of that. That's why there's also interest in bringing mindfulness into organizations and into the workplace. So it's over the last 10 years, especially, it's kind of become much more of the norm. Just as you might have a wellness center or some subsidy for, let's say a fitness center or some such as an employee benefit, some sort of mindfulness offerings seems to be increasingly along those lines as well. Yeah, there's no doubt that mindfulness is just growing in popularity in every domain, which is amazing.

And we need it right now on this planet. And at the same time, I know you and I are both kind of on the front lines. And so I'm sure that you see as much as I see that there's still lots of skepticism out there as well. Like I'm sure there's lots of business owners and executives out there who are kind of like going, pondering bringing mindfulness into their organization, but at the same time, just still kind of very skeptical about it. So if someone was to bring mindfulness into their organization, is it going to give them a return on investment? What is it? How is it going to change the organization? How's it going to help? Yes, so I'll just begin with the sort of hard metrics and then I can talk about the more sort of cultural components of this.

From a hard metric perspective, we know that for some of our clients, we've seen up to a 200% return on investment. And this is in, for example, I think it's public knowledge, but one of our main clients is SAP, probably the largest software, enterprise software manufacturer in the world, German company. I think over 300,000 employees. And they have studied the effects of running mindfulness programs, which is the SIY program we run internally, and they've seen about a 200% return on investment. They calculate that by measuring longitudinally, that is over time, from when pre, before participants really acquired mindfulness tools to post, and this is about six months afterwards, once they've continuously practiced these tools.

How were they on things like engagement, focus, productivity? What were their levels of stress and wellbeing? What was their capacity for building relationships, communicating effectively and collaborating effectively? And what they found is, compared to control groups is that our participants in the tools that we offered were significantly, statistically significantly higher than people who hadn't received these tools or had been practicing. And those particular indexes, things like wellness, things like focus, a decrease in stress, increase in creativity and collaboration correlated directly to business outcomes that they could put a dollar value to it. And that was about 200% return on investment. There was a large scale study done by Aetna, which is a large insurance provider of 12,000 plus employees who went through structured mindfulness and yoga training. And what they found was that on average, they saved about 62 minutes per week in terms of focus and productivity.

And that amounted to about $3,000 per employee in cost savings because they were more productive. So just from kind of a hard business metric standpoint, it seems like these outcomes are really positive on that side. On the cultural side, you're right, there's a lot of business people who probably think that this is just fringe and this is wishy-washy, and that business is a place where you just need to get your job done and not complain. And that's why they call it work. It's not supposed to be a vacation or pleasure.

What I would say is that's a particular mindset. I've come out of a set of companies like eBay and especially Google. Google, I worked at Google. I was the Head of Executive Education there. I led, which is leadership development for senior executives globally.

And what we found there was, actually there was a philosophy, let's put it this way, there was a philosophy, a view that the aspiration was to create the happiest, healthiest, and most productive workforce on the planet. But that you couldn't get to number three, if you didn't look after number one and two. Wow. So it is actually the business of business and of leaders to think about the happiness and health of the employees. And as you and I know, mindfulness is a core foundational quality that enables happiness and health.

Yeah. Wow. It's so interesting, Rich. I have a really close friend who was a school teacher for many years, and he's just gone to start working for a Steiner school. And we were just have this conversation about these kinds of mindsets where, and I think the Steiner school has a similar thing to Google where it's not about creating little productive consumers that get jobs, it's about creating happy, healthy human beings that can share their gifts with the world in a way that makes them happy, makes the world happy.

And I was kind of like, wow. What a novel concept. Right. It's like this I'm really sitting within and percolating on that difference that we have in school that we learn when we're really young and in work where we take that mindset. And the difference between what it feels like when a leadership team or a culture has this environment, this fragrance of caring about everybody's wellbeing and allowing them to flourish, and it being a place where you can be productive and do great things, but also be cared for, be happy, have fun.

So, yeah. And you've worked with, you were mentioning, some of your career arc and you also were the co-founder of Wisdom Labs as well. So over the years, you've had the opportunity to work with some really amazing big companies and rolled out these programs, mindfulness based programs in all kinds of different environments, in all kinds of different organizations and leadership teams. And if you were to ponder like a particular time when you've seen a really profound shift in an organization, is there a particular story that comes to mind in taking a company through a training and seeing something kind of magical happen? Yes. Well, it was an amazing blessing.

I left Google about five years ago and I started a company called Wisdom Labs that was focused on creating mindful, wise, and compassionate work cultures and helping organizations to do that. And the very first event, I was stunned that this happened, but it was an event where we had actually a CEO meeting of several CEOs, mostly in technology, here in the San Francisco Bay area. These are household names. And we had an opportunity and I had the opportunity to co-host that meeting with them and the famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. And it was a small group, there was 25 of us.

And Thich Nhat Hanh graciously agreed to come and facilitate a day of mindfulness with us. So we had this retreat. And I remember, it's all public knowledge so I can share this, but I remember when I sort of issued this invitation, one of the first people I issued it to is this guy, Marc Benioff who run Salesforce, a large tech company. He said, please come over to my house and let's talk about this. I said, okay.

And have tea with me. So we sat down for tea. He said, I'd like to host it with you. And I said, oh, well, thank you. Yeah, maybe.

And he said, what do you mean maybe? I said, well, I have some conditions. He said, Conditions? What? Tell me about the conditions. I said, well, I actually have three conditions. He said, three? And I said, well, I need first to know what your intention is, because if this is a sort of check the box, meet the famous Zen master and collect that experience sort of thing - then maybe not so much. And he goes, I apologize.

We don't know each other very well, but let me share with you that I've been an active meditation practitioner for 30 plus years and Thich Nhat Hanh was one of my earliest teachers. So it would be an honor. I said, okay, great. He said, what else? I said, well two, we make sure this isn't just a one and done thing along the same lines. Like if we're going to convene a group of people, maybe we can continue that, especially if they're your peers, business leaders like you.

And he said, sure, I'll help you do that. And he said, what else? And I said three, that this really is a community of practice. And we find ways to grow and nurture this community of practice as a business practice. And he said, I have to think about that one, but just like one and two, we'll work on that together and I can tell you that now. So we had this event.

It was a beautiful event. We did an afternoon of mindfulness meditation and some talks and then walking meditation and silence here in the Presidio, beautiful park here in San Francisco. And then it proceeded from there. And then we had followup meetings, other...Eckhart Tolle actually came to that same group. Arianna Huffington came.

And we proceeded. Al Gore. And really around mindfulness, the environment, the internal environment, external environment. He brought it to this Developer conference. So 10,000 people experienced the Day of Mindfulness the following year.

We had Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach leading meditations. I got to co-host that. I got to host that one. That was amazing. He said, what do we do after a Day of Mindfulness? I said, well, a Day of Compassion.

So we actually had the monks and nuns of Plum Village come, 24 of them and facilitate a Day of Mindfulness, also on the stage, also 10,000 people, a hundred thousand livestreaming. And then true to his word, every floor in the new Salesforce tower, this is the biggest building in San Francisco, has a meditation room and we were able to program, we have an iPad in every corner with guided meditations on them for employees to come and meditate and they can choose it by topic. So there's a way that the fruit of practice of these leaders becomes business practice. And that is perhaps the most memorable and inspiring experience I've had over the last number of years doing this work. Wow.

It's amazing. We were just talking before the interview kind of started in a more formal way about how sometimes these things just sort of flourish like that, don't they? They just have a life of their own and they, yeah, that's such a beautiful story. Yeah, there's readiness and a ripeness, and then you meet it on the ground of practice and nothing much has to happen other than just the connection and the intention to sort of bring practice forward. And I think there's something about that. There's something about the integrity of your intention, like having that talk about your three conditions and really being very clear about what it is that you're really wanting to do and what you're really wanting to give.

I think there's something really powerful about being very, very, very clear about that and staying very focused on that, especially when there's a lot happening in the mindfulness world and there can be different pulls in different directions. So I really honor that in you. I think that's very important. Thanks for that. And I'm sure that's serving you well in the rest of your work and the way that you're unfolding that in the world too.

It's a guiding sort of north star and as you've used the word powerful, there is power and energy in it. Right? When you're aligned, fully aligned and you feel like you're living with purpose and meaning, especially if it infuses the work that you're doing, then things become very clear. So that even when, it was a rather intimidating moment, I mean, I might've said it jokingly. I can imagine. This very influential person, in his house.

He's invited me for tea. He's like offered to host it. He's got all sorts of money and resources and I'm like, umm, let's think about this. Maybe. I'm not so sure.

Convince me. But it is because I had a very clear sense of what I was hoping was that this becomes truly a practice and it's kind of the blossoming of a practice amongst the business community. And if there's going to be something to take us off that mark, then that wasn't going to be good enough. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

And so now, you find yourself as the CEO of Google's, your back at Google, a CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Yes, I am. So it's more, we're more like now a cousin of Google. What happened, for those that don't know, Search Inside Yourself was a program that was developed at Google on really mindfulness as the foundation for emotional intelligence and leadership. And so I was an early instructor, a teacher at Google in this methodology.

It's a curriculum and eventually thousands and thousands of Google's employees have taken it and are taking it. It's the most popular class at Google. So eventually we had this realization when at Google that, oh we should open source it. We should, not really open source it, but offer it to the broader world. So we actually got permission from Google to spin off a separate nonprofit that offers Google's curriculum to other organizations, but would run independently.

So that is Search Inside Yourself. Search like in Google search, but inside yourself, And so now we spun off Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. The acronym is S I Y L I which spells silly, if you sound it out. So we are SIYLI and I run SIYLI now. It's a non-profit organization and we offer mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence curriculum to communities and organizations around the world.

There's one thing that I really get about you, Rich and I think anyone watching me has got this about you by now as well, is that you're a person that's very in touch with what's meaningful to you in life and thinks deeply about where you want to put your talents and energies. So, and now you're giving those, your talents and energies to the SIYLI program. What's so special about it. Why are you putting all your energy there? What does it mean to you? Well yeah, this is so interesting Melli, because these things that we're talking about, these practices, as we know, are thousands of years old, and they have origins in many different traditions, both East and West, actually. You can find different types of reflective or contemplative practices and meditation everywhere.

But what's different about what we're doing at SYI, I think, is that we're taking a very, very secular science based approach to what these practices are, conceptualizing them and then we're making them very practical and accessible for people. So that you don't feel like you have to go away to a mountain top retreat to have the experience of these things. We recently, for example, were invited by the Ministry of Education of the country of Bhutan to teach all of the school teachers in the country this curriculum. So 10,000 school teachers. That is so cool.

So I'm sitting there at dinner, I went to Bhutan and I'm sitting there at dinner with the Minister of Education who said, can you, will you please do this? I said, with all due respect, you have such a fine tradition, such an ancient tradition. What might we have to offer you? And he said the same thing to me. He said, look, our tradition involves, it's beautiful and it's ancient, but it involves temples and robes and incense and chanting. And he said, what about for the work-a-day world? What about for people who are just dealing with everyday challenges? And it seems like your curriculum, again, it's also secular, it's also really rooted in neuroscience and keys off of the sort of neuroscience to talk about these practices and the effect they have on the brain and the body. But then it puts them in very accessible ways.

So we have practices that lasts as long as three breaths, for example, that you can do between meetings or in a difficult situation. We have practices that are also not only sort of intra personal or contemplative, but have to do with interpersonal interaction that have to do with having difficult conversations or the expression of empathy, the creation of psychological safety which is a critical component for effective teamwork. So we really have, I think, put together a set of practices and tools that anyone anywhere can use in their life and then also in their work. So it's very accessible and it's science-based. I think it's going to be the answer.

And that's different from, I think, some of a lot of what's out there. Yeah. Well, I actually had the pleasure of doing the two day Search Inside Yourself training last year. And one of the things that impressed me the most, because I went, I had avoided anything to do with, I hadn't taught any mindfulness in the workplace or anything like that because I, like many other people had this, you hear this around, like, oh, it's going to be so diluted and it's going to be so kind of, there won't be any depth or heart left in it. And when I walked away from that two day training, I was very impressed and singing its praises and have been ever since, because what you've managed to do with this program is that it is very practical and accessible and it has got a lot of tools that are very, very usable like this very micro-practices and things like that.

But somehow there's still so much heart in it. Somehow there's still so much depth in it. And I really was so impressed by that. And I'm still kind of flabbergasted why I'm like, how is that mixed together? And I think it's sort of something to do also with the depth of knowing mindfulness from the inside out that the trainers have, because I know your trainers are very highly skilled as well. So, yeah.

Absolutely. And we do, we purposely start with embodiment and really understanding that as a basis and practicing that and then we go to all the other things. The other thing I should say is that we are actively always, we've been moving more and more, what's different about us, I think, is we've been moving more and more to train trainers in this exact thing. Right? And we have a 10 month experience around becoming a trainer of SIY, that's open to anyone. There's an application process and we really screen for the extent of involvement in mindfulness as a field, the extent of work in an organization or community because it's not just corporate or workplace.

It's really broadly, if you've work with any organization, school, healthcare government, is there a place there for you where you want to bring this in? And then we also, the neuroscience and all that other, the other pieces come. But it's really that unique combination of practitioner with facilitator that I think is who we aspire to train and who we have as trainers once they're certified. My practice that I've used the most, so I was going to say my favorite practice, but I don't know if it's my favorite, but it's the practice that I've used the most since doing the Search Inside Yourself, training, is the head-heart-gut check-in, which is one of those micro practices that you can do really quickly. But what I found is that it just gets me out of the ruminative cycle that when you're trying to make a decision, your mind can be like a dog with a bone, just chewing and chewing and chewing and not really actually getting anything, and you don't really... So what I've found, so for the viewers who are watching this, the head-heart-gut check in is a kind of process for making more a mindful decision, if you could say.

But what I appreciated about it is it has this, it's a practice of getting, acknowledging what is there in our intellectual intelligence, but then also tapping into our wisdom and our intuitions. And I feel like this is a question that I kind of get asked when I'm teaching courses and things like that. It's almost as if people feel like only our intellectual intelligence is really worth valuing, but there are these other forms of intelligence in our being. And I'm wondering what you see as the difference between intellectual intelligence and these other ways of knowing? And do these other ways of knowing have a place in our work life? Absolutely. Yeah, it's pretty profound.

That's a profound question, Melli. We've got time. Yeah, I think I may have, at least I have my sense of an answer. You referred to intellectual intelligence. It's cognitive, is the other way I might describe that.

Right? It primarily happens in the brain, it's cognitive, which means it has to do with mental processing, the speed and acuity of mental processing and also the capacity for things like mental abstraction and contextualization. Right? So it's a set of processes that happen largely in our brain and that are, there is certainly a thing about speed and horsepower or the ability to like have that mental strength, but then also abstraction. I think the other forms of intelligence are sometimes, what's referred to as wisdom, have less to do with conceptualization and more about perception and awareness which happen not only in our brains, but happen through our bodies, through our senses. And it's easy to dismiss those. It's like, well, that's just a sensation or a feeling, but there's actually intelligence in the sensations and in the feelings.

So for example, when we feel something in our gut, right, that's usually a source of intuition which is not a cognitive process, actually. It's a perceptual process. We primarily say, what does your gut tell you? That's an intuitive sense. What does intuition tell you? You usually check into your gut. Well, there's a good reason for that actually, because intuition, in many ways, for example, has been defined as pattern recognition.

We sort of have a sense that something is such and such a way based on multiple data points that aren't actually cognitive. Actually, there is a link between the basal ganglia, the base part of your brain, which is responsible for pattern recognition and your stomach. But there is no link between the basal ganglia and your language centers and the executive centers of your brain. So there's a direct link. From an evolutionary perspective, from a scientific perspective, there's good reason for this because the non-verbal parts of our brain sees a certain kind of berry and knows it's poisonous, and it doesn't have to think about it.

It just knows. And it feels. Don't eat that. That will kill you. That will give you a stomach ache.

Remember last time. And you don't need to put that into words. You have that in feelings. Yeah. So we've evolved this intuitive pattern recognizing sort of sensory awareness as a form of intelligence.

But it's not valued in our schooling and in our work. What's valued is the knowing-doing axis. Right. So you know as much as you can know, and then you go get to do stuff. What's left out is that perceptual and intuitive aspects, that awareness aspect of intelligence, which is equally as valid.

And that also finds expression, I think, in our interactions with other people. Right. And in the ways we're effectively able to work as a team. So you've heard, you may have heard that Google did a study on what's the most effective team at Google. They wanted to know what makes the most effective team.

And guess what? It wasn't the most technically, functionally expert team there. It wasn't about cognitive horsepower. It's actually about psychological safety. That was the number one quality of the most effective teams at Google, if they had a sense of psychological safety. People were comfortable.

They had a sense that they could try their best and succeed or fail and that they would be supported by their colleagues on the team, that they wouldn't be criticized, judged, or blamed. But that there would be a constructive outcome to whatever it was that happened, whether it was success or failure. And failure would result in learning and discussion and recalibrating and maybe trying again. But the critical thing is knowing how to put psychological safety into effect. It's primarily an interpersonal thing.

It primarily has to do with non-cognitive intelligence. It primarily has to do with understanding perception and understanding of the people you're working with or the person you're working with. And that's non-cognitive in nature because it's not about the content of what's being said, but it's about the feeling and the meaning underlying that content and to be able to key on that. And yes, it is a manager and leader's job to key on that because the content is just the content, but people feel things at work. People actually do have feelings at work, at least one a day, I think, in relation to the work itself.

So you don't have to be their therapist. That's not what I'm saying, but to be able to understand and empathize is really important and to work with a person at that level. Right. It's really important. So, yeah.

It almost sounds like what you're saying is that it's what's underpinning this is a sense of care for the other person as a being, not as a cog in a big machine, but as a human being who is fallible and maybe excellent, maybe brilliant, but absolutely fallible and will make mistakes sometimes. And, but to see them for who they are. Yeah. Just put yourself in their shoes. So the critical thing is to also see them.

And we actually, you'll remember, the exercise it's ancient exercise around empathy, which is called just like me. So you're seeing the person as a human just like me, has much importance is not to other them. Yeah. Not to say, oh, poor old person. I see they're struggling to get that work done.

I'm just going to emphasize with them. That's a misunderstanding of the nature of empathy. Right? The main nature of empathy is to simply take perspective of the other person and realize, just like you they're perhaps trying their best, or this is what they're struggling with, just like you would, if you were in their situation. And on that common ground, finding a way to work together. It doesn't mean you have to be their best friend.

It doesn't mean you have to be their therapist. But it means you have to really understand what's alive for this person. Yeah. Cool. Yeah.

It's like that recognition of common humanity. Isn't it? If that. We seem so different on the outside, but underneath where we're all so alike. I'm aware that we have not so much time left and I feel like I want to ask a really, really practical question. Sure.

Because I feel like there's going to be people watching this who on the individual level are wanting to know how they could really in practical ways bring mindfulness into their work day, their work life. So I'm wondering if, I know I heard a while ago, like I'm thinking along this lines of practicality, I heard that at Google, I heard this story years ago, they were encouraging people to write an email and then to take a pause and take a mindful break. And then reread the email and then send it. And that's an example of something that I feel is this beautiful, practical integration of mindfulness into our lives. So any kind of other practical tips like that, that people could use to integrate mindfulness into their work day? Yeah, I think that's generally along the lines of what I would say, which we'll call an integrated mindfulness practice.

So it's integrated into the daily flow of your work and your life. So within your work and your life, one suggestion would be, take one to three moments. Take them, in which you can take a mindful moment to pause between activity, between doing and being. So shift from doing to being for a moment, what does that mean? Just be in your body, be with your breath, bring your awareness and attention to the experience of your breathing and your body. And whatever arises for you - whether sensation, emotion, or thought arises - take a moment to just be with it, to be present with it, rather than just being on high gear, executing, executing, executing.

So, yes. Pause before you hit send on the email. Pause for a few breaths and pay attention to your breathing between meetings. Perhaps schedule a five minute gap between your last meeting and your next meeting instead of going back to back to back. If you're commuting, right? Whether you're walking, driving, or on a bus or a train, if you're feeling particularly fatooched, particularly frazzled.

I have never heard that word before. You never heard the word, 'fatooched'? Nup. It means frazzled. Note that and take a breath and actually be aware of what it is you're feeling. So it's really about bringing awareness moment to moment, but instead of doing it continuously, like you might aspire to do on a retreat, doing it in set moments during your day.

It doesn't just have to be like this mindful reflection. Usually we eat something during the course of the day. That's another opportunity. Take a look at what you're about to put in your mouth and in your body. Just take a look.

Right? And be aware of the colors, the textures, and everything that was involved in getting that, whatever that is, there. Okay. And then once you start to actually ingest it and eat it, be aware of the experience of eating. The taste, the texture, the sensation of it coming into your body. So there are these moments where you can inject.

And then the other piece is when you're interacting with other people, rather than being in sort of habit track. Right? And just going on autopilot or going with an idea or an agenda. You might have an agenda that you need to deliver to this person. But do you have a space to just stop and connect with the person without an agenda? And just say, oh, look at this person. And just be aware of whatever it is that's there.

Again, you don't have to do anything special. You can do this in stealth mode. You don't have to say anything special. You don't have to to act in any special way. This is not like a staring contest or like looking deep into their soul.

This is just noticing. Yeah. Becoming observer to your experience as you're having it with another person. So these are just different ways to bring awareness to different moments throughout your day. And they can really help.

What they will give, in my experience, is a little bit of spaciousness. What does that mean? A little bit of separation from the frantic activity of the day. And even if it's for a moment, to just pull back the lens for a moment, take a breath, be aware. Wow. I'm really just turned up about that.

You may find that even in just that pause, you can just inhabit a different way of showing up and engaging in your work that eventually adds up to like a less stressful day and a little bit more vibrancy. I think, as you're mentioning mindful listening, I think it's probably, in my own life, I find it to be the most powerful informal practice. If you want to even think of it as mindful listening. Basically if you simplify it down, it's just mindful listening because I find it challenging because humans can be challenging and sometimes I get caught up in my own stuff in my own head. So it's my favorite one.

If I can remember just to. And, and because I also value my relationships with other human beings so much, and I don't want to waste the precious time that I have with them. So yeah, thank you for those tips too. They're very practical and easy to integrate. So, yeah.

Yeah. And I love your addition there because that also for me is one of the most powerful. And for the folks listening, for me, mindful listening means giving attention and seeking to understand. It's really an intention to understand, rather than react, problem solve, impose agendas. It's like listening to another person for the sake of understanding.

And that's it. And it really is kind of radical because we always have narratives and agendas and we're trying to problem solve. And it's like, whoa. One person's talking, one person's listening. Now the listener, can they listen? Just listen to understand what's being said rather than anything else? Yeah.

And that's a gift too, when people really seek to understand. I was just thinking the same thing. I think it's the, I believe that it's probably the best gift that I can give another human being is to allow them to be fully seen and fully heard. And people respond to it in ways that are really magical. Sometimes they might start really, really revved up and you just sit there and just allow that, allow them to be in that space, allow them to be felt in that.

And often it just sort of... They do it for a while and then all of a sudden, maybe some tears come or maybe all of a sudden they get it all out, and then they breathe a big sigh. And then they sit there and often just go, oh, thank you. You're like, I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything really.

Right, right. But it's beautiful to allow someone to be. It is and I think it actually finds its expression for leaders, believe it or not. I think it is a leadership quality. So for me, leadership really is about cultivating trust, exercising influence, and then having a high impact.

Right. But it all starts with trust. And so if people feel understood, they'll trust you and then you can start to then exercise influence with good intent, but it really starts with trust. So for me, leadership as trusted influence is key and that mindful listening in some ways, empathy. That's why empathy for me and compassion which takes it a step further this a demonstration of wanting to be of service and benefit.

So if you understand someone and then as empathy and then compassion as the desire to be of service and benefit. If you put the two together, when people show up that way, I think it engenders, not only trust, but genuine like and positive regard. As a leader, I think those are critical elements to have if you want to be a leader. When you don't have that, you have serious conflict and friction and difficulty, I think. And we have many more examples of that in the world.

We certainly have people who are... There are some examples of not skillful leadership out there in the world at the moment. And by not skillful. I mean, it's creating suffering and stress, not only for the people intimate with them, but for bigger, for all of us actually. Yeah.

So, yeah. And it's interesting, Rich, just one thing on that is that what I'm hearing from you is that when you were talking about psychological safety and you're talking about these qualities of leadership, it's interesting because we often think of qualities like compassion and empathy as fluffy qualities. But what I'm hearing from you is that they're incredibly powerful leadership qualities and some of the key ingredients for creating high-performance teams in high-performance environments. I mean, Google doesn't get much more intense, high performance, constantly changing than that. So that's an incredible takeaway.

Absolutely. So no doubt in my mind, empathy and compassion are not soft skills. They're the fundamental skills of high-performing teams and effective leaders. So, and you'll hear this. There's many prominent leaders, Jeff Wiener talks about compassionate leadership, compassion as being the number one leadership quality.

He's the CEO of LinkedIn. I love basketball and my team, which is here in the Bay area, the Golden State Warriors, they're playing in the semifinals now. They're the favorites for the finals to win the championship, again. The third time in four years. And they have three key principles, mindfulness, joy, actually four compassion and competitiveness.

Hmm. So it's like the first three allow for the fourth, right? Which is like, be mindful, be aware, exercise joy, and compassion. Anyone who is actuated with those qualities has a spark. This is what Google knows. That's why they're trying to create the happiest, healthiest and most - that literally is their talent or HR philosophy.

Create the happiest, healthiest, and most productive workforce on the planet, do one and two. Spark joy, awareness, mindfulness, exercise compassion, you'll get competitive. You'll get, that's the only way you can sort of continue on with the hyper growth and just a super competitive trajectory that a lot of businesses are on or seeks to be on. So yes, you can treat people like a resource, as expendable, or you can see them kind of as sustainable people. Then sustain them and nurture them and nourish them with these tools.

So I think in contemporary work cultures, especially innovative ones, leading edged ones, mindfulness, empathy and compassion are core characteristics of leaders and of the culture. It feels like a natural place to wrap up. So again, yeah, just thank you so much for your time and I'm pretty stoked that you guys are in Search Inside Yourself is coming back to Australia in the very, very near future. So I will be going back for another ride because there's so much value in it. So and I know you guys have programs all around the world and training more teachers and expanding what you're doing.

So I wish you all the best on that journey. I know it will go well. And, yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you.

Thank you for this summit. And thank you all for who listened today.

Talk

4.4

Duration

Play in-app

Scan the following QR code with your camera app to open it on our mobile app

Included in

Recommended for you

Get Unlimited Access

Start your mindfulness journey today.

A Mindfulness Plus+ subscription gives you unlimited access to a world of premium mindfulness content.

  • Over 1,800 meditations, sleep, calm music, naturescapes and more
  • Daily mindfulness video meditations 365 days a year
  • 100s of courses and tools to help manage anxiety, sleep and stress

Email Missing

We couldn’t detect your email with the SSO provider you have selected.
or

Mindfulness Guarantee

We are here to make a positive impact on the world. We never want to sell you something that hasn’t helped you live a better life. That’s why if you’re unhappy with any purchase from us, you have 30 days to get a full refund and your money back.

If you subscribed to Mindfulness Plus+ and are unhappy with your purchase, please get in contact with us within the 30-day period and we’ll refund your purchase.


Learn more about our Mindfulness Guarantee.

Mindfulness

Bring balance into your everyday life.

We believe in a world where everybody has access to the life-changing skills of mindfulness.

  • 2,000+ Guided Meditations
  • Daily Coaching
  • Sleep Content
  • Mindful Exercises
  • Mindful Radio
  • 10+ Courses from world-class teachers

Private Browsing

Added to your cart!

Checkout

Thank you for joining us

Congratulations on your subscription! Dive into the full library and enjoy all it has to offer.

Claim your free access

Create a mindfulness account and we’ll unlock this premium session in your account forever.

or continue with
By continuing, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Do you already have an account?

Start a free trial to play this session

7-Days free trial, cancel anytime.

Finish personalizing your account

Complete a few quick questions to make your own personalized mindfulness plan.

Sign up or login to your mindfulness account to proceed.

or continue with
By continuing, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Do you already have an account?

Mindfulness

One membership to gain access to a world of premium mindfulness content created to help you live happier and stress less.

  • 2000+ Guided Meditations
  • Courses from world-class teachers
  • Resources for Stress + Anxiety
  • Breathing exercises, gratitude practices, relaxation techniques
  • Sleep meditations, playlists, stories
  • Mindful talks, podcasts, music, nature sounds