mindfulness - are you in a hole?

You know how your employees do things that seem silly to you. This is because people have incredibly different perceptions of the world. And so you have to speak a language that your employees understand if you want to change their behavior.

I believe that we are all lost in different ways and the highest purpose that a boss can serve is helping their employees to grow out of their ignorance. And I’ll show you what this means with a practical management mindfulness example in this module

This Module is Part of Boss Camp

Boss Camp will show you how to improve employee performance by showing you what they never taught you in school. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to motivate employees
  • What are bad employee motivators
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description
  • How leaders get power
  • Management techniques that don't take time

Get the Full Video Transcript Here...

Mindfulness and Management

The road to awareness

What is mindfulness? Is it part of a secret cult? How can mindfulness help bosses? In short mindfulness is thousands of years old practice that is the next big thing in business. That’s because mindfulness is the path to the solution for all problems. Mindfulness is like taking the red pill in the Matrix and finding out you’re really in wonderland. It’s a big statement and that’s why I’m going to back it up with 5 questions that every boss must ask themselves. I’m going to share a story of my ongoing personal journey into mindfulness. And I’ve also got a download for you.

Awareness seeing yourself from the outside

Mindfulness on a basic level is awareness of yourself. Awareness of what you are doing, what you are feeling and what are your own motivations. Almost as if you were an external observer watching yourself on a film. But also having your inner thoughts and emotions revealed. Without experiencing it, awareness can sound stupid because everyone thinks they know what they are doing. But the truth is that more than 90% of our decision making is subconscious. Ever get a gut feeling that you don’t like someone? Awareness will allow you to understand why. Ever get caught up in being angry or upset? Mindfulness is the awareness that you’re in a bad place. And then you can control your emotions instead of your emotions controlling you.

But it goes deeper than that. Because you start to understand how your actions affect other people. Your empathy increases because by understanding yourself, you understand others. This is one way you improve emotional intelligence. You know sometimes you see two people obviously misunderstanding each other and it’s easy to see from the outside. But it’s difficult for the people stuck inside the interaction to see what’s going on. Mindfulness gives you that external perspective.

Awareness: Management isn’t working

Using mindfulness in management means lots of different things. To me, top ones include:

  • Becoming aware that traditional ways of working are broken and there is a better way of doing things. Work is stressful - mindfulness is the key to controlling stress. Some people describe mindfulness as a kind of super-power that you can use to find better answers. And,

  • You know how your employees do things that seem silly to you. This is because people have incredibly different perceptions of the world. And so you have to speak a language that your employees understand if you want to change their behaviour

I believe that we are all lost in different ways and the highest purpose that a boss can serve is helping their employees to grow out of their ignorance. And I’ll show you what this means with a practical management mindfulness example next

Practical example - all bad characteristics are just a form of ignorance

Imagine your employee does something you don’t like. For most bosses this is a daily struggle. Your employee makes a mistake, or forgets to do something, or does something exceedingly bad. The temptation is to get angry or to blame them for being “a bad person”. But The mindfulness message is not to do this and have compassion instead. This is because the reason why the employee acted the way they did is simply because they are ignorant. If they knew what you knew, do you think that they would have acted in the same way as they did? I can tell you that the answer is no. Because if someone sees the world the same way you do then they will act the same way you do. And so as a boss the way to fix any problem is simply to help your employees understand your point of view.

Mindfulness solves problems and lowers workplace stress

Mindfulness solves problems and lowers workplace stress because what we see is that getting angry and stressed doesn’t solve the problem. And so mindfulness helps us move from an unhealthy state of stress into constructive problem solving.

A story with a practical, communication use

I’m going to tell you a little story. This is currently my favorite story that was shared with me on my first day of yoga teacher training. I use it to talk to people about problems.

Credit to Portia Nelson’s poem “There is a whole in my sidewalk” on which this is based. I’ve modified it to make it more useful for problem solving:

“I walk down the path.

It gets dark.

I am unaware I have entered a deep hole.

It’s not my fault, no-one told me.

Without rescue I am stuck.


I walk down the same path.

There is a deep hole.

I don’t see it. I fall in.

I am helpless.

It’s not my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same path.

There is a deep hole.

I see the hole.

But I fall in again.

Perhaps, it’s a habit.

It’s my fault.

But my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same path.

There is a deep hole.

I walk around it.


I walk down another path.”


As adapted from ― Portia Nelson. The story is in itself an allegory for a personal journey of awareness. But you can use it with your employees to help them to solve their own problems.

The practical use of the story, the problem is your employees don’t listen

The practical use of this is as follows: As bosses we constantly have to deal with employee problems such as:

  • An employee is doing something that you know won’t work or,

  • An employee keeps on making the same mistake.

If you tell them that their plan is silly or they’re wrong it’s never going to be a good conversation. And it’s the same if you tell them that their problem their fault. These conversations get emotionally loaded, they get confrontational and you seldom have constructive outcomes.

What to do instead. Operate on a higher level

So instead of having a difficult discussion with the problem in hand, you can use the poem as a device to discuss the problem. When I use this, I have better quality conversations because I’m dealing with the problem on a higher level. It’s faster and you have better understanding of the issues. I find myself saying all sorts of things like:

  • “Aren’t you in the same hole again?” or,

  • “You got yourself into this hole, you have to get yourself out.” or,

  • “Sounds too hard, let’s find a road with fewer holes” or,

  • One of my favourites: “Dude, you’re in a hole and you don’t even know it!”

Putting this into practice

So how do you use this in practice? What I’ve done is set the poem to a poster friendly picture for you to download. My recommendation is that you download it and make sure your employees see it. Stick it on your wall, maybe email it to your employees. Keep it somewhere visible so you don’t forget about it. And the next time you’re having one of those discussions seem to go no-where. Then point to the poster and tell your employee where you think they are. This isn’t formal management training - it’s just a bit of fun that I’ve found useful. It’s a nice shortcut to persuasive communication that you can use instead of active listening and instead of performance communication.

Ignorance is bliss

Ok so that’s the story about your employees and the holes that they keep on falling into. But it’s time to turn this around and take a look at your own situation. I usually find that this is a confronting exercise for many managers because most of the bosses I’ve met are in what I call unconscious pain. They are soldiering through the work day without realising how much poor employee performance is costing them physically, emotionally and financially. When you have a problem, you can’t fix it if you don’t know about it. Just like your employees you can’t fix a problem if you’re in denial. Sometimes it’s a painful process because ignorance is bliss.

5 Questions to ask yourself honestly

Ok we seem to have strayed into serious territory - so to inject a little energy I’m going to do a little exercise. Don’t worry you don’t need a pen or paper. All you need is a hand with five fingers and a curious mind.

This is a shortcut process. If you haven’t done any of the deeper discovery methods. So make a closed fist with your right hand. To follow are five questions that every boss needs to ask themselves. For each of the following questions that you agree with, extend a finger:

  1. Do you wish that you had better employees on your team?

  2. Do you wish that your employees would listen more to what you say and do what you ask?

  3. Do you wish that your employees could do their jobs without significant input or motivation from you?

  4. Do you feel that you’d like your employees to have better skills for their jobs?

  5. Do you feel that you have to face a lot of the same problems every day?

You don’t have to convince me of your answers. You’re the one sitting in the room with 5 questions, your hand and your future. Not me. If you still have a fist then congratulations - fist bump because you’re smashing it as a boss. But if you’ve got fingers sticking out then I can guarantee you that you’re in a hole. How this manifests itself is that your staff are underperforming. You will have to work hard, you will have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. It’s bad for productivity and your health. I have been there before and I just thought that that was the way that things were. I thought that being a boss was hard work and that’s why they paid us more money. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And recognising that you’re in a hole, is the first step to getting out of the hole. And mindfulness even goes further than that. Because recognising this stress and how it affects your mood is also the way to control your stress level and your mood.

Wrapping up:

So to wrap up. I’ve given you a tool that you can use to coax your employees out of their holes. But more important are the questions about where you are on your own journey. These aren’t random questions - each question has specific answers. Like hiring better, motivating better, being a more persuasive communicator. These are bigger separate topics and my mission is to help you to find better answers for each of these. But one step at a time. Awareness is the first step to any change and this is your first step to finding a better path. Mindfulness will help you to escape Groundhog Day where you repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Mindfulness is the difference between living in blind ignorance and operating on a higher level of consciousness. What this means to me as a Boss and a person is the following:

You can’t force your employees to become better employees. There’s no button you can press for more motivation. There’s no magic potion you can give to employees and suddenly they they take ownership for their jobs. You can’t change your employees. You can only change your actions. And when you change your actions then you can change the world.