What it Means to Set Up a Truly 'Mindful' Business
By Jennifer Hakim, founder and director of Jennifer Hakim Communications,a marketing and PR agency for mindful businesses.
I haven't always thought about where I was headed with my life and my career. For years in my early twenties I just did what I thought the logical thing was: going the internship path, hunting jobs that seemed safe once out of university and trying to climb that corporate ladder.
Eventually these career choices lead me to a manager job in my late twenties. Bursting with pride to finally get to the step I had worked so hard to reach, I didn’t realise right away my priorities weren’t straight. There I was, working without purpose, running after goals set by my boss without truly finding my personal meaning in them, and of course, taking things to heart when I realised nothing was ever enough.
After a year sitting at that desk, dark thoughts started creeping in. Self-doubt in turn replaced by self-loathe, fear to be ‘found out’ as an imposter bigger for my boots, and the worst one of all, the urge to run away, while feeling stuck to the situation. Within months I had a new routine, which included sitting on my bed, all dressed up for work, paralysed with fear of what the new work day would bring, and having panic attack after panic attack in public transport on my way to the office.
It took my boss suggesting an insulting title change for me to realise I was losing my mind over something that didn’t matter in the long run, and that I had to be mindful about how I was leading my life. I left on the spot, relief flooding over me, with the lightbulb realisation of what work should really be like: We spend so much time working, it only makes sense to curate the work you’re getting involved in,curate your co-workers, curate your work environment. This was step one into creating my mindful business, and it wouldn’t have happened without this dreadful year.
Sometimes low points force you to leave, regroup and finally think hard about what lead you there. This burnout made me reconsider my choices, and I realised it was time to step up my ‘life game’. It started with finding out who I was ethically, what my values were, and how I wanted to apply them in my work life. The direction to follow became obvious: I wanted to launch an ethical business. Not only that, I wanted to launch an ethical business that helped ethical businesses. I wanted to work mindfully, and approach my career with care and deep thought. Running a mindful business has been life changing, and has changed my perspective on the life/work balance too.
I can now retrace it point by point, the series of events in which a boss in distress made me endorse the responsibility for a failing business, making me doubt my abilities, and in the process, making my bubble burst. But I couldn’t be more grateful it happened. Realising how low this experience dragged me made me certain of one thing: I would never do this onto my staff. Once I set up my agency and curated a team that reflected my values and ethos, it was essential for me to set my own ethical code of conduct, not only for my team but for me too.
As the second step of creating a mindful business, it only made sense to draw my own chart of do’s and don’ts, to establish the right atmosphere for all.For example, we shall not raise our voices in the office, no matter the importance of the issue. This may sound like the simplest of tasks, but it doesn’t come naturally to all. I remember an internship with a boss that would summon employees into her office to ‘have a proper go’ for hours. Interns would literally be hiding in fear hoping they wouldn’t be next. Even during those days, not knowing yet what the future held, did I make a mental note that I would never be that type of boss. You can say what you have to say in a mindful, respectful way – is a way that takes the other’s feelings into consideration. As employers, a very important tool we have is to put ourselves in our employees’ shoes. We’ve been there, so a little empathy goes a long way.
Be interested in what animates your employees, and take time to thank them: they may care more than you think, and may need this show of appreciation right this second.Make this a daily ritual if you can, or at least a weekly habit. A round of thanks and true gratitude for each employee’s work forces you to sit down and realise the amount of work that is actually done. This also opens a conversation around why you do what you do, and how important each person is to reach that common goal. Since you have mindfully created a team that shares your vision, this will resonate and boost morale. Some companies only reward employees with bonuses, Christmas gifts or discounts, but incorporating a round of genuine, heartfelt thanks on a regular basis should be the foundation of your mindful business.Show your team how much you appreciate them, and you’ll very soon see the rewards glowing in your work.
Step 3 in setting a truly mindful business is the always-on thinking process about what your work means for others, what it does to them, how you can help and what more you can do to contribute to a better world.Ask yourself, before making any decision: Is this aligned with my ethos? Does this contribute to a better world in any way? Will this make my employees fulfilled? Will this help their career progress? And the most important question within, does it sit well.
It may sound like a lot, but you can let it come naturally to you once you’ve made the effort to consciously curate your team and work etiquette. So just let your principles drive you where you want to go. Ever since I launched our agency my core principles and ethics have been the driver behind our work, and my motivation to build a successful, meaningful project. And it has made decision making a thousand times easier. To make sure you only attract the right type of clients, and keep working with people aligned with your ethos, be very vocal about your principles. Let the world know. For example, every member of our team has their personal motto printed on their business card. Every link of the chain is aligned, as everyone’s motto reflects our agency’s. So find your own personal motto and stick to it: this is what makes you and your business unique, and no one can blame you for being true to what you stand for!
There are many more ways to run a mindful business. The idea of being mindful and respectful of all involved should sit behind all decision making. It starts with respecting yourself (you have worked hard for this, and should continue to feel proud of your work), respecting your co-workers and employees, respecting your clients and respecting your vision. Your principles and ethos are your true guide: let them show you the type of projects you want your business getting involved with, and the people you want to be associated with, with a common vision in mind. It will open doors you didn’t know existed.