It was back in 2011 that I began a series of ongoing meditation classes with the Melbourne office of Minter Ellison .. so it would seem that the Australian legal fraternity are ahead of the pack going by today’s article in The Wall Street Journal, “Lawyers Go Zen, With Few Objections”Scott Rogers, founder and director of University of Miami’s “Mindfulness in Law Program” says that students who take his mindfulness courses earn up to three credits toward their law degree .. and the article highlights that his law school is just one of about two dozen across the country that are starting to incorporate mindfulness exercises into the legal curriculum.

Taking Meditation Back to Corporate

When I first received a call to talk meditation with the lawyers at the top end of town .. I recall initially feeling slightly nervous about returning to the boardroom to pitch meditation; rather than pitching business (as I would have done a few years earlier in my corporate role).  But I loved every minute.

I had originally been invited along to a share my meditation course with the HR team; with a focus on the ‘art and science’ of meditation for improved relaxation and focus.  There was so much enthusiasm and engagement across the initial four weeks .. that I was invited back, to expand the reach across the business for two subsequent six-week sessions.  

Joining me in the boardroom each week were team members from Partner level to back office staff, from Research to IT .. and each week we took a deep breath and practiced a range of meditation techniques.  Smart people also ask smart questions, and I really enjoyed the lively discussions about current meditation research and the diversity of meditation practices found across the globe (and within the room).

Recently having completed the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute program, I have a much better understanding (and appreciation) of how meditation can assist us in cultivating our emotional intelligence .. so that we become much more aware of our actions and feelings – and how they impact those around us.  

It was Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence” that first brought the term to the world, and it’s application to business world happened with an article in a 1998 Harvard Business Review (link here to original article) which listed five components of emotional intelligence:

self-awareness: As in “know thyself”. Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives.

self-regulation: like an ongoing inner conversation, is the component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings. 

motivation: The key trait that nearly all effective leaders have is motivation, and those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement. 

empathy: thoughtfully considering employees’ feelings—along with other factors—in the process of making intelligent decisions. Vital in today’s world with the increasing use of teams; the rapid pace of globalization; and the growing need to retain talent.

and, social skill: friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire, whether that’s agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.

In the article Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee in Harvard Business Review (February 2014) emotional intelligence is identified as a key influence on a company’s bottom-line performance.  How?

Executive’s emotional intelligence – their self-awareness, empathy, rapport with others – has clear links to their own performance.  But new research shows that a leaders’ emotional style also drives everyone else’s mood and behaviours – through a neurological process called mood contagio.  It’s akin to “Smile and the whole world smiles with you”.

This week Harvard Business Review posted a Quiz Do You Lead with Emotional Intelligence that you might like to test out ..