Episode 017

How mindfulness at work enhances decision-making & builds stronger, more effective teams

Recently I spoke about mindfulness with the rest of the marketing team at Hotjar. The response I got was, “this is great, but how can we apply it in our day to day life?”

Today, Lori Schwanbeck, a mindfulness consultant who’s worked with Google and the U.N. shares a few 60-second mindfulness exercises that can help you enhance your decision-making and communication skills.

In this episode, we cover:

Today I’m happy to introduce Lori Schwanbeck, a lovely human being who’s been working as a mindfulness consultant with dozens of companies and organizations like Google, the U.N., and even the ministry of Bhutan.

In fact, she was still recovering from her jet lag from coming back from Bhutan when we had this conversation.

Lori shares with us how practicing mindfulness at work can help us to enhance our decision-making, think more creatively, and build stronger teams.

Lori also shares why it’s so important to be vulnerable, human, and be yourself at work in order to create connections with others, how that actually leads to incredibly powerful teams, and why mindfulness is such a powerful tool to enable all of that.

What I loved so much about this conversation was how Lori was so willing to get personal, and how she invited me to do the same. I opened up a lot during this interview and shared a few things myself about what it is about working at Hotjar that has enabled me to do the best, most effective work of my life.

She also walked me through two incredibly quick but effective mindfulness exercises that take less than a minute each but lead to some pretty meaningful insights, so I hope you follow along and do them as well when you come to them.

I’m so glad I had the chance to talk with Lori, and I hope you feel just as at home with her as I did.

Show notes
  • [00:01:30] How Lori got into mindfulness, and how that led to becoming a mindfulness consultant
  • [00:02:49] The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute
  • [00:04:03] Where Lori studied transpersonal psychology
  • [00:04:30] What was it that made Lori decide that mindfulness had to be a part of her life and work
  • [00:06:00] Lori’s background with Vipassana meditation
  • [00:08:25] How Lori can bring mindfulness and meditation into a workplace setting
  • [00:11:33] Research on the efficacy of building emotional intelligence
  • [00:13:28] The importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace
  • [00:17:13] What Lori’s workplace training look like
  • [00:18:53] How people could practice Lori’s teachings at home
  • [00:24:32] How to introduce skillful behavior
  • [00:26:10] What skillful behavior training looks like
  • [00:28:03] The importance of being able to be vulnerable in the workplace
  • [00:32:08] The types of companies and organizations who are interested in Lori’s training
  • [00:33:34] How Lori overcomes skepticism of her programs
  • [00:37:07] What happens when leaders of organizations Lori works with are skeptical or don’t buy into her methods
  • [00:39:25] What Lori would say to people who are on the fence about adopting a people-first approach
  • [00:41:06] Resources that Lori recommends
  • [00:43:43] The three-breath practice
  • [00:46:19] The neuroscience of breathing exercises

[00:00:05] David: Welcome to the Human Strike Back by Hotjar, the weekly podcast designed to help you succeed by putting people first. I’m David Peralta. Today, I am so happy to introduce Lori Schwanbeck. A lovely human being who’s been working as a mindfulness consultant with dozens of companies and organizations around the world like Google, the United Nations, and even the Ministry of Bhutan. In fact, she was still recovering from her flight back from Bhutan when we had this conversation.

Lori shares why it’s so important to be vulnerable human and yourself at work in order to create connections with others, and how that actually leads to incredibly effective teams, and why mindfulness is such a powerful tool to enable all of that. What I love so much about this conversation was how Lori was so willing to get personal and how she invited me to do the same. I opened up a lot during this interview and shared a few things about myself and about what it’s like working at Hotjar, and how that’s enabled me to do some of the best, most effective work of my life. She also walked me through two incredibly quick but effective mindfulness exercises that took less than a minute but led to some pretty meaningful insights.

I hope you follow along and do them as well as you come to them. I’m so glad I had the chance to talk with Lori. I hope you feel just as comfortable with her as I did.

I’d love to start by asking you, how did you get into Mindfulness to begin with? How did that lead you to become a mindfulness consultant?

[00:01:30] Lori: My first exposure to Mindfulness was when I was in graduate school for psychology, actually. I was studying a type of psychology that was really looking at human potential and human thriving.

[00:01:44] David: What kind of psychology was that?

[00:01:45] Lori: It’s called transpersonal psychology. It was a blend of western psychology and eastern contemplative traditions. I really got to see how the integration of the cultivation of the mind through these practices of mindfulness and meditation can really be supportive of our psychological well-being.

For 13 years, I ran a mindfulness-based emotional and social intelligence training group through my psychotherapy practice. I have a business background actually from my first phase of life back in Canada. I got exposed to the Search Inside Yourself curriculum about six years ago which was very similar to what I’ve been offering in my clinical practice with mindfulness space social, emotional intelligence, and I just thought, “Wow, this is perfect.”

[00:02:42] David: For our listeners who aren’t familiar with the Search Inside Yourself Institute, could you give us a little bit of background on the institute and what’s it all about?

[00:02:49] Lori: Sure. Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute first started as a program at Google. It was started by a man named Chade-Meng Tan, he was Google engineer number 107—an early Googler, and really wanted to look at what supported him thriving. He’d had some challenges in his own inner life. He found that mindfulness practice really helped him and he thought, “Wow, if it helps me this much, how can I spread this to other people?” He had this audacious idea of creating the conditions for world peace. He realized that world peace starts with the inner peace of each of us. He created a program that combined mindfulness, neuroscience, and emotional intelligence and first offer that as a program within Google. Now became the most popular program for a number of years, David, at Google, sold out within minutes literally.

It spun off about six years ago and is now owned nonprofit. We offer these trainings to organizations and institutions worldwide.

[00:03:59] David: First of all, where did you study transpersonal psychology?

[00:04:03] Lori: My training came from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto which is now Sofia University, it changed its name.

[00:04:12] David: My sister actually went into the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

[00:04:15] Lori: Really? Wow. It’s a great school.

[00:04:16] David: Yeah, that was some years ago. What was it about your experience with mindfulness that got you hooked? That made you feel that this was something that had to be a part of your life and something you wanted to share with other people.

[00:04:30] Lori: In my own personal life, mindfulness which is like just that quality of intentionally paying attention and really fully being in the present moment.

First, I became aware of that state of attention just by being in nature and really realizing that my capacity for pleasure, for awe, for joy, came from really being present with the natural world. That became an access point for me for states of well-being.

Then in my clinical practice, I really began to see that quality of paying attention was something that was actually quite rare. That most of the time we’re distracted. We’re in our own stories about what should’ve happened, what I could’ve done—self-critical thoughts. We’re anticipating the future, ruminating about the past. This kind of experience of being in the present moment, I realized, was very rare and really important for our well-being.

[00:05:34] David: What kind of practice were you doing at that time to help make this a part of your life?

[00:05:38] Lori: A Vipassana practice, just bringing attention to the present moment, following the breath, and for me I combine it with my love of outdoors. I do a lot of my practice outside, actually. I have a morning practice of watching the sunrise.

[00:05:53] David: Oh, nice.

[00:05:54] Lori: Yeah.

[00:05:55] David: For our listeners who aren’t familiar with Vipassana, could you also give a quick background on what that is?

[00:06:00] Lori: The Vipassana is a type of meditation. It’s an insight oriented meditation that has a psychological overlay because of the lineages that brought it through first Burma, India, and into the United States. Primarily teachers like Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and it’s really about the cultivation of attention through staying present with the breath.

Once we begin to settle the mind through mindfulness, through paying attention to the breath, we cultivate more calm, more clarity. And so we have insight into deeper processes of the psyche and really ultimately, of the heart. There’s a deeper connection with our own being through the practice.

It’s a very simple practice. It’s not a mantra practice like some practices can be. It’s a very simply staying with the breath and opening to what arises.

[00:06:57] David: Do you mind sharing how often do you practice Vipassana? What is your daily practice look like?

[00:07:04] Lori: My daily practice is an aspiration, David. Honestly, I go in and out of it. I do longer Vipassana wilderness retreats. My daily practice, like I said, I have a sunrise meditation practice which is just watching the sunrise. It’s a quality of open awareness where I’m paying attention to what’s outside of me, noticing what invoke emotion in me, being aware of my thoughts—just creating that pause before I start the day and openness to be with what is. For me, that influx or influence of nature and beauty just opens the heart for me.

I might include a Metta or a loving-kindness practice of wishing others well. A self-compassion practice for myself if I’m feeling a little bit like I need to incline my mind, incline the heart, open the heart to kindness.

My morning practice is something that’s pretty steady with me. If I don’t have a chance to practice on my deck which I like to do, I will actually practice while I’m commuting on the bus. Just watching the sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge, which I’m fortunate enough to be able to commute across everyday. That’s my primary practice is that morning practice.

[00:08:25] David: Okay. Great. Once you started working with organizations and companies, how do you bring mindfulness and meditation to a workplace setting? To a place where maybe people wouldn’t expect that to be the most logical next step?

[00:08:48] Lori: If I can answer that with a story, if I may?

[00:08:51] David: Sure, please, yeah.

[00:08:53] Lori: When I first got exposed to Search Inside Yourself program, I was a participant observer at Google. I got paired with a young Google engineer, a young guy. We did a practice called mindful listening, which is simply one person speaking and the other person, very simply listening without interrupting, which is radical.

It was just two minutes. Within two minutes, this young man was speaking. The topic he was speaking about wasn’t necessarily very emotionally evocative. However, I noticed his eyes started filling up with tears. I had a chance to talk afterwards to talk about the experience and I said, “What was happening for you?” He said, “Where can you get someone to actually listen to you like this?”

And it was really striking to me because as a psychotherapist in the work that I do, I’m used to kind of being in that listening relationship. I really realized like, wow. This simple practice of being present with another person—just how hungry people are.

This was a young man, he was a coder, spent most of his days behind the computer screen. I’m not sure how much interaction he actually had with the people live or virtually. I’ve really got to see in all environments, we are people. The human comes in no matter what or work is and how important it is for us to be connected to, to be given that gift of attention and presence.

That’s not something you would necessarily go into an organization as a selling point, really. One of the great things about Search Inside Yourself program specifically is it's an emotional intelligence training program. There’s a lot of research on the efficacy of building emotional intelligence with the outcomes of enhancing performance, upleveling leadership, and supporting well-being. Lot of research on that.

Mindfulness is a way to build emotional intelligence. When we go into an organization, we talk about the benefits of emotional intelligence and mindfulness. We talk about those outcomes and research associated with performance, well-being, and leadership.

[00:11:30] David: Can you talk us through some of that research?

[00:11:33] Lori: Sure. There’s a research we’ve done on our program, basically, the cultivation of mindfulness is just really about paying attention with intention and being able to slow down in creating a pause between stimulus and response. Slowing that reactivity allows a person to regulate their nervous system such that they can take in new information. There’s what’s called response flexibility in the activation of the prefrontal cortex that happens, that allows us to take in new information, think creatively. There’s a number of research studies that have been done on that.

Search Inside Yourself has a lot of data that we’ve collected after the programs that we’ve done that has shown that people who participated in the program—their self-recourse are that they can pause before reacting, which is a really important leadership and life skill.

They have the ability to take in other people’s perspectives when they’re in an argument. There’s some really great research out of Aetna, the healthcare company, on how mindfulness reduces stress, reduces employee turnover so there’s an increase in engagement, reduction in sick time, and absenteeism.

SAP has some fantastic research specifically on the Search Inside Yourself program but really connected to mindfulness and emotional intelligence. Again, on engagement, employee well-being, turnover, and ultimately, higher profits too. Personally, that’s not why I do this but that’s really one of the metrics that companies care about.

[00:13:28] David: Can you tell us a little bit more about the importance and the need for emotional intelligence in the workplace?

[00:13:34] Lori: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think there maybe has been some sort of an old school idea that it’s about profits, profits, profits. In order for a company to be profitable, it has to work well.

One of the things that people are realizing is that people are part of a business and to take care of your people, there’s a ripple effect. The impact on profitability ultimately is customer satisfaction, employee engagement.

The cultivation of emotional intelligence is a recognition that as people, emotions are really big part of how we navigate our life. Sometimes we think that emotions are strenuous and they get in the way of thinking. They’re problematic and they just sort of relegated to Hallmark cards. But it turns out that emotions are really important part of decision making.

Dan Goleman who’s done a lot of writing on emotional intelligence cites a study by Antonio Damasio. That really shows the connection between the part of the brain that processes emotions and how that influences—the thinking part of the brain or the prefrontal cortex. When that is disrupted, that connection, it’s actually impossible for us to think clearly.

Emotions are really important in how we think. They’re also important in terms of how we behave because emotions stimulate behavior. Fight-flight, approach-avoid. Being able to be intelligent or aware of what emotions are present, what actions they’re prompting us to do, and to be intelligent or thoughtful in terms of asking yourself the question, “Is this the action that I want to have happened? Is it aligned with my goals? My self-respect? My desire to keep a job?” In that pause, be able to reflect and make a different choice.

This is where mindfulness connects. We pause, we notice what’s happening in our emotions, notice that impulse to act, and ask the question, “Is this skillful? Is this in alignment with my goals?” That absolutely can make or break someone’s success in their work life.

[00:15:53] David: As opposed to just being reactive and off the cuff in coming from whatever base emotion is coming up inside of yourself.

[00:15:59] Lori: Exactly. We’ve all gotten that email where you get that flash of anger, and that impulse to react is very hardwired in this. It’s a part of our nervous system responding to perceived threat that automatic fight or flight. Really fantastic if there’s a bus screening towards us or where in a state where there is an immediate threat that we don’t have time to think through.

But on modern world, requires us to think. Requires us for the most part, unless there’s an immediate danger to our life, it requires us to slow down and be choiceful about our actions. That’s what mindfulness does, it creates that pause and emotional intelligence helps us insert the skills into that pause – we’re basically hacking the hardwiring of that fight or flight self-protection mechanism that at one time could protect us, now can get us into a lot of trouble.

[00:17:02] David: When you come in to an organization, what does the training actually look like? What kind of exercises you actually walk people through to help them cultivate these skills?

[00:17:13] Lori: We start very basically, David. We start with looking at attention and recognizing that what we pay attention to and how we pay attention shapes our experience. Our experience shapes our life.

We basically start with, showing that we can intentionally place our attention. Right now your attention might be on my voice. You might have had a distracting thought right now like, “I hope that our listeners understand this,” or “I hope this is recording well,” or “I wonder what I’m having dinner for tonight.” Those distractions from our thoughts become problematic in terms of our effectiveness. That happens but we will take people through practices of just training attention to notice that attention is like a muscle and we can intentionally train it to notice when it’s wandered and it will. And then to bring it back. Attention wanders and bring it back.

We’ll just focus on the breath because that’s traditionally what has been used because the breath is always with us. There’s some good science about tracking the breath. It also regulates the nervous system but very simply. We’ll just have people train attention to notice that they have the ability to be intentional with where you place attention.

[00:18:40] David: If somebody wanted to practice that at home, how long should they do that for in order to enter a more aware state or a more mindful state?

[00:18:53] Lori: You know, there’s a lot of data. People always ask me, “What’s the shortest amount I can practice? Get the benefits?” I’ll say this that just one breath is beneficial. I’ll talk to you a bit more about some applications. Would you like to try that right now with me?

[00:19:11] David: Sure, let’s do it. In fact, everybody who’s listening to this should be following along also. Let’s go for it.

[00:19:19] Lori: Very simply, all I’m going to ask you to do is to give full and complete attention to one breath. What that means is not to think about the breath but to feel the breath. You might notice your body expanding and contracting with the breath. You might be aware of the air going through your nose or through your mouth. All you have to do is just for one full cycle of breath right from the beginning of the in breath, to the pause between the inhalation and exhalation, then the exhale. All you have to do is keep your attention fully on that breath. Ready to go?

[00:19:55] David: Alright, set.

[00:19:57] Lori: Just to begin, let’s take a really big breath just to refocus and on the next breath, full and complete attention to the sensation of breath.

David, what did you notice? What are you noticing right now?

[00:20:27] David: Expansion. I noticed my body's expansion. I noticed some thoughts wanting to come up then staying with the breath and then kind of thoughts drifting into the background. When I hit the peak of the breath, it’s really a one moment of a little bit of joy. It’s really this joy is there and that stillness in between, then, coming back down, the sensation of compression in my body and the breath flowing from my belly all the way out.

[00:21:00] Lori: That’s great. You got a lot of data.

[00:21:02] David: Yeah.

[00:21:03] Lori: That’s fantastic. How do you feel energetically right now?

[00:21:07] David: Pretty good but I have to tell you a little secret. I’m actually doing this the whole time. I have some experience with mindfulness. Part of what I do during my interviews is I’m following my breath the whole time or at least, as much as I can. Because I noticed that when I do that and I stay out of my mind, I stay much more open to the possibilities of where the interview can go instead of having kind of fixed ideas. I’m a lot more flexible that way. I was kind of cheating.

[00:21:39] Lori: I love this. It’s fantastic. A couple of things in what you’ve said, first of all, most times when people do that—that full and complete attention to the breath—they’re surprised that for a most part, there’s a little bit of calm that can come. It’s a little bit of surprise. There’s a reason for that. Full and complete attention to the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the fight or flight sympathetic activation. When we are calmer, what happens is just what you’re saying David. There’s more access to more flexibility, more openness.

This is a very simple practice, it’s an introductory practice, but it’s a powerful one that you weave in through your meetings, through your interactions, through stemming at line in the DMV where you might get agitated.

Just one breath and then we build on that. We might have a longer breath practice of three breaths, five minutes. We might extend that into a communication practice where I’m giving my attention to the person who’s speaking when I noticed my attention is wandering, find the breath, bring it back.

Your initial question was, “How do we train this in organizations?” We come back with this awareness that we can actually train our attention. For some people, that’s radical, they’ve realized that you can train your muscles in your body when I ask them how many people workout, a lot of hands go up. When I ask them how many people workout with their mind, like train their mind, not many people raise their hand. Why? Because we don’t realize that we can do it.

We start with that simple practice of staying with a breath. It’s not wrong when the attention wanders. That happens. But that moment you notice that attention has wandered, that’s a moment of mindfulness. Then, you bring it back. It’s like sheepdogging—again and again and again—and come back. The more you do that, that’s how you cultivate focus. We know how important focus is in communication, in completing a project, in being efficient, that’s a basic practice that we start with.

With that, you’ll see that bringing attention to the breath starts to slow things down a little bit. Then, we can introduce more what we call skillful behavior of, “How do I want to know engaged in the next moment?” “What would be the best choice with what I do next?” It really gives us the power to choose instead being run by that compulsion or reactivity that most of us operate from.

[00:24:29] David: How do you introduce a skillful behavior?

[00:24:32] Lori: That’s where emotional intelligence capacities come in. For me, when I teach, I really borrow Dan Goleman’s model where he talks about self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others. And then, relationship management. Defining each of the emotional intelligence capacities and then looking at what are practices that build it.

Self-awareness, for example, the ability to know not just my name and where I come from but what are my preferences? What are my resources? What are my challenges? What are my strengths? A question was asked – the Stanford business graduates, “What is the most important skill to develop as a leader?” The unanimous response was self-awareness. That ability to know my strengths and weakness, to have humility where I know that I’m not strong, to ask for help, to create a team where other people can balance the things I’m not good at. How can I really optimize or maximize these things I am good at? Those are examples within the self-awareness category of emotional intelligence. Skills that I would begin to train people on.

[00:26:06] David: What is that training looked like?

[00:26:10] Lori: One practice is journaling. I might give participants a prompt or to some of my clients—my coaching clients—a prompts. It could be “when I feel most alive I…” then just keep writing. See what comes out. Or “things that really irritate me are…” or “Most things that frustrate me are…” Just to have that kind of brain dumped to access parts of ourselves that we might kind of push away because we’re so used to presenting our social media self. We’re kind of leading with our strengths so we don’t often take an opportunity where our challenges are. Journaling is a really powerful way to access that.

[00:26:56] David: Would you say that once is enough? Or this is something that people should do on a regular basis?

[00:27:02] Lori: I think once can be really illuminating and regular basis, absolutely. Again, I think so much of our presentation into the world is curated, even if it’s not in social media, but we’re used to presenting our strengths this way that we believe will get us respect. But there’s some work that comes out of the CCARE, the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education in Stanford that really shows that vulnerability or leading with our humanness is really what’s supports people. Connecting to us, what in gender’s trust, it helps people feel psychologically safe within teens, and this is something that there’s been some research on. It makes a team really potent and powerful.

The more you can do these practices like mindfulness or journaling, it’s really just a way for you to stay current with yourself.

[00:28:03] David: I just want to support what you were saying about the power of vulnerability especially at the workplace. There was a research, there was a study done by a doctor at Google. She headed up an entire team and they discovered that a number one factor behind top performing teams was psychological trust. In other words the feeling of safety that you could take a risk and out yourself out there, and let other people who are going to support you, accept you, and accept the decisions that you’re making.

I can say from personal experience, I’ve mentioned this almost on every single episode, about the team in Hotjar. This is really a unique company that I’ve come to work for where that vulnerability is actually welcomed. I found that I can actually admit my faults. I can admit my weakness and ask for help in improving them. Not only has that opened up my team to myself but it’s opened me up to suggestions from them on how I can improve and just gotten my productivity to shoot through the roof. This is by far the most productive work I’ve ever done at any company.

Because like you said, I always felt like I needed to present a side of myself. I always felt like I had to pretend like I knew what I was doing all the time even though much of the time I didn’t. So much was facing unknown factors, unknown circumstances. I couldn’t say, “I don’t know.” What is actually the best way to do it? “I don’t know.” I always have to make something up. It just made me feel like a fraud.

The opposite feeling of being able to say, “Look, I don’t know.” Like for example, I have to write something and I got so into my perfectionism, it took me an hour long to write something that should have taken me five or ten minutes. Our next retro, that was the first thing that I said, “Look, this happened. I did this.” Just the fact that admitting it removed all the guilt and all the weight and everybody else just said, “Yeah, we know exactly what that’s like.”

Everybody goes through something like that. It’s actually extremely liberating to have that vulnerability there. It’s actually very empowering.

[00:30:10] Lori: Absolutely. I’m so glad that you have this experience, David. It’s somewhat counterintuitive. We think that in order to feel safe, we have to be admired and respected for being strong and perfect. It’s just the opposite, it’s true.

One of the skill sets that I teach within the emotional intelligence to support this psychological safety is the cultivation of empathy. To really see and treat other people as people which means that they are going to sometimes have things that are challenging for them, infallibility.

There’s some powerful research that David Eagleman has been doing, he's in neuroscience. He talks about how our brain is wired to see people as other. Any differences we perceive, we create an othering. That blocks our capacity for empathy. When we begin to see people similar to us—just like me, David, wants to do a good job and be approved. Just like me, David, sometimes screws up. There’s just this somehow leveling the playing field of realizing we’re all human not only creates psychological safety. It actually activates the part of our neurology that is associated with empathy. We’re more likely to care for someone, reach out in help, and that is part of the compassion response as well.

[00:31:53] David: When you come into an organization, I’m guessing a lot of the organizations that invite the Search Inside Yourself Institute to come and teach are already pretty open to these kinds of ideas. Is that a correct assumption?

[00:32:06] Lori: Actually, no.

[00:32:07] David: Oh, really?

[00:32:08] Lori: Yeah. Some are for sure. As time goes on and mindfulness, emotional intelligence, become much more accepted and certainly there’s a lot more research and popularization, it’s easier. But I have gone into automotive companies. I just came back from actually teaching in Bhutan to their ministry of education. Such a wide ranged tech companies, the United Nations—it's really a big cross section.

How the doors get opened is generally, there’s someone in the organization who’s had some experience where mindfulness has been really a powerful tool for them to cultivate their own well-being like a reduction in stress, reduction in anxiety. They become sort of the internal champions. Sometimes people are just curious because they hear that Google is doing it or LinkedIn is doing it.

Jeff Weiner is talking a lot about compassion in the workplace. There’s some luminaries in certain fields who are popularizing this. But generally, it’s through someone’s personal experience of transformation that the door gets opened.

[00:33:24] David: When you come in and maybe it was one person that opened the door but other people are skeptical, what kind of response do you get? How do you overcome that skepticism?

[00:33:34] Lori: Yeah, that’s a great question. I was just teaching in Hong Kong to an organization. I always ask in the beginning, on a continuum, on one side, people who are super skeptical about mindfulness. On the other side, people who have a practice. And I asked—show up hands, “Who is on what side of the spectrum?” And a couple of people put their hand up saying they were skeptical.

I run a two-day program. At the beginning of the second day, a woman came in who had initially put her hand up saying she was really skeptical. She said, “You know I just need to share something with you.” And I said, “What’s that?” And I thought she was one of the skeptical one, she’s going to challenge me in some way. She said, “You know, I’ve got a 14-month-old daughter and I know that we’re learning these to apply in the workplace. But I went home after our training yesterday and I was just really present with my daughter in a way that I don’t think I really ever have been.” I was just so moved by that—both by her willingness to say, “Hey, I’ve changed,” and her willingness to let the practices affect her. Just that beauty of her coming in and being present with her child was so wonderful.

I recently came back from working with an organization in LA, just actually yesterday. I’ve been working with them for the past couple of years with some of these practices. What they found is that some of them were skeptical at first. I just do little practices—one is just a minute to arrive. Often times, we start meetings and our brains is thinking about the last meeting we’re in or we’re anticipating the next. We wonder why our meetings aren’t productive because we’re actually not there.

I teach a simple practice of just at the beginning of a meeting, just pause, turn devices off, shut them down, and just take one minute just to arrive. That might just be a minute of silence. It could be a minute of naming one word of how you’re arriving like scattered, excited, whatever it is. That just brings people into the present moment. Someone that I was speaking with yesterday at this organization said, “You know, we’ve been using that minute to arrive in our meetings and it’s amazing how much happier people are. Things feel like they’re flowing more, there’s more productivity.” This is sort of an anecdotal story. There’s no hard evidence on it but for me, just seeing that person who is a little skeptical about what’s all this mindfulness in a very practical way. Seeing this simple practice could increase engagement. Ultimately, effectiveness in the meeting simply just by inviting people to be present—simply that.

[00:36:38] David: I think that’s a great idea. Actually, I’m going to start applying that in our meetings with the rest of my marketing team. I will report back on how that went because I think that’s a really good idea.

[00:36:50] Lori: Great.

[00:36:51] David: Thank you for that tip.

[00:36:51] Lori: Yes, it’s an easy one.

[00:36:53] David: Yeah, it’s a really easy one. But then, what happens when leaders are skeptical or not even skeptical, don’t buy in, is there still the possibility to shift the culture when the leaders aren’t really into it?

[00:37:07] Lori: I think it’s certainly harder when the leaders aren’t bought in because leaders by virtue of their position are people who influence. Ideally, fantastic if they’re there. I’ve worked in organizations where the leaders are really vulnerable and actually talking about their experience in the exercises and that’s fabulous.

When they’re not, there’s something about what you might call it a grassroots movement or to borrow that quote, be the change you want to see. Because ultimately, it feels better for us when we’re present when we can show up with kindness, with empathy, when we don’t think we need to be perfect. Bringing it in and weaving it in just even at a personal level within a team, within just one-on-one interactions, that becomes what can be called a virtuous cycle. There’s a reinforcement that happens if I’m more regulated because I’m using my breath. I’m more intentional about how I’m showing up. People are going to feel that. They’re going to respond to me differently. They might approach me with more opportunities to collaborate because I’m easier to connect with.

I start to see the benefit in my own life, of my own ability to pause, my own ability to be present. I might not have the buy-end at the top level, I have the internal experience and that becomes reinforcing. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not a harder or a much easier integration when there’s a culture change in that does get supported by leadership, for sure.

[00:38:53] David: The reason I asked is because many members of our community expressed how the biggest challenge they have to embracing or practicing people-first approach at work is the leadership. To think that everybody needs to be focused on profit, on the numbers, how any sales we’re generating, and not so much on the people inside the organization.

I’d be curious to hear, how would you recommend—what would you say to those people who are on the fence about embracing the people-first approach?

[00:39:25] Lori: I think, again, there’s some research that does show that taking care of your employees is a way of taking care of your business. I talked about the Aetna and the SAP research. You’ve mentioned that Google study which is really solid evidence that creating environments where people can thrive, be optimized, and become the best. There’s is actual translation into profitability and effectiveness.

I kind of sometimes say it’s the Trojan horse that you lead with the benefit, the business case, if you will. Ultimately, that creates the opening for more of these people-first practices and orientation. I think there’s enough data out there that does show that taking care of your people makes good sense in terms of your business.

[00:40:30] David: I shared that Google study once with a former boss of mine. He didn’t even open the email, I didn’t stay much longer.

[00:40:37] Lori: Yeah, there you go. Then, there’s that question of goodness of fit like your personal values and the values of the organization, is there a gap there? The values of leadership, is there a gap there? And what do you do with that? It’s a challenge for sure.

[00:40:53] David: If you could recommend one resource to our listeners to help them succeed by putting people first, what would it be?

[00:41:06] Lori: I would go back to the practice of mindfulness and I will say that there a lot of guided meditation apps out there. There’s Calm, there’s Headspace. I think that leaders who are able to integrate that practice, just even two minutes, five minutes a day, their increase of self-awareness arises such that they begin to see it when what they’re doing is in alignment in their values and what makes sense.

Bar none, I would say the most important resource is a mindfulness practice and their many supports for that right now.

[00:41:53] David: I agree 100%. I also feel like, actually, the number one resource that you can possibly do is mindfulness. It’s almost a panacea. It’s one of those few things, it’s one of those single actions that you could take that has such a broad effect across the spectrum of your health, your mental well-being, your sense of energy, your focus, your determination. There’s so many areas of your life that impacts.

In my experience, there has been no other single thing that I’ve done that has had such a wide reaching effect as having a regular meditation practice.

[00:42:30] Lori: Yes.

[00:42:31] David: I wholeheartedly agree.

[00:42:34] Lori: That’s great. That’s wonderful. I have noticed it’s power. I work with some really high performing leaders. Just the difficulty that they often say like, “I have no time.” When you have no time, that means you really do need to do it.

[00:42:53] David: There’s actually a great quote which is, “If you don’t have 30 minutes a day to spend meditating, that means you need to be spending 3 hours.”

[00:43:01] Lori: Exactly. Was that Jon Kabat-Zinn, I don’t know?

[00:43:04] David: I don’t remember where that quote comes from but I thought it was perfect.

[00:43:08] Lori: It’s a good one. One of the things I love about Meng, who developed Search Inside Yourself program being an engineer, he knows how to create things, optimizing the least effort for the maximum outcome, and that one breath practice or the three breath practice—I’ll lead you to a three breath practice maybe as we close—is a nice sort of entry point and easy access point that then hopefully wets the appetite that people begin to practice a little bit more.

[00:43:42] David: What’s the three breath practice?

[00:43:43] Lori: Okay. This is advance version. We’re moving from one to three here. Three breaths and I’ll just tell you what it is and we’ll let you do it on your own time.

The first breath is to give full and complete attention to the breath. Again, feeling the sensation of the body breathing. The second breath, the instruction is to relax the body. That’s not to slouch but just to notice if there’s any tension just to release that. The third breath is to ask the question, “What’s most important now?” And see what arises.

Want to try it?

[00:44:19] David: Let’s do it.

[00:44:20] Lori: Again, I always like to start with just an intention of really big breath to breathe in. Then, breathe out. On your own time, first breathe. Full and complete attention to the breath.

Second breath, relaxing the body.

And the third breath, what’s most important right now?

What came out for you, David?

[00:45:16] David: Well, what’s most important for me right now?

[00:45:17] Lori: Yeah.

[00:45:18] David: Spending time with my family. I mean that right now because I actually, I got this massive to-do list and it’s Friday afternoon at the time of this recording. It doesn’t look like I’m going to have enough time for the rest of the day. What I was planning on doing which is charging through everything and just not being able to go outside of my office.

Actually, the feeling that I have is now is my daughter had a half-day so she’s at home already. Actually, what I should do is go spend some time with them and then come back and see how much I can get through.

[00:45:52] Lori: How does that feel as you hear yourself say that?

[00:45:54] David: Pretty good, actually. I actually feel more energized—I feel more energy to then later on tackle these other things than I would if I had to judge through these things, and then I wouldn’t have energy to spend time with my kids.

[00:46:07] Lori: Fantastic.

[00:46:08] David: I’m going to go do that.

[00:46:09] Lori: Awesome. I could tell you about the neuroscience in that. We can say that for another time. I’m so glad that you had that experience.

[00:46:16] David: Actually, I would love to hear that.

[00:46:19] Lori: Okay. When we’re kind of busy, distracted, again the mind is not in the present moment or we’re ruminating on something. The instruction of giving full and complete attention to the breath, it gives your mind something to focus on. Instead of saying, “Just stop thinking about that email.” It’s impossible. Focus on the breath and again, remembering full and complete attention to the breath, relaxes the nervous system.

The softening of the body or the relaxing the body also supports the rest and relaxation. What happens then is we have access to the parts of our brain that can think with more wisdom. The prefrontal cortex that’s not run on automatic. We’re working with the attention, we’re working with the body, and then we’re asking that question, “What’s most important now?” And we’ve primed the system so we can actually listen into these other parts of us that might not be so accessible when we’re running on automatic.

We’re just trying to get from one thing to the other. It’s a powerful, portable, easy practice, that is just realignment.

[00:47:28] David: Alright. That’s also coming into the marketing team as an exercise.

Lori, thank you so much for taking time. One last thing, where can people find out more about you and the work that you’re doing?

[00:47:43] Lori: Primarily my work is through the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute so that’s the short name for SIYLI. So, siyli.org.

[00:47:53] David: Exactly, it's spelled a little differently.

[00:47:57] Lori: You can also find me on my website lorischwanbeck.com. I offer a variety leadership training programs and a variety of different spaces. I also do individual coaching.

[00:48:10] David: Great,thanks again.

[00:48:11] Lori: Thanks, David. Enjoy the time with your daughter. How precious.

[00:48:14] David: I will. Thank you.

[00:48:23] Louis: Thanks for listening, my fellow human. We know how fast paced life is. If you're listening to this on your daily commute, while running, or even cooking, you can always go to Hotjar.com/humans and look for today's episode. That's where you'll find access to all the resources and humans we talked about, the full transcript of the conversation, and even links to really see the episodes.

[00:48:46] David: If you like today's episode, please help us out by leaving your honest rating and review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. The more honest feedback we get, the more we can improve the show for you, and the more this podcast will be discovered by other humans. It's a win-win situation. Until next time, take care and be human.