How to Instill a Culture of Mindfulness at Your Startup
If you’re an entrepreneur with way too many things on your plate, you’ve probably already set a resolution to be more mindful this year. And you should. What founder doesn’t want a way to feel more focused as they grow, to let go of the things that are unnecessarily taking up their attention?
But the thing is, a business’s growth doesn’t rely on the founder alone. Even the leanest startups build success on the foundation of a strong team. So no matter how much more effective you become by incorporating mindfulness into your life, you won’t benefit from the full effects if you’re not translating that mindset to your company, too.
Build culture with intention.
Especially in early stage startups, everyone from the founder to the most recent hire is creating something new among countless unknowns. That’s part of the reason why working at a startup is so thrilling. But add in a fast-paced pressure to grow, and the tone of that environment becomes all the more important for the team to thrive -- a tone that needs be set by the CEO. Only, a founder can’t just roll through the hallways and expect that their team to absorb their best qualities. You need to be clear with your intention if you’re going to establish a supportive and empowering culture from the top down.
The rewards of collective mindfulness.
But why specifically root your company’s culture in mindfulness? What can be gained from the collective that isn’t fully accessible alone? In a very practical sense, mindfulness cultivates a strong focus on the present moment -- an important practice when only 34 percent of employees are engaged at work. The tools of mindfulness can also help to decrease burnout and, as a result, prevent regrettable turnover. So, while the effects of mindfulness may be immediately intangible, the longer term impact on your product and even your ability to recruit can have a tangible financial effect.
Mindfulness also encourages authenticity across work and life. It’s a daily practice, as Professor Brené Brown says, “of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are.” The emotional safety that is inspired by this mindset in turn allows for greater innovation. Team members feel like they can be their full selves, no matter how weird, and focus on what they uniquely bring to the table. In a high-growth startup, the clarity that mindfulness brings is irreplaceable.
So, what are some ways as a entrepreneur that you can incorporate mindfulness into your company’s culture?
1. Allow room for mistakes.
In high pressure environments, like working at a startup, there can be a lot of pressure not to make any mistakes. But when there are so many unknowns and as great a chance of failure as there is of success, you need everyone on your team to feel empowered to take risks -- and that’s something that’s not going to happening if people are afraid of messing up.
Rather, allowing room for mistakes and being plentiful with your forgiveness can create a more compassionate workplace. Make a point as a leader to have calm one-on-one conversations about any missteps -- and what can be learned from those experiences. This practice will help build a culture where meaningful reflection is prioritized and avoid any decisions based on fear. Moreover, these conversations build trust and can even inform your business’s roadmap, too.
2. Create a norm of appreciation.
On the flip side, a culture of mindfulness is also built on a practice of appreciation, of seeing the value in the here and now. Really, everyone likes to feel valuable at work. But as an entrepreneur, appreciation is especially important to stress because your team is coming together to help make your vision a reality. And while appreciation has the power to inspire employees to dedicate themselves more fully to the work at hand, a mindful approach is even more effective in building a strong culture as it places an emphasis on the whole person in front of you -- not just how they affect your bottom line.
Appreciation can be done in a group setting -- at Squad, we have a tradition of celebrating our wins big and small at “Milestone Friday” -- or through giving employee feedback at a team level on a product like 15five. There are also many ways to incorporate moments of appreciation into daily interactions, too. As you grow, just know that this applies to how you train top senior leaders. Most founders aren’t the only C-suite people in a company, and you need to pay special attention that everyone is intentionally incorporating appreciation into their management style.
3. Make it a ritual.
However, the most important part of instilling a culture of mindfulness at a company is making it a habit and really embedding presence into the natural rhythm of the day-to-day. Similar to the practice of mindfulness itself, no effort is going to have a meaningful impact on the overall culture of a startup if it’s a one-time thing.
You don’t need a large budget to start building a habit of mindfulness either. Something as simple as setting a time when everyone agrees to turn off all notifications can be a great way to start. A more structured approach like bringing in a regular meditation instructor is an effective approach as well. But no matter what you choose, it needs to be consistent and regularly communicated to the entire team.
In sum, unlike later-stage companies, as an entrepreneur you have the unique chance to direct your company’s culture from the top down, rather than the almost impossible task of changing it once it’s already been set. With that opportunity, take the lead to incorporate mindfulness into your business to set your team -- and your future growth -- up for success.