Zen Your Work: A Mindful Interview with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko Part II
“Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Note: This blog post is a contribution to the #SHRM19Blogger website. If interested in discovering other amazing HR bloggers, please click the link to read other posts!
Last week, I published Zen Your Work: A Mindful Interview with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko Part I.
Karlyn is the Chief Science Officer at RallyBright and the Founder of Zen Workplace. She is an organizational psychologist and executive/performance coach, who is a leader in integrating mindfulness strategies in a work setting (and other settings).
She is hosting a MEGA Session at the SHRM 2019 Conference called Zen Your Work: Creating a More Mindful Work Experience. Zen Your Workplace will be held on Tuesday June 25th from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. #SHRM19 attendees interested in becoming more aware, focused, confident, and productive should definitely make it a point to check our Karlyn’s session! Those who won’t be in attendance certainly don’t feel left out! She is incredibly accessible, and in addition, she wrote a book that is worth every penny. Without further adieu, here’s Part II of my two-part interview with Dr. Borysenko!
Paul L: Let’s discuss the term “Zen.” I believe it carries a very unique, if not misinterpreted, connotation in the West. How do you define “Zen” and how do you apply that interpretation to the workplace?
Karlyn B: My definition of “Zen” is admittedly different than most, and I think that’s OK. For me, it’s the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I have the power to change my experience at work, or in life, if I change my contribution, as well as knowing that no one has the ability to make me feel less than amazing if I don’t make the choice to allow them to. I don’t have to stress over the little things, or have a bad day because someone makes a remark I don’t like in a meeting, or question my own abilities if I’m working with someone who is perpetually negative because they’re not happy about how their life has turned out. We choose the way we feel. We choose the inner dialogue we have. We choose what actions to take, or not to take. Our experience is the culmination of those chooses – that’s what I mean when I say contribution. That’s where I believe mindfulness is actually its most powerful. It allows you to achieve a high degree of self-empowerment.
PL: I love that! Again, choice is so powerful. I think people often underestimate their ability to choose how they feel. It is truly powerful to acknowledge our choices outweigh what others do to us. So, is building mindfulness in the workplace solely an individual employee task, or do employers play a role in this, as well? If employers have a part to play in “Zenning” up the workplace, what does that look like?
KB: It’s a little bit of both. On the employee part, you have to know that you can always apply mindfulness to improve your work experience regardless of what your organization is doing. If they aren’t doing anything, that doesn’t dismiss what you can do on a personal level, and it doesn’t give you a free pass not to change your contribution. But employers should be interested in investing in this for their teams because, bottom line, they’ll get more done and the bottom line will go up. The research is very clear on this: People achieve more when they are in a positive mental state. That means mindfulness a very good investment for employers to make.
But it’s not just about employers offering mindfulness training and calling it a day. It’s about creating a positive culture that supports the type of experience you want your employees to have. This isn’t about spouting platitudes – mission, vision, values, all that. It’s about doing every day work. Think about the experience you want your team members to have, and then look at the contributions you’re making to that experience in the form of your policies, your communication, and how your managers are treating their teams. No employer is going to say “I want my employees to have a soul sucking experience,” yet many employees do have soul sucking experiences. When that’s the case, it’s because organizational leaders are saying one thing and doing another. In this case, they could be more mindful of how the employee experience is being created by the day-to-day actions the organization is taking. If they don’t like what they’re creating, make different choices.
PL: Thank you for that explanation. I often see, read, and hear about the frustrating disconnect between what leadership says and what leadership does. It’s disheartening at times, yet knowing personal mindfulness can help mitigate the negative effects is awesome. Your website showcases a lot on the DISC assessment. I’m becoming somewhat of a DISC nerd lately, so that was cool to see! How do you believe DISC aligns to mindfulness practice? What overlaps do you see?
KB: Remember, I’m an organizational psychologist first and a lot of what I do combines both mindfulness and psychology. I love DISC because it is a freakishly accurate way for people to become more aware of their personal work style and how they can build better relationships with their colleagues. Self-mastery is a key part of what I teach – understand the things you’re naturally really good at and embracing your glorious flaws as a path of growth and opportunity. DISC tells you that in a clear way.
One of the things that’s most interesting about DISC for me, though, is understanding what your comfort zone is and where you need to stretch outside of it. Your DISC profile is your comfort zone, but never make the mistake in thinking that it’s all you can be. This is where people who criticize work style assessments get it wrong – they think it puts people into boxes they can’t escape from. However, any person can do anything that anyone else can do, it just might require pushing outside your comfort zone. That is going to, inherently, make you feel uncomfortable. And this is where mindfulness comes it. If you can identify that discomfort – become mindful of it – that’s when you can make the choice to do it anyway. It’s not that you can’t do it. Embrace the discomfort as a means of growth and realize that you can do more than you thought you could!
PL: I love that! It’s so difficult in the moment to “embrace the discomfort, but it’s so satisfying to come out on the other end better for it! Who should attend your presentation at #SHRM19 and why? Again, not giving anything away, what will they walk away with?
KB: If they are interested in learning how to apply mindfulness at work in a really practical way, this is the talk you want to go to. They’ll learn tools they can use, but they’ll also learn tools they can use to coach and teach their co-workers. Spread the wealth! And in fact, I want to make this so practical that on Twitter, I’ve asked people to send me examples of their biggest pain points prior to the conference. I’ll work them in as examples to show you how to apply mindfulness to fixing some of your more pressing challenges. If your readers would like to contribute, they can just tweet at me @DrKarlynB with their thoughts. And using the #SHRM19 hashtag, of course!
PL: I will certainly be encouraging my followers to reach out to you. Awesome idea to interweave real world practice into the mindfulness approaches. Finally, is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to touch upon? What would you like readers know about you — personally, professionally, or otherwise?!
KB: In addition to the Zen Your Work MEGA session that we’ve been discussing, I’m also giving two other talks at #SHRM19. On Sunday the 23rd, I’ll be leading a pre-conference workshop called Work Wonders: A Crash Course In How To Be An Amazing Coach. If folks are interested, they should make sure to sign up for that in advance of the conference. Then on Monday the 24th at 11:50am, I’ll take the smart stage to discuss the results of a study I did last year about the employee experience of being fired. The data is something I hope every HR professional gets exposed to – I think they’ll find the results quite shocking (as I did).
And of course, if they want to learn more about mindfulness, they can pick up my book Zen Your Work: Create Your Ideal Work Experience Through Mindful Self-Mastery. It’s available wherever books are sold in paperback, digital, and audio. They’ll also be able to pick it up at the conference in the bookstore, and I’ll be signing copies of it after my talk.
Dr. Karlyn Borysenko is the Chief Science Officer at RallyBright and the Founder of Zen Workplace. An organizational psychologist and executive/performance coach, she is a leader in integrating mindfulness strategies at work to increase productivity and creativity, reduce stress, and create better work experiences. Her practice is based in the greater Boston area and serves clients all over the world. She holds an MBA and a PhD in Psychology, is an experienced trainer and facilitator, coach, and award-winning speaker. Karlyn is a contributor to Forbes.com and the author of Zen Your Work: Create your ideal work experience through mindful self-mastery.
Author’s Note: I want to thank Dr. Borysenko for this interview! She was so gracious and generous with her time and thoughtful responses! I hope to see you there are her talks at #SHRM19! If you can’t make it, please reach out to her via social media. She’s incredibly approachable! For more ideas on mindfulness practice, please don’t hesitate reaching out to her, or me! I’d be happy to share some of my experiences with you!