Have you ever wondered what makes a company like Google so hugely successful, rising high above all their competitors and dominating the globe? In his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins looked at the available data on every company that had entered the Fortune 500 between 1965 and 1995 and identified ones that had started out as merely ‘good’ and became ‘great companies’ (defined as outperforming the market by a factor of three or more for at least 15 years).
One of the most important factors he identified was the presence of a type of leader who possessed two seemingly conflicting qualities: great ambition and personal humility. These leaders didn’t want fame and fortune to feed their ego – they were motivated to make the world a better place. This made them both highly effective and inspiring.
If you think about it, who would you be most motivated to work for, a kind, compassionate boss or a self-interested one? Also, if you’re kind and compassionate at work you’re going to be more likeable, and if you’re more likeable you’re probably going to be more successful.
What the book didn’t say was how these qualities might be trainable. Fortunately though, there is a tried and tested method of training yourself to be kinder. It’s a meditation practice called the Metta Bhavana, which means ‘cultivating unconditional loving kindness’.
Now, you might think that feeling ‘unconditional love’ for people at work is a bit of a tall order, but if you understand feeling love as wanting a person to be happy, accepting them for who they are without judgement, and being kind to them, it might seem a bit more possible.
For this meditation you start by focusing on yourself and repeat phrases such as “may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering”, for a few minutes. You don’t have to use those exact phrases, but words to that effect. In the second stage you choose a good friend and wish the same for them, “may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering. In third stage you choose a neutral person, someone you have neither strong positive or negative feelings for. In the fourth stage you focus on someone you find difficult, or don’t get on with. Finally, you expand the sentiment out to all living things.
It’s a challenging exercise, but if you could nail each stage, you’d be more committed to your own happiness and well being and therefore more at peace with yourself. You’d be friendly with clients and colleagues y0u don’t even know, which would be great for your reputation. You’d also be really good at working with difficult people, seeing things from their perspective and not getting riled by their behaviour, which would mean you could effectively deal with anybody you work with.
Through doing this practice myself, I’ve noticed my relationship with pretty much everyone improve. I’m less judgemental, better at seeing things from my client’s perspective and I generally have more positive interactions with people. As a result, I find people are more willing to help me and recommend me to potential clients. I’m also a lot more patient and understanding with people I used to find difficult.
So if you’d like to improve your leadership skills and your relationship with everyone around you, I recommend giving this practice a go. You never know, you might end up running the next Google…