The New CMO: Chief Mindfulness Officer

There’s a reason that SAP, Google, Aetna and IBM have Chief Mindfulness Officers. Tech has revolutionized the business sector; whether you’re an entrepreneur, employee, CEO or executive you’re likely feeling the effects of less humanity and more technology.

Our minds are distracted, attention spans are shortened, we want everything on demand, in boxes are never empty, our energy is frequently negative, we’re addicted to social media and we’re sleep deprived. This cannot be the new normal.

Enter the Chief Mindfulness Officer; the person embedded in a company to share, teach and curate content about mindfulness in a way that enhances communication, collaboration and the collective energy of employees. The science has really been catching up, so instead of mindfulness feeling so groovy — or “yoga like,” it can be called “cognitive training,” or “neuro- leadership” so that people who would otherwise never try mindfulness or breathing techniques will be open to the idea of some mind/body practices that enhance and elevate creativity, clarity, communication, productivity and even…drum roll please…increase the company’s bottom line.

Peter Bostelmann, SAP’s Chief Mindfulness Officer is leading the way for big corporations to see the difference that a CMO position can make. He’s been mining data for a few years now and talks about the impact externally at global conferences. In a May 2018 Reuters article titled At Germany’s SAP, Employee Mindfulness Leads to Higher Profits, Emma Thomasson writes about Bostelmann’s efforts at SAP, “Since 2014, SAP has sought to measure the impact of factors such as employee engagement and health on operating profit, arguing that staff with a better work-life balance are more resilient to stress and, therefore, more productive…SAP declines to detail how much it is spending on mindfulness but says it has seen a 200 percent return on investment, with the training leading to a rise in employee engagement and a fall in absenteeism.”

Bostelmann became Chief Mindfulness Officer after he started a grassroots effort of his own to share his enthusiasm for mindfulness from his personal practice. He shared it with a couple colleagues and they saw the benefits and began a pilot program in the US (where Bostelmann is based) & Germany (SAP HQ). Sooner rather than later, SAP was on board to make Mindfulness a global corporate supported initiative. Bostelmann switched from his then position of Program Delivery Manager to Chief Mindfulness Officer in 2014; a position that he relishes as he sees the difference the program brings to both individuals and the company. The numbers are impressive and growing daily: 6,500 SAP employees have participated in a two-day program, including several top executives. 5,500 are on a waiting list in 20 locations around the world.

Like SAP, Google and IBM also had Mindfulness Programs take shape simply because one person wanted to share their experience with the power of mindfulness and it resonated. Hopefully, more big corporate brands will follow suit because IMHO we are at the tipping point of “digital overwhelm,” 10 yrs. after the launch of smartphones. Our attention is always being diverted, we’re multitasking and rarely in the present moment long enough to gain clarity and make more thoughtful decisions. We make hasty decisions more than necessary just to check them off the list only to find later that “small” decisions are important too and require more mindful focus. It’s a constant balancing act that requires a keen sense of self-awareness; understanding (and choosing) the way we think and feel. Taking responsibility for our mood and mindset.

Managing your thoughts, emotions and energy is something that many people rarely think about and this needs to change. Running on auto pilot limits success on many levels. Gaining self- awareness is a simple process that just takes a little practice on learning how to briefly check in with yourself a few times a day to refocus and re-energize in order to stay on course. If you’re listening to a negative dialogue on repeat in your mind — change it. If you’re feeling tense and your shoulders are attached to your ears, take a few deep breaths and literally unwind. Stop to start over. It can be an adjustment that takes less than 60 seconds to tap into your inner strength. Breath is meditation at the speed of business! Breath is the antidote to digital distraction.

“What is the leader’s instrument? It is his or her own persona that interacts with many people inside and outside the organization. Unlike surgeons, pilots, engineers, dentists, or other professionals who use tools as an important adjunct to do their work, leaders rely solely on self as the tool of their trade.” Jack Zenger via Forbes

Breath (even just one deep breath) connects you to the part of your brain that manages emotions. You can reset a negative default to a positive mindset/perspective and watch how you make better decisions and communicate more effectively in a way that makes people want to amplify and assist your efforts.

How you think and feel is a choice; one that we shouldn’t take for granted. Can you imagine if you couldn’t change the way you feel at any moment?! If you’re moving through your day in a caffeine fueled state of intense yet distracted energy, others are feeling it too and it‘s limiting your potential.

Become your own Chief Mindfulness Officer! 5 Steps to Get Started:

  1. Set your phone alarm for 3x a day where you’ll stop… just for a moment! Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths, go inward, move away from digital distractions and outside stimuli.
  2. Do a mental “body scan” to notice and let go of any physical symptoms of stress; clenched jaw, tightness in your hands, downward/slouched posture.
  3. As you turn inward for a moment, set an intention about how you want to think/feel for the next few hours. In need of some patience? More inner-strength? Confidence and optimism? Tell yourself that “You’ve got this!”
  4. Take 3 more deep breaths to embed that intention &attitude in your mind/body.
  5. Go! Make things happen with a more meaningful sense of self-awareness and a positive mindset. Decisions that are made from a place of positivity and strength are much more effective than those made from a place of lack or fear.

No need to wait for the 7PM gym class or 45 minute meditation app to relieve stress or be present and clear…Breathe through challenges and intense work in the moment; that’s how mindfulness turns into success. In the moment. You can be your own Chief Mindfulness Officer when you have the self-awareness to know when you need to stop and re-set. The mind/body connection is an extremely powerful tool that often goes un-utilized. Tap into it and see how things begin to unfold in new way that leads to limitless potential, new found creativity, heightened clarity and tenacity that won’t quit until you get to where you want to go!