Written by: Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group

If you were to ask any business leader what the number one thing is that they are concerned about for their organization, my hunch is, their answer could be summed up by one word; talent. Even responses such as “customer retention”, “market competitiveness/segmentation”, “profitability”, ”innovation”, “risk mitigation” and “organizational effectiveness”, all have the human component, or talent, at their root.

Attracting, developing and retaining talent has always been critical for organizational success, so why is talent the #1 concern now? Well, while trying to survive the recent recession, most organizations lost sight of ensuring their talent pipeline was adequately stocked from within, and did all they could to keep the doors open. After all, where were those who still had jobs going go? Then, post-recession, most who were still employed were top-performers and started being in high-demand as the employment rates once again began rising. To top it off, the majority of US job markets have surpassed pre-recession employment levels, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are leaving the workforce in droves and even though Millennials/Gen Ys (born 1980-2000) continue to pour into the workplace, more people are leaving the workforce than are entering it. This increasing demand and decreasing supply of available talent has lead to what has now been called the War for Talent.

So what can we do? For starters, we must focus on developing a culture that attracts, develops and retains an equal representation of available talent and reflects the age distribution of our desired customer base. However, given that people are retiring later and companies are adopting  flatter organizational structures with more collaborative workplace designs, we now have 4 generations working side-by-side. This means we must ensure our organization’s culture is generational, or age, inclusive.

The better an organization understands the differences that each generation brings to the workplace, the better they can…

  • Create a culture of effectiveness to:
    • Boost understanding, respect and productivity
    • Retain corporate knowledge
    • Reduce claims of discrimination
  • Seek to engage the workforce to:
    • Develop more effective Engagement strategies by knowing what truly motivates different groups
    • Increase their financial stability through higher levels of Employee Engagement
    • Offer appropriate/desirable development opportunities which lead to higher job satisfaction
  • Attract and retain talent to:
    • Ensure a well rounded workforce through generational specific recruiting practices
    • Retain older works and prevent ‘brain drain’ while recruiting younger workers to fill the talent pipeline
  • Address the market to:
    • Better attract/retain customers from all generations by understanding the unique preferences each bring
    • Open new markets by appealing to previously overlooked generations

To learn more about how Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group has been empowering business leaders to achieve these results through an fostering an age inclusive workplace, reach out to Jonathan Eisler and stay tuned for more helpful hints.

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Colleen OBrien on July 22nd, 2015

Written by: Colleen O’Brien, LPC

If you’ve ever seen the show “Friends” with Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox, you know that Monica can be a bit obsessive about things. Remember how she kept the apartment very tidy at all times (except for the secret closet)? Or that time when she created a filing system of potential jobs by industry for Chandler when he mentioned he was thinking about a job change? This obsessiveness falls under the umbrella of anxiety. Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it’s hurtful. If anxiety is something you experience, gaining awareness around how it affects you and learning effective ways to cope can lead to a higher quality of life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. That’s not to say that everyone who experiences anxiety has a disorder – most people experience anxiety from time to time. The frequency and level of anxiety varies greatly between people and determines if it is helpful or hurtful for an individual.

It can be hard to recognize if we experience anxiety. One way to tell is to observe our thinking. If you ever get caught up in a cycle of questions that start with “what if” such as, what if I lose my job, my partner cheats on me, I’m not a good parent, I fail this exam, I don’t get that promotion, I can’t reach my goal, I’m not taken seriously, etc., then you have experienced anxiety. Personality traits that indicate anxiety is present include perfectionist thinking, always needing approval from others, a tendency to ignore signs of stress, and always needing to be in control. As mentioned above, on one side of the spectrum, anxiety can be a helpful energy, which keeps you on your toes and helps you get things done. On the other side, it can feel paralyzing and crippling and prevent movement. When it’s hurtful, interventions can be used to manage it.

When I surveyed friends about how they handle the “what if” scenarios, their responses included cognitive redirection skills: “things happen, it could be worse…” “it’s out of my control, but my reactions are within my control”. Cognitive redirection is one tool that has been proven to reduce anxiety. Other ways to manage anxiety include deep breathing and visualization.

For further reading on ways to manage anxiety, check out the 10 best every anxiety management techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg, Psy.D. Dr. Wehrenberg has been in private practice for more than 20 years and speaks internationally about anxiety reduction. She suggests tools including cognitive redirection, breathing, having a little fun, and planning instead of worrying.

Gaining awareness and learning interventions that work for you are initial steps to change and potentially a higher quality of life! It’s not always easy to do it on your own though. If you think you experience anxiety and you want some support around managing it, don’t hesitate to call your EAP and get connected with a counselor.

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Bernie Dyme on July 15th, 2015

chicago blackhawksWritten by: Bernie Dyme

From 1997 to 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks only qualified for the playoffs two times.  That’s right; twice in 10 years.  In fact, they finished with a better than .500 record only once in that period.  Then, in a very short time period in 2008/2009, the once storied franchise that had been in the cellar for much of the previous 10 years, entered a new era of success that has included making the playoffs in each of the last 7 years, going to the conference finals 2 of those years and winning the Stanley Cup 3 times and 3 of the last 6 years.

Not only did they win but they became one of the most profitable National Hockey League franchises in the last decade; fourth to be exact and are currently valued at $825 Million.

So what happened to turn this around?  Well, the story of the Chicago Blackhawks is the quintessential turnaround story and it has many lessons for business in general.  It is the story of how to change culture in an organization and although it did not happen overnight, it sure happened quickly.

In 2004, the franchise was ranked the worst in professional hockey by ESPN and was plagued by a lot of issues.  However, the turnaround began with a change in ownership, but a change within the same family.  The owner of the franchise was Bill Wirtz who had a reputation for being a “cheapskate”.  His frugality lead to the loss of many great players (Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to name the two most famous) leaving a bad taste in their mouths, the mouths of other potential players and the fans.  Further, he ticked off the fans of Chicago which had been one of the most passionate fan bases in all of hockey-dom by doing a number of things.   Where I want to focus on the bad morale and reputation for treating his players (employees) and fans (customers) that lead to the decade of decline and the way in which the new management team was able to turn that around and bring fans and former players back into the fold.  What happened was nothing short of miraculous and speaks to how great leadership can change culture.

During the lean years in the franchise, the Hawks did acquire a number of good players via the draft (Seabrook, Toewes and Kane) and trades (Keith, Khabibulin and Sharp) but the event that ultimately changed the course of the franchise was the death of Bill Wirtz and the ascension to the top of his son Rocky Wirtz.  Rocky began to make changes that lead to the ultimate success of the franchise beginning with the hiring of John McDonough as President.  McDonough had previously been the President of the baseball franchise, the Chicago Cubs, (yes, the baseball franchise) who knew very little about hockey but who was a master marketing guru and who understood the importance of creating a good culture.  Rocky started by getting the Hawks back on television which lead to the rise in popularity of the team and more importantly, to a changeover in morale and customer engagement.

Clearly Wirtz and McDonough deserve the credit for the turnaround but how it was done is an amazing story.  McDonough began by doing a listening tour with fans and Blackhawks personnel.  He saw that the culture of the organization was a “losing one” in which people really were checked out.  They had accepted low expectations.  Further, McDonough told them that the pace was going to get faster.  He accurately gauged that there was a need to bring morale up and bring back excitement so he brought back the old disenfranchised players who had left on pretty bad terms (Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito).  They hired a former announcer who brought back the excitement he had originally had, hired a new coach with a history of winning and began to communicate very clearly that losing was no longer an option.  They started spending money and invested in quality as a result of the changing attitude of the owner, Rocky Wirtz, creating a leadership team that consisted of old NHL stalwarts like Scotty Bowman who had built the successful Montreal Canadians franchise.  It was clear that they knew the formula.  Below are lessons that are applicable to any organization, be it a professional sports franchise, a manufacturing company or a service business.

  1. Success and high expectations start at the top so leadership consists of folks who are all in alignment.
  2. Customers need to be convinced by actions that ownership cares deeply about providing a quality product.
  3. Winning and success are not based on individual performances alone but only in the context of an entire organization in which all are pulling in the same direction.
  4. People matter which means that all personnel (players, front office staff, management, broadcasters and vendors) and customers (fans, media and concession vendors) need to be shown that they are valued.
  5. Open communication within the organization in which everyone’s opinion matters (even if there isn’t always unanimity).

Losing and culture can change, but it takes commitment and passion to build better quality decisions benefiting the organization. People are the basic element necessary for success in any organization. Do you have an experience in managing culture change? Please comment below to start the conversation.

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Bernie Dyme on July 8th, 2015
image by: dreamstine

image by: dreamstine

Written by: Bernie Dyme

I know that I am biased because I own my own behavioral health care company, but I feel that choice is important and bigger doesn’t always mean better.  Don’t get me wrong, consolidation doesn’t have to be a bad thing but there are dangers inherent in mergers especially if it limits consumer choice.  And that seems to be the trend in healthcare and insurance these days.  Remember that the five top health insurers are UnitedHealth serving 45 million members, Anthem serving 38 million members, Aetna serving 27 million members, Cigna serving 15 million members and Humana serving 10 million members.  Well, the big five just became the big three as on July 3rd, when Aetna agreed to purchase Humana for $37 billion.  This would bring together two of the largest health insurers in the US which would serve 33 million people and have $115 billion in revenues.  And there are probably more mergers in this group to come with rumors that Anthem is trying to purchase Cigna as is UnitedHealth who was involved in talks with Aetna before the Humana deal.

This is happening in the behavioral health segment of the insurance industry as well. Many of the EAP vendors who began in this field have been subsumed by bigger players; mostly the insurance companies mentioned above.  In August of 2012, Humana acquired Harris Rothenberg, a stand-alone EAP provider and in May of 2014, Beacon Health Strategies and ValueOptions merged and created a behavioral health and EAP entity that serves 43 million people in the US and UK.  Both of these acquisitions were about cornering market share but may not necessarily increase quality.

So what are some of the downsides?  Well, first of all, fewer insurers mean less competition which will probably have the biggest impact on small to mid-size businesses.  There is also a danger that service levels could be dramatically affected for smaller business, especially for companies using more specialized services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).  Many of the large insurers are already providing EAPs as a gateway into the insurance network. Yet many of the situations people access an EAP for are amenable to a brief goal focused service model that provides solution focused interventions like brief counseling and ancillary services (i.e., childcare and eldercare resource finding, legal or financial advice or other resources).  There are also many onsite organizational EAP services (i.e. – supervisory training, wellness seminars, critical incident debriefing) that might not get the attention required.  Often, these services can prevent the need for additional services by network providers.

So, what are the alternatives?  Well, small businesses should understand the value of EAPs and be clear about what they are looking for.   Here are some questions to ask if you are desirous of a high quality EAP.

  1. Is EAP the primary concern of the vendor or is it embedded in another service line like disability and offered at no charge to the organization?
  2. Is the call center staffed by mental health professionals with an understanding of the workplace or administrative staff and are these folks dedicated ONLY to the EAP organizations and employees/family members they serve?
  3. Does the EAP cover everyone; not just covered insured beneficiaries. The value of an EAP lies in offering services for anyone who can potentially affect the performance of the employee.
  4. Are the professionals answering the calls providing services for the callers or are they merely diverting them to a network provider?
  5. Is the philosophy of the EAP vendor to resolve as many cases as possible in the EAP or to merely send into the network?
  6. Does the EAP vendor provide promotional strategies for employees in order to get all kinds of utilization (i.e., in-person, telephonic, on-line, etc.)?

To get more information regarding this blog post, or to start the conversation on whether or not bigger healthcare is really better, please email bsd@perspectivesltd.com or comment below!

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Working World Cafe on July 1st, 2015

Written by: Adria Passey, Executive Assistant

I did not volunteer at the Book Fair this year. This is my daughter’s 6th year at her school, and it would have been my 12th time working the Book Fair, since they have it in the spring and fall. I looked right at the coordinator, and said no! Thinking she misheard me, she emailed me the link to sign up for shifts, and I deleted it! All you working moms are probably cheering about now, while the rest of you are thinking, so what?

There is just too much to do, and we are trying to do it all, but why? I used to agree to everything I was asked to do as a PTA volunteer, because it needed to get done. And while I have no hard facts to back me up, I know that most of the jobs at my daughter’s school are done by a very small group of the parents. But guess what? The Book Fair did just fine without me.

The 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 Principle, first stated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, says that 20% of our effort produces 80% of the results. This means that a small number of resources are highly productive—and a large number (80%) are not very productive at all. Here are a few examples:

  • 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
  • 80% of the things in your house are used 20% of the time.
  • 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
  • 20% of the books in a bookstore account for 80% of the sales.

The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest value for you. Focus on the activities that result in satisfaction, such as money, friendship, better health or more free time. At the same time, identify those many trivial items that don’t lead to more satisfaction. These unprofitable activities are taking up 80% of your time. Doesn’t it make sense to de-emphasize them in favor of the vital 20%?

Making Time Takes Time

If you want to discover how to make more time for the things you enjoy, look at how you are spending your time now. For me, stressing about the Book Fair was not adding anything to my life at all. It was taking away from time I could have spent doing volunteer work I enjoy or even just spending non-productive time at home with my kids – imagine that!

Learn to Say No

If you want a simpler life, you must learn to say no. Many of us do what I was doing, and agree to things we don’t want to do, or don’t actually have time for. This leads to a constant state of being late, over-committed and frustrated. Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings, dinner engagements, or to take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at a high level. We are proud of our high productivity and involvement, but it comes with a high price: a complicated life that leaves to time for you.

For more information on the 80/20 principle, feel free to email Adria at apassey@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

The first step to incorporating mindfulness practice in a workplace should be to educate employees about what it is, how to feasibly incorporate it into a workday, and the benefits employees could expect to gain through this practice. It is also important for the organization to be supportive of the practice and encourage management to lead by example. Setting aside a quiet place for reflection or meditation would be a good indication that an organization is supportive of this practice.

In a workplace setting, employees could be encouraged to practice mindfulness meditation during breaks or even for few minutes while sitting upright in their chairs at their desks. Some other suggestions of everyday workplace mindfulness are:

  • Paying attention to and identifying sensations while doing routine tasks such as hand washing, typing, or eating
  • Observing and identifying body position and sensations at any given moment
  • Identifying emotions that arise in others and observing the corresponding behaviors that are exhibited
  • Encouraging a culture of gratitude and appreciation for the work of others with behaviors such as appreciation emails or frequent compliments
  • Debriefing after a meeting to explore the feelings amongst participants that were both explicit and implicit. How did it feel for you? What was observed in the behavior of others? Did specific actions cause the energy in the room to change?

Mindfulness can transform the way that work is done. It teaches people to truly connect to the moment and every experience within it. It helps to create distance between the reaction and the experience which, in turn, helps to give people more control over what they chose to do in the moment.

It enhances brain function and has a positive impact on relationships. There are many ways to approach stress reduction in a workplace. Mindfulness however, provides a way to go beyond just fixing workplace stress. It transforms the way that employees and managers live and perceive life.

These deep changes can have profound and lasting benefits for an organization, its culture and ultimately its bottom line.

Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 now to catch up! To get more information regarding this blog post, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

 

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Working World Cafe on June 17th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Human beings have a tendency to withdraw or avoid uncomfortable situations that do not offer any potential rewards. In an organizational setting this tendency can often lead to employee disengagement. Mindfulness is a way of learning to take in experiences without judgment.  It is based on the concept of non-judgmental and purposeful observation of the present moment. It does not change or eliminate outside stressors but rather creates a space between the perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and reactions. The stressor itself is often not as powerful as the perception of it. When a stressor is misperceived it can cause an emotional reaction that magnifies or distorts it and leads to behaviors that can be detrimental to the individual and the organization.

Stressor → Perception → Reaction

Stressful work experiences or circumstances therefore have less of a chance of causing disengagement (a byproduct of avoidance). Instead people who practice mindfulness might be able to see the obstacle (stressor) for what it is and then decide what they want to do about it.

They can learn to accept all experiences instead of immediately trying to avoid or change uncomfortable ones. In other words a space is created between the experience and the action that people may undertake.

Stressor → Mindful Awareness → Perception → Mindful Awareness → Action

The tendency to avoid discomfort is relevant to management as well. By reacting to and avoiding discomfort, managers are not in full control of the environment they create within their organization. It takes purposeful effort to reflect on and realize how every action results in a reaction and leads to a consequence. Often organizations are not aware of this until it is too late and the consequences have affected the life and bottom line of the organization.

When practicing mindfulness, people learn to pay attention to their environment, what is going inside of them, and the interaction between the two. Often, the mind wanders to the future or the past and rarely stays in the present. Moreover the present is often seen through events or future fears. In an organizational setting this can lead to reactive behaviors, stress caused by anxiety of things to come or less focus and attention to the present moment.

For example, organizational change might be viewed as stressful based on employee’s past experiences which has little to do with the present circumstance. If employees are not mindful or aware of their perceptions and influences from the past, they might react by resisting. The stressor (change) might carry with it a lot of potential benefit that would be completely missed by employees who are not aware of the true root cause of their initial reactions.

To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Sara DePasquale on June 10th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

Getting out of debt can be exhausting. I know from experience that when I got out of college, I felt like I had mountains of student loan debt and no idea how to start. Whether its mortgages, student loans, babysitters, or more, sometimes life takes a toll on us and we fall behind.

A couple years ago, I reached my breaking point. In order to organize my finances, I did some research and have found these tips to work for me. No matter how much money you make, sometimes it’s just a matter of personal organization.

Save. This might be obvious, but I have found that what works for me, is having two savings accounts. One account is for my future and one is for emergencies that I don’t mind taking out of occasionally (i.e. medical bills, dog vet bills, etc). If you don’t already have at least 1k saved up in this separate savings account, try to get there as soon as you can. This will be your cushion when you start to pay your debt down, and will ONLY be for emergencies as you start tackling bigger debt.

Make a list of debt. Sit down and list your debt from smallest to largest. I like to follow Dave Ramsey’s method of paying the smallest debt first (regardless of interest rates) to the largest debt. For me, it was motivating to see me knocking out ANY kind of debt, and sometimes it’s nice to just have one less debt on your plate. If I tried to tackle a credit card that had the highest amount, and the highest interest rate, it would probably get frustrating to see that barely moving with other revolving credit cards. By the time you get to the biggest card, you will almost be out of debt AND you can possibly pay down more which should be the goal!

Get organized on paper. Or digitally. This goes with the above tip. I’m really organized, and very visual, so what made the most sense to me, was to create an excel spreadsheet and break out my paychecks by weeks, with what bills would be due, and their amounts. This allows me to see exactly how much money I really can spend ahead of time. If you want to get really nerdy, you can even input a formula for it to add and subtract your bills from the paycheck amount for you. This is a game changer. What you have left after those bills is your extra spending!

Ready, Set, Go! Once you have all your debts listed out and have your 1k saved up, start paying away! Pay all your utility bills, rent/mortgage, and auto-pay to your savings account if you have one, groceries, etc. FIRST, and then tackle those credit cards. If you have 3 credit cards, pay minimums on the two and the most you can on that credit card you’re looking to pay off first.

Stay Focused. Trust me, I know this is hard, but once you start seeing some of your debt diminish it will all be worth it. If you fall off track, it’s ok, just get right back on and keep moving. Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re human and you’re taking the responsible steps on getting your finances on track!

If you would like to get more information on budgeting and getting out of debt, visit www.perspectivesltd.com or feel free to email Sara DePasquale sdepasquale@perspectivesltd.com.

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Jonathan Eisler on June 4th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group

Organizational strategy and vision is set by leadership but integrating changes into daily operations is driven from the bottom up. Given this reality, let’s look at how organizational change is typically undertaken and two questions that may help make the process more effective.

How is organizational change approached? Often, leadership sets a new direction, determines what their people need to do differently, maybe staff is offered the opportunity to acquire new/necessary skills, and then systems for accountability are established and ‘hopefully’ followed.

So what’s wrong with this equation?

First, while defining how things should look/be different in the future is half of the equation, too often what gets overlooked is defining what has lead to the current state and therefore what must be let go of. This starts with shifting the mindset of those at the helm. Changing a mindset, or ingrained ways of thinking, is never easy and the longer things have been done the old way, the tougher the desired changes will be.

Secondly, as changing behavior is difficult in and of itself, when the needed changes are mandates from the top down, you now have to deal with resentment/resistance as well. When looking to integrate changes into the daily actions of your people, this equates to trying to run up the side of a pyramid with your feet coated in oil. Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group has found that by bringing employees into the process of determining what it will take on their part to make the desired changes relevant, not only is the prescription more accurate, but the daily commitment is magnified.

Our work with client organizations has shown that by remaining cognizant of the above challenges and asking two key questions, the chaos associated with change and the lack of follow-through are both drastically reduced.

Question 1 (to leadership): What thinking patterns/processes (mindset) must we as leadership eliminate to enable the changes we need?

Question 2 (to employees): What knowledge/skills/abilities do you need to make the needed changes possible?

What have you found to be helpful in making organizational changes effective, sustainable and (less) painful?

To learn more about how Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group incorporates these ideas into our strategy work with clients, check out the recent interview our Division Director had with MeetAdvisors below.

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Working World Cafe on June 3rd, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Recent scientific research sheds insight on mindfulness’ impact on human neurobiology. For example, mindfulness has been shown to positively impact the executive functioning of the brain. Executive functioning is located in the frontal lobe and is responsible for such things as emotional control, recall, and organization. Higher emotional control resulting from mindfulness training has been linked to a better quality relational behavior which includes the ability to identify and understand (empathize with) others’ emotions and needs.  It also controls self-regulation, impulse control and organization. These are the elements at work in maintaining and improving the quality of interpersonal relationships; a major contributor of distress. This is mainly achieved through conflict reduction and through the decrease and control of emotions like anger.

Potential benefits of mindfulness:

  • Lowered Stress
  • Improved executive functioning of the brain
    • emotional control
    • memory
    • problem solving
    • flexibility
    • organization & planning
    • self-awareness
  • Improved mood
  • Decreased burnout
  • Improved interpersonal relations
  • Improved relationship satisfaction
  • Increased empathy and self-compassion
  • Improved physical and mental well being

Mindfulness has also been shown to improve memory and attention; both of which can improve quality of work, relationships, and productivity. Further, it has been shown to have positive effects on the brain’s ability to learn and gain increased neuroplasticity or the ability to change. Increased neuroplasticity makes it that much more likely that an intervention, such as mindfulness, will actually yield sustainable change.

Furthermore, increased psychological well-being, physical health, behavioral self-regulation, and increase in the quality of social relationships are also potential benefits of mindfulness. The awareness (internal and external) gained during mindfulness practice can lead to behaviors that are beneficial to the practitioner and those around him. The positive effects gained from a training program on mindfulness can last for upward of six months.

Mindfulness can also have a positive impact on leadership. Being a leader can be and often is stressful. The stress often leads to reactive behavior that is not helpful or healthy for the subordinates or the organization. Awareness gained through mindfulness can help leaders become more empathic or attuned to the needs of the employees. Leaders who act mindfully tend to have better relationships with their employees and create a much healthier culture at work. A leader who acts mindfully can also contribute to lowering employee stress.

Stay tuned as Part 7 will deliver on how mindfulness works. Catch up on Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 now!  To get more information, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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