What do Google, Aetna, Intel, and General Mills all have in common? Mindfulness in the workplace programs! Leaders around the world are integrating mindfulness programs into their corporate cultures positively impacting bottom productivity, enhanced wellbeing and lower annual healthcare costs—all positively impacting bottom line profitability. Join me and my guest, Dr. Laurel Geise of The Geise Group while we dive deep into mindfulness in the workplace.
Intro:Welcome to The Zen Leaderwith Lara Jaye. Whether you’re a leader at home or in the boardroom, Lara provides the tools to help you get unstuck in different areas of your life. Now, here’s your host, Lara Jaye.
Lara Jaye:Good morning and welcome to The Zen Leader. I’m Lara Jaye. I’m so excited that you have joined me this morning.
Before we get started with our amazing guest that I have here in the studio, I want to invite you next Tuesday, April 18, to an amazing event. I’m going to be speaking here, locally, in Sarasota, at 7 p.m. Again, it’s next Tuesday, April 18. I am going to be talking about “Finding Your Happy: Six Keys to Unlock Your Limitless Potential and Redesign Your Life.” I just think it’s time that we all discovered whatever that means — happy — is for us and to be able to live our bravest dream. I am going to be revealing transformational information that will help you embrace your current reality while moving into your dream life – whatever that is.
We are also going to be talking about why your subconscious programming is running your life. We are going to talk about what to do with mind chatter, how to change the negative thoughts and beliefs that you have about yourself. We are going to be talking about why connecting to your body is so important. How to know you’re enough, have enough, are doing enough. Ways to love yourself without being selfish and living from your purpose when you feel stuck in the mud, and how to hear from God and trust the answers. Plus, more.
It is time to live happy. It’s your time. I would love for you to join me next Tuesday, April 18.
To sign up for that, please go to my website at www.larajaye.comand then go under “Work with Lara” and “Events.” It’s under “My Live Events” and I really look forward to seeing you there next Tuesday on the 18th.
We are going to get right in to our show today, The Zen Leader. My guest today is Dr. Laurel Geise. Laurel is the CEO and Founder and Mindfulness at Work expert and speaker, highly sought-after business consultant, and from The Geise Group headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, just down the road. She is recognized as an expert in Mindfulness at Work Program Deployment, which makes her uniquely qualified to bring the benefits of a mindfulness program to organizations around the world. A 30-year corporate career and I cannot wait to dive into this. Laurel, welcome. How are you today?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Oh, I’m fantastic. Thank you, Lara, for having me here today in sunny Sarasota, Florida.
Lara: Yes. Love it. Love it. You came down from St. Pete to hang out with me today.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I did.
Lara: We have the Laurel and Lara Show today. I am so excited! [LAUGHTER]
Dr. Laurel Geise: I love it!
Lara: I am going to start with some basic questions, just for our listeners. What is “mindfulness?” We hear about this word all the time. What is it?
Dr. Laurel Geise: What is it? Yeah. I mean, you may have seen it on T.V., it’s very popular in magazines, online, social media. In fact, I think it’s one of the buzzwords of 2017, “mindfulness.” But, to your point: What is “mindfulness?” I like the definition by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who said, “Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way. So, on purpose, in the moment, without judgment.” On purpose, in the moment, without judgment. Let’s look at each one of those.
On purpose. It’s the conscious focusing of our attention where we want our attention to be. So, focusing where I want to focus, on purpose. In the moment is being here, in the moment, right now. So, not thinking about the past, something that happened yesterday or last week or a year ago.
Lara: Or what we’re going to eat when we get done here.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: Or we’re going straight to we’re right here, right now.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. And not projecting into the future. When we project into the future, that creates anxiety because we’re making up what’s going to happen. It’s staying here, right now. What we find is that stress actually happens when this present moment isn’t what we want it to be.
Lara: Say that again. I like that. Stress happens when?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Stress happens when the present moment is not what we want it to be, which really takes us into the third part, which is “Without judgment” – really allowing ourselves to watch what’s unfolding in front of us and to just take a breath and then step into it.
From a leadership perspective, this is so key because it allows us to learn how to respond to a situation instead of react to a situation, which I think is the true hallmark of a leader – that ability to respond and not react.
Lara: Talk to me about the difference between those two – responding and reacting.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. We find ourselves we’re in this highly digitized world. There is so much stress. You know? We have deadlines. There’s more to do than we could ever get done in one day. We find ourselves in situations — particularly at work — where somebody might, let’s say, “push your button.” Right?
Lara: Oh, yes. That never happens. Right? [LAUGHTER]
Dr. Laurel Geise: Right. So, we find ourselves at work and something happens. I get triggered. Someone says something or someone acts a particular way, and I’m judging that. Through that judgment, I react. I simply react. I don’t take a moment to breathe and respond.
I think it’s that moment that mindfulness helps you to be more in the present, in this present moment, right now, to just take a deep breath and to really just watch what is happening in front of you. Then choose your response. Choosing your response instead of mindlessly reacting.
Let me talk about mindlessness. If we would compare mindfulness with mindlessness, it’s interesting because a Harvard study says that we spend 47% of our time in a state of mindlessness. What’s mindlessness? Have you ever driven home and you arrive home, in your driveway, and you have no idea how you drove home?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Right?
Lara: So, that’s mindlessness.
Dr. Laurel Geise: That’s mindlessness.
Lara: I was there.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I know. I always ask, when I’m teaching. Everyone always puts their hands up because that’s a human experience that we’ve all had. So that’s mindlessness. Mindfulness, in contrast, is like grabbing that steering wheel of your attention and being aware of where your attention is.
When we can be aware of where our attention is, that’s when we can choose to respond instead of react to a situation. Especially at work, but this also works at home. It also works at home with our family, with our friends. Just allowing ourselves to take that one moment, that one breath, before we choose how to respond.
Lara: These big “M” words: mindfulness, mindlessness. Where does meditation fit in?
Dr. Laurel Geise: The way I look at it is mindfulness is more of an informal practice; so, it’s a practice that I can integrate throughout my day at different points. Maybe I spend 5 minutes to maybe 1 minute being mindful and focusing on my surroundings. Versus meditation. I look at meditation as more of a formal practice, so I’m going to sit down for 20 or 30 minutes and practice focusing my awareness. When I compare the two, I just see meditation as more of it’s something that takes a little longer and it’s a little more formal. Does that make sense?
Lara: Absolutely. Let me ask you… mindfulness. You talked about the reaction versus non-reaction, but I’ve read a lot about being mindful with eating or, like you said, with driving. So, really, it’s everything. We could be mindful with everything.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Well, that’s right. In fact, your entire day could become a mindfulness practice. It’s a practice. I look at it as like a brain training. We are focusing our awareness on our breath and focusing our awareness on this moment.
Typically, when I’m sharing this with people, I start with a 5-minute breath awareness practice, which is really simple. We just sit down, we close our eyes, and we begin to focus our awareness on our breath. Every time our awareness starts to shift, we just notice it and we bring our awareness back to the breath. It’s just very simple because every time we sit down to be mindful or to meditate, there’s going to be different thoughts in our mind, different sensations, different emotions. We are going to hear things in the environment. That just moves our awareness away from our breath.
But every time we become aware that I’m not focused on my breath, I just very gently bring my attention back. That’s a 5-minute, formal practice that you can do in the morning, you can do that before you go to work.
To your point, once we get to work, there’s a lot of ways to integrate mindfulness. You can arrive at your desk and spend 1 minute just focusing your awareness on your breath and bringing your intention, all of your awareness, and all of your focus in to starting your day. There’s also techniques — Mindful Meetings — where we start a meeting where everyone spends 1 minute, just 1 minute, focusing their awareness on their breath, being centered, being focused. Then we turn off our devices.
Lara: What? Did you just say, “turn off your devices?” [LAUGHTER]
Dr. Laurel Geise: I know. I said it.
Lara: You perked me up. Ohmy gosh.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Turn off your devices.
Lara: No. Laurel, no.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.[00:10:00]Exactly. So, turning off our laptops, our handhelds, and really bringing our attention and awareness into the moment as we have the meeting. What they have proven is high-performing companies do this and they find that the meetings are more efficient and they’re more effective, and they actually are more productive because everyone’s attention is actually in the room.
Lara: Be here, now.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: Then we can focus and get it done and get out, and then you can work on something else.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. Exactly. That is a secret that a lot of companies are using these days to be more productive and also be more creative and more innovative because your awareness is there, focusing on …
Lara: Such a simple practice.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Right.
Lara: I know I have been — you have been — in probably meetings that go on and on and on.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: And no one gets anything done and people are just working on other things.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. When we have mindful meetings, we don’t have that. Right? We’re very efficient. We’re very focused on exactly what we’re there to cover, what we’re there to solve, what are the challenges that we want to talk about, then we bring the meeting to an end, and we give everyone in the meeting 1 minute to talk about any final thoughts.
Then, the other secret is ending 5 minutes early. Have you ever had that calendar where you have back-to-back meetings at work? Well, if you end 5 or 10 minutes early, that gives people the time to get to another meeting and get focused again before they plunge back in to another problem-solving arena.
Lara: Amazing, simple concepts. We are going to take a break right now and we’ll be right back on The Zen Leaderwith Dr. Laurel Geise.
Lara: Welcome back. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leaderhere on www.wsrqradio.comand you can also find me at www.larajaye.com. Here, in the studio, is Dr. Laurel Geise, “Mindfulness at Work,” CEO of all of it – The Geise Group. Dr. Laurel, what website can people find you at?
Dr. Laurel Geise: People can connect with us at our website, which is www.thegeisegroup.com.
Lara: Can you spell that?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. T-H-E, Geise, G-E-I-S-E, Group, G-R-O-U-P.com. www.thegeisegroup.com.
Lara: Awesome. You have a little gift for them when they arrive at your website.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I do. When you come to the website, I actually have an executive white paper that you can download, which actually talks about mindfulness, what are some of the challenges we’re facing, and mindfulness as a solution and the high-performing companies who are using mindfulness and what their results are.
Lara: Nice. Nice. Why are mindfulness programs so popular in organizations, especially right now, in 2017? It just seems like this is a buzzword. I have a module in my own program called “Play with your M&Ms. Play with Mindfulness and Meditation.” [LAUGHTER]
Dr. Laurel Geise: Oh, I love that. I love that.
Lara: Isn’t that fun?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: So, eat M&Ms mindfully. Right? I should have bought us some today.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Oh, M&Ms. I love M&Ms.
Lara: Tell me, why do you think it’s so popular right now? Is it just our stress levels? What’s going on in the world?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things. I think, first of all, is the stress. I think that when we start looking at stress globally, the National Institute of Health has declared stress a global crisis. We specifically focus in on work and work stress. What we find is that, according to Forbes, we’re spending over $300 billion a year on the impact of stress on our organizations in lower productivity, in turnover, in absenteeism, and higher healthcare costs.
When surveyed, we find that 83% of Americans say that their work is a significant source of stress in their lives. 83%. When we survey employers, 75% of employers say this is their biggest workplace issue impacting productivity and well-being.
Lara: Is stress?
Dr. Laurel Geise: It’s the stress. We have the employees and the employers have all come to recognize this is a challenge. This is something that we’re all looking for – new solutions. We have also found that 50% of the people who are working today say that their stress is “very high or overwhelming.” Think about that for a moment. One out of every two people that you are interacting with at work is so stressed that they probably can’t even comprehend what you’re talking to them about.
Lara: Hence the reaction.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: The reactionary triggers when people can’t handle the emotions of everything that’s coming up. It makes sense.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. That’s right. Then, 33% of us are suffering from insomnia. Have you ever woken up at like 2 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the morning?
Lara: Oh, wait. That was last night. I mean this morning. Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
Dr. Laurel Geise: There you go. We find that our mind is racing with all of the things that we need to get done at work. Well, again, that is the stress. Also, there was a recent study released by Harvard about second-hand stress. This is really interesting. It shows that because we have mirror neurons, that when you’re stressed, I become stressed.
Think about that. When you’re working one-on-one, like when my manager is stressed, I may become stressed. Or if a team is stressed.
I’m just working with this social media company right now and what’s interesting is the way that their office is laid out is just this one giant room, where everybody is working in this one giant room. What they’ve shown is that stress is an emotional contagion. It’s like the flu. So, if one person gets stressed, the entire office gets stressed, just because of the way that we’re architected.
Lara: This domino effect.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. Exactly. That is one reason why I believe that mindfulness is becoming so popular, because it’s not just within the office space. If you look at sports teams, the New England Patriots use mindfulness, the Cleveland Cavaliers use mindfulness, the Chicago Cubs use mindfulness. So, they are using it also to focus, to be more focused on the goal in front of them.
Secondly, I think the reason it is becoming really popular is because of the research. There have been over 3,500 research studies released on the efficacy of mindfulness and well-being. You couldn’t say that 10 years ago, but now we can say that. Especially the impact of neuroscience. So, we look at such things as neuroplasticity.
Lara: What is that?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to rewire itself. We can do that rewiring of the brain through very simple mindfulness training and mindfulness practices. So, that 5-minute exercise that we talked about earlier. Just doing that 5 minutes a day helps you to start rewiring your brain. What that does is it helps also to build the thickness of your brain, especially in the pre-frontal cortex, where our emotional center is. That’s what really helps us with that taking a breath and responding instead of reacting in a situation.
Lara: That’s amazing. The white… what did you call it? The white pages? Executive Summary you immediately …
Dr. Laurel Geise: White paper.
Lara: White paper. Google, Aetna, Intel, General Mills. These are big companies who are bringing mindfulness programs in.
Dr. Laurel Geise: That’s right. That’s right. So, you take a look at some of these – like Google. The Google program was started by one of their engineers and it started in 2007, so 10 years ago. What they found is that by bringing mindfulness into the workplace, they felt it helped them with their mental clarity, with their focus. They felt calmer. They were more patient with their fellow team members. They also felt more resilient to stress.
Aetna is another great case study. The Aetna program was actually started by Mark Bertolini, who is the CEO, who had a skiing accident and broke his neck in several places. During his course of healing, he went through all traditional therapies and then started to meditate to manage the pain. It had such an important impact on his life, he wanted to bring mindfulness and meditation to work. Now, Aetna has 50,000 employees and today 13,000 of those employees are practicing mindfulness.
What they’ve seen is a 62-minute increase in productivity every week, which equates to a $3,000 increase per employee in productivity. At the same time, they’ve lowered their healthcare costs by $2,700. So, when you think about that impact, when you think about bringing mindfulness to your company, I always say, “Do the math.” Do the math. If you could have employees in your company practicing mindfulness, you could have productivity increases of up to $3,000 per employee and lower the annual healthcare costs.
Lara: These numbers are huge. That’s hard to believe.
Dr. Laurel Geise: That’s multi-million-dollar impact on the bottom line.
Lara: Absolutely. On the bottom line.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Simply by learning how to use mindfulness tools at work. So much so — Aetna is so committed to this — that they actually have a Chief Mindfulness Officer that they appointed last year. The first one in the country.
Lara: Amazing! How progressive!
Dr. Laurel Geise: How progressive. His responsibility is to continue to expand that program, not only within Aetna, but then to their customers, too. To their clients. I’ve seen this in other companies, too, where once they have formalized the program within their organization, they actually are offering it to their clients, too.[00:20:00]I mean, this is revolutionary.
Lara: These are big companies that we’ve been talking about.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah.
Lara: But what about smaller companies?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. I’ve worked with companies from coast to coast and from smaller companies, law firms, financial services, social media to huge companies out in Silicon Valley, to smaller advertising firms. I’ve worked with Fortune 50 down to Inc. 5000 companies. I don’t think the size of the company matters; I think it’s the commitment of the leadership to bring in these skills for their employees.
Lara: Because the leaders see the benefit, besides numbers.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely.
Lara: I mean, obviously, the numbers tell the story.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: But they can tell because their employees are less stressed and calm.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. And people are using this as – what I see is a competitive advantage in the marketplace because they now tout that they have a mindfulness program, which helps them to not only retain their current employees but it helps them to attract the best employees.
Lara: I was just going to say it brings them in. It can attract them.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely.
Lara: Attract them and keep them.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely.
Lara: And they’re happy and they talk about, probably, their happiness at work, which is huge.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. I mean, you take a look at www.salesforce.com. They have 10,000 salespeople and, right now, they are training 500 salespeople at a time in mindfulness, and how to be mindful, and how to apply that mindfulness in the sales process. So, instead of what I call “selling and telling,” they’re actually listening and learning and providing those solutions to their clients.
I am seeing the application of this, really, across the organization. So, not only in operations, but also creativity and working with tech firms and being more innovative. Allowing yourself to go to that space to be in the now, to be in the moment. Clear your mind and allow that greater clarity to come forward.
Lara: And this message should really speak to our leaders, our listeners, that want to bring their companies to the next level, as well as at home. This can be applied anywhere, like we talked about, but especially at work.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. I love that, too. I always share that with my clients that everything you learn here, you’re going to be able to take home and share with your family and share with your friends, and it will make a difference in their lives, too.
It’s amazing the shifts that can happen in a corporate culture when you start to integrate these really simple tools. Again, that’s my focus is what can we do in 1 minute? What can we do in 3 minutes? Because we’re all really busy, but I know that everyone can stop and take 1 minute before a meeting starts or take 3 minutes as they arrive at their desk.
Lara: Absolutely. We’re going to take a break right now and we’ll be right back with Dr. Laurel Geise.
Lara: Welcome back. I’m Lara Jaye with The Zen Leader, here on www.wsrqradio.comand you can also find me at www.larajaye.com. Here, in the studio, with me is Dr. Laurel Geise, mindfulness expert at work. Dr. Laurel, welcome back.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Thank you. I am so excited to be here today/
Lara: We’re having so much fun.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I love it. I’m loving it.
Lara: Question for you.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes?
Lara: We’ve been talking a lot about all of this, but I want to know how did you get in to this? How? Why?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah. That’s interesting because I was a business executor for 30 years.
Lara: You were in the corporate world.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I was in the corporate world 30 years, working for Fortune 500 companies. I held C-level positions. I was the Chief Information Security Officer, Chief Compliance Officer. I spent at least 10 years in the boardroom, working with the executives.
Lara: You did it all.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I’ve done it all. I’ve been there, done that. I understand the stress. I understand the pressures. I understand the deadlines, the need to do more with less.
I actually started my career – I was actually a computer programmer in Buffalo, New York. I actually invested in myself and I went to school at night to get my MBA. As I was getting my MBA, I actually met my soulmate, Bob. We had such a great life and we actually moved from Buffalo to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I worked at Fifth Third Bank. Then we moved to Dallas, Texas, where I started working at First American. Then after that, Core Logic. Life was good. We both had great careers. We were spending our weekends at the country club. We were golfing. We loved going to concerts.
This one Saturday, we were getting ready to go to a concert. It was actually the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over Tour, when the Eagles were getting back together, at Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas. Oh, my gosh. I got chills thinking about it right now. We were getting ready for the tailgate party and I remember Bob came out in the kitchen and he said, “Honey, I don’t feel well,” and I was like, “Oh, hell has frozen over. We’re going to this concert.” So, I gave him some aspirins and said, “Lay down. I know you’ll feel great in a little while.”
But he came out, a little while later, and he said, “Honey, I really don’t feel well,” and he had his hands over his heart. I just knew, intuitively, he was having a heart attack. I literally put him in the car and drove him two blocks, to the hospital, pulled him in to the emergency room and he went behind those doors with the doctors.
I was so scared, sitting there. We had just moved to Dallas. I really didn’t know anyone. Our families were in Ohio. I just sat there and cried. Finally, the doctor came out and said that Bob had survived the heart attack and I could go see him.
I remember running up to see him in ICU. I was kneeling by his bed, holding his hand, and as I did, we were both crying. These were tears of gratitude, tears of joy, because we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.
The next morning, the doctor came in and he said, “Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. The good news is that Bob survived the heart attack with very little damage to his heart.” The bad news is that they had found a tumor about the size of a baseball in his lung and that he had lung cancer and he had 6 months to live. Despite all of the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation, then the experimental chemotherapy… I’ll never forget that day when I walked in the hospital, 6 months later, and his doctor met me at the door and said that he only had a few hours to live. He had slipped into a coma.
I could remember how I could smell that antiseptic smell of the hospital, and as I walked in the room, I could hear the beeping of the machines and I could see him laying on the bed. As I walked towards the bed, I remember I could taste that acid coming up in the back of my throat. As I knelt down next to the bed and I held his hand, that was the only time he never held my hand back.
After he died, I went into a really deep depression. This depression, it lasted month after month until it became years. There was this one evening, I remember, where I was literally curled up on the bathroom floor and just crying out to God saying, “I need help because I can’t go on. I just can’t go on.” In that moment, I heard a word and the word was “meditation.”
I have to tell you, I didn’t even know what meditation was at that point in time. But, through a series of synchronistic events, I met Dr. Deepak Chopra, who is like the world’s leading meditation instructor, and I learned how to meditate. As I integrated that meditation practice into my day, I healed myself. So, not only emotionally and physically, but also spiritually.
As I became well, I just knew that I wanted to share this with other people, so I became an instructor. So, here I am, in the corporate world, where I’m Monday to Friday.
Lara: You were at the top of your game, in every way. You and your husband.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah.
Lara: Then life happens.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Life happened. Exactly.
Lara: And that’s what I think a lot of our listeners can so relate to is they have it all, but life is happening.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: And it’s painful.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: And they don’t know where to go.
Dr. Laurel Geise: And there is a greater gift in that. You know? And now, as I look back, I see the gift that Bob was in my life and I see the gift that we shared a great love. He also took me down the path of learning how to meditate, and that changed my life. Then I started teaching weekend seminars and I was working with people who had terminal illness in their family, so to help them — not only the patient, but the family — to deal with that stress and with that trauma.
Then that really parlayed into me starting to speak at conferences about meditation and mindfulness. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught tens of thousands of people the benefits of mindfulness and how to bring it into their life.
Lara: I am blown away, Laurel, at your story. I’m kind of speechless right now. Last night, I saw this movie and it must have been for today, Collateral Beauty. [00:30:00]I don’t know if you’ve seen that, the new movie with Will Smith.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Will Smith. Yeah.
Lara: Yeah. It reminds me of this and the pain that he has of losing his daughter, and they were trying to find the collateral beauty. Sometimes you don’t find it until later.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: And the pain in the beauty of the pain.
Dr. Laurel Geise: And the beauty of discovering your bigger “Why?” That’s what happened for me. I discovered my bigger “Why?” and that bigger “Why?” was I’m in the corporate world and I led a very compartmentalized life, where there was the corporate world, and then there was the teaching the mindfulness and meditation.
Lara: So, how did you finally make that shift?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. Several years ago, it just… I was watching what was going on at work. I was working with the largest financial institutions in the world. I was managing teams in North America, Europe, India, Australia. I was seeing the stress on myself, but I was also seeing the stress on the people I worked with and our clients.
It hit me one day. I had been in the corporate world for 30 years and I had a very successful career, but I felt there was more. I felt there was more for me to do. A bigger “Why?”
It came to me one day: “Your ‘Why?’ is to bring mindfulness into the corporate environment, to bring these tools and these strategies and these techniques into organizations so that we can help make people less stressed. So we can handle more. So we can enhance our well-being. So we can be more productive. So, work is a place we want to jump out of bed and run to work.”
Lara: To run to… and it should be that way.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Right.
Lara: Jump out of bed and be excited. Be excited.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely. And, dare I say it, to be happy.
Lara: Oh, my gosh. That word. I have chills.
Dr. Laurel Geise: I know. Stop, stop. [LAUGHTER]
Lara: No, we can’t be happy at work. Who are you kidding?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah.
Lara: So, I’m going to tell the story.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: Well, I want you to tell the story, but I want to remind you when I met you.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: Laurel and I met at a group called “Speaking Empire,” in St. Petersburg/Tampa, and Laurel told the story of working with Speaking Empire and looking out the window.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah. Lara and I met at a professional speaking event because we’re both professional speakers. After I had left my job, after I retired, I was starting something new. Really, a lot of growth. I had not been an entrepreneur before, starting your own business. I went to Speaking Empire for speaking training. Because if I’m out there speaking, I want to be the best speaker that I can be.
So, I went to meet them at their offices in St. Petersburg. We were sitting in their boardroom. I looked out the window and, as I looked out the window, I could literally see the tower where I used to work, in the corner office, there on the 16thfloor, and looking back at me, I’m across the street, in this other building. I remember thinking, “That’s my past. That’s my past, all of that corporate experience. Now I’m here, in this office, and I’m being trained to be the best speaker so that I can empower people in organizations.” I could see Dave’s and Dustin’s smiling faces looking at me and supporting me in that transition, and I just cried because it was so overwhelming.
We always say we can look back to connect the dots so we can move forward. It was one of those moments where I could actually look back in my life and I understood everything. I understood every experience I had been through and I understood that taking this step, I could impact even more people than I could within that large corporation. Now we can really impact millions of people by bringing them mindfulness at work.
Lara: Amazing story. Thank you, Laurel. We’ve got one more segment with her, but we’re going to take a break right now and we’ll be right back on The Zen Leader.
Lara: I’m Lara Jaye. Welcome back on The Zen Leader.Here, in the studio, is Dr. Laurel Geise. Dr. Laurel, what website, again, can they find you at?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Our website is www.thegeisegroup.com. If you go there, we have a free executive white paper that you can download and share with the leadership in your company and your teams about the benefits of bringing mindfulness to your organization.
Lara: Is that how you would recommend, maybe if a listener wanted you to come speak, that they should maybe download your white paper and maybe take it to someone there?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that’s what starts the process. Then, typically, one of our team members will come in and we will speak for maybe 2 to 3 hours, like a half a day. So, I’ll usually use that as an introduction either to leadership teams, we’ve spoken to women’s groups within organizations, to board groups within organizations, to specialized teams and get people excited about mindfulness and what it can do for them and also for the organization.
Then we find that, typically, we’ll work with the organization. It’s great to have the training, but to be successful, to really see the sustainable results, what I have found in my experience is that you really need to have a formal program. A formal mindfulness program where you have training classes, where you communicate about it, where you provide ongoing tools and support. That’s our expertise – not only the training, but helping companies to design and deploy the program that works for their environment.
Lara: Would these be like weekly training of some sort? It could look like that or something else?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah. Sure. Typically, what we see for our teams is a weekly training. Again, what we do is we align the goals of the Mindfulness program with the goals of the organization. Is it employee well-being? Is it lowering healthcare costs? Is it increasing productivity? More creativity? More innovation? What are the goals? We align those.
Then, typically what you’ll see is a 6- to 8-week program for the employees. So, maybe an hour a week, maybe 75 minutes a week. At the same time, what I’ve also seen is for the leadership teams, it’s typically a day training, maybe two. So it could be around an annual sales meeting, an annual leadership meeting, where we just take a day out and we train all of the leaders on mindfulness and the tools. That way, they can support their teams.
You can see how that could be successful where you have the teams learning it and you have the leadership learning it at the same time.
Lara: So, you’re kind of training the trainer, in some ways.
Dr. Laurel Geise: That’s exactly right. Because when we work with an organization, we identify a Mindfulness Program Manager.
Let me say, typically, this is like a part-time position, but it has never failed. With every organization I work with, there is always someone who is passionate about mindfulness or meditation or employee well-being, and that person steps in as a part-time position to support this and, over time, as the program matures, then you could have a full-time person supporting this.
Lara: Fabulous. What are the personal, professional, and team impact of mindfulness?
Dr. Laurel Geise: I think if we look at this personally, if we practice mindfulness, it helps us to handle our stress better, more resilience. We’re less anxious. And, as we talked about earlier, helping to regulate the emotions – the responding instead of reacting.
Professionally, I think having more resilience, being able to respond, because goals change, projects change. We are always course correcting. Can I still stay on task with all of those changes? Also, better decision-making because I’m more focused. Since I’m more focused, I have more clarity and I have better time management because I do have that focus.
With teams, what we find is there’s more enhanced ability to listen. We use mindfulness techniques like mindful listening and mindful conversation that helps us to not only actually listen to each other, but also, as we’re going through the day, to have a better relationship with our other team members. What this does is it helps to enhance the team performance and then it ultimately enhances performance across the organization.
Lara: You mentioned mindful listening and that’s one of your big tools that you use at work.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes.
Lara: Explain that a little bit more to me.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. Mindful listening is, again, very simple, but it’s actually listening to someone – and we typically do these exercises for 3 minutes. So, for 3 minutes, two people would sit down, or even in a group, but you would listen to the person speaking for 3 minutes, without interrupting them, and actually being in the moment and listening to what they’re saying. Because what I have found, in my experience, is that when we are talking with someone, we’re not even listening to them. We’re thinking about what happened yesterday, what I have to do next, and there’s really no communication.
Lara: Taking the dog out. Did I get the dishes done?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: It’s like our To-Do List.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. I have to pick up the dry cleaning. I’ve got this report due tomorrow. I have to do this.
I find that, as I’m teaching, [00:40:00]that’s one of the most impactful exercises that we do as a group. Then, what you do is you switch and you have the other person actually listen for 3 minutes. Then we go in to a conversation, a meta conversation, about what was happening. What were you noticing?
What happens is you begin to notice what you’re noticing with your awareness. You become aware that… and I remember the first time this happened to me. I was talking to a colleague of mine at work and I was thinking about some project, and I became aware that I wasn’t even listening to my colleague. As she was talking, I was thinking about something else.
Lara: We become aware that we’re not aware.
Dr. Laurel Geise: You become aware that you’re not aware. Then it takes us back to where we’re spending 47% of our time in that state of mindlessness. Then statistics say that 70% of our employees are not engaged. Well, it’s no wonder that we’re having some challenges with productivity because we’re not focused and we’re not listening.
Lara: We’re out of it. We’re just in our own little zone.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly.
Lara: Always. A lot of people are always thinking about themselves anyway and what’s going on, versus the other person and what they’re trying to communicate.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. Yes.
Lara: Hence we interrupt or we try to get them to the next point. That kind of thing.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes, exactly, because we have an agenda in our mind. Right? So, typically, we’re not actually listening. Imagine what it would feel like if you actually listened to someone for 3 minutes. Just listen and allowed that person to be heard. It’s very simple, but the impact is transformational.
Lara: That’s amazing. You talked about mindful listening is an amazing tool at work. Mindful meetings. I think you briefly mentioned that at the beginning. Are there any other tools that you teach to use at work that maybe our listeners could take with them?
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yeah. I think another one is just the next time you get a cup of coffee or a cup of tea to just spend a few moments, as you’re getting the coffee or tea, and bringing your five senses into the experience. So, feeling how warm that cup of coffee is and smelling the aroma, and actually tasting it as you’re taking the sip. Because what I have found is that when you can bring the five senses in to the moment, it will bring your awareness into the now. When we connect with the five senses, it brings us into this moment. That’s a very simple way to focus on being here, now.
Lara: And to be mindful in all that we do, everywhere we’re at.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Exactly. Exactly.
Lara: That’s a beautiful way: Bring the five senses.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Into the moment. Yes.
Lara: Into the moment.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. And another tool that I teach is literally the standing in line. How many times during the day have you found yourself standing in line? Well, you can practice mindfulness while standing in line. Instead of becoming irritated that you’re in a line and you’re not moving quickly enough, just take a deep breath and focus your awareness on your breath. Just do that for a moment or two and watch how much that will help to calm you down, lessen the stress, lessen the anxiety.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Simple tools that take a minute or two but can have an incredibly profound impact on your day.
Lara: That what I… with clients that I work with, these sound like such simple tools. Hard to do, sometimes, just because we don’t want to take the time.
Dr. Laurel Geise: That’s right. That is exactly right because we think we don’t have enough time, and that’s a lot of the objection I hear. “Well, it’s going to take too much time,” or “It’s going to cost too much money to do this,” or “I can’t do this.” Well, I can tell you it works for everybody. We’ve proven that. And it only takes a moment or two. Maybe a minute or two. And we all have a minute or two.
I believe once you can engage in that minute or 2 or even that 5-minute breath awareness technique for 5 minutes, once you feel the change in your mind, in your body, feel yourself relaxing, you’re going to want to do this more. It just perpetuates.
Imagine if you have a team of people doing that. Then imagine if your entire company is actually being mindful several times a day.
I have clients where they pick a time of day where everybody is mindful for 5 minutes. I’ve seen other clients – back to the www.salesforce.com. What I love about them is they’re building a 61-story tower in downtown San Francisco, at their headquarters, and on every floor they have a “Mindful Zone.” So they actually have a space within the business, on every floor, where people can go just for 5 minutes, just to be mindful and practice these tools.
Lara: If these big companies are doing this, our smaller companies, anywhere, can do this.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Yes. Absolutely.
Lara: This proves that it is worth it.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Absolutely. That is really why I’m here, is to help companies – big companies, small companies, new companies, old companies. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about getting the message out and helping you to bring mindfulness into your organization.
Lara: Dr. Laurel, amazing. Thank you so much for being in the studio with me today.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Oh, thank you for the invitation. I have had such a great time and I look forward to talking with everyone. I would say check out our website and also you can call our office at 727-501-6675, and let’s schedule a strategy call to see how we can help you to bring mindfulness into your organization.
Lara: Super. It’s The Geise Group.
Dr. Laurel Geise: www.thegeisegroup.com.
Lara: www.thegeisegroup.com. Thank you so much, Dr. Laurel.
Dr. Laurel Geise: Thank you, Lara.
Lara: Listeners, have a great weekend.
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