Organizational Mindfulness in 2020

Susan S Freeman Blog

I’ve been working on changing myself for the last twenty years in a very particular way– deepening my own presence, and have used yoga and mindfulness as the pathway. I am pleased to see that over the last decade mindfulness has found its way into every aspect of American life, from the self-help sector to senior leaders in large organizations.

My curiosity caused me to recently attend the 6th Annual Mindful Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. This gathering brought together around 500 folks from all over the world who are leading and practicing this work, in corporate, governmental and non-profit organizations. 

The business case for mindfulness at work was shared by large organizations via case studies. These included global organizations Novartis, whose topic was “Creating a Culture of Mindfulness at Work”; IBM, whose topic was “Mindfulness @ IBM—Building a Resilience Program with the Mind at Its Core.”

One of the most stunning examples was delivered by Marvin Riley, President and CEO of Enpro Industries, and Dr. Susan Sweeney, President of GGB Bearing Technology. Entitled  “Mindfulness @ EnPro–A Mindful, Publicly Traded manufacturing Company,” the presentation detailed their approach to making mindfulness a core part of the company’s way of working. They shared Enpro’s “commitment to a dual bottom line philosophy with its 6000+ employees. The company uses mindfulness throughout its global operations to increase mental, emotional and physical agility in order to create shareholder value and an amazing place to work.” 

What’s important to note is that for any mindfulness initiative to be effective, it was embedded as part of the company culture, and that started at the top of the organization.


Here are some of the key takeaways from their presentation that illustrate how mindfulness can be woven throughout an organizational fabric to achieve results:

Enpro created a three-pronged framework that includes individual, communal and institutional benchmarks.

A. Individual:

  • From “past” to “present” in orientation
  • From “Ego” to “Eco”
  • From “rigid beliefs” to “open mental models”

B. Communal

  • From “they” to “we”
  • From “pseudo” to “authentic”
  • From “advocacy” to “inquiry”

C. Institutional

  • From “directing” to “learning”
  • From “single” to “dual bottom-line”
  • From” hierarchical” to “values-based” decision-making

Here are some of the ways that look at it in a practical manner:

  • Enpro meetings begin every day with mindful movement through a physical activity
  • They then build community by speaking with “I’ statements, taking responsibility for their own ideas, with everyone participating
  • “Books at Work”; Building human connections through shared stories and conversations via book groups at lunch
  • Development through daily work; bring in experts to train and educate
  • Company places equal weight on human development and performance
  • Creates psychologically safe spaces throughout the organization
  • Meditate prior to group meetings
  • Set the field with “check-in’s”—where are you?
  • “Check out” of meetings

Finally, lest we believe this doesn’t add up to real results, the business is flourishing from a metrics perspective. 

Consider that Enpro:

  • Won the Safest Company in America Award three times
  • 11 of their facilities are landfill-free
  • 75% reduction in medical treatment cases
  • 805 reduction in lost time case rate
  • Consistent double-digit EBITDA margins

While we can’t say that mindfulness at work caused these successes, it certainly is correlated with a competitive advantage. 

It was heartening to see concrete data from senior leaders on how a commitment to mindfulness plays out in organizational life.

I’m curious about how you might be changing yourself as a leader in 2020. 

Please post your comments here.

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