The Mindful Entrepreneur
Self-care as a business strategy.
Latham Thomas, wellness expert and founder of maternal care brand Mama Glow asked us to slow way, way down in our latest small business webinar. She led attendees in a short guided meditation, then shared strategies for embedding mindfulness and care into a small business’ foundation. The timing for this kind of reset is actually perfect, she explained. The drastic changes to our lives caused by the pandemic allowed many of us to see how dysfunctional our routines were and understand what needed to shift . Here’s how entrepreneurs can rebuild something that meets both business and human needs.
NO MORE HUSTLING.
“I am of the anti-hustle belief,” Thomas explained. “I don’t believe in hustling, because I don’t believe that the thing that I’m building is also running away from me. I have to work at a pace that is sustainable so that I can sustain and nurture the thing that I’m growing.” She also pointed out how “hustling” used colloquially was historically used to describe illicit economies, before being co-opted by mainstream conversations about work and achievement. Moving away from a hustle mindset is the beginning of building a mindful and intentional workplace.
BUILD YOUR CULTURE, FOUNDER FIRST.
Thomas stressed that founders have a responsibility to model their values for employees and partners. For example, if you want everyone to enjoy their vacations, make sure you’re not responding to emails when you’re on your own vacation.
Ultimately, creating a culture that’s good for your team is about making space for you and your employee’s full selves. Thomas begins her Mama Glow staff meetings asking everyone to take a few deep breaths, and then having each person say how they’re all doing before diving into what they’re doing. “If someone is experiencing undue hardship, we know. It’s not something that we’re finding out after the fact: after someone has indicated through behavior or through their work that something’s going on,” she said. This transparency makes space for team members to shift their workload if needed, and for others to step in with support so that the person struggling feels taken care of and business needs are still met. Thomas also recommends that leaders use meetings to celebrate what she calls “tiny wins”, so employees feel appreciated and connected.
As much as many of us wish we had fewer meetings, Thomas suggested leaders put a few on the calendar that aren’t about work, but about fostering a sense of presence and camaraderie. “[Human beings] have evolved for community; we expect to be supported and anchored in community.”
A mindful work culture should also include time when the focus isn’t on work at all. “When minds move away from thinking strictly about productivity, they have the ability to stumble on creative solutions.” Your company’s next big idea could easily come out of your next fun offsite.
Though it’s easy for entrepreneurs to pour everything into their businesses at their own expense, Thomas wants us to get serious about moving away from that mindset. “Self-care is of the moment,” she insisted. Listen to your body and let it guide you (is your head hurting because you haven’t made time for lunch?) Center yourself with some deep breathing before your next meeting. Take a bathroom break when you need to, even if it means your next appointment may start a few minutes late. Be sure to nurture yourself outside of your work, too. These seemingly small things are part of centering self-care as a holistic practice, rather than a last-ditch effort to save your sanity when you’re already overwhelmed. “Self-care is not just trying to bubble bath your problems away. I know that that’s what we learn from Instagram, but that’s not really what self-care is,” she stressed.
IT BENEFITS YOUR BOTTOM LINE, TOO.
There’s a strong business case for approaching entrepreneurship with mindfulness. Your company culture both attracts and retains the talent you need to help you grow. Employees that feel seen and heard will do their best work to support your vision, and will grow with you. This culture shift may be the most important investment you can make into your business’ longevity, Thomas insisted, before posing a powerful question to the attendees: “What are the ways that we can design for a future that really centers a company culture, that is about sustainability, that is about retention of your talent?”
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