The mental calm of yoga may seem out of place in the bustling world of organizational leadership, but author Tarra Mitchell says yoga is just what leaders need —a break from the action so they can focus on refreshing themselves and being better leaders.
Her new book, “The Yoga of Leadership: A Practical Guide to Health, Happiness, And Inspiring Total Team Engagement,” highlights the importance of personal wellness and how it can affect the productivity of leaders and their teams.
Her approach focuses on a yoga teaching that divides a person into five aspects: physical, energy, mind, knowledge and bliss. Supporting every aspect in balance can help leaders be more effective at work and get more out of life.
“Leaders are neither inspiring nor productive when they’re feeling depleted, depressed, stressed or anxious,” Mitchell says. “They feel like they’ve lost a sense of meaning or purpose and are merely checking boxes.” The TalentCulture team talked to Mitchell about how to use wellness to boost productivity.
Accept the Connection Between Wellness and Productivity
According to the CDC Foundation, workplace illnesses, injuries, absenteeism and sick employees at work cost U.S. employers billions of dollars each year, averaging out to more than $1,600 per employee. But focusing on health and well-being can turn that around: Employees at one company who took part in a free, voluntary wellness program saw their health improve and improved productivity by 10 percent — 11 percent among those with medical conditions. Most notably, already healthy workers whose health did not improve still boosted productivity by 6 percent.
Leaders may downplay personal wellness because they feel they need to be working all the time, Mitchell says. But being “on” all the time only leads to burnout. “We know we need to have a little more balance in our lives, but it’s all about connecting productivity to the bottom line. Leadership has to be convinced of that. It’s hard to deny that personal well-being and having a team that feels good is not better for the organization.”
Dedicate Time to Taking Care of Yourself
The biggest challenge for leaders is finding time to make well-being a priority, Mitchell says. “It’s hard to connect when your mind is preoccupied and you’re distracted,” she says. “Time is always going to be a barrier, especially for leaders who have so many different people pulling them in many different directions.”
Change happens slowly, so start by scheduling time for yourself on your calendar. Think about what it means to you to be physically healthy, Mitchell says, as well as what it means to have high energy in your life and how you might work on feeling more calm. If you work for a change-averse organization, taking this time may be a bigger challenge, but Mitchell says it’s important if you want to reap the benefits.
Serve as an Example
Leaders who prioritize their well-being can serve as an example for the rest of their team, Mitchell says. Talking about the changes you’re making in your life to take care of yourself can inspire others on your team to do the same. “It all trickles down from leadership,” Mitchell says.
As you continue on your well-being journey, ensure that people on your team who may be inspired by you have the flexibility to make changes for themselves. “If you want to have some kind of scalable change, it needs to happen at a leadership level,” Mitchell says.