Mindfulness and the #metoo movement

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The latest blog from Liz&Luis

January 2018

As we write this, they’re still flooding in. Hordes of revelations about well-known public figures sexually harassing and abusing colleagues and employees. Thousands of personal stories from mainly, but not solely, women, of being subjected to such treatment, all shared under the #metoo hashtag.

As momentum builds, it seems we may have reached a tipping point for change. But what’s all this got to do with mindfulness?

We believe that mindfulness training is ideally suited to bringing about transformation in the workplace and wider society, and that this applies here too. Here are some areas where it can contribute to positively shifting relationships and the power balance:

  • Self awareness and self management

Practising mindfulness prompts us to question our own assumptions- beliefs and reference points we’ve taken on that may no longer be valid, if they ever were. We become more able to see more clearly- patterns and blind spots in ourselves, in others, in the systems in which we operate. These may include gender inequality, cultures in which sexual harassment is normalised, and/or in which whistleblowing is actively discouraged, as has been the case in the entertainment business. Once we have clarity, we can then choose what to keep and what to let go of. We become better able to manage ourselves, and thus less likely to take our aggression out on others.

  • Kindness and empathy

We highlighted the power of ‘kindfulness’ and its connection with mindfulness in our last blog. Mindfulness helps us be more accepting of, and to feel more kindly towards, ourselves, and others. Thus we may be less likely to get trapped into a toxic power dynamic where we’re treating others badly in a bid to feel better about ourselves. And if we have crossed boundaries, we can more easily make peace with that and make amends. Mindfulness helps us develop compassion, which is a wonderful antidote to shame.

  • Finding our centre and aligning with values

Mindfulness can help us be more grounded, and thus more responsive rather than reactive. In addition to being less likely to treat others badly, if someone treats us badly, instead of running away or reacting aggressively, we can find it easier to stand firm, to share our story. If we practice mindfulness, we’re more likely to be aligned with our true values too (Hall, 2015 in Mindfulness in Organizations: Foundations, Research, and Applications), and thus more likely to want to call out undesirable behaviour and not be a fearful bystander.


·      Turning towards difficulty

Very often, underlying sexual aggression are ‘difficult’ feelings such as fear and anger, and painful thoughts such as “I’m not good enough.” Mindfulness helps us be open and curious about what’s really going on for us, giving us a chance to process this, and pressing the pause button so we don’t act out of pain, for example.

  • Changing culture

Where mindfulness becomes part of an organisational culture and leadership approach, this is typically characterised by open-ness, curiosity, kindness and so on. Such an environment offers many more opportunities for systemic culture change, opening up and shifting the dialogue around relationships, including in the arena of gender, highlighting what’s acceptable in how we treat one another and choose to show up, and enabling authentic conversations, collaboration, mutual appreciation and respect, and embracing diversity.

Mindfulness Blog by Liz&Luis 

Liz Hall and Luis San Martin are co-founders of the International Summit for Mindfulness & Compassion at Work. They offer tailor made mindfulness programmes for business.

Email: mindfulcoaches@gmail.com

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Coaches should challenge unethical clients

What should coaches do when they think clients are doing something unethical? Should they challenge them? This is a real hot potato at the moment, especially given the fallout from the banking sector, the environmental pressures and the continuing lack of confidence in the current business model. And according to the Index of Leadership Trust, released earlier this month (October), leaders are widely perceived to be prioritising profits over principles.

Some think we should stop playing god and remember our place- which is to serve the client sitting in front of us, and the organisation sponsoring the coaching where this is the case. Others think coaches have a responsibility to speak up, with some- including Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) chairman Peter Cheese going as far as to wonder whether the current crisis might have been averted if more executive coaches had voiced concerns earlier on. Speaking to Coaching at Work, for our news story on coaches’ responses to the ILM’s Index of Leadership Trust it has just published with Management Today, Cheese said that “The coach acts as a mirror to the individual so they have better understanding of the context they are operating in and of what is good practice. Historically if they had been doing that really well, maybe we wouldn’t have had the problems we had.”

Cheese questions the basis of any coach-client relationship where the coach keeps quiet when they see issues in decisions, where they are compromising ethics. According to the report, less than two-fifths of CEOs place ethics at the heart of business decisions, hence the spotlight being once again on what coaches think they should do when faced with potentially dodgy client behaviour.

In the same issue of Coaching at Work (November/December, Vol 6, Issue 6), Neela Bettridge, executive coach and founder of sustainability consultancy Article 13 writes that “An integration of who we are, with what we do, what we say and how we say it has never been more important, as we approach the perfect storm of a changing business model, rising economic powers and environmental pressure.”

I think she is absolutely right. That goes for our clients too, especially leaders under the spotlight. Personally, I feel we should reflect back what we think we see, including where we think clients may be acting unethically, albeit unconsciously. This is not about getting too big for our boots, or having our own agenda. This is about acting as a mirror, considering the wider picture, not colluding with our client, and not being scared of our client. Most clients will thank us for it.

  • What do you think? Should coaches challenge clients on ethical issues? Take part in our online poll here: ethics poll

Coaching at Work is an independent magazine, website and events organiser. It has a global coach listing, a monthly coaching e-newsletter, a quarterly mentoring e-newsletter, and access to six years’ worth of Coaching at Work archives as well as the printed/digital magazine. Our Coaching and Mentoring at Work Beyond Frontiers conference on 23 November 2011 sold out eight weeks before the event. We will hold another conference in the spring.

You can see a sample issue on our home page www.coaching-at-work.com and various freely available articles in Featured articles and Reports. And you can sign up for free to our newsletters by clicking here. Some of the content is available to non-subscribers but not all, you can subscribe here.