Teaching Students to Manage Through Mindfulness

The University of South Florida delivers a curriculum developed at Google to help workshop participants reduce stress and improve performance.

Teaching Students to Manage More Mindfully

Gail Van Gils, a consultant and certified instructor for Search Inside Yourself workshops, presents principles of mindfulness to MBAs at the University of South Florida. (Photo courtesy of the University of South Florida)

 

Research has shown that leaders who regularly practice mindfulness and meditation improve their ability to cope with stress, manage teams, and make decisions. It’s no wonder that more companies are making mindfulness part of their executive training—and more business schools are including it in their programs.

Recently, the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg has started delivering a one-day workshop in mindfulness and emotional intelligence to MBA students enrolled in a course in organizational behavior.

The workshop uses content developed by Search Inside Yourself Institute (SIY), a nonprofit founded by a team of Google employees in 2007. Based on the latest neuroscience research, SIY’s approach was originally devised to help Google employees improve focus, manage stress, harness creativity, and improve resilience.

This April, the Tiedemann College presented SIY’s mindfulness training as a two-day workshop open to the public at a cost of US$1,250. The workshop featured instructor presentations on the neuroscience of emotion, perception, and behavioral change; principles related to listening, empathy, and social skills; and exercises on mindfulness and reflection.

Those who completed the workshop received a month of check-ins, tips on practices, and exercises to help them refine their new skills.

Faculty wanted to deliver a program on mindfulness to the public because of the positive impact the training has had on MBA students, explains Eric Douthirt, the college’s director of graduate programs and executive education. In response to surveys, 85 percent of MBAs who have completed the program report an increased ability to connect with others, 89 percent report feeling less stress, and 91 percent report experiencing enhanced clarity of mind.

“This mindfulness training has always proved very effective for our students,” says Douthirt. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to [offer it] for anyone to take.”

The demands on future leaders are only going to intensify, making it all the more important for business schools to help them stay calm and balanced, says Sri Sundaram, dean of the college. “Practical mindfulness and emotional intelligence can aid anyone seeking to improve their leadership and raise their performance.”

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