The Power of Mindfulness in the Workplace


Mindfulness is simply becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings.

Today’s work environment can involve deadlines, pressure, long hours and information overload. Mindfulness is a powerful technique that can help employees deal with work-related stress and improve their effectiveness in the workplace.

Mindfulness is a simple concept that is incredibly profound. It involves learning how to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment without judgment. Instead of getting caught up in the stress of negative emotions, being overwhelmed, and not handling things well, mindfulness means becoming aware of how your body feels and what your thoughts are, and then noticing things like how you’re breathing or how tense your body feels.

Ideas for Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness isn’t about controlling what is happening to you, it’s more about slowing down enough to become aware of it. So many times we let pressure and stress make us react in unhealthy ways, until we aren’t even aware of what we are feeling or in control of ourselves and our actions.

One way to practice mindfulness is to notice your breathing for a few minutes one or more times a day. It isn’t necessary to control your breathing, just to notice it and continue to do so for a few minutes.

Another good mindfulness practice is to check in with yourself regularly, paying attention to whether you’re tensing up or thinking negative thoughts. Some people set timers or bells for every hour to remind themselves to check in. Regular check-ins will help you realize when you are getting tense. Slowing down to notice what you are feeling physically and thinking mentally can be all it takes to reduce your stress sometimes.


Practicing mindfulness can help your work productivity and stress.

Focus and Awareness

Practicing mindfulness increases your ability to focus on the tasks in front of you. Awareness takes focus a step farther so that you can release or dismiss distractions that can prevent you from accomplishing important tasks that will move your work forward. Focus and awareness can prevent mistakes and even increase your creativity and ability to solve problems at work.

Mindfulness can help solve these common workplace problems:

  • Paying too much attention to social media and email
  • Unnecessarily long, unfocused meetings
  • Making poor, hasty decisions
  • Working on autopilot and not really thinking about what you are doing

Mindfulness also includes time for reflection so that you can decide whether you should keep doing something the same way or try a different technique or idea. As you practice mindfulness in or out of the office, you may find that many areas of your life improve and it’s easier to keep all kinds of distractions at bay, along with the stress those distractions can cause.

CCSU is offering a continuing education course on mindfulness for those who want to begin learning about this powerful practice and some ways to implement it in their own lives. Sign up for the course to begin the journey to greater productivity and satisfaction in your work and even your personal life. View all our open courses for more adult education programs to enrich your work and personal life.

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Expert Interview Series: Kim Phillips of Lucid Marketing On The Benefits Of Continuing Education For Marketers

Kim Phillips provides strategic marketing and creative services for clients in a broad range of industries and in the nonprofit field. She is a marketing consultant for the marketing firm Tiny Creative House, formerly Lucid Marketing.

You’ve got over 30 years of experience in sales, advertising, and marketing. Did you set out to get involved in marketing, initially, or is that something that you ended up falling into?

I had a general liberal arts education and was fortunate to have some early managers who steered me toward marketing (advertising and public relations, specifically) and I grew into the role as the company grew from a small regional bank to a major financial institution.

How prevalent was sales and marketing when you were first getting started? Was it hard to break into the field, initially?

Marketing wasn’t a widely respected field and still isn’t, in my experience. Sales, on the other hand, is respected so long as the salesperson produces.

You help your clients achieve their goals using strategic, creative, and expertly executed marketing communications. How can some sort of official marketing education help a marketer focus their marketing strategies?

Training for marketing in a specific field helps, as well as a general marketing or marketing communications degree. Seminars and workshops on specialized topics like branding, SEO, etc., where the learning is very concentrated, can be immensely useful.

You offer the expertise of a full marketing agency, but at a fraction of a price. How can getting trained as a marketer help an independent marketing consultant compete against the majors?

In my corporate role, I had experience managing large campaigns with multiple agencies over a wide geographic area. When I became a consultant, I began using that experience t provide top-quality marketing services to companies that couldn’t normally afford that kind of help.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics predicted that the number of adults aged 35 or older continuing their education would rise by up to 7% a year, until the end of 2016. Why are so many adults pursuing continued education, do you think?

It’s really necessary to remain employable. The technology of marketing changes so fast that it’s a challenge for anyone, of any age, to stay on top of it. Companies don’t tend to believe that workers over 35 can keep up.

How can continuing education in marketing and sales help someone break out of a dead-end career?

If that person isn’t already in marketing, it may make sense to pick something to specialize in, rather than trying to get a general marketing degree. For example, perhaps become an SEO expert if numbers is your thing. For sales, if you can hustle, you can succeed.

Marketers have more resources available them than ever before, but it’s a lot to keep up with. How can going back to school help marketers, new and old, learn the newest marketing technology?

School isn’t usually where the most recent developments are learned. If the person doesn’t work for a company willing to invest in seminars and other concentrated learning, they may have to go it alone.

What are some ways that continuing education be good for a marketer’s career, as well as their intellect?

More (or different) education could help a person discover that marketing isn’t their thing at all. Or, it could re-energize them and steer them into a specific area of expertise. It’s much harder to be a generalist today.

What are some areas of marketing that are going to continue to be important, do you think? Which of these trends might be difficult to learn on one’s own?

SEO or something like it, and other targeted means of sales yet to be developed, mobile platforms, soft marketing embedded in “the internet of things,” any ways of marketing that use technology to target consumers more closely and give them what they want. If done correctly and seamlessly, “advertising” would no longer be considered an intrusion.

Degrees and certifications are great, but it’s mostly about the CV and portfolio for marketers, at the end of the day. How might someone use going back to school as a way to build up their portfolio? What are some ways a marketer could showcase their new skills and work to find new clients and leads?

I like the idea of doing pro-bono projects for local nonprofits. They can use the help, and it gets a marketer out of a run. Having said that, the volunteer marketer should be highly conscious of the nonprofit organization’s brand, mission and history, doing good work without reinventing the wheel. Lastly, I would advise anyone building a portfolio to include information on results.

Want to learn how continuing your education can help build your career? View all of our open courses right now!

Success Story: Erica Michalowski

Being an alum of a school like CCSU keeps me connected to the roots of my profession while also giving me an opportunity to be a part of a community of people wanting to learn more, discover new ways of experiencing life while being connected to a whole new generation of students.

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On June 29th, 2016, the Continuing Education Department at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) teamed up with AARP to bring the event “Life Reimagined,” presented by Joyce Ramsey and Tia Murphy, to Memorial Hall. Throughout the two-hour event, the hosts conducted multiple interactive exercises. The primary objective for these exercises was to teach the audience to “be the boss of your own life,” which was greatly demonstrated in a video about a man named Rich Luker.

Mr. Luker loved baseball and softball. Every day, he would stop by the park and watch people playing through the fence. He was growing tired of “watching life through the fence,” and eventually mustered up the courage to join in on the game. No more is Mr. Luker watching life through fence, he now had a community and was living life the way he wanted to.

After the video, the instructors took the audience through exercises to help them “follow a personalized GPS.” A personalized GPS goes through six practices of Life Reimagined: Reflect, Connect, Explore, Choose, Repack, and Act. This taught the audience to take control of their lives and be the person they want to be.

The event was organized by Erica Michalowski, who has been with AARP for over 13 years. In addition to her work with AARP, Ms. Michalowski is a CCSU alumni. She began her education with a focus in Accounting before following her passion of Sociology with a focus on Social Work. In fact, Ms. Michalowski was one of the first graduating classes to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Getting Social Work to be a part of the curriculum was her first introduction to community organizing in the macro world of Social Work, which she has now been in for over 25 years.

Ms. Michalowski praised CCSU for being a “grounded school” that allowed her and other students to connect their studies and interests with the community. The experience was one that she believed she needed. One of her professors offered the class an opportunity to participate in a peer education program that the school was creating. The opportunity allowed her to become more engaged in her career path.

With all of her positive experiences at CCSU, connecting back to the school by teaming up with Continuing Education is what Ms. Michalowski called “the icing on the cake” for her career. She thought of the Life Reimagined event as a walk down memory lane because she felt connected with other alumni as they all shared their experiences as they looked at the physical changes of the campus while remembering the good times they had at CCSU.

It was rewarding for Ms. Michalowski to organize a collaboration between AARP and CCSU. When people ask her what exactly she does as a Social Worker for AARP, she cannot keep a smile off of her face because it is the best job she has ever had. She explained her job as simply helping people find their best life in a way that makes sense for them. Ms. Michalowski thanks Ethel Percy, AARP’s founder, for making her feel at home while on the job. She admires Ms. Percy’s found principles, which still hold true today and guide the work of Ms. Michalowski. She loves her life, she loves her job, and most of all, she loves “the people, community, collaborators, the issues, the mission, the vision… All of it!”

For more information about upcoming AARP events held at CCSU, please contact the Office of Continuing Education at 860-832-2277 or CSterling@ccsu.edu.

Expert Interview Series: Michael Bungay Stanier of Box of Crayons About Manager Coaching

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that gives busy managers the practical tools so they can coach in 10 minutes or less. We recently sat down with Michael to hear his thoughts on how to learn, grow, and succeed as a manager.

What services or product offerings does Box of Crayons provide for its clients?

We’re very focused in what we do. We don’t do leadership. We don’t do consulting. Box of Crayons is a training company that gives busy managers practical tools so they can coach in 10 minutes or less.

If every personal setback or challenge is a life lesson, what have you learned from your own setbacks and challenges?

I’ve definitely had my share of stumbles and fumbles. And if it’s taught me anything, it’s probably:

• “Wisdom enters through the wound.” You get smarter from your failures, but only if you choose to do so. It’s worth asking (win or lose), “What did I just learn here? What do I know now that I didn’t know before?”
• Persistence really does pay off. Being willing to come back and give it another go often trumps talent. For instance, the first time I applied to become a Rhodes Scholar I didn’t even get a first interview. And they said EVERYONE got a first interview. So I spent two years licking my wounds and getting ready to do a better job.
• None of this matters much in the long run. In 10 years, you won’t be worrying about what you’re worrying about now. And in 110 years, no one will remember who you are. So you may as well go big and have some fun.

Your company’s website is heavily focused on “Great Work.” Could you define that term for us?

There’s a simple way of splitting everything you do into three buckets:

• Bad Work: The waste-of-time, life-sucking, heart-sinking work. Too many emails, meetings, bureaucracy
• Good Work: Your job description. Important stuff, but there’s always too much of it, and trying to get it all done keeps you stuck in something of a comfortable rut
• Great Work: Work that has more impact and has more meaning. Impact is important for the business. Meaning matters to the people doing the work.

Most people have too much Bad and Good Work. Our goal is to help people have more Great Work in their lives.

What are some of the common issues and problems that managers come to Box of Crayons with?

There are lots of symptoms: overwhelm, an over-dependent team, a lack of focus, a sense that you’re spinning your wheels, a sense of playing small. In the end (and obviously I’m biased here), I think it comes down to: “Are you finding meaning and creating impact in your work?”

If a manager said to you, “My role is to simply provide the resources to my employees, and then leave them alone to succeed or fail on their own,” how would you respond?

Perhaps I’d channel my inner Dr. Phil and ask them, “How’s that working for you?” Because it’s not that common that you’re lucky enough to have people sufficiently talented and autonomous to thrive like that. And if they’re not thriving, then you’re probably not thriving as their manager. One of the benefits of being a more active manager – being more coach-like with them – is that you help them learn, and in learning they become better able to be autonomous, to move towards mastery, and to do more Great Work.

How important is it for a manager to have superb time management skills?

One of the most important things a manager can master is saying “No” much more than they currently do. It’s the strong “No” that gives any “Yes” its shape and its power.

How has the emergence of video and online tutorials changed the way your company delivers its instruction to its clients?

We’re still mostly an in-classroom training company. But we use video a lot as supplementary material, and we’re trying to figure out how to make our training more virtual without compromising the experience too greatly. There are so many interesting technologies blooming. But it’s important to make sure that they help the learning and the behavior change rather than just to be fancy for fancy’s sake.

Why is it so essential today for managers and businesspeople to constantly update and improve their skills?

I like this quote from Robert Greene (whose books are fantastic, by the way): “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

Interested in learning about courses which can help your career? Join our mailing list today!

Meet our Students: Alana Bowman

The HR Professional Certificate Program made me not only more confident in my ability to work with others, but also more confident in myself… I also met some amazing people through the course that I keep in touch with to this day!

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Alana Bowman Graduated from the Continuing Education Department’s Human Resources Professional Certificate Program at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in December of 2015. She enjoyed her time at CCSU, and her favorite quality of the course was the patient and knowledgeable instructors of the program. Ms. Bowman also admired the smaller class size, as it allowed her to get the one-on-one attention that she needed to strive.

Ms. Bowman chose the HR program because she wanted to start a career where she could make a difference. She wanted to people to know they could feel comfortable coming to talk to her about anything related to both their business and personal lives, and that she would be able to handle it in a professional manner. She currently works for a small civil engineering and land surveying company, and the course helped her to become an HR assistant instead of a general Administrative Assistant. Ms. Bowman thanks CCSU for providing her with the knowledge she needed to start a rewarding career in the HR field, and she has transferred the skills she learned to both her professional and personal life.

If you are interested or want to learn more about the Human Resources Professional Certificate program at CCSU, please contact Judy Ratcliffe at JRatcliffe@ccsu.edu or 860-832-2276.

Expert Interview Series: Dr. Marcia Reynold of Outsmart Your Brain

Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning, is a behavioral scientist who helps organizations uplift their cultures and increase results through connections and conversations.

We recently checked in with Marcia to learn about the role emotional intelligence (EI) plays in your professional and personal lives and how you can harness it to go further in your career. Here’s what she had to say:

Can you tell us about your professional background? How did you become interested in helping people connect?

I have always been fascinated by how people learn and grow, which is why I continue to get degrees and consume the latest research on neuroscience and behavioral change. We now know that people learn best in conversation, especially ones facilitated by someone who is genuinely interested in their challenges, needs and goals. Also, people need to feel valued and safe in these conversations. So how we connect is as important as how we carry out the conversation when helping others expand what they know and grow. I love learning about what it takes for people to change and grow, and then translating it into actionable techniques that leaders can use right away to get results.

Your site is called Outsmart Your Brain. What made you choose that name? Why should we be trying to outsmart our brains?

When I first started my business, very few people knew what having emotional intelligence meant. I was one of the first people to teach EI in organizations in many countries around the world as well as in the U.S. The foundational concept I taught was that EI starts with self-awareness. You need to know what your reactive brain is doing so you can choose to feel, think and do something else if you want to. My first book is titled Outsmart Your Brain so I used it to attract people to my website to see what I can do for them to be more effective in all of their conversations and relationships.

In your experience what are the steps to “outsmarting your brain?” How do we do it?

First, you need to step into the moment and become very present to how you feel. Although there are many techniques for becoming mindful of your thoughts and emotions, I teach people a four-step process:

Relax – breathe in, exhale and come back to normal breathing. Then do a quick body scan to release any tension you are holding.

Detach – clear your mind of all thoughts. Visualize an open elevator in your mind, and then see all your thoughts float into the elevator before the door closes. Then say the word “curious” to yourself to keep your mind open.

Center – place your awareness in the center of your body, at your point of strength just below your navel. Recall what it feels like to have courage, when you did something in spite of your fears. Then breathe in and feel the courage from this warm, strong space in your body.

Focus – choose one emotion to feel. You can choose to feel confident, calm, compassion, love, or even anger, but choose how you want to feel in this moment instead of letting your brain choose for you. This emotion becomes your anchor for when you start to react. You can quickly relax, detach, center and recall the emotion you want to feel. What you then say and do will be from choice, not reaction.

Then, if you have a difficult time detaching from your thoughts and emotions, I would teach you how to identify your emotional triggers. What does your brain fear is going to be taken from you (such as control, predictability, respect, being liked, credibility or significance) or what does your brain think you have already lost? There is a lot of rich work I do with my clients helping them understand and unhook from their triggers. Once you do this, you are the masters of your brain instead of being the victim.

Where do you find people most often get stuck when it comes to their careers? What do we need to do to break free of those ruts?

Generally, I find people more willing to test out career paths early before they have accumulated things and begin raising a family. Though sometimes they choose a professional path in school and then march down it without knowing what staying on this path for 30 or 40 years will be like.

Either way, around 10 to 15 years into their careers many people start to question if their path is truly fulfilling, if it honors their best self, and do they have anywhere to grow from where they are. Then they feel stuck, but also afraid they can’t change because of the time they have already put into their career and the financial obligations they have assumed. Their fears then override their ability to see possibilities and opportunities. They don’t realize they can begin to plan for something different at any time. Even if they can’t make a change right away, just having a vision for what is next and the plan to realize the vision will help lift their spirits.

I think this is a great opportunity for coaching. Coaches help people see beyond their fears and then help them discover what steps are possible to take right now.

How would you define emotional intelligence?

As described above, emotional intelligence is about choosing how we want to feel instead of just reacting. This gives you more control over what you say and do as well as the impact of your words and behaviors.

EI is the ability to know you are having an emotional reaction, understand what triggered the reaction and then choose to get your need met or release it because you want something more important in the moment. Since your brain has a negative bias – it is always looking out for what could hurt you – your reactions and decisions are not always based on good logic. When you are able to notice what your brain is doing to protect you, you can choose what to do next, which might include thanking your brain for protecting you but then making another choice for how you want to react to the situation you are facing.

The root of the word “intelligence” means to choose. Emotional intelligence means you are able to choose your emotions, which will then override and direct your thoughts and behaviors.

Then when you become adept at understanding yourself, you develop your empathy for others. You better understand why they do what they do and what they might need from you to help meet their challenges, though they may not be able to articulate this themselves. Your empathy will help them make better choices for themselves.

Why is emotional intelligence an important component of professional growth?

EI is important for professional growth and success. You not only better manage your emotions, but you also make better decisions for yourself. You not only understand what motivates others to think and act the way they do, but you also know better how to connect with them and talk them through their challenges. You not only grow as a professional and human, but your relationships also are much more meaningful, satisfying and memorable. EI not only helps people grow, but it also helps them have fulfilling lives.

Why is continuing education and training so important to career growth?

Actually, I don’t think continuing education and skills training works on its own. Yes, the world is changing, leadership is evolving, and no one can stay in one place without falling behind. However, you need to also do things that will shift and expand your mindset, perspective and work values in order to implement any skills you learn. You have to feel something is important to you before you will make the time to implement and learn new skills. That is why I think working with a coach or attending training that focuses on mindset as well as skills is crucial to keep moving and succeeding at what you choose to do.

How can aspiring leaders put themselves in a better position to take on leadership roles?

Always be curious about what challenges your leaders are facing. How can you help them with their challenges, needs and goals? When you ask to take on more responsibilities, put your request in the context of helping your leader and you are more likely to be recognized as a possible leader.

Also, seek to help your peers with their challenges. Having strong peer relationships is a good indicator of leadership potential. Your willingness to help them will both help your boss and place you one step above the others. Helping others achieve their goals more than just looking out for yourself is a great strength.

You do want to be able to articulate what character strengths you have to be a leader (for example, you might be courageous, decisive, loyal, caring, determined, passionate and creative). Being able to define your character is as important as pointing to your accomplishments when asked why you should be considered for a leadership position.

Combining your character strengths and your accomplishments with your willingness to help others, including your boss, will give you the visibility you need to be considered for a leadership role.

What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve found new leaders need to learn early on?

  • Respect everyone you meet.
  • Listen with curiosity and care.
  • Try out different roles to get a broader perspective of business – and don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • Choose to be present instead of perfect.
  • You don’t have to know it all, asking for help and advice is a strength and can be a gift to others.
  • Keep asking yourself what you want from your life and what legacy you want to leave behind. It will change. You don’t want to regret noticing your dreams and desires have shifted. Then plan your life to maintain your happiness so you can be present and helpful to others.

What should today’s leaders be doing to improve their leadership skills?

The most important thing for leaders today is to learn how to see and value people. Seeing people goes beyond just listening to their words. People need to feel as if the leader understands them and values what they say and offer. They need to feel important as well as heard.

If leaders learn advanced coaching skills where they go beyond problem solving to helping others think for themselves, they can learn the skills of presence and “seeing people.” Then add emotional intelligence to coaching and they will be the leaders who expand the minds and engages the hearts of their employees.

Leaders also need skills in business acumen, organizational development, people and resource allocation, embracing ambiguity, calculated risk taking, and team facilitation, but I believe strong coaching skills and emotional intelligence will help them build the high-trust work environment they need to stay agile and successful in today’s quickly changing, unpredictable world.

Learn more about educational opportunities at Central Connecticut State University. Join our mailing list.

Meet our Students: Todd Larese

It’s never too late to enhance your skills and create a new beginning for yourself. CCSU’s Continuing Education program can guide you on any path you wish to take!

-Todd Larese

 

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Todd Larese graduated from the Continuing Education Department’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate Program at Central Connecticut State University in 2014. He currently works in the Eversource Energy Survey Engineering Department. Mr. Larese uses his GIS skills to manage the implementation of Real Estate GIS for Eversource. The GIS will include all Eversource fee owned parcels and Eversource easements which have never been digitized and captured in an all-inclusive system. With his abilities to use GIS learned at CCSU, Mr. Larese was able to create a new position for himself in the company. The GIS program helps students learn to analyze and visualize data to answer questions and solve spatial problems.

Mr. Larese joined the GIS program for multiple reasons. His department at Eversource was looking into creating an all-inclusive GIS for their Real Estate Department. They had a number of map books, but were forced to use an outside vender to create changes. They needed someone in the department who could make those changes “in house.”  As he started to research GIS, he found he couldn’t learn on his own and needed help. He began researching schools, and decided to go with CCSU because they were one of the only schools around that offered an in-depth program for GIS.

The GIS program was an ideal fit for Mr. Larese. The course and its instructors were very accommodating to his busy lifestyle.When dealing with work, kids, and other life events; he and his fellow classmates were still able to get the most out of the program.The instructors were open to teaching what he and his fellow classmates wanted to learn. While there was of course a set syllabus and curriculum, the instructors dove into topics that may have been largely discussed in class. Mr. Larese recommends the program to anyone interested in GIS.

If you are interested or want to learn more about the GIS Hybrid Certificate program at CCSU, please contact Christa Sterling at CSterling@ccsu.edu or 860-832-2277.