Years ago we were both employees of a major multinational company that was a supplier of super high strength fibers. One of the many applications of these fibers were lightweight soft and hard armor for personal and vehicular protection such as bullet proof vests and armored cars.
Back in the mid-90’s, demand for these materials exceeded capacity and therefore customers were on allocation and those who were credit risks, were on cash in advance terms.
During one of Dennis’ many business trips, a customer who was on restricted terms requested an emergency meeting at a diner near an airport as Dennis was about to catch a departing flight. Accepting the meeting, Dennis found himself in a position that many professionals on the front line of sales transactions find themselves.
The customer begged for the release of materials for his armor business. However, he did not have the cash up front and knew allocations were tight. He also new Dennis had the authority to direct and release shipments as a leader of the business. He offered Dennis an “incentive” in the form of an envelope of cash waiting on the front seat of his car if the materials were released. Dennis paused, a bit in shock, and respectfully declined, then excused himself quickly leaving to catch his flight.
Long since this occurrence and after a couple of career transitions, we have become teachers of yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices. At first glance one would wonder how these ancient practices could possibly contribute towards corporate compliance and business ethics. It does not seem obvious, however upon reflection of Dennis’ experience with our 13+ years of training, practice and teaching hundreds of students from all professions, there are in fact, key elements of these practices that can be helpful for professionals on the front-line of domestic and international business.
Common among these ancient practices is the development of awareness and connection to the present moment. This is what mindfulness and meditation are about. Humans for millennia have faced the same issues of the mind when it comes to thoughts, feelings, desires, ego and stress. Certainly the pressures of today are caused by different stimuli than in ancient times, but the issue then, and the issue now, lies in the mind.
Studies have confirmed that we each generate 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s about 2,000 thoughts per hour, on the low side. Many of these thoughts are worthless as they are of the past, experienced as worry and regret, or of the future, experienced as anxiety. Very few thoughts are in the present moment and relevant to our current experience.
Couple this deluge of thoughts, with an undercurrent of worry and anxiety, along with sales and market driven pressure measured with financial metrics such as volume, margins and new customer acquisition, it’s no wonder the front line of business can become blurry relative to compliance. Certainly employees and employers each want success on all levels of business. Performance drives results and results are measured via metrics. The challenge lies in the delicate balance of business performance, corporate compliance and personal ethics.
We are all human and by our nature we all want to be productive and successful. This is where these ancient practices can be helpful. Yoga and meditation provide a framework within which we can learn to manage our thoughts and observe ourselves in the moment. While mindfulness provides the window through which we experience life as it flows, e.g., a sales negotiation. It is via mindful awareness through which a situation is observed, assessed and then appropriate action is taken.
It is in the gap between stimulus (the sales opportunity or transaction) and response (the action taken) where a choice is made relative to alignment with corporate guidelines as well as personal ethics. Studies have shown that yoga and meditation, via the science of neuroplasticity, literally can reshape and remold the brain to minimize our reactivity and our “fight or flight” tendencies as well as enhance present moment awareness. It is within this gap where the “compliance rubber meets the road.” In Dennis’ case, he balanced the upside of an opportunity versus the downside risk of a shady business deal. Clearly in that case the situation violated both corporate guidelines and his ethics.
The business professional on the front line needs awareness to manage the gap. The strongest position in negotiation can be found within the pause and silence of the gap. The challenge is to have the insight, discipline and confidence to pause.
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices enhance these abilities, to take notice and then take the right action. The methods and practices are beyond the scope of this post, but they are very accessible and applicable within the business environment. Integration of these ancient methods into everyday life for the busy professional takes guidance, structure and practice, but they can enhance not only compliance but also productivity, wellness and personal satisfaction.
Dennis and Kathy Lang, pictured above, spent 24 years in the corporate world working for various Fortune 500 companies in positions of sales, marketing and management. They left their corporate careers in 2005 to pursue their passion. Both are certified E-RYT500 / YACEP teachers of yoga, meditation and mindfulness, corporate consultants and authors of the book “Everything Matters – How a Corporate Over-Achieving Couple Found Real Truth and How You Can Too – and it’s not what you think.” They teach yoga, meditation and mindfulness in Atlantic Beach, Florida and conduct workshops and teacher training modules all over the United States as well as retreats domestic and internationally.