Think of your top inspirations for building a company and leading your team: Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Richard Branson are sure to make the cut. Probably not Buddha.
But Shambhala Buddhist teacher and author Lodro Rinzler makes a case for infusing Buddhist principles into the workplace in his new book The Buddha Walks Into the Office.
“You don’t have to be Buddhist to practice meditation,” Rinzler says. “My task is to make it acceptable to anyone regardless of where they’re coming from. It’s just you and your mind.”
In part three of his book, Rinzler lays out a six-point roadmap that leads toward more compassionate leadership. “These are monastic teachings from back in the 1800s,” Rinzler says. “I can’t even imagine how they’d apply in a monastic setting because they’re so apt for today’s corporate world. The idea here is how can we manifest the compassion of Buddhism.”
“When we encounter the speed and aggression that often exists in workplace scenarios, we counter it with spaciousness. It’s a little like meditation jujitsu where the more people become aggressive, the more you become spacious. There’s a sense of playfulness you infuse in your activities and you don’t take things so personally. It’s seeing other people’s anger and not fueling that fire.
“For me, it comes down to separating the idea that our spiritual life and home life are different than our work. It’s not like we walk into the office and our mind shifts. If we’re forcing ourselves to do that, it’s like we’re living dual lives and that drains us long-term. The more we take a holistic perspective of our work, the better–and the more we relate to others based on our personal lives, the better.”
“True is based in the Buddhist logic around our inherent state. In Shambhala we talk about this as ‘basic goodness.’ We believe that underneath all our layers of confusion everyone is basically good–they’re not basically messed up. When your coworker is annoying you or there are obstacles at work that seem insurmountable, it’s coming at this from the point of view of believing in your own basic goodness and the goodness of others. It’s having conviction in other people’s capabilities.
“A level of trust comes about when we come from that aspect of truth, which is acknowledging the goodness of others and acknowledging your own goodness. There are some very basic levels of earning people’s respect and trust over time. You may have the point of view of ‘me, me, me!’ but even raising your gaze a little bit and learning to interact with your coworkers from that perspective changes the whole office dynamic.”
“Genuine is being present enough to see a situation for what it is. It’s slowing down to a point to see the reality of a situation and coming to the logic around what’s going on next. But mistakes are a big part of the spiritual path. We stumble along the way, but there’s a lot one could do: It’s acknowledging your mistake, forgiving yourself, and committing never to make that mistake again–and that last part is where it takes discipline.”
“It’s not so much that we’re without fear, it’s the idea that when fear comes up, as it will throughout our life, we’re willing to look at it, address it, and see our way through it. We’re not going to shrink from scary situations. We know the quickest way through fear is to look at it.”
“There’s an artful aspect of delegation and empowering others. You pick the right people and you trust them. I feel that many people have a barrier that’s not necessary. When it comes down to making yourself human, I think that’s the best thing. There’s a real strength in vulnerability.
“The role of the leader is to simultaneously maintain the long-range view but do more on the ground. When I meet with people who say, ‘I’m more ‘big-vision’ I say, ‘Okay, what’s your assistant doing right now? It’s bringing them down to Earth.”
“Rejoicing is one we don’t really do enough of in today’s work environment. It’s like, ‘Okay, we just got a major sale or closed our feature project–now we need to do this.’ Just take a little time to say, ‘Wow, we just affected a lot of people’s lives. That’s really incredible if you think about it.’ Celebrate the little successes along the way.”