Creating Mindful Managers through Peer Learning Groups

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You do not have to master the art of meditation and sit still for hours to have mindful managers and leaders or to experience positive changes in your life. There are other ways to do that.

Noticing: The Gateway to Mindfulness

Ellen Langer, a renowned psychologist from Harvard who has studied mindfulness for decades, has shown that virtually all of our suffering — professional, personal, interpersonal, societal — is the direct or indirect result of our mindlessness. Sadly, we spend most of our waking hours in a mindless state. Her research has found that increasing mindfulness results in increased health, competence and happiness. More specifically, when people become more mindful, they become more charismatic, more innovative, and less judgmental. Memory and attention improve, and relationships expand. Mindfulness even leaves its imprint on the products we produce.

Langer defines mindfulness as “the simple process of actively noticing new things.” As you notice, you become more aware that you didn’t know (the object) as well as you first thought, which naturally draws your attention to the target. You become situated in the present, more aware of the importance of context and perspective.

Notice – Shift – Rewire

How do we integrate the practice of noticing and mindfulness into our regular lives? Lack of time is not an issue. Every waking moment offers an opportunity to notice and shift our attention and then rewire key neural pathways.

There is a simple mindfulness strategy for mastering the habit of becoming more present to each moment and, as a result, experiencing greater focus, productivity, and life satisfaction. This is NSR: Notice, Shift and Rewire, developed by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp. Here’s how it works:

  • Notice: first become aware of where your attention is directed. In most cases, you will likely find that your attention is scattered, or you are running on an automatic pilot and not noticing.
  • Shift: second, redirect your attention to the present moment. You can do this by bringing your attention to any object of focus, your breath, your thoughts, your actions- anything.
  • Rewire: third, take a few moments to absorb this experience This will reinforce the shift you just made at a neurobiological level.

NSR and Peer Learning Groups

Peer learning groups operate using NSR principles to create mindful managers.

Peer learning groups are small groups of managers working together through a structured dialogue, learning and sharing process that allows them to become aware of a particular problem or challenge, explore new ways of handling it and then reflect on their newly gained experience to reinforce their new skills and behaviors.

The groups work through a learning cycle that begins with exploring the topic at hand, (for example, dealing with a difficult employee) by sharing their experience and learning new approaches to tackle the challenge. This allows the managers to take a step back and notice what works and does not work for them in their daily practice. Once they are aware of their own practices, behaviors and limitations, they are ready to learn a new approach.

The next phase of the learning cycle is a month of experimentation and practice. This is when the managers shift their new learning and awareness to the present moment by practicing and applying their new skills and strategies. Since they came to the peer learning group with the challenge of dealing with a difficult employee, they can practice their new approach on that employee. Their new knowledge and skills come alive in the workplace, versus sitting dormant (as is often the case in traditional training).

During the last phase of the learning cycle, the managers have an opportunity to rewire their brains by redefining their old behaviors and reinforcing the new ones. The group comes together again to share their experience while experimenting with new methods. They then reflect to reinforce their new, more effective skills and behaviors.

Anytime, Anywhere

In this way, the peer learning groups guide the managers to become more mindful of their behavioral choices when they handle management challenges. Like NSR, peer learning can be applied anytime, anywhere, and at any level of management responsibility to build mindful leaders and managers.

If you are interested in helping your managers become more mindful and effective using peer learning, contact us at

Peter Korynski                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Chief Program Officer                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Peer Learning Institute

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