In recent years, particularly since the onset of the pandemic, the term “mindfulness” has permeated self-help, coaching, and management literature. Cultivating the ability to be aware of ourselves in any given moment means that we can regulate our responses to stress and challenging situations.

Today, I want to bring forward another dimension of mindfulness – what I’m calling Collective Mindfulness. This is a skill built at the team level – an awareness, not only of our own thoughts and feelings, but of how these emerge in relation to others and collectively in a group.

Like individual mindfulness, Collective Mindfulness requires slowing down, noticing. But with Collective Mindfulness, what we’re noticing isn’t simply our own thoughts, feelings, and sensations. What we’re attending to are the pushes and pulls of the group dynamic. And like individual mindfulness, Collective Mindfulness is an invisible force that can be working for or against us in accomplishing our team goals.

Any time we’re with other people, there are underlying dynamics at play, that impact our thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others. We are constantly, unconsciously sizing up the group and our place in it. Where do we fit in the pecking order? Who are we “above” or better than? Who are we “below” or less than? Who do we feel drawn to? Repulsed by? Do we feel safe? Do we belong? What judgments are we making about whether others belong or not? Without even thinking about it, some part of our being is attending to these questions.

Their answers impact how we show up in the group. Do we speak out or remain quiet? Do we move to the front of the room or linger in the back? Do we share our ideas or keep them to ourselves? Do we take in the input of others or dismiss it?

All of these choices impact the work of the group. When the group dynamic is managed and members feel safe, people share their ideas easily, the team has more information and energy to work with. When the dynamic is running rampant, people feel less safe, and information goes underground, unspoken, or simply unheard – drowned out in conflict or in avoidance of conflict.

Collective Mindfulness is a strategy for combatting these challenges of group life. It helps us become aware of what’s happening below the surface and deploy strategies that help us – and the teams we’re in – move through them.

Would you like to experiment with Collective Mindfulness? You can begin by simply raising your awareness of your reactions to the other members of the group, without making it about either you or the other person. Simply notice: When do you go “one-up” or “one-down” in the group? When do you lean in or move away? Building awareness about group dynamics leads to having more choices in how we behave, and more choices provide a foundation for being even stronger leaders and team members.

Here’s to slowing down, noticing, and engaging mindfully!

While Collective Mindfulness is a group activity, there are steps you can take on your own to build an awareness of what’s happening in the groups you’re in. Learn more about our coaching program here. 

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