Up front, I believe women operate differently in the workplace vis-a-vis men. Before you scream “Blasphemy, down with politically incorrect writers!” and start a witch hunt, let me qualify my PoV. While it takes all sorts to make the world, with centuries of conditioning and evolution, the average “woman” is represented by certain mental and physiological faculties that the male of the species doesn’t demonstrate at all, or in general. Hence, I do believe that women are tangibly different, as of today. Equality is not about women acting like men, rather one hopes for men and women dissolving their unique identities for equilibrium in continuum. But, for the here and now, let’s agree that women's coping mechanisms, their growth strategies and what they need to succed at work is distinct from men. That’s good news from where I stand. Gender stereotypes are starting to blur. Professional fulfillment is becoming a ground reality and an increasingly important aspect of most urban women's lives. If stats are to be believed, major changes are in afoot in media organisations globally. (Read key findings about "women in the workplace” at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/12/11/10-findings-about-women-in-the-workplace/)
The urban workplace is moving towards a more cooperative and nurturing environment. Look up the “Great Places to Work” list and you'll find that environment and employee satisfaction have direct links to strong brand equity and high productivity (http://www.greatplacetowork.in). In this context, the future of professional coaching lies outside the management classroom and within your own mind. Enter Vipassana, the 2,400-year-old self-awareness practice that is finding increased favour globally (www.dhamma.org)]
# 1 The Reboot
No matter where you are in your evolution curve as a professional, you can always get better. With that purity of intent, call it Kaizen if you will, one can safely say that Vipassana is a great help in focusing on oneself. With sustained practice, one can hone one’s strengths, reduce one’s weaknesses and seamlessly manage threats and opportunities. At some level, one can apply the “Six Sigma Rule” (http://www.isixsigma.com/new-to-six-sigma/getting-started/what-six-sigma/) to the simple process of shutting out external distractions, concerns and information, so that you can focus—totally—on yourself. In the context of the workplace, this has great merit, especially to shake off ennui or ‘reimagine’ a career graph. Vipassana has also helped many entrepreneurs gain clarity and confidence.
#2 Increase Productivity
In the bestselling book Getting Things Done, celebrated author David Allen (http://gettingthingsdone.com/) proposes that our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Within the first day at the ten-day Vipassana course for adults, as you acclimatize to the environment and the 'noble silence', you will feel a surreal calm. Shorn off the paraphernalia of your urban lifestyle, you will have a lot of time to engineer peace of mind. Once you get there, it is like tasting blood. You will actively work towards maintaining that status quo, through the remaining nine days and after. It works better than any short-term fix such as retail therapy or a day at the spa. Once you attain a perpetually relaxed state of mind, it directly increases your efficiency and consequently, your productivity.
#3 Pace the Superwoman Syndrome
It’s widely accepted that women can effortlessly navigate many avatars and thrive. That said, at some point the balancing act becomes challenging for the working woman. Here again, self-awareness helps you execute each role that is current and that you are emotionally vested in. It lets you totally and acutely track your thinking and thereby, pace yourself. Not just roles, it also helps you address your related emotional or psychological response. So whatever hat you have currently donned for the given moment (Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php), you now have the capacity to process each objectively. And the switching back and forth becomes that much more effortless. Let me give you an example, shifting your attention from an involved conversation with the house-help regarding the menu for the day, to a subordinate who needs some motivation or a difficult business associate in the mood for a debate, requires dexterity. Vipassana aids here.
#4 Taming the Tear Factor
Not too many people will openly admit this, but a lot of my peers have mentioned that their eyes well up when they are extremely angry.Even while their sanity tells them they do not want to be caught dead crying at work, the tears become difficult to control. Research has linked this phenomenon to several things like hormones, stress and even psychological disorders. PMS is like the big pink elephant Bansky put in his exhibition hall. It’s there; but no one is supposed to talk about it. Through self-awareness, you will be able to predict your emotions to the T. With this insight, you will be able to take damage control measures in advance and also become much less reactive in your daily activities.
# 5 Abetting the Guilt Factor
Many female professionals, from Indira Nooyi to Michele Bolton (Third Shift, http://www.amazon.com/The-Third-Shift-Managing-Choices/dp/0787948543) have spoken about the need to move past regret and just do what you are good at really well. This action-oriented behavior is endorsed by Vipassana. You are asked to take full charge of your present moment and live it fully and responsibly. By fluctuating between the domain you are in and the one that you have temporarily left behind, you subject yourself to a lot of guilt. The “here and now” works very well for anyone who wants to avoid the guilt trap.
# 6 Score with Goodwill and Trust
The last lap of Vipassana involves a feeling of goodwill towards everyone in the Universe. I was lucky to attend a workshop by Stephen M R Covey on his patented “Speed of Trust” concept (http://www.myspeedoftrust.com/How-The-Speed-of-Trust-works/book) and the threads of commonality one could draw were unmistakable. Vipassana guru Lt. S N Goenka urged students to channelize the positivity that is generated via Vipassana towards the whole universe. Anyone who has been to a ten-day course will vouch for the fact that the positive energy is palpable. Applied to the workplace, goodwill and trust can accelerate a lot of things, which will only make your leadership more distinct, and welcome.
#7 Sit At the Table
Anyone who wants to climb the corporate ladder will find a nugget or two in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (http://leanin.org/book/), where she exhorts women to actively take on leadership roles and proactively work on equality at the workplace. For women to participate in the boardroom or even to network effectively, we must understand that Level 1 is not the same for everyone. Each one of us is equipped to deal with circumstances differently and should be willing to adapt in myriad ways. Vipassana allows you to dispassionately observe where you stand, when faced with the next big step. It enables you decode your apprehensions, ambitions and more… succinctly. Your observations empower you to proactively define your subjective level of comfort under the given circumstances. You become your own coach and there is no stopping you!
Note: The author has attended two Vipassana courses and advocates for peers to experience it for themselves, so that they may benefit from it as well. She has been a media professional and educator for 14 years.
Links for further info:
Inspiring study of Vipassana in Prison via University of Washington
A shortlist of India’s best Vipassana centres
Vipassana Sign ups