Mindfulness and Compassion: Changing Work

Episode 57

Mindfulness and Compassion: Changing Work

Need a quick shot of compassion or a roadmap on how to get there? Interested in learning how to celebrate the leaders and the individuals, the models, the training and the types of efforts that move the needle toward working in a compassionate business? Scott Shute shares his journey from his personal practice and work in corporate America, to leading the Mindfulness and Compassion Program for LinkedIn employees, through building a consortium of leaders and change makers coming together to change work from the inside out. Give yourself a gift, carve out 30 minutes for this ONEder Podcast.

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What I love to do, what the world needs, what I'm good at, and what I can get paid for or what I can make a living at? For me, ikigai is like a map of the career choices I'm making and I think that's half of the equation. The other half is just getting clear with myself. What are my values? If we care about our work, we're choosing companies and value sets that are of value to the whole, right?


CCB: [00:00:17] Welcome to the ONEder Podcast. This is your host CCB, and I recently read an HBR article from 2022 that said, more than half of American companies, including our own here at One Workplace, offer some form of mindfulness training to their employees. This movement crosses all industries and all types of companies from Google and Nike, General Mills, Aetna Insurance, Intel, Goldman Sachs and LinkedIn… have all built formal mindfulness programs. And we've all seen the explosion of mindfulness apps from Headspace and Calm to Peloton meditation classes. I haven't tried that yet, I will be perfectly honest, but I am excited that our guest today will be able to help us understand why this mindfulness movement is so important for each one of us. Giving us more resources to function in today's attention economy, where our human capacity to engage with the many elements that demand mental focus is totally overwhelmed. Doesn't that ring true? From deepening our knowledge about ourselves and our compassion, along with improving our work life balance, mindfulness is going to help. I'm delighted to welcome Scott Shute to join us. And listeners, you're all going to learn so much from Scott's mindfulness journey and his experience. Welcome, Scott.

Scott Shute: [00:01:41] Thank you. Glad to be here. Hi, everybody.

CCB: [00:01:44] So how about if you start with what's your definition of mindfulness.

Scott Shute: [00:01:51] There are so many. I kind of like this one. It's essentially seeing our whole life, the 360 degree view of our life, without judgement. And the reason that's important is so often we see just the negative, right? We are programmed as human beings to see the negative. This is how we stayed alive via evolution through all our years as primates, for the last hundreds of thousands of years. And so, we tend to have a negativity bias. We, you know, the news that we watch, the way when we get a performance review, we focus on the negative. It's just what we do. That's how we stayed alive. But the problem with that is that it makes us, not happy. So, there's a big difference between alive and fulfilled, right? Everything about us has been fine tuned to keep us alive, but that's a low bar where we want more than that. So, so these are, that's the basis of these programs. And the work that you're talking about is how do we move away from just being that kind of animal, that homo sapien, and being something a little more fulfilled and evolved, human.

CCB: [00:02:59] Okay. Thanks so much for that definition. I'm going to say I have to give a little, uh, caveat here that the first time I ran into Scott, it was because of his book. I purchased the book: The Full Body Yes; Change your work and your world from the inside out. And the reason that I knew of Scott was because we work with LinkedIn, and you created the Mindfulness and Compassion program at LinkedIn. I'd love for you to kind of explain how that happened, how you made that happen.

Scott Shute: [00:03:31] Sure. Well, there's kind of two parts to my journey. One is I've had a career as an executive in customer facing roles at LinkedIn. I was the VP of global customer operations, things like customer service and our listening systems. And I've had a practice, a contemplation, or a spiritual practice since I was 13. I've been teaching those types of classes since I was in college. It's a huge part of my life, but one that I never brought to work, until I got to LinkedIn. Our CEO was openly talking about himself using Headspace in his own practice, and that kind of created this bubble or umbrella of safety where I thought, well, maybe this is a place where I can bring my practice. So, I started just by leading one meditation session, and over time it snowballed and snowballed and did more and more. And I ended up creating, creating a whole program along with a bunch of other volunteers. And then for me, the tipping point was our CEO gave the commencement address at Wharton a number of years ago and talked about compassion, and I thought that was pretty brave. Here's buttoned down Wharton and this very serious CEO talking about compassion. Well, then soon after that, he's on the morning shows on TV, and this is all they want to talk about is compassion in the workplace. And I thought, okay, it's time. It's time for me. I'd been in my operations role for a long time, six years. It's time for me to do something new. But it was also time for LinkedIn to kind of put our money where our mouth is. So, I made a pitch to our CEO like, I'm an operations guy. I will help operationalize compassion, will help mainstream mindfulness. And it was hard to say no to. So together we created this role. I was the head of Mindfulness Compassion programs for three years, where my job was to change work from the inside out. Pretty much my dream job.

CCB: [00:05:22] Pretty much your dream job, and pretty highly embraced by all the folks at LinkedIn. And did you, as an operations guy, quantify some of the changes or some of improvements that came about from your program?

Scott Shute: [00:05:39] Sure. Always want to tie to business-critical results. So, in the beginning, what was easiest to measure is essentially consumption and customer satisfaction. In other words, if we build a program, does anybody come? And if they come, do they like it? That's the easiest thing to get to over time, you know? Does mindfulness impact performance? This is harder to get to, but there's some intermediary steps, which is well-worn territory. The research on things like if we have a practice, we sleep better, we deal with stress better, we deal with anxiety better, we have better relationships, we're more creative. We're better managers, you know? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And all of those things lead to better performance. For me, what was most important were the stories that I would hear. So as an example, during Covid time, remember 2020 and early 2021 when we were all locked down, I got a message from a young mother. She was a salesperson, and she was reaching out to thank me for the programs that we were offering. And we ended up having a conversation. And she said, you know, because of this work, I'm screaming at my kids a lot less.

Scott Shute: [00:06:55] And, and we laughed. And it was kind of that laugh where you knew she was kidding, but not kidding, because we've all been there. And she went on to say, look, not only am I a better mom, I'm a better partner. I'm a better salesperson. I'm way better at work. I'm just a better version of myself. Right. So here was someone who had a very stressful situation. She had a big number, a big quota at work. She had 2 or 3 little kids at home. It was during that time when she was daycare because daycare was closed, and on the surface, it looked like everything was great. But like a lot of us inside, she was really struggling. And so, these programs helped her get through that and helped her not only get through it, but to thrive through it. And to me, after we had this conversation, you know, hung up the phone, I thought, there, that's why we do this work. That's why we do this work.

CCB: [00:07:49] So I think it's pretty fascinating to, I'm going to say, generalize the movement by virtue of the fact that it's so broadly appealing at this moment in time. And of course, we've got Covid and we've got racial injustice, and we've got all these major, you know, external issues that have put so much more pressure on individuals. And. I'm also fascinated by the curve of acceptance by CEOs, if you will. So you see these movements take place and they've got to have some form of merit and structure for everyone to hit the tipping point and start moving in that direction. And from what you worked on, and you were your earlier in your activities at LinkedIn than some of the other, you know, companies that have been moving in this direction. Was there consortium of leaders that had a conversation? How did this get shared.

Scott Shute: [00:08:59] Inside of LinkedIn? How did it get shared.

CCB: [00:09:01] Well or outside of LinkedIn? So I mean, both both places.

Scott Shute: [00:09:05] Yeah, I think there was a little bit of a zeitgeist, right. So. With Jeff Weiner and others, Marc Benioff and others out in the world talking about it. These are really successful CEOs, so there's a lot of younger leaders looking up to them to see, okay, how do I be successful in this new age? And it's just one of the things that comes along for my part. One of the things I did was as a volunteer, I wanted to build a really world class program at LinkedIn. So I started just searching on the internet, you know, mindfulness at work. And I came across leaders at Google and SAP and Intel and eBay and others and kind of gathered them all together. And that's a group that still gets together, you know, 7 or 8 years later. We're trying to make it easy for people to use the resources and use the knowledge that some of the rest of us have found to implement these types of things at work.

CCB: [00:10:03] Okay, so I'm focusing on the workplace at the moment because obviously this is the area that we spend the most time in. However, the interest and the embracing of mindfulness has moved so much further, yet mainstream. It becomes mainstream. So, work embraces it, the workplace embraces it. However, it's really interesting to watch what's going on in our individual circles of friendship, of networks, of connections. And do you see from having a practice for decades, do you see a larger movement, a greater.

Scott Shute: [00:10:45] Acceptance, acceptance rate, perhaps? Yes, I saw some really interesting statistics, which I don't know off the top of my head, but it was something like ten years ago, 5% of the population had tried meditation, and today it's something like 40 or 50% or more have tried meditation. That's just meditation. There's all kinds of practices that lead up to mindfulness. But here's the thing. What we see at work is that the blending of our work lives and our not-work lives has just become kind of one life, right? Covid did this to us where we're, we're working at home. We're, we're sleeping at work essentially now because, you know, this same office is, you know, at my home, like a lot of people. And so, this blending of the stuff that's happening to us in our normal everyday life is the same stuff that is interesting to us at work. And what leaders I think, and companies are coming to realize is that our employees are by far the single biggest, you could say, asset or resource available to the company. As we move away from the agrarian age and the industrial age into the information age, all we have is data. Most companies, this is what they're selling. And so that's the people, right? If the people aren't there, the product's not there. And so, if we are taking care of our employees, we're helping them be at their best. Then we're making a great investment in the company itself. So, the two things have been completely intertwined, and that's ultimately why I think we're seeing the juice behind some of these programs.

CCB: [00:12:25] Yeah, I wondered if and this is just me musing at the moment. I wondered if there aren't also when we look at the different generations that are coming into the workplace. So, we have so many people coming together across age groups and, and it feels like there are there's a higher acceptance and interest in in blending that life at work, you know, in a way that it wasn't boomers, and it might not have been millennials, but it certainly is now coming in that for sure. You know, you see, I mean, there's yoga classes offered in everybody's office, but you see everybody walking down the street with their yoga mats and their, you know, athleisure wear, you know, coming in and out of workplaces. Now, we've got so much more going on with the hybrid work that is here to stay, you know, and we know that folks recognized the benefits of working at home. And also, organizations recognized that it can work, because some of us in the workplace world have known forever that it could work. Why not let people have, you know, work one day or two days at home? But now, by virtue of what was forced, we all know that it can work. So do you do you think that that's having an impact?

Scott Shute: [00:13:44] There's absolutely this integration of our work and life, right? Instead of work life balance, we're talking more about healthy integration, whether you're hybrid and at home, whether you are in the office. There's much more of this realization that our life happens. And it's not this hard line of 8 or 9 in the morning to 5 or 6 at night. It's an, it's an integration. And so because of that, our practices, whatever they are like yoga or taking a walk or going to the doctor or doing a mindfulness practice, just the things that we need to do to take care of our lives. There's more of an acceptance like, oh, that's just going to happen during that daytime, and there's more of a trust of employees like, hey, as long as you get your job done, we don't really care. This is what we see evolved companies going to this deep trust with their employees that it's really all about performance. And if you want to work 2 hours or 14 hours, if you want to meditate or not meditate, if you want to work at home or in the office, as long as you get your stuff done, that's the biggest thing. So that creates this natural comfort level of bringing in all these parts of our lives to the workplace.

CCB: [00:14:53] There's another piece of the title of your program at LinkedIn, which was compassion. So mindfulness and compassion. And obviously they are linked together. But I wonder if you could speak a little bit about the nature of compassion. And, and in today's world, community and belonging becomes so much more important. And are, you know, people are able to actually voice, give voice to how they are feeling. So, what where does compassion play?

Scott Shute: [00:15:27] Sure. This is actually what I'm most interested in. I love mindfulness, it's my personal practice and it's an individual sport. You know, just like physical exercise as an individual sport, as a company, we can offer it, but we can't make people do it. And we shouldn't be making people do it. It's how we develop ourselves. However, compassion is how we do everything right. We don't work or live in isolation. So to me, I'm really interested in how do you operationalize compassion? In other words, how do we build products? How do we sell? How do we service? How do we treat each other? What are the policies we put in place as a company, whether our belief systems, because that's really defines everything that we do. It's not this thing that I go off to a room and do by myself. It's a thing that happens every day, in every moment, of every meeting and every policy that we put in place. So to me, that's where the juice is.

CCB: [00:16:25] And, Scott, what are you doing to move in that direction?

Scott Shute: [00:16:32] Yeah. Part of it is, uh, I've. I left LinkedIn a couple of years ago, and I started by doing the normal consulting things. I wrote a book. I'm out in the world doing speaking, doing keynotes, trying to inspire people, doing consulting on culture. And I realized that if I really want to change work, my mission is to change work from the inside out. I mean, at work like 3.5 billion people in the workplace. It's not going to happen by myself. So, we ended up creating a collective of people. It's called Changing Work, the collective, starting with practitioners who do this work, the coaches and authors and consultants to do this work. And we're trying to define right, that we're in the beginning stages of it. Define what conscious business means. Or you could say compassionate business and celebrate the work, right? To celebrate the leaders, to celebrate the individuals who are doing this work, uh, to celebrate the models and the training and the types of things that actually move the needle. Um, so we're trying to start a little bit of a movement. So and also it's good fun. So I'm enjoying it.

CCB: [00:17:38] When you're starting a movement and you're engaging others in it's about that inertia principle of moving or not moving. And how is it how are you. Actively. What steps are you seeing that are moving your compassion needle forward?

Scott Shute: [00:18:02] Sure. Well, for us, I have a couple principles. So, we always want to go where the energy is, right? If you're doing something you're excited about, you'll keep doing it. If you're doing something you don't love, probably not keep doing it. So as a solopreneur, I go where the energy is. And that's true of the collective, too. You know, we're all, it's a volunteer organization. So, we find people that are excited about certain things and, and make it easy and make it possible for them to say yes to those things. And we're still in the beginning stages. The other thing is, as we start reaching out to enterprise, to businesses, to whatever sell services or share ideas, it's critical that we meet businesses where they are, right? So, Peter Drucker famously said, you know, what business are you in? And if I answer it myself, it's like, oh, I'm, I'm in the conscious business, but what does that mean? And he went on to encourage people to that their business should be defined not by what they offer, but by the value that they provide to customers. So, we meet our enterprise customers where they are. They're probably not thinking, oh, I want to build a conscious business. Some of them are, and that's fantastic. But what they really care about is all these human centered things that drive performance, employee engagement, creating a safe environment. How do we deal with hybrid work? How do we build teams that are well connected? How do we help people deal with change? Because there's a massive amount of change and anxiety in the world. So, when we offer solutions to those types of challenges, then we're headed in the right direction.

CCB: [00:19:48] So you just made me think of another element of conversation constantly. You bring up culture, but there's this link to purpose and there's individual purpose, and then there's obviously organizational purpose. And where, uh, where does that weave itself into the conscious?

Scott Shute: [00:20:09] Sure. I think it happens at both levels. And as an employee, we think about: am I aligned with the work that this company is doing? Because probably we're joining a company that has a defined value set, a defined mission and vision. And even before we step foot inside the company, we should see, is this someplace that I'm aligned to? Because if I'm misaligned, it's a challenge to be there, every day will be a challenge. So so as an employee, it starts with us of really being clear on what our own values are and our own purpose. One of the models I love that helps with this is called Ikigai. It's becoming more popular. Ikigai. It's a Japanese word that loosely translates into the purpose of life or meaning of life. And it's the intersection of four circles, like a Venn diagram. What I love to do. What the world needs, what I'm good at and what I can get paid for or what I can make a living at. And for me, it's kind of like a map. The choices I'm making, the career choices I'm making, does that move me closer to the center of this ikigai? Bullseye.

Scott Shute: [00:21:21] So I think that's half of the equation. The other half is just getting clear with myself. What are my values? There's a lot of good exercises to do, but, you know, there's these lists of 100 different values, and you just start, you know, crossing them off until you get to your top ten and then your top four or top two or whatever they are. But being clear with yourself on what's important to you is the other half, and then making sure that we're aligned as people to those values that the company has. And if we want, if we care about this work, we're choosing companies and we're choosing value sets that are of value to the whole. Right, not just shareholders. To me, this is the root of conscious business or compassionate business is does the business have a solution or they're thinking about all of their stakeholders, not only the shareholders. And by the way, it turns out that companies the research shows that companies who do balance these needs are actually way more profitable than companies who are only thinking about the bottom line. So, it's fascinating.

CCB: [00:22:27] It certainly is. We have a colleague through Steelcase, which is an organization that we do a lot of business with. Tracy Brower, who's a PhD and a sociologist, and she's been doing a lot of work on happiness and the happiness at work. And I'm, I mean, there's so many crossovers, there's so many crossovers between, you know, what words are we using? But the idea of what our own personal responsibility is, and I know you talk about that, you know, very clearly, because if if we don't own the the piece of it, we cannot blame anybody else or expect anybody, any organization to hand that over to us. So yeah, I think if if people are interested and they, they want to go grab your book, which will have of course links in our podcast page to where you can find Scott and where you can find this book. But you, you're a great storyteller and your story, you use your story to I'm going to say, predominantly your story to to kind of map the path, if you will, to how you can change your work and your world, you know, from the inside out. So I'm wondering, are there tools that people can tap into to start getting themselves to be more cognizant of what their story is?

Scott Shute: [00:23:54] Sure. Well, thanks for saying that. I appreciate it, and I hope that I tell my story because it's really the story of all of us. Anything I've been through, probably we've all been through in some flavor, you know, different contexts. But, you know, mostly we're all kind of the same with slightly different variations of it in terms of tools. So many in the book, it starts with our own level of self-awareness, right? Consciousness or compassion for others starts with our being aware of ourselves. One of the beautiful things that happens in the workplace is oftentimes if you go through leadership development, or if you go through team development, you'll do some sort of assessment. In the old days, it was Myers-Briggs or disk. Now we're using Enneagram and things like that. And I think these are fantastic tools of getting a deeper insight into who we are and how we are and why we are so starts there and then. I think it's useful for everyone to have some sort of. Practice. Now. You could say meditation or prayer or fishing or anything. But here's the difference between let's say, oh yeah, I fish. That's great. Well, if I fish and I spend my whole time angry, then I'm not catching fish. That doesn't work. So whatever the activity is, it's a time to go quiet and sort of remove some of the tension and the noise from the outside world. It's a time to go inward and deepen that listening. Right. The the Enneagram, things like that. That's information. But then this practice of going within and really listening, that's a different kind of information that comes from the inside out. So those are two, two places to start.

CCB: [00:25:44] I, I particularly enjoyed your little tidbit about finding your Enneagram number and then recognizing, oh, darn it, I thought I was special, I thought I was the only one, but that's not to take away from the fact that you are special, and you are the only one that has all of those elements and the value of those types of programs or tools is that it gives you some framework to be able to understand yourself in comparison to or as as a, you know, a human being comprised of all of these different, you know, attributes or qualities.

Scott Shute: [00:26:27] And the beautiful thing about that is, once we can understand ourselves, then we have some hope of understanding others. I think one of the most powerful for me tools in the last few years about compassion has been trying to move away from judgment towards recognition. So, I'm trying like it's still hard sometimes, but any time somebody really makes me mad, I try to think, okay, well, have I done something like that? Or have I done something that annoyed somebody else like that in a similar way? Of course, of course I have. Have I driven? If I see somebody driving a certain way, have I driven like that? Well, probably. And so, it's to see recognition like, oh, I've done something similar, which then takes away some of this edge about judgment because judgment is all about I'm right, you're wrong, which is, yeah, not a happy place to be and certainly not a compassionate place to be.

CCB: [00:27:25] Well, I think I know that there are so many movements, so many elements of this movement. When you think about the other Institute for Othering and Belonging at UC Berkeley, that's also thinking about how our how do we, not how do we recognize that we are all, we are all together. And creating the other, is not is not helpful. So there's the the constant drive to pull out that negativity, to pull out that judgmental aspect. And it is definitely heartening to recognize that there's, there are parallel efforts taking place at this moment in time. Okay, Scott. So we're coming to the end of our time. You get 60 seconds to say whatever it is you want to say that we didn't talk about.

Scott Shute: [00:28:14] Awesome. Well, um, first of all, thank you everybody who's listening for caring about this topic. If you are interested in learning more, you can find me at ScottShute.com. Especially things like, hey, if you want to bring a keynote or a workshop or some of this work to your company, I'd love to partner with you. And if you'd like to join our movement, you can come to us at Changing Work.org. Changing work org. And if you use the Coupon podcast24, we'll get you a nice discount for some some freebies. So I look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and please reach out. I'm on LinkedIn. That's so exciting all over the place. Reach out!

CCB: [00:28:56] So exciting! I love discounts, I love being able to offer them. I am I'm also going to give a little plug because I just ran into Scott again at, uh, a course down at the Modern Elder Academy, where he was one of the, the co-leaders. And it it's so lovely to see like minds working together to share information. It really, really is. And when you talk about, you know, changing yourself or knowing yourself to be able to move forward, the nature of being able to have the gift of spending time to be self-reflective is so absolutely lovely, and that there are organizations and that there are practitioners that help us do this is something great to know. So for all of our listeners, there's there are ample opportunities and resources available. I'm delighted to be able to have shared Scott with all of us today, and on our web page for the ONEder podcast, there will be all of the links to where you can find more information about Scott and his practice. And thank you very much for joining us.

Scott Shute: [00:30:10] Thank you. Thanks, everybody. Bye bye.