The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

August 28, 2016

Meditation At Work – Into the Mainstream

If you think meditation or mindfulness are woo-woo New Age practices, think again. Due to its proven psychological and physical benefits, Target, Google, Ford, even Goldman Sachs offer meditation classes to their employees. Jim & Steve explore these benefits with guest Jae Ellard, founder of Simple Intentions, a company that has taught the related practice of “awareness” at Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook.

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO news. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is The Boss Show, with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve Motenko: Hey, welcome to the boss show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy, I’m a leadership development coach here in the Seattle area and I do executive coaching work in organizations with my friend across table.


Jim Hessler: Hello. I’m Jim Hessler.


Steve Motenko: Hey, Jim.


Jim Hessler: I’m the business guy and founder of Path Forward Leadership Development and the author, along with Steve, of the book, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face and this is the show for anyone who is or has a boss.


Steve Motenko: Today on The Boss Show – mindfulness and meditation at work, emerging from what you might have thought was the woo-woo New Age into truly the mainstream. I’m really looking forward to getting into this. I’m somebody who has a meditation practice myself. I don’t consider myself a woo-woo new age person.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, you are.


Steve Motenko: You consider me that. It’s two different perspectives. I am very consistently recommending meditation to my executive coaching clients who are open to it, not recommending it to those who aren’t open to it. If they’re not open to it I’m consistently recommending something that I don’t call meditation, that often looks very much like it. We’ll get more into that as we go along today. We’re also going to welcome today Jae Ellard who is the founder of a company called Simple Intentions that teaches mindfulness-related practices in the workplace. That coming up later in the show. You’ve probably seen, Jim, I’m sure you saw it because you see everything, pictures …


Jim Hessler: I think the word is omniscient.


Steve Motenko: Your word, not mine. Again, different perspective. Pictures in the media in the last couple of months of police recruits in Ontario, sitting in a meditation class. Do you remember seeing that, with their police uniforms on?


Jim Hessler: Isn’t that just like the Canadians to do something like that?


Steve Motenko: Yeah. They are ahead of us in some ways. Again, my perspective. There’s so many major corporations these days, including the ones that our guest works with, but also General Mills, Ford, Intel, Google, Target, Adobe. Even Goldman Sachs has integrated meditation or mindfulness practices into workshops, classes, and into their leadership practices. One Fortune 25 company has integrated mindfulness techniques into their high potentials program, thinking that, and I believe rightly, that it creates more agile and flexible mindsets as a foundation for leadership. I mentioned a little bit earlier that my understanding is that there is no single practice that one can take on that so supports one’s own personal development as a mindfulness practice or a meditation practice. We’ll talk a little bit about the distinction between mindfulness and meditation.


  So often I’m dealing with clients and again, Jim, I bet you see this too, who are under so much stress and so much anxiety at work that they need a practice, whether they call it meditation or not, that calms them down. A practice that centers them before an important meeting or an important conversation or even simple breathing practices. A company perhaps with some sort of an anchor statement or some might call mantra, can be really helpful …


Jim Hessler: Make more money.


Steve Motenko: Spoken as the business guy. As a psychology guy of course it makes sense that I’m all over meditation. I’m curious, Jim, your experience with it and your take on it.


Jim Hessler: I’m convinced that it’s a good thing. I’m not resistant to the idea. I’m glad to hear these large companies are doing it. My personal experience has been mixed. I think I’ve done better with mindfulness than I have with meditation. You’ve suggested that maybe there’s just a different practice. I’m open to this and actually welcome it into corporate America, as a way to help not with the stress levels of people in the workplace which we know is a big problem, but also to just make people more aware of each other, to create connections, and I think mindfulness is a good practice in relationships as well.


Steve Motenko: I agree. It absolutely does that. When we come back we’ll welcome Jae Ellard who’s the founder, as I said earlier, of a company that takes mindfulness in the workplace to the next step in terms of practices for leaders and managers. Meanwhile, if you have an idea for a Boss Show workplace topic, send us an email at Stay with us. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO news. The Boss Show continues.


Jim Hessler: Hi, I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the Business Guy.


Steve Motenko: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. In studio with us today is Jae Ellard who’s the founder of Simple Intentions and the author of seven books on workplace awareness. Jae’s team has taught the skill of what she calls awareness and we’ll talk about how that differs from mindfulness and from meditation, in more than 50 countries, to thousands of employees at multinational corporations like, I think you’ve maybe heard of this, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. Jae, welcome to The Boss Show.


Jae Ellard: Hi. Thanks for having me.


Steve Motenko: It’s great to have you here. Let’s just very briefly hit some definitions. We don’t want to spend 20 minutes on that because it’ll bore everybody to tears.


Jim Hessler: I had suggested that we just meditate on the air today.


Steve Motenko: I think it’s a great idea.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. Just ask our audience to be silent with us.


Steve Motenko: Relax your body.


Jim Hessler: Would that be good radio?


Steve Motenko: Absolutely. We’ll have twenty minutes of dead air.


Jae Ellard: Let’s begin with a deep breath.


Steve Motenko: I love that voice. Will you record a meditation tape for me?


Jae Ellard: Absolutely.


Steve Motenko: One definition of mindfulness that I pulled off the internet that works for me, is, it means drawing one’s attention to the sensations and thoughts and feelings in the present moment and noting without frustration or judgment, any mental wanderings that get in the way. What do you think of the definition, Jae?


Jae Ellard: Yeah, I think that’s accurate. I would add that that awareness can be both external and internal. Mindfulness is both external environment and internal environment. Your thoughts as well as who’s around you, what’s around you.


Steve Motenko: It’s about paying attention to what’s in the present moment whether you’re focused on your internal experience in the present moment or whether you’re focused on things external to you and you can obviously cast your attention on one or the other purposefully but it’s just about having that attention?


Jae Ellard: Absolutely.


Jim Hessler: Let me just say this. It’s interesting, because I just realized that even doing this show sometimes I’m not in the moment. Here I got the timers running, we got the microphones in front us. Sometimes even in this environment I’m checked out. You’d never know that.


Steve Motenko: I think it’s true that most of us are checked out most of the time. That’s why we need a mindfulness practice. Jae, what do you think?


Jae Ellard: Absolutely. You guys are in good hands. That’s exactly why I do what I do, why my company does what it does, because most of us live our days just like that, where we’re halfway connected or we’re halfway having the conversation or we’re halfway listening. A lot of this is the sea of busy, the sea of urgent we live in, and this myth that we’re able to multitask and hold multiple things possible at the same time, all of which are false. Most of us are living a day in which we’re halfway there. Even though when we feel we’re really present, a lot of times we’re halfway. Halfway connected, halfway present.


Steve Motenko: Our minds tend to be in the past or in the future, for good self-protective reasons. We want to learn the lessons from the past. We want to keep ourselves protected from …


Jim Hessler: Anticipate danger.


Steve Motenko: In the future.


Jae Ellard: That’s right. Most people spend time either where they’ve already been or thinking about where they’re going to be, which robs us of the ability to be where we are when we are there.


Steve Motenko: Tell us briefly your story. I know you had a traumatic experience that lead you to the work that you’re doing. Tell us a little about it.


Jae Ellard: Yes. It was a hot summer night. It actually was. I collapsed from too much stress and too much fatigue from the hours I was working and pressure I was under, in a role at a corporation. It wasn’t the job that actually made me collapse. It was the way I was living my life and the choices I was making. This was one of the best things and the worst things that’s ever happened to me, because it was a profound wakeup call to seriously examine the choices I was making and how I was living my life and why I was living my life that way, lead me down a rabbit hole of neuroscience and understanding the physiology of the body. I have been a yogi for over twenty years, and it lead me deeper down the path to really cultivate a mediation practice which transformed my life. That story became my first book, stop and think.


Steve Motenko: When you say that it wasn’t the job that caused the stress I think it points to a core truth that mindfulness supports and plays up, that it’s never the external circumstance that is the cause. It may be the catalyst of our stress but our stress always comes from our response.


Jae Ellard: That’s right. I could have that exact same job now with the skills and capacity I have and it would be an entirely different experience.


Steve Motenko: Right, which points to the value of mindfulness, which we’ll talk more about when we come back from the break. One thing I want to start with at the beginning of the next segment is a couple of common myths about mindfulness and meditation that keep a lot of people from getting into it or from feeling successful with it. Stay with us. You’re listening to the boss show.


Voiceover: Now, back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is the boss show on komo news.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. They call me the business guy and if you want to talk to us, we’d love to hear from you. We have a listener line 206-973-7377. Drop on there, give us a question, knock our heads together. Do something. May help us make the show even better.


Steve Motenko: Well said Jim. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the phycology guy and we have in studio today with us, Jae Ellard, who is the founder of simple intentions and author of seven books on workplace awareness. We were talking with Jae about mindfulness and meditation and just real quickly distinction between them. Jae, tell me what you think. I see mediation as a kind of a methodology that embodies the orientation of mindfulness.


Jae Ellard: It’s a tactic to help achieve a more mindful lifestyle. There are many tactics you can choose in meditation, probably being the most pure and easiest for most all people to access and try and implement because it’s free, it costs you nothing, and anyone can do it anywhere, at any time.


Steve Motenko: We’ll talk about how to do it later. We also want to talk to you about the tactics that you use in your work that you convey to leaders for embodying mindfulness other than simple meditation.


Jae Ellard: If you think about mindfulness as a way of being, like we were talking about in the first segment, I look at, there are many skills that embody mindful living. You have compassion, you have kindness, you have non attachment, presence, and then you also have the skill of awareness. I define awareness as your ability to see the world and how you show up in it. That is the one skill that I focus on helping bring into workplaces around the world is the ability to see the world and how you’re showing up in it.


Jim Hessler: What a great definition in many ways of leadership.


Steve Motenko: Interesting. The ability to see the world and how you show up it in. It reminds me of the quote that I know both of us like. Quoted in fierce conversations, but I don’t remember who created the original quote, but, the person who can describe reality most accurately without laying blame will emerge as the leader whether they’re designated or not. That requires a mindful approach.


Jae Ellard: Absolutely. Beautiful way to state that. What we do, my company teaches people the skill of awareness as a actual business skill. We could be working with managers or leaders or bringing an entire team together to help a team create a group awareness around how they’re showing up and how their decisions, how their behavior either sabotage or support their desired outcomes.


Steve Motenko: I want to talk more about that a little later in the show about specific techniques that you used for that. I want to dispel a couple of myths about meditation per se. One is, and this is what so often my clients will say to me …


Jim Hessler: That you have to speak with an Indian accent in order to do it well?


Steve Motenko: That’s number three, but actually didn’t make the cut but you brought it up anyway. The first one is, people coming back and saying, I tried to meditate but I can’t clear my mind. Somehow there’s this pervasive cultural notion that the purpose of meditation or the purpose of mindfulness for that matter, is to clear your mind. We know that’s not the case.


Jae Ellard: Absolutely. The purpose is to just listen to your mind in some cases and to begin over time to find some stillness in your mind, but for some people the act of meditation is just to begin to get in touch with the chatter and the conversation and see what’s actually there. What is the voice inside saying? Then, over time we can learn to calm and quite that voice. Eventually there is no voice when you find that quite space. That takes many many years for a lot of folks to develop that skill of that pure quite space.


Steve Motenko: Some people never get there but still get the benefits of meditation in spite the fact that they can’t quite their mind.


Jae Ellard: One of my teachers, I love the way he taught me to talk about this, which is, meditation is some ways is just learning to pay attention to when you’re not paying attention. That’s it.


Steve Motenko: Love it.


Jae Ellard: Meta attention. There’s attention and meta attention. I’m not paying attention.


Steve Motenko: Another great definition. More on the benefits of mindfulness when we come back. It’s the boss show.


Voiceover: Komo news. The boss show is back on a northwest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Jim Hessler: Howdy dowdy. I’m Jim Hessler, the business guy. How professional was that?


Steve Motenko: You said something in the break about providing comic relief. I’m glad you’re making good on that in a mindful way. I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the phycology guy, and we’re talking today on the boss show about mindfulness with Jae Ellard who founded a business here in the Seattle area called simple intentions that teaches awareness in large corporations. She’s also the author of seven books on workplace awareness. Jae, talk to us a little about the many benefits that have been identified of mindfulness especially in the workplace.


Jae Ellard: I’ll start by talking about in the workplace. Physiologically, in our bodies there’s some tremendous benefits that we can talk about in a couple minutes but I want to talk about why this is so important to talk about inside workplaces. Some of the benefits we’ve seen working with our clients and other peers who are doing this type of work si we see trust improve in teams. We see communication improve, which also leads to productivity and efficiency being improved. This goes to support the entire atmosphere of what’s happening in a team and the environments in which we’re working, which help create healthier workplaces, which then start impacting our health of individuals and bodies as well. When we feel good about our work, when we feel like people are listening to us, when we’re listening to other people, when we’re more present and engaged in what we’re doing, the ripple effects are pretty profound.


Steve Motenko: Take us to the ground there and how do mindfulness practices as you teach them in the workplace and you call them awareness, how do they enhance trust levels and relational capacities?


Jae Ellard: We specialize in working with intact teams or groups of managers. We’ll get a team together and help a team have a conversation, a very authentic open conversation about their behaviors and how they might be impacting each other or the team. From there we talk about it with a positive intent. No one’s waking up to come to work everyday to be a jerk or to ruin someone’s day.


Steve Motenko: Jim does sometimes, but the rest of us …


Jae Ellard: We talk about there’s no negative intent. It’s positive intent and let’s start a place from that.


Jim Hessler: Isn’t that interesting how much that just changes things for people? We talk about this in our leadership workshop. If you believe that people come to work and have the intention of screwing up, it’s a terrible place to be.


Steve Motenko: you have to control them.


Jim Hessler: you have to control them because there’s tendency is going to be to screw up unless you’re there to manage it. If you believe that people come to work intending to do good things and intending to have a positive and rich experience, it changes everything about how you lead them.


Jae Ellard: Absolutely, and if you hold the belief that your peers are smart capable beings who are hired in these jobs for specific reasons and start from that place and be willing to have the whole conversation. What I mean by that is learning to really listening to what someone is saying to you instead of preparing what you’re going to say next because you’re in a place of fear because you have to defend your work or your project or your ego wants to get involved and show her the bright shiny thing instead of actually listening to the person across from you. These behaviors can then start deepening the trust and the relationship where you create an environment where people really feel like they have each other’s backs and they are in it together.


Steve Motenko: how do the practices that you teach, do that? A mentor of mine, who actually is indirectly the reason that Jim and I got together nine years ago used to talk about people who listen for ammunition instead of for information. How do the practices that you you teach foster that?


Jae Ellard: We focus a lot on communication. I believe a lot of modern day stress and a lot of lack of mindfulness or disengagement or disconnection is stem linked to communication. We work a lot with the languages and the words we use, when we say that we’re going to do things that we have no intention of doing, we help people create awareness around what we call hedging. When are you hedging? Are you saying you’re going to do it and you’re not going to do it? Then, vreate awareness around when that comes out of your mouth. That’s one of the communication techniques we use, so you can have the conversation, one small conversation, instead of a series of longer conversations that creates more stress and creates bottle necks in organizations.


Steve Motenko: This just produces better leaders. Period. We all know leaders who are not mindful, who are constantly in their perspective than listening to other perspectives. I don’t know if there’s anything more egregious for a leader than that way of being.


Jim Hessler: It puts people off. It disconnects people, disengages people in a huge way. Absolutely.


Steve Motenko: We love to chat with our listeners. We hope that you’ll let us know what you think by this show and other shows by emailing us at We’ll come back and talk more mindfulness with Jae Ellard. It’s the boss show.


Voiceover: It’s a northwest lifestyle weekend on komo news. The boss show continues.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy.


Voiceover: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the phycology guy. Thanks for joining us or coming back with us, staying with us on the boss show. We’re talking today about mindfulness with our guest Jae Ellard, who has written seven books on what she calls awareness which is an application on the concept of mindfulness to the workplace. If you’re still one of those who thinks that mindfulness or meditation is this new age woo woo sort of thing I invite you to look at the phenomenal amount of research that’s come out, especially in the last ten or twenty years and it seems to be accelerating all the time, on the benefits of meditation. Jae mentioned a couple of them in an earlier segment but for quite some time it’s been known that heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure can be reduced by meditative or mindfulness practices. It improves the immune system, because it’s very notion is focusing on the present moment it sharpens attention and sharpens memory through focus and thus it curbs distractions. Anything else that you’d add to that list, Jae, about what meditation and mindfulness can do for each of us personaly?


Jae Ellard: I think you hit the highlights are just the physiological benefits to connecting with our breath daily can be profound in our body and in some ways change the courses of disease in our body by reoxygenating the body and slowing down our bodies. Our parasympathetic nervous system can reboot.


Steve Motenko: Easy for you to say.


Jim Hessler: John Jacob [inaudible 00:21:18].


Jae Ellard: It’s good for the body.


Steve Motenko: I read something recently, I’m sure you saw too, a Harvard study that showed massive changes in brain structure as a result of just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation.


Jae Ellard: That’s right. There’s been studies around dementia and Alzheimer’s as well, again, going back to the attention and the memory, as well as the heart. A lot of really great research around how this can improve heart and blood pressure.


Steve Motenko: Can you do this at your desk?


Jae Ellard: Absolutely. You can do this anywhere. One of the things I recommend to teams I work with is the moment you arrive at your office and you’re in your car, you’re in your parking garage, or you’re on public transportation and it’s that couple moments right before you get to your office, turn off your phone, turn off whatever audio you’re listening to and just take two to three minutes, breath, connect with your body, set an intention for the day, and try not to think about anything. Just look at the birds, look at the trees, look at the guy sitting next to you if you’re on the bus and just try to empty your mind and breath. That’s it.


Steve Motenko: Don’t expect yourself to empty your mind, as we said earlier.


Jim Hessler: This is, I think, important, because I think so many people think you have to have this special cushion at home and the gong and this very ritualized thing that you do. I think that’s what puts a lot of people off, rather than just saying, you can do this in a minute. You can do it in thirty seconds. You can do it right before a meeting starts. You can do it when you get in your car. Those sorts of simple things I think are really important for people to understand.


Steve Motenko: That’s right. I have a client here in the Seattle area and he calls it his cookie walk time, where he used to, everyday around three, get it and go get a cookie. He realized that he wasn’t going to get a cookie because he wanted a cookie. He was getting up because he just needed some space in his mind.


Jim Hessler: He needed that time.


Jae Ellard: Now, instead of walking to the café to get a cookie, he walks around the block and goes back into the office. Again, this doesn’t have to be overly complicated. We make it really complicated, thinking that we have to have all these things and do all these things. There’s no wrong way to do it. No wrong way to do it.


Steve Motenko: Remember that people. If you want to know more about Jae’s work you can go to and her Twitter handle is @simplejae and her first name is spelled Jae. @simplejae. Jae, it’s been a great pleasure to have you on the boss show. Thanks. Come gack.


Jae Ellard: Awesome. Thank you so much. Be well.


Steve Motenko: You’re listening to the boss show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is the boss show on komo news.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to the boss show. I’m the phycology guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler the business guy. We have an exciting event coming up, October 4 at the cloud room on capital hill in Seattle. We’re having something called the boss show live and we are inviting whoever wants to come and tell an interesting and engaging story about their work life. We’re going to record it and we’re going to parcel it out and probably some of it will end up on the show.


Steve Motenko: We’ll offer our sage wisdom of course and questions for taking reflections deeper and all that kind of [crosstalk 00:24:28] stuff.


Jim Hessler: It’s also a great opportunity to just meet some really interesting people from the local business community. There might even be an adult beverage or two. I’ve heard a rumor that that might be possible.


Steve Motenko: It’s free.


Jim Hessler: It’s free.


Steve Motenko: Absolutely free.


Jim Hessler: You don’t have to be a speaker to come. You can just come and listen, but we don’t want to solicit people who are ready to get up and tell their stories. Go to event bright and find it, October 4, the boss show live.


Steve Motenko: The boss show is produced by Boston media productions. Our sound engineer is Kevin Dodrell


Jim Hessler: If you missed any of the show you can get it in it’s entirety online at the and that’s where you can also go to subscribe to our podcast.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, or to contact us for any reason. Meanwhile, thanks for listening.


Jim Hessler: Don’t forget. Rule number six.


Steve Motenko: Rule number six



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