Curious Mind Grapes

Inner MBA: A Deep Dive Education in Compassion and Mindfulness in the Workplace

June 03, 2024 Mary Hoyt Kearns, PhD and Christine Szegda, M.Ed., ACC Episode 16
Inner MBA: A Deep Dive Education in Compassion and Mindfulness in the Workplace
Curious Mind Grapes
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Curious Mind Grapes
Inner MBA: A Deep Dive Education in Compassion and Mindfulness in the Workplace
Jun 03, 2024 Episode 16
Mary Hoyt Kearns, PhD and Christine Szegda, M.Ed., ACC

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Join us as Mary shares her transformative experience with the Inner MBA, a nine-month certificate program co-created by SoundsTrue, LinkedIn, and Wisdom 2.0. Guided by esteemed business leaders, professors, and meditation practitioners, she learned how to integrate a wide range of mindfulness practices into everyday life, both personal and professional, in order to cultivate authentic communication, creativity, and openness to new ideas.

We also talk about the importance of compassion, especially in today’s workplace, and how small intentional acts can create positive impact not just within our immediate circles, but can ripple outward farther than we can ever imagine.

Show Resources
Inner MBA https://innermba.soundstrue.com/

Sounds True https://www.soundstrue.com/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/

Wisdom 2.0 https://www.wisdom2summit.com/

Jeremy Hunter https://jeremyhunter.net/

Jacqueline Carter https://www.potentialproject.com/speakers/jacqueline-carter

Tara Brach https://www.tarabrach.com/

Sharon Salzberg https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/

Jack Kornfield https://jackkornfield.com/

Wadlinger HA, Isaacowitz DM. Positive mood broadens visual attention to positive stimuli. Motiv Emot. 2006 Mar 1;30(1):87-99.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2860869/

Visit us on Instagram @curiousmindgrapes!
Feel free to share your questions or episode requests. Thank you for listening!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Join us as Mary shares her transformative experience with the Inner MBA, a nine-month certificate program co-created by SoundsTrue, LinkedIn, and Wisdom 2.0. Guided by esteemed business leaders, professors, and meditation practitioners, she learned how to integrate a wide range of mindfulness practices into everyday life, both personal and professional, in order to cultivate authentic communication, creativity, and openness to new ideas.

We also talk about the importance of compassion, especially in today’s workplace, and how small intentional acts can create positive impact not just within our immediate circles, but can ripple outward farther than we can ever imagine.

Show Resources
Inner MBA https://innermba.soundstrue.com/

Sounds True https://www.soundstrue.com/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/

Wisdom 2.0 https://www.wisdom2summit.com/

Jeremy Hunter https://jeremyhunter.net/

Jacqueline Carter https://www.potentialproject.com/speakers/jacqueline-carter

Tara Brach https://www.tarabrach.com/

Sharon Salzberg https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/

Jack Kornfield https://jackkornfield.com/

Wadlinger HA, Isaacowitz DM. Positive mood broadens visual attention to positive stimuli. Motiv Emot. 2006 Mar 1;30(1):87-99.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2860869/

Visit us on Instagram @curiousmindgrapes!
Feel free to share your questions or episode requests. Thank you for listening!

Mary:

Welcome to Curious Mind Grapes with your hosts, christine and Mary. Okay, so thanks so much, christine, for agreeing to interview me on my inner MBA plan of action, which is my final project. I really appreciate it and it'll be great for me to talk out loud what I've been thinking and see if it makes sense.

Christine:

Well, thanks so much for sharing it with me. I really loved reading it, I loved learning about it, and I have a lot of questions.

Mary:

That's great, that's great, that's perfect for a podcast All right.

Christine:

So first of all, just for me, for me and for listeners.

Mary:

First of all, just for me and for listeners, what is an inner MBA? And the inner MBA program is a nine-month program with tons of lessons. They bring in guest speakers across a wide array of disciplines. Many of them are from business settings, like either conscious business leaders, people who didn't necessarily start out the way but kind of found their way to more mindful business practices just through trial and error. Others are people who are professors in disciplines related to this. A lot of them are business professors who integrate mindful business practices or compassionate business practices into their teaching. Other people are practitioners, like meditation and yoga teachers, and so it's a really nice variety of people who do lectures both live and recorded, and there are assignments that go with each class. And the point I'm sorry I forgot to sum it up the whole point is to teach people how to be leaders in business or life in a compassionate way, just coming from a very authentic kind, and they say not just empathetic but compassionate. I can talk about that later. Um way, in order to what? In order to make business run more smoothly and more efficiently and more profitably. So there is something more to it than just being nice, it's it's not only nice and nice and really important for the world, but it's actually more profitable and I've always loved the idea. That's why I was on the board of the American Sustainable Business Council, because that's their mission to support companies and legislation that encourages this kind of business practice.

Mary:

Because when companies make tons and tons of money, when they say stakeholders, usually they mean stockholders, and usually it's just a small number of people owning the majority of the stocks. Yeah, the the value might go up, but they're big fluctuations because when they're just going after profit for profit's sake, it doesn't stay consistent. That's the difference with corporate what they used to call corporate responsibility. It's a slower growth. So these trends that they're talking about is like over 20 years, rather than just looking at the end of each quarter like what kind of profit can we make. They're unlike companies that are just going for the high profits each quarter and listening to their stockholders. Conscious businesses look, consider their stakeholders to be stockholders their board, their employees, the community and the environment. So they're taking into consideration all these different factors of like ways to measure their success and that makes them ultimately more solid and more profitable.

Mary:

So, yeah, and that's the idea behind this and the program was created by Sounds True, which is a 30-year-old publishing company that always focused on mindfulness. Years ago they put out a CD set by John Mackey, who started Whole Foods, and just talking about what went into his thinking creating that. But they also do a lot of stuff by people like Tara Brock, who we love, and Jack Kornfield other meditation teachers. So they got together with LinkedIn and Wisdom 2.0, which is an annual conference, again with business leaders who are integrating mindfulness practices. One of their big early sponsors and participants were from Google, because Google, and one of their big early um, I guess, sponsors and participants were from google because google had one of the first the corporate wide international mindfulness program that they created and um run for their employees, which has spun off some other programs that are up, and they're also also in conjunction with universities and they've spun it out to different things. So, yeah, so pretty powerful content, teachers and admission. Sorry, that was a really long.

Christine:

No, I, it just sounds like such an amazing positive way to move forward and to approach business. What, what made you decide to actually take this step, to go through this whole process of developing your inner MBA or doing all this work?

Mary:

well, I attended wisdom 2.0, once in San Francisco and once in New York, and met some very fascinating people, heard some wonderful speakers and and the last wisdom 2.0, I went to a couple of people I was talking to like started talking about how they had gone through the inner MBA program. This guy, ty Bennett, who was working at LinkedIn at the time he, I guess it was developed and he and another woman who I guess had been in the same cohort as him were just raving about it and I asked them to describe it and as they described it, it just sounded like it would be a wonderful way to kind of bring together things that I've been learning about over a long time from a lot of different sources, like all into one neat package. And I love too that a lot of the professors bring in or most of them bring science into what they're talking about too, or research, and I try to do that too. So that really resonated. So it sounded like it would be wonderful.

Christine:

So what was the process like? And you mentioned, you don't end up with a degree or something from a university, but what do you end up with?

Mary:

I ended up with, I think, say, a richer understanding or body of knowledge around a lot of the topics that I've studied for years and got some new information from people who stay on top of the research related to a lot of this, which I to me kind of um is within the realms of positive psychology and Tibetan, buddhist studies and neuroscience, something that I got turned on to back in 2010, no, 2005, when I attended the Mind and Life Institute at the DAR building in DC.

Mary:

I just moved there and saw that the Dalai Lama was hosting the Mind and Life Conference in the Dalai Lama hosting a conference on the neuropsychology of meditation, and he's the one who really kind of pushed that. So a lot of the people that he worked with and who spoke at that conference are part of this. People like Jack Kornfield and Richard Davidson, who's a psychologist, does neuropsychological studies of Tibetan or Buddhist monks and stuff, and medators. He was not there, but he was referenced a lot, so it all tied back to this stuff that I learned about 14 years ago when it was kind of a burgeoning field, and now people are implementing this stuff.

Christine:

So it was really yes, it's really good to see when I was looking at the list of people and just even hearing some of the people you've mentioned. Yeah, it is. It's like taking a really rich course, load of all the really interesting people that you have enjoyed and want to learn more from, In addition to just learning. When I read through your plan of action and the notes that you were taking, it seems like you have, you have changed or set goals, as a person Does that make sense.

Mary:

Yeah, one of the requirements of the course is to create a plan of action for your life at the end, for your work and your life. And I'd say one thing that happened along the way for me through this course is that I know all these things I know about walking the talk, but I felt like it really helped me focus in on the importance of practicing every moment of the day, if you can, and just being and by that I mean being aware, not meditating all day, but being approaching life in a very meditative and mindful way every single moment. And I do try to do that. But it made me aware of how I'm not where I could be or would like to be, and so, um, yeah, so for someone who thought she knew it all and I think I do know it all, am I doing it all? It's like the the implementation part yeah

Christine:

most important to me, so you mentioned all these wonderful people you were learning about and learning from. Is there someone you can tell me about or a module of learning that spoke to you?

Mary:

yeah, when I went through and picked all the modules that really spoke to me, I noticed that one name came up, because he was actually brought in several times to speak Jeremy Hunter. He's a professor of business and as well as a PhD in developmental psychology so something close to my heart, and he's also. He also was a Buddhist monk before he got married and had a child and did all this. He has an amazing story and that's a whole other thing. Maybe we can get him on the show at some point. Has an amazing story and that's a whole other thing. Maybe we can get him on the show at some point.

Mary:

But he um, I just loved the way he combined developmental psychology again subject near and dear to my heart neuropsychology, which he obviously also studied in his graduate work, and he also understands how business works and how all of this stuff ties in. So his actual experience as a monk, his business training, his psychological training it made him the most amazing teacher for a program like this. And so he taught, so he had several online modules, but then he did a couple of live events taught, so he had several online modules, but then he did a couple of live events and, um, I reached out to him at one point via LinkedIn because I was just so enthralled with the way he approached these topics and um showed how kind of integrated all is, or can be, that they're not three separate things at all, that it all can and should be one thing.

Christine:

I was also interested. You mentioned Jacqueline Carter and navigating difficult conversations. Some of the things you put in your notes was the idea of bringing wisdom and compassion to the interactions with others, this idea of presence and courage, candor and transparency, equal trust and psychological safety in life and in the workplace. And when I was reading the notes it just sounded the idea of being this one. I really liked caring, candor, making sure you're giving, telling things in the most direct way, and maybe you can share more about that. But to me it's just. It's this idea of having a voice at work and in relationships and being direct with kindness. And just for the questions I had were you know how much is that supported for women in business and in our culture? And I had were you know how much is that supported for women in business and in our culture? And you know directness you know we're sort of taught not to be overly direct as women, so what can you share about that?

Mary:

Yeah, I think that's where we get into a lot of difficulties in business and in our personal lives, when we don't confront people in a kind, compassionate way on things that they're doing that are hurtful or not helpful, because then they can just go on.

Mary:

And so one example she gave was this that it's so much worse to try to be overly kind and kind of soften by, I don't know, just being wishy-washy when you're asking someone to do something or telling them that something they did was not okay, and that can often leave people confused. So that's part of that directness when you're not super clear about this is what happened and this is what I'd like to see happen. And then she said then give space for the person to ask questions and some people might react, you know, defensively. But if that seems like it's likely, you also can say let's regroup, like tomorrow, and you can let me know your thoughts on this. I'd love to hear what you think. So just approaching it in a very kind way too, so that you're not like you did this wrong and you have to kind of it's.

Christine:

It's not a directive, it's more of a conversation and I probably shouldn't stereotype and say it's just women. But I mean, anyone in the workplace can take that overly softening something so it doesn't sound so direct, but that actually is often counterproductive well, okay.

Mary:

Well, you know it's the thing is it is it is more typically women who do that, because in our society, women historically have been taught to be kinder, gentler and not offend, and so that is something that has to be unlearned. Yeah, I think definitely younger generations are much better at speaking their truth, agreed, yeah, and just pointing out things that are wrong.

Christine:

I was also interested in the information you had about Sharon Salzberg and this idea of interconnectedness and loving kindness and expanding our peripheral vision, and I think she actually she actually talks about Barbara Fredrickson, who talks about positive states and how that expanded feeling can make us more creative and open to possibility. Yeah, tell me how that's changed your approach to things or what you learned from that.

Mary:

Well, that's something that I actually had learned a long time ago in the field of positive psychology.

Mary:

They've done a lot of work on that, just kind of assessing people in terms of what their perspective is on the world, like optimist versus pessimist actually, this research goes way back, um and then how they move through the world through those lenses, and when you're when you're pessimistic, you tend to be more closed in, and when you're more closed in you're less likely to see things going around you that can open up possibilities for you.

Mary:

So I think, whatever, whatever framework we approach the world through whether you know optimistic, pessimistic, anything else we see the world that way and so our attention goes to whatever we expect to see. So if you're open, you're going to see more of the positive, you're going to see more of the possibility. Just because it's it fits your paradigm. It kind of reinforces what you're already thinking and, interestingly, sharon Salzberg said there's also research showing that that kind of positive attitude actually increases your physical, peripheral vision. So you're not only seeing, like with your mind, more things, more possibilities, but your, your eyes, are more open. And that's really interesting too, that phrase like your eyes were open to the possibilities a real thing.

Christine:

When you're anxious and you're scared, your comfort zone is smaller. So what's what you're comfortable with is less and less, and when you um, when you're feeling more in, connect, interconnected and safe, your comfort zone expands and you're willing to experience more things yeah, yeah, so probably more likely to go out into the world and trust people Makes our world bigger.

Mary:

Yeah, trust that people don't all have their own best interests but people do want to connect to. So I've heard this research too, that also when you approach the world that way and approach people that way with openness, they're more likely to respond in kind, like, even people who are not predisposed to be that way will respond more positively, as long as everything's going okay with them, you know.

Christine:

So, at the end of all of this working on your inner MBA, what you developed was a personal plan of action, and thank you so much for sharing it with me. I loved reading it and I'm wondering if you can just tell us a little bit more about it.

Mary:

The idea was to create a essentially five-year plan and to break it down into year one, year three and year five, so starting with your core values and then bringing together things that you took away or key learnings from the inner MBA, to then construct a kind of broad outline and then break it down into steps. I have also been working with designing your life, which is a book and workbook by two stanford professors who, unrelated to this, um specifically, uh, teach people how to create a, not a life plan, but to create a direction for their lives, based on looking at things that they love and, working like a designer, documenting day-to-day life, things that bring you energy, give you energy, things that deplete your energy, things that you really engage in, things that they don't, and figure out what kind of environments make you happy. Environments make you happy. So bring, coming back to the inner mba, I kind of combined my findings from that with this to come up with a plan, and so one of the things I've come to realize I would love to do is work for a benefit corporation, a company whose bylaws actually require them to address all the stakeholders, just like I was saying before people, planet and profit, and there was one speaker, the nrmba, who took a, an international commercial brand, and turned it into a benefit corporate corporation, which blew my mind that one woman could do that. Because it's no small task. Um, because it's about changing entire cultures and attitudes and winning people's hearts. So I would love to work in something like that.

Mary:

So I put that into my plan, and so the first thing they wanted you to do was come up with three core values that you have, and as a leader in terms of um in business, but I think they also for me. They apply to life too. So, um, compassion, curiosity and non-reactivity. And I'd say the non-reactivity. I always felt like I had curiosity and compassion, but I definitely have learned that I can have even more curiosity when it comes to conversations with people I don't agree with, or in trying to have those hard conversations rather than just saying here's what I think or this is the way it is. Not that I'm like that so much, but to some extent I feel I am in my head to really understand where the other person's coming from. And the non-reactivity is also just a good reminder to not react to what people are saying, but to just kind of be there with them in the response, take it in and be curious so that it's you respond but you're not just not like a knee jerk reaction to things, which is hard to do. It's hard to do even if you are a kind, compassionate person. It's tied into that slowing down and listening, like we've talked about before. So those were the three core values that I think are going to be at the basis of my plan, and three leadership goals are integrity, transparency and compassionate presence.

Mary:

That's one thing that I really loved about Meta that I was very fortunate to have. I had several different managers, all women, and they practiced those things and, as crazy and thrashy as the tech world can be, they kept it human and they kept it kind by practicing those things. And none of them have gone through the inner MBA, but they've just learned through. I don't know how they learned, maybe from example from other leaders, maybe just because they're naturally kind and considerate and compassionate. People Interesting ask them.

Mary:

Yeah, yeah, I think I will. That's a really good question. I mean I haven't. I guess I never had time to like pick it apart. I just always appreciated and let them know that I appreciated that too. Um, like the, you were saying in the beginning that that whole issue of approaching hard conversations like in a very direct, transparent way. They were good at that, like they would always say. This is as much as I know and given that, um, here's what I can tell you, and it was never playing games or code, sugarcoating things, just being real and being kind and then and being supportive.

Christine:

So I would love to carry that on in, whatever I do. When I read your personal plan of action, it starts with this paragraph just describing your overarching goals and vision for where you're going with this, and I love the way it's written and I'm wondering could you share more about it or even read it to us?

Mary:

Sure, thank you. Yeah, I'll read it to you, because I don't know that I can summarize it eloquently just off the cuff. So what I wrote just as the intro to my plan I'm very excited to bring my newly honed skills into corporate workplaces, as I feel that is where people are in desperate need of more kindness, compassion and understanding. Companies are important because we work in teams and for each circle of people that we interact with in a truly mindful way, the effect ripples out in ways we can't even imagine, touching the lives of countless people. We're at a critical point in history, a tipping point in our societies, and if I can help bring these virtues to my work and life, hopefully I can help tip things in the direction of loving kindness.

Christine:

I love this because it's the way we should approach any organization or situation. It's not really about the job, it's about those bigger ideas. And, and I'm wondering, as you go into work mode, as you take this into actual work with goals and purpose, is it hard to maintain that big, expansive point of view as a stance or position and not go back into the work? And how do others react to this if they're not aware of that? It's not really about the work, it's the bigger ideas.

Mary:

Yeah, they're not aware of that. It's not really about the work, it's the bigger ideas, yeah. So another question I'll have to ask my former managers, especially one who's just amazing. Um, I will ask her how she does that, in the midst of all the change and all the restructuring, the politics, whatever else that she's had to deal with, how does she keep her center and? Um, I think that's the important thing. There's no way that you stay totally unmoved because you're dealing with people and you're dealing with work that needs to get done. It's a finding a way to constantly come back to that center, um, like knowing who you are, having that North Star to guide you to what you should be doing for what you, what rings true for who you are and what your values are.

Christine:

I think so many people think that purpose is I'm going to run this great company, I'm going to make this amount of money, I'm going to even create a great product that's going to change the world. But you're it sounds like you're just going into it with the purpose of compassion. That's the big overarching goal and the other things will fall into place if you bring that. Am I understanding that?

Mary:

I think it's. I think it's actually the ability to hold all those things at the same time, and that's one part of mindfulness that I've heard from teachers from many disciplines. That part of mindfulness is not finding dichotomies or separation between ideas, but holding it all, even conflicting things, together and accepting that it's all part of the same thing. Yeah, yeah.

Christine:

So I noticed the next part of what you shared with me was organizing your plan into three measurable phases and identifying milestones. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Mary:

Yeah. So they asked you to create three phases, like broad phases, and then break them down into steps, so like a real action plan. I won't go into the details of what I plan to do. I think we've talked about a lot of these things and again, what I'm going to be doing is bringing more consistency to the things I do, like daily meditative practices or getting out to nature, being non-reactive but also holding these in mind whenever I get into a situation that kind of tries to derail it. So that's the sub-steps. There are a lot of them, but my first for phase one, I would love to secure a position with a benefit court or similarly mission-driven company, because I think it's one thing, it's a lot of work to do this work in a company that doesn't have the same mission, where leadership is isn't based on these principles. It can be done so to make it easier for myself. That's what I would like to have, but I can see myself bringing these practices to any business at this point.

Christine:

What are some of the personal practices that you want to be to implement while you're in this phase? One role of being in position, with you know, a mission driven company.

Mary:

Yeah, continuing to strengthen my meditation practice and my response to conflict to also. So those are some of the biggest things like maintaining those practices in my own life but in a workplace and finding tools and things to make it even more integrated into the workplace, both for myself and for other people, just on a smaller level. And then I would hope to then take that to a leadership role in that whatever company that is, or another one so that I can then start creating policy or practices that start to become more ingrained, at least in a particular team, because people really do respond to this stuff and they one of the things that that director that I keep going back to, who was so wonderful. One thing she did that was really simple was doing these weekly meetings. She called them micro kitchen chats, you know, like when people meet in the kitchen just having formal conversations. The idea was to bring whoever wanted to come and have them just talk about things that had nothing to do with work, just things they enjoyed, like books they were, were reading, or people got to pick their own topics when women picked, like favorite skincare routine. So just as a way of getting to know each other as humans.

Mary:

So I think that's really important too, and I think that's another lesson from inner MBA too, is just like another lesson from inner ambience too, is just like seeing each other as equal, in that we're all just humans trying to make our way through this world and we all just want to be happy, as buddhists say, um, and that's one way to make that really tangible, and it created like really great friendships. So, um, yeah, if I, if I were in a situation where I can create things like that, that would be the next phase, and then the last phase three would be then taking all of these skills and experience that I had created within an individual company and taking it beyond the company to a wider audience, just as a lot of the people in the inter-MBA have done. Many of them started in their own organizations and then expanded it out.

Christine:

Yeah. So phase two is taking that leadership role, starting to implement these things. I can imagine people being really grateful if these programs don't exist or, like you, sometimes they're here and then they disappear or they're not maintained. And then phase three is that going beyond. Can you talk more about like what would that look like and sound like?

Mary:

and yeah well, I've had this vision in my mind for a really long time of creating programming, doing talks and things to like going from place to place or organization to organization, and while creating program. Part of my phd was to create programs and then evaluate them to see if they're actually working.

Mary:

So this idea and I've done that on a smaller scale, with workshops and things, um, but like maybe even a course, a program and something fun and enjoyable and that corporations would respond to, especially like bringing research showing like that it does increase productivity and that there are a lot of benefits to the company beyond just having happy employees, which is they need to realize is extremely important.

Christine:

It's just a more human approach to living and I I really love what you said earlier. There's not a dichotomy, it's not this or work. It's. Work is part of life. So we have to make it work for us and use the same compassion we would use with friends and family and loved ones. So what was the best part of going through this process?

Mary:

It was really wonderful to hear such a wide array of teachers all during a short time frame, so that I it wasn't like picking up little bits and pieces here and there, but like, yeah, like a masterclass with all these great teachers and a short time, so that I could see very clearly how all the things fit together, where things overlap. And I do think that this kind of work is more important now than ever in history. It's not like humankind hasn't gone through terrible, terrible things. Um, it's just that we're so aware now of everything that's going on all over the world because of news, because of social media.

Mary:

I feel like it's so easy to get frustrated or scared or anxious and throw your hands up and say I, I can't do anything. But each of us can do our own little part, and that, as I was saying in my kind of overall statement about my plan, that every action we take affects the people immediately around us and those people then influence the people around them, and so on and so on. Like dropping a pebble into a pond, it just ripples out and out and out infinitely. Thank you for listening to curious mind grapes. For more information, please check out our show notes, where we provide links and references to the topics we've covered.

Inner MBA
Personal Development Through Inner MBA
Corporate Compassion and Mindful Leadership
Masterclass on Social Change