Mindfulness is increasingly being incorporated into practices and trainings in organizations because of its benefits for productivity (McKay, 2017). This paper discusses how mindfulness can be applied to improve leadership at WalMart. The paper is divided into 3 sections: a brief overview of WalMart and the organizational problems; a review of the literature on mindfulness; and recommendations for improving leadership at WalMart through mindfulness.
Organizational Problem at WalMart
Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer with thousands of stores in the U.S. and across the globe (Walmart, 2017). Walmart offers a huge selection of goods including grocery, clothing, sporting goods, and entertainment. WalMart also offers a range of services such as financial and care services. Walmart operates three store formats in the U.S. (neighborhood stores, supercenters, and discount stores) and Sam’s Club. The company also offers e-commerce services through Walmart.com and its mobile app, and numerous shipping options such as Ship from Store, Site to Store, Home Free, Pick up Today, and Same Day Delivery. The company has more than 260 million customers every week (Walmart, 2017).
Walmart has a customer service problem that has resulted in a fall in financial performance. This decreased performance is evidenced by fall in the company’s sales performance (Peterson, 2015). Numerous other problems are identified by the leadership as being associated with this decline in sales performance including: lack of tidiness in stores; slow re-stocking of shelves leading to inaccurate out-of-stock status on products; and store layouts that do not make for optimal shopping experiences. Other problems include the need to improve temperature regulation and store lighting, and better integration of online sales and store pick-ups (Peterson, 2015). Leadership is a behavior that guides the members of an organization or team to a common goal. Good leadership within WalMart stores is necessary to address these problems and coordinate activities so that higher customer satisfaction and sales can be achieved (Peterson, 2015).
The Concept of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is often described as attention to the present moment (McKay, 2017). It means maintaining awareness of thoughts feelings and the surrounding environment on a moment by moment basis. Mindfulness has roots in the Buddhist religion; however, secular practice of mindfulness has become mainstream in society in recent years. This is largely due to the benefits of the practice as shown by scientific evidence. The benefits of mindfulness include more focused attention and the ability to shut out distractions, increased self-awareness, and increased well-being (Mackay, 2017). Studies show that mindfulness boosts the immune system, increases positive emotions and reduces stress and negative emotions, as well as helps in fighting depression.
Studies also show that mindfulness changes the brains, causing increase in gray matter density in brain regions that are linked emotion regulation, to learning, memory, and empathy (University of California, Berkeley, 2017). Mindfulness causes changes in the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex which is associated with introspection, awareness of thinking, and processing of abstract information. The practice also changes the sensory cortices and insular cortex which are responsible for processing information such as pain, touch, body awareness and conscious proprioception (Mackay, 2017). The hippocampus (involved in memory formation and emotional responses), anterior and mid-cingulate cortex (involved in self-control, attention, and emotional regulation), and the corpus callosum and superior longitudinal fasciculus (involved in communication within the brain hemispheres) are also positively affected by the practice of meditation (Mackay, 2017).
As a result of these effects, mindfulness also enhances relationships, improves parenting skills, and promotes better social skills (University of California, Berkeley, 2017). Mindfulness is particularly useful in business settings and leadership as it promotes better decision making with regards to framing problems and identifying solutions. Research shows that mindful people are more aware of ethical principles as well as are more decisive in the face of uncertainties when making decisions (Karelaia, 2014). Maldonado & Marturano (2013) noted that mindfulness helps to improve the four essential elements in leadership – clarity, focus, compassion, and creativity. These authors also promote mindfulness leadership training as a way of leading with excellence and growing organizations. Companies like Google, medium and Twitter encourage mindfulness as a way to promote clarity among employees. The techniques used in these companies include meditation, deep breathing and moments of reflection. Similarly, Intel planned voluntary mindfulness training for its employees (Wong, 2014).
Recommendations for WalMart
The finding from this research strongly suggests that mindfulness can be an important tool to help WalMart address its performance problems through mindful leadership. The recommendations made for WalMart are:
Mindfulness training should be incorporated into leadership training for supervisors and frontline leaders. This is important given the high volume of customers that visit their stores each day, and the extensive inventory that the leaders have oversight of. The leaders can benefit from enhanced clarity, focus, attention, and improved decision-making that can be derived from mindfulness.
Voluntary mindfulness training can also be made available to staff. Since mindfulness training does not have to be lengthy, it can be incorporated into regular trainings for staffs. This will eliminate the need to create a special time for training as well as eliminate the need for additional financial investments. Mindfulness trainings for the staff will assure that all employees benefit from the mental and physical benefits that are accruable from the practice, and ultimately lead to better employee performance.
The practice of mindfulness has been shown by research to carry important benefits in regards to learning, attention, immune function, decision-making, and effective leadership. Many companies are adopting this practice to help improve employee well-being and performance. WalMart can adopt mindfulness training for leaders and employees to help the company improve leadership effectiveness and ability to address the problem of falling financial performance.
- Karelaia, N. (2014). How mindfulness improves decision-making. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/insead/2014/08/05/how-mindfulness-improves-decision-making/.
- Maldonado, M. & Marturano, J. (2013). Leading with excellence: Mindful leadership training to focus your mind and grow exceptional organizations. HR.com. https://www.hr.com/en/topleaders/all_articles/leading-with-excellence-mindful-leadership-trainin_if822k92.html
- Peterson, H. (2015). Wal-Mart CEO reveals the company’s 8 biggest problems. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/wal-marts-ceo-reveals-8-main-problems-2015-4?IR=T
- McKay, S. (2017). The neuroscience of mindful meditation. The Chopra Center. http://www.chopra.com/articles/the-neuroscience-of-mindfulness-meditation#sm.0000gg2ztyqcse1nr832d0thwiu3y
- University of California, Berkeley (2017). Mindfulness. The Greater Good Science Center. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
- Walmart (2017). Our business. http://corporate.walmart.com/our-story/our-business
- Wong, K. (2014). There’s no price tag on a clear mind: Intel to launch mindfulness program. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/ sustainable-business/price-intel-mindfulness-program-employee.