Business Strategies from the Yoga Mat

As the president of a communications firm, with a14-year daily yoga practice, it’s been extraordinary to see how the lessons I’ve learned from my teacher and the practice have benefited my work. Following are three ideas, phrases, and strategies that I guarantee will benefit your business (and smooth your life):

More Isn’t Better. Better is Better

I don’t know what your reaction to your first backbend was, but I thought I was going to have to spend the rest of my life in traction. Once I realized I might still be able to walk upright the challenge was on. I became obsessed with getting my back to bend. One day my teacher stopped me. “More isn’t better,” he said. “Better is better.”

These became words to live by, both on the mat and in the office, and I think you’ll discover the same is true once you incorporate this idea into your world. Most presentations aren’t better for being longer, most conference calls aren’t better for being extended, most meetings aren’t more productive because you spent time in the room. It’s just that in this age super-sizing everything from hamburgers to automobiles, we’ve become addicted to the idea that more is better. I’m here to ask you to join my revolution—to tattoo on your brain, if not your backside, that ‘More isn’t better. Better is better.”

“Can You Tell Me Why You’re Doing it That Way?”

A few years ago, I was teaching yoga quite a lot. And, as with many new teachers, I had a lot of ideas about how things ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be done by my students– mostly, that things should be done exactly the way I said they should be done. Over the years, however, as I’ve taken, and taught, more classes I realized that when I, or my students, were modifying something it was generally for a reason. I also realized that if a teacher corrected me without inquiring into my reason it made me cranky. This made life a lot easier because it taught me the magic phrase, “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?”

What’s the beauty of this phrase? Well, it begins with the presumption that the person in question has a smart and justifiable reason for the choice they’ve made—and who doesn’t enjoy feeling like they’re smart and making good decisions? And if they don’t have a good reason, the fact that you began by assuming they did makes them far more likely to listen to you when you correct them. Another reason “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?” is so useful is that it’s just possible someone is doing it that way because they have misinformation or a better idea/more complete information than you do, in which case you have a chance to learn something—always a plus.

Entrances and Exits

Within the realm of various styles of yoga, I practice Ashtanga yoga. One of the key elements of the Ashtanga practice is that the poses are set up in series’—primary through sixth—and within each series, the poses must be done in the same sequential order. Additionally, the entrance and exit to each pose is specifically choreographed. For example, you enter some back bending poses with your hands on your hips and you enter others with your hands folded in front of your chest.

“Well that’s nice,” you may be thinking “But how does this apply to me presenting myself?”

The reason it’s important is that we are often so intensely focused on the event in question—the interview, the speech, the presentation, the meeting—that we forget the importance of how we enter and exit the situation. We neglect the niceties that grease the wheels: to make a note of the name of our interviewer’s assistant or to thank the bus person who filled our water glass, etc.

And these things are important.

They are important not just because they are the courtesies due to others, but because these are the tiny details that are going to set you apart from other candidates and/or companies that are also trying to get the money, the contract, the position you want.

If you are skeptical, consider the following stories from a few of my clients. One, a CEO was told that one of the people who weighed in on his hiring was the receptionist who greeted him each time he came for his interview. The fact that he had remembered her name, and always asked about her children, had been factored into his being hired. Another client was told that the reason he had been given the contract was because of the way he had treated the wait staff in the restaurant when he was taken out to dinner. The other frontrunner hadn’t taken the time to acknowledge them, which had led those doing the hiring to believe he wasn’t, ultimately, a team player. Finally, another one of my clients told me he had dropped a very promising candidate from his list of potential hires because she had taken out her PDA to check her email while he paid the bill. In his mind, her inability to give her 100% of her focus during a lunch didn’t bode well for her ability to give him 100% of her focus once she got the job.

So the next time you are preparing for any type of meeting—whether it’s with a colleague, a boss, a friend, a date—don’t forget to factor in the importance of being present for your entrance and exit. It’s a practice that benefits you, and those around you.

Frances Cole Jones