Episode 11: The Potential for What? Podcast with Nick Hammond

Finding potential at work through mindfulness with Nick Hammond – The Potential for What? Podcast

Welcome to The Potential For What? Podcast, where we explore how to unlock the potential of people.

This week Nick Hammond a highly respected mindfulness teacher and speaker from MindfulnessMatters joins Jo Taylor (Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent) to discuss how mindfulness can help people meet their potential at work.

Join us as we delve into a captivating conversation with Nick, delving into the depths of mindfulness and its profound impact on our lives. Discover how mindfulness can unlock your true potential, cultivate resilience, and foster a deeper sense of purpose. Get ready to embark on an inspiring journey as we explore the potential within each of us.

Without further ado, let’s dive into this enlightening conversation with Nick Hammond on The Potential For What? Podcast.

In today’s episode we talk about:

  • 🧘 How to train the mind to be more aware and can be applied to everyday life.
  • 🛑 Overcoming negativity bias and developing a different relationship with thoughts, creating a more refreshing approach to life.
  • 🧠 Mindfulness impacts both the individual and the organisational level, requiring a holistic approach to create a supportive and nourishing environment.
  • 🌱 Nick shares his personal journey – and why mindfulness has played such a big part in it
  • 😴 Why rest and taking pauses are important
  • 📚 Practical steps to start incorporating mindfulness

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Transcript of Episode 11: The Potential for What? Podcast with Nick Hammond

Jo Taylor  00:04

Welcome to the Potential For What podcast. On this podcast we explore how a range of business leaders unlock the potential in people. We’ll hear how they’ve done it, find out what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why this is so important in getting and keeping great people. Most businesses focus on the here and now: that is, all about performance. But at Let’s Talk Talent we like to think differently, as we fundamentally believe everyone has potential. The question is for what? So let’s explore that together. I’m your host, Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent, a talent management and organisational development consultancy based in London, the UK. I have a request: if you value this show, if you enjoy these stories, or find this wisdom or inspiration useful, please subscribe to the Potential For What podcast to listen to future episodes.

Jo Taylor  00:57

So hi, everybody. I’m Jo Taylor, I’m MD of Let’s Talk Talent, and welcome to the next episode of the Potential For What podcast. Today I’m joined by Nick Hammond. He is a mindfulness teacher and speaker. Hi, Nick, how’re you doing?

Nick Hammond  01:12

I’m good, Jo, I’m very well. How are you?

Jo Taylor  01:14

I’m very good thank you. So I’m really intrigued to really understand more about mindfulness. So for our listeners, it’d be great to understand how mindfulness supports a person being able to unlock their potential.

Nick Hammond  01:29

Sure, well, lovely. And I think maybe it’s worthwhile starting perhaps with a definition of mindfulness. I mean, there are a number of definitions, but the one I quite like is this. And it’s that mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. And another way of putting that perhaps is, it’s about listening better. It allows us to listen better: to ourselves, others in the world around us. And by listening better, we’re better able to learn really, as we go through life.

Jo Taylor  02:02

So how does that impact someone’s career? Because I totally get that from a leadership perspective, we’re all told as leaders to speak less and listen more. How does that help someone shape their career, their… unlock their potential, kind of be the best that they can possibly be?

Nick Hammond  02:19

What essentially mindfulness allows us to do – and mindfulness behaviours are kind of mindfulness practices – it allows us to be more grounded and connected to the present moment. And the alternative to that – it’s the way that we often are actually – is being really rather distracted. And we often spend a lot of time worrying about what may be happening in the future, or what could have been done better in the past. And, you know, this kind of distraction is really energy sapping, and it diverts focus away from what really matters, what is happening right now. And being able to have that attention and focus – that kind of energy on the present moment – allows us to just be more effective, more energetic, and more effective in our day-to-day lives and moment-to-moment.

Jo Taylor  02:19

So how does that help us get out of the way of ourselves? So I found that during my career and thinking about what my potential may be, I sort of had that angel and devil on my shoulder. The angel’s going “Go for it!” and the devil going, “you’re not worthy” – that kind of imposter. How does mindfulness help soften that devil on the shoulder?

Nick Hammond  03:26

Yeah. And that’s really lovely Jo. So another way of phrasing that, an alternative way of phrasing that, is it’s something called the negativity bias. And we have this thing that’s built into the way we are, the way our minds are programmed to approach life. This kind of programming was created really hundreds of thousands of years ago. And it was really important to have this negativity bias, this kind of being on the lookout for things that may attack us or causes us real trouble, you know, hundreds of thousands of years ago, when we were often having deadly threats, surrounded by deadly threats, essentially. The problem is that we still have this negativity bias. So we worry about stuff. And it’s not life-threatening stuff anymore. It may be about the fact that we didn’t do a presentation as well as we would have liked, or perhaps we didn’t speak to someone in a way that we felt was appropriate. But we have these thoughts. And the thing about negativity bias, and good and bad thoughts, is we have the different relationship to good and to bad thoughts. We often talk about Velcro and Teflon. So with Velcro, are bad thoughts, and Teflon tend to be good thoughts. Bad thoughts tend to stick to us and good thoughts tend to slide away. And it’s much easier for us to dwell on bad thoughts and we really have to work hard on good thoughts. So what mindfulness allows us to do, in summary, is create a different relationship to thoughts, to understand how good thoughts and bad thoughts affect us and how we can approach both of those in a different and more refreshing kind of way.

Jo Taylor  04:58

So how might somebody get support, if they’re a leader, and they’re sort of in a way in that sort of negativity loop? They’re thinking about where they might go, or becoming a better leader. How might somebody take advantage of some of the tools and techniques that you’re talking about?

Nick Hammond  05:16

The real basis for mindfulness is having a practice – a meditation practice. A practice where we sit down, I mean, it doesn’t necessarily need to be static, it can involve movement, mindful movement. And there are things like yoga, of course, or Qigong, mindful movement practices, or sitting meditation practices, where we basically take some time out of our busy lives, and spend some time with ourselves and focusing on what’s around us. And what this process of meditation does, it softens the brain and trains the mind to be more aware of what is happening to us, for us and with us in the present moment. And once we do that on a regular basis, we can then use those skills, that kind of practice, to develop a greater and wider awareness in our everyday lives. So develop what we’d like to call everyday mindfulness. And that’s really the starting point for this whole way of living.

Jo Taylor  06:11

So Nick, how much does factors like environment or situation, experience, play a part in somebody reaching their potential or even thinking that they might need some support, like you’ve been describing in terms of mindfulness, meditation, etc?

Nick Hammond  06:28

I think it’s a really great question, Jo. And there are kind of two aspects, I think, especially with businesses and mindfulness and how people can live better and kind of more satisfying lives. And it kind of works on two levels. There’s the individual and of course, then there’s the kind of societal – or in this instance, I suppose the organisation. And whenever I’m talking to organisations, it’s really important to discuss and share and work with individuals and how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, how mindfulness can support them. But it’s also really important to look at the wider context and how businesses are, what the culture of the business is, the culture of the leadership, the business direction, and how that is all set up. And it’s important to understand that both of those work really closely hand-in-hand and you can’t really effectively impact one without looking at the other.

Jo Taylor  06:49

So how has mindfulness played a part in you realising your potential, or you helping realise the potential in other people?

Nick Hammond  07:23

I’ve really got involved in mindfulness about five years ago; and it was following a significant bereavement. And I was really trying to look for some answers, really, some wider answers in the world and in life, and I found, essentially just starting to meditate with Headspace, and in the succeeding years, the different way of living and a different way to live. And it’s really a kind of a different perspective. Almost, I like to think of it as a kind of an orthogonal shift in the way that we approach things that allows us to see life in a different kind of way, or even perhaps, step through a window into an entirely different way of living. This parallel world that exists alongside this kind of frantic and stressful world that we live in that, if we have the right tools, we can kind of just slip sideways into this much more supportive and nourishing environment that can help us live much more satisfying and integrated lives.

Jo Taylor  08:14

It’s really interesting that you say that, because one of my New Year’s resolutions, I bought a book by Claudia Hammond called The Art of Rest, because I heard her talk on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. And it’s one of the things that I really struggled, I think, in reaching my potential is that I think that rest… I see it as a negative thing. I think I always associated rest with stopping. But what I really love about what you’re saying is, it’s about how it integrates with your whole life, and how actually, it’s about nourishing the soul. And that’s really important for us to remember, you know, whether we’re a leader, whether we’re aspiring to be a manager, whatever part of our career we are, it’s actually about looking after ourself, isn’t it?

Nick Hammond  08:59

Yes, absolutely. I mean, there’s a great expression isn’t there – we talk about machines, you know, there’s a comparison between machines and humans. We talk about, when we have a machine if we want a machine to start, we press ‘start’. But actually with humans, if we press ‘stop’, we press ‘start’. So to be really effective, as you say, you know, it’s being able to have this rest, to have this kind of moment that we can kind of step out of the hurly burly and really take a kind of different perspective on the way we can approach life.

Jo Taylor  09:27

And I think it’s quite difficult, isn’t it, if you’ve been somebody that has always been successful – and whatever success means, in this context – to then allow yourself or give yourself permission to be content, because everything’s moving at such a pace. You look at technology, you look at life, we always say we’re busy. But then if you take a step back, it’s how that’s nourishing the soul and how that’s bringing– what’s bringing you joy. And that’s what I think potential is about. It’s getting back to the things that bring you joy, ultimately, that enable you – whatever that might be – to reach your purpose, whether that’s a life or a professional purpose.

Nick Hammond  10:04

Yeah, definitely. And I think, you know, it is through this connection and understanding what is happening to us in the present moment. How we’re feeling, some very basic physical sensations allow us to connect with what is happening within our minds, but also within our bodies. You know, we have this world that we live in, and I think a great deal of this goes back to the actual– way back in history, to the Enlightenment, and to René Descartes, who famously said: I think, therefore I am. And ever since that period, we have this view that everything happens from the neck up. And you know, there’s so much learning and wisdom that can be drawn from understanding what’s happening in our bodies and with our bodies. And mindfulness allows us to access that. And I think one other quick thing I’d like to say, just building on what you were saying there, Jo, and that this thing about resting and stopping. I often use this quote by the famous Austrian psychologist, Viktor Frankl, and he talks about ‘The Pause’, which I think is a word I use a lot and very powerful in this space. And he said that, “between stimulus and response, there was a space: in that space is our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom”. And you know, that kind of rest, that pause, there’s an immense amount of opportunity and empowerment in it, if we choose to accept it.

Jo Taylor  11:20

I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. So for our listeners, who may be thinking: “that’s all great, I understand it, but what tactically can I do?” are there any practical things, quick wins, that people can start to think about for themselves, or maybe share with other leaders or colleagues that they’re supporting?

Nick Hammond  11:41

I think in terms of personal practice, where I started, I think a really simple way is to download an app, perhaps like Calm or Headspace. And, these apps provide a kind of a beginner’s course where, you can do three minutes a day. And if you’re thinking of getting into mindfulness and supporting that with a meditation practice which makes sense, then, you know, those are really good places. And actually, I think you can get a free trial. So that’s pretty good.

And I think there’s a book as well that I would always recommend, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a leader in this area of secular, occidental mindfulness. And he’s written loads of books, actually, but one of them is called “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness” – it’s quite a big book, but it’s got very short chapters. And from a more leadership perspective, there are a number of websites that look into that area. So the mindfulleader.org is an interesting one. And there are a number of companies working in that space that provide advice that can be sourced.

Jo Taylor  12:35

Brilliant. So if listeners wanted to get hold of you and know more about what you do, how would they do that, Nick?

Nick Hammond  12:42

Probably the best way is either on on the web or on Instagram. And the address for that is mindfulnessmatters.today. So mindfulnessmatters.today.

Jo Taylor  12:54

Brilliant. So my final question before I let you go, is: what’s the biggest learning that you’ve had in your career?

Nick Hammond  13:03

Yeah, I mean, I think in terms of mindfulness, it really is– I’d like to just circle back on that point about listening, which was actually an expression that came from one of my teachers, mindfulness teachers, and the ability to use mindfulness as a grounding and connected technique to listen to others, to ourselves, and to the world around us. And through that listening to learn better, and to be better. And through that to be, most importantly, to be happier.

Jo Taylor  13:29

I love that. And that’s a wonderful phrase to end this podcast on. Thank you, Nick, it’s been fascinating talking to you. And I will definitely be looking up some of those apps to help me on my quest for understanding rest and what that means to me. Thank you so much.

Nick Hammond  13:44

It’s been a pleasure, Jo, thank you.

Jo Taylor  13:45

Thanks for listening to the Potential For What podcast. If you’re hearing this message, you’ve listened to our new episode all the way to the end, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Please share this episode with others who may be interested in this topic. As always, you can head over to letstalktalent.co.uk/podcasts to check out all the links and resources in the show notes and to sign up to our email list.