Unearthing the unspoken means uncovering the (often unarticulated) underlying assumptions that drive motivation, communication and behaviour across teams and within organisations. This is an important mindfulness process, because words and actions in organisations are largely based on unwritten rules or assumptions about the organisation’s purpose and values (“what is right vs what is wrong”); about the causal maps in people’s heads (“if I do X, then Y”); and about the hidden beliefs that hold the organisation’s culture together (“X is true while Y is false”). Rarely do organisations make space to unearth these unspoken assumptions. But those that do are better at navigating conflict and challenge. This is because situations that are fluid and ambiguous are less challenging for teams who have a clearer map of the unspoken assumptions that may drive the situation forward. One uncertainty less to deal with, so to speak.
Teams need to spend time sharing and exchanging insights about what drives and motivates them. They need to become mindfully open to hearing where their own assumptions overlap or diverge with those of others. This is a great opportunity for opening up perspectives and mindsets in the organisation.
The role of leadership is pivotal in this. As well as promoting equanimity, mindful leaders are more open to hearing the difficult messages from the organisation. Research has shown that many employees know that the business is failing at least two years before the leaders are aware of the problems. Imagine an organisation that slows down and builds in communication channels and high levels of trust to unearth these concerns and worries and then speeds up to solve them or change business directions and strategy.