Tom was asked to share what a Mindful attitude means to him in the December 2020 issue of CPA Australia’s INTHEBLACK magazine. Read the article here and keep reading below to find out how Tom discovered Mindfulness and how he finds ways to practice it in his day to day life.

Mindfulness is commonly associated with yoga or meditation, but it is much more than this and far more valuable if truly practiced. For Tom Quinlan, CEO of Quinlan Consulting and Advisory, and commercial director of EQ People, a human resources firm, mindfulness is “around being fully engaged with what you should focus on”, and he believes that this should not only be the case in our personal life but also in professional environments.

tom quinlan

This digital age enables business process outsourcing (BPO), allowing the delegation of repetitive tasks. Thus, future leader’s value will come from possessing a more critical and strategic perspective. The irony of this is many managers aiming for mindfulness get stuck in transactional work, achieving a ‘Mind Full’ status instead. As a result, employees go through the motions and any opportunity for creative or innovative thinking is blocked.

Mindfulness entered Tom’s life early on although at the time he did not know the concept. In primary school, Tom listened to guest speakers who had been invited to school to discuss their careers and share their personal experiences. When prompted to ask questions, normal primary student questions were along the lines of, ‘Do you get to wear a uniform?’ or ‘Are you famous?’. The question that stood out to Tom was ‘What would you change if you could do it all over?’. The answer seemed to always be the same, ‘I would have worked less and spent more time with my family’. By the time Tom had entered secondary school and guest speakers were nearing retirement age, this answer seemed to almost be on repeat.

These experiences triggered a lightbulb moment for Tom, and he pledged he would avoid the so-called ‘rat race’. Into adulthood, Tom often heard friends and family say, ‘the kids grow up so fast’, and whilst they grow fast, they grow up one day at a time, the point is actually how many of those days do we choose and are able to share with the ones we care most about. Making the decision to leave corporate employment was difficult but Tom prioritised his desire to spend more time with his family and to gain the flexibility to do the things he loves. When the sun and waves align, Tom loves surfing. Being in Melbourne, nice weather is not a given, so he jumps at any opportunity to get to surf.

Surfing in Melbourne requires a 3-hour return trip. It places him in a position where he cannot use a laptop for transactional tasks. Instead, Tom uses this time to call his staff, clients, and business partners, focusing on building connections and nurturing relationships. On the water, between the waves, Tom takes in ‘the view back to land, along with the peacefulness of the ocean’. This is the only place where he cannot be reached. He can focus his thoughts and reflections, without distraction. Tom reflects that it was in this same context that Eddie Vedder came up with the lyrics to one of Pearl Jam’s greatest songs. Tom says, “I leverage the same environment to critically and strategically plan my craft”.

Tom returns to work physically and mentally better, feeling refreshed and healthier. The time he gives to himself allows him to have a sharper mind and be laser focused on his job. Across the business units such as EQ People and Quinlan Consulting Team, a culture of flexible work and workplaces is encouraged. In Tom’s experience, the traditional work environment of sitting at the same desk in the same office day in and day out are not conditions which are conducive to strategic thinking. Offering flexibility crushes the idea that employees need to be full time in an office and promotes a fun, productive work environment for everyone.