Compassion is a Must-Have
As part of my own professional development, I joined a group focused on relationship building. The coach who leads the group recently asked us to share a message of who and how we help. I shared my message:
I help evolving leaders build a motivated, effective team by embracing not only best practices but also confidence in themselves and compassion for their people.
A fellow group member spoke up and shared some constructive feedback.
“I don’t think companies will pay for their leaders to learn how to be more compassionate. It’s not a skill they’re interested in developing. They simply want deadlines to be met and profits to increase.”
I thanked him for his feedback. I always appreciate when people are willing to share their honest opinions, and I knew this feedback was intended to help me.
Rather than humbly accept it, though, I shared why the compassion piece of my message is so important to how I support my clients.
My belief is that compassionate leadership is not just a ‘nice-to-have’; it’s a ‘must-have’.
With compassion in the workplace:
- Employees feel heard and understood.
- They enjoy that feeling so retention increases.
- People are treated as humans, not robots, and stress levels fall.
- Professional relationships thrive benefitting overall results both internally and externally.
- Fear of reprisal for speaking up decreases, thus improving trust and employees’ ability to problem solve.
Compassion in Action
The day after that group call, I had my fourth coaching session with a newer leader. He’s been with his employer for a few years and was recently promoted to a management position.
I’ve worked with his organization for the past few years, and on this call, I asked what motivates him to be so connected with each member of his team. He consistently shares examples of his personalized communication approaches, and I’m not used to hearing such examples from someone so new to leadership.
His reply brought me right back to the importance of compassion in leadership. He shared that at a prior workplace, he’d been gone from work for a few weeks enjoying time with his family. He and his wife had just welcomed their first child into the world.
He returned to work, and his manager picked up right where they’d left off . No acknowledgement of this big life change. No congratulations. No questions about how things were going, how his wife was doing, what he was loving about being a dad. Just business as usual. To top it off, his colleagues—people he thought he was very connected to—also didn’t check in with him.
“The only person who acknowledged my baby was someone in another department. Someone I barely knew. It was weird. Like I’d just been gone from work to go to an appointment or something rather than experience this amazing thing called fatherhood. I felt like I didn’t matter at all. I was just a cog in the wheel.
That’s why I connect with my people the way I do. It’s why I ask one team member about his kid and another about her motorcycle. It’s why I know one person needs to think things through before moving forward while another is three steps too far ahead, and my role is to pull him back with compassion and understanding. I never want someone on my team to feel the way I did at that former workplace. I want each of them to know they matter; what they do is important; and their uniqueness is what makes our team succeed.”
Compassion and Some How-Tos
Compassion at work. It’s needed.
But how do you make it work? A few ideas I follow myself and share with clients, too:
Commit to your emotional intelligence journey. Emotional intelligence isn’t fixed. Be aware of your strengths and blind spots. Manage your emotions. Share empathy. And understand how your words and actions affect others.
Practice situational leadership. Every situation deserves its own solution. Leave the cookie cutters for your holiday baking, and when it comes to compassionate leadership, tune into your team members’ experience, their preferred learning styles, and the significance of the situation itself.
Know that perfection isn’t the desired result. Mistakes will happen. Sometimes you’ll make them. Sometimes your team members will. It’s the recovery from mistakes that sets compassionate leaders apart from all the rest. Be patient. Find the lesson in the mistake. Then communicate how you’d like to move forward with certainty, confidence, and, of course, compassion.
Your professional self is capable of being just as compassionate as your personal self. And the people who have the great fortune of learning from and working with you? They deserve nothing less.