It’s easy to get caught up in big plans and new strategies, but leaders must understand that the key to leading effectively is to lead compassionately. If you don’t cultivate a work environment where compassion is a priority, communication breaks down, resentment builds, and team members struggle to get on the same page.
When compassion exists within a workplace, judgement and assumptions are replaced with genuine curiosity and care. Learning curves are greeted with empathy and appreciation, rather than frustration or neglect. Compassion asks:
- Where does each team member want to go in their career?
- How are they growing?
- What are their challenges and what do they worry about?
- How is the team working together and does everyone care about its purpose?
Such questions create stronger connections between team members and more durable relationships between leaders and their teams.
Why Compassion Is So Important
When leaders integrate compassion into their behavior and translate it into workplace practices, their organizations experience improved well-being, performance, and retention.
It makes sense, because people want to feel connected. They want to know that their work is valued, which adds to the perception that their workplace is fulfilling. If these qualities are not present in their current positions, they will leave for greener pastures.
On the other hand, people will do anything to stay on a good team. Researchers found that large amounts of compassion within a team lead to higher levels of trust between members. Ultimately, this leads to a spirit of collaboration, which drives commitment, enthusiasm, and productivity.
Shifting to a More Compassionate Work Environment
How to put compassionate leadership into practice is not always obvious. Perhaps you have the impulse to demonstrate compassion through sweeping changes or new rules, however, it’s the small, everyday efforts that make your team members feel seen and valued.
Talk to everyone on your team
It sounds simple, but taking the time to speak with each team member can have a resounding impact. Each conversation should be a minimum of thirty minutes and include specific questions. For example:
- “What are your interests?”
- “Which family members or friends are important to you?”
- “What’s great about your job?”
- “What challenges do you face and what should I, as a leader, know about them?”
It’s a powerful formula, because these questions demonstrate that you’re willing to listen to your team members, you want to know what’s important to them, and you’re interested in making a connection.
Make It Personal
When you find common ground, be it a shared hobby or a specific television show, it creates a foundation for ongoing compassionate communication.
You can demonstrate an investment in your team members’ lives and experiences simply by asking questions such as, “How’s your mother doing?” This builds important bonds, especially when it comes from a shared place of understanding rather than a situation of positional authority.
Work to Overcome Favoritism and Biases
People often make judgments about what others are capable of based on factors other than their words or work. Strive to overcome these tendencies. An effective leader should never judge on appearance, gender, race, or other such factors, because you don’t know what each member might be capable of bringing to the team. You limit your effectiveness by prejudging people.
In a book by Admiral William H. McRaven called Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World the author explains that expectations based on appearances can be misleading. While there’s a perception Navy Seals need to be extremely large and strong, he found the most effective Navy Seal team was actually a group of smaller people.
Likewise, if you can figure out what people’s interests are and what they have an affinity for, you might be surprised. People are often far more capable than they’re presupposed to be. If you don’t set aside your internal biases and judgements, you might never find out, for example, that the person picking up your coffee and answering your phone has an affinity for accounting and math.
Compassion Is the Key
A workplace where compassion is the norm really does feel different. Team members are motivated, productive, and more likely to work together to achieve their goals. People are also less likely to leave for other opportunities, because they know they’re already in an environment where their concerns matter and their contributions are valued.
Compassion is the secret ingredient to building a great team where each member is engaged, effective, and excited.
Infuse compassion into your workplace with the help of FiredUp! Reach out today.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.