I first heard of compassionate leadership when I came across a talk by Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I had heard the term years ago but at that time dismissed it as not relevant to business.
How could you possibly practice compassionate leadership in a dog-eat-dog world where companies fight hard to stay on top and outsmart the competition?
Yet, on deeper reflection, compassion in business makes sense; both in how we lead employees and how we provide value to our customers. Showing compassion does not mean to be a doormat or tolerate under-performance. On the contrary, compassionate leaders set boundaries and hold themselves and others accountable. The difference is that they provide constructive feedback in a way that builds employees up so that they feel cared for instead of being shamed or talked down to.
Weiner points out that there is a difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is the gateway to compassion, the cornerstone, if you will. It is the ability to feel with someone and to put ourselves in their shoes. Compassion means putting enough distance between ourselves and what is going on for the other person so that we are able to take action to understand and to help them.
Compassion at work – why it matters
- Leading with compassion means to connect with others in a meaningful way and to take the time to truly understand them. When employees feel valued and understood, they care more about their work and are loyal to their employer.
- Compassion is contagious. Seeing someone taking compassionate action or offering an act of kindness makes us feel good. It inspires us to be kind ourselves. This is how a compassionate company culture spreads, and with it, multiple benefits to the bottom line. Employees who see their leaders act with compassion are more likely to be helpful to their colleagues and to customers.
- Compassion in organizations leads to greater connection among people and a sense of trust. When people feel safe, they are more likely to be creative, share ideas and collaborate with others.
- And of course, compassion is at the heart of good customer service. Emotions are part of any buying decision and when customers feel that they are cared for and treated with respect and kindness, they form an emotional bond with the company. It is that emotional relationship that will make customers come back again and again.
Compassion starts with you
So, the next time you are in an argument with someone or a coworker does something to tick you off, try to practice compassion. Consider that maybe, the person is having a bad day, perhaps the topic is triggering a negative experience from the past; consider that it possibly has nothing to do with you.
Try to step away, observe the situation, take the time to understand where the person is coming from and work towards shared understanding. You will have a much greater chance at resolving the situation than when you react in anger or defensiveness.
This is easier said than done, of course, but it is worth trying, because when people are treated with compassion, they will never forget it, and they know that you care.
Source: LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on Compassionate Management https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h9esSsOLDE