Finding Compassion on the Job

Share an umbrella with someone. (Image: Shawn Ward)


Just as our own social circles can provide us places to use empathy or build solidarity we need, our work circles can provide the same chances. Today more than ever these are key concepts in business dynamics of high performing teams. In compassion’s absence, low performing teams.

Putting up with stress and sometimes nonsense are some of the biggest detractors of our teams and our own morale. New positions, restructuring, and changes a plenty can cause unneeded sufferingt. Having a compassionate approach at work can minimize our teams feelings of suffering if we can do it right and recognize when it’s time to kick it in.

Our teams are tough and we can lean into them hard for performance we ourselves are trying to angle for. Compassion can play a key role at ensuring they have the full tank to get where you want them to be optimally. The more compassionate we can be, the better the performance because they will be more productive. Gallup polls showed that companies that had compassion built into their cultures saw employees’ motivation and engagement levels explode. Having a focus and mentality of just treating everything as “business as usual” had the opposite affect on employees’.

It’s not always easy to pick out when our teams or employees’ are suffering. One of the best ways we can stay on our toes is to constantly inquiry and show curiosity in their work. As an example, frequently we make a jump to a conclusion and have negative intent for an employee that hasn’t been reporting to work. However, if we would just ask or question as to why, we might find out a hardship they’re having in trying to balance work and taking care of family personal issues. We can take time to learn more about our employees’ feelings by just getting curious or using some inquiry to find out more about them. Look for the root causes of performance issues before going to a negative place like they don’t care anymore or they don’t want to be there.

Another great tool to get your mindset to be more compassionate is working on your empathy skills. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before jumping to a conclusion or making a snap decision they’re poor performer is one way to achieve this. Intentional pauses and seeking to understand so as to get them through the struggles they’re having at hand is great cognitive and emotional use of empathy. But, sometimes empathy alone might not be enough. You need to show compassion in the moment.

Compassion with action is the goal. If it is real, it will lead to action. In our actions they don’t have the be huge gestures and there can be just as much power in a small action. For example, just being there attentive and being a great listener will show you’re very compassionate. You really have to work to show that compassion you’re showing isn’t just a friendly smile. It’s not passive. It requires action and most cases it happens in real time.

If you happen to be someone in a position of authority your regular practice of compassion will create followers in others to do the same. The best leaders I know and have come to admire lead with compassion. Many of my top performing peers believe in the power of getting to know their teams, connect regularly with them informally/formally, and are incredible listeners towards anyone that wants their time. I find it incredibly rewarding to work this way and I am thankful that I work for a company that empowers me to lead that way first over any other way. There has always been a great emphasis from my mentors that I would get less from my team by just passing out instructions from a position of power. That I have to work on developing meaningful relationships with my teams constantly. It’s incredibly hard to do and maintain, but so worth it and rewarding.

As I have seen compassion increase in my leaders or teams, I have seen their performance improve. It’s created a environment that is enjoyable not just for me, but everyone that works in it. It does require a certain amount of constant attention and their is no shortcuts to getting it into your cultures. It’s an awareness and a discipline that will serve you well.

Thanks again for the views. Hope your first week of August was pretty amazing so far. Have a great second week!

✌ Shawn

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