“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged,
and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Compassion is not a word you hear often in corporate America. Leaders sometimes tend to avoid soft skills like sympathy, understanding, and empathy. In my consulting experiences, leaders tend to focus predominantly on hard skills, results, and outcomes. If people hit their numbers, deliver against their deadlines, and meet performance expectations, then there is time along the way for building work relationships and exercising emotional intelligence. However this is counterintuitive to much of the research organizational behavioral scientists have conducted on leadership and influence.
Leaders get things done through others. Period. I’ve seen leaders who do this in a direct and abrasive manner, and I’ve seen leaders who take time to establish rapport, develop trust, and cultivate influence. The volumes of research on emotional intelligence suggest that leaders need to develop a thorough understanding of themselves and others in order to maximize results. Taking time to get to know your people and truly investing in the relationships is what keeps people committed during periods of difficultly and adversity. The leaders who miss this tend to have more dissatisfied employees and higher turnover rates.
So, how can you inject a little more compassion into your work environment? Here are four behaviors you can start putting into practice today to see positive changes.
- Develop Greater Self-Awareness: I believe it was Socrates who said the key to true understanding is, “know thyself.” This is so important in the workplace. Know your strengths and skills. Know what your not good at, and where your development opportunities are. Most importantly, and this is especially critical for leaders, know how to leverage others. You can’t do everything yourself! Self-awareness can be developed through journaling, taking time for reflection, and working with an executive coach. Take Time to Understand Others: So many leaders make the mistake of assuming all their people are the same. Give them the same goals and objectives and send them marching off like little toy soldiers. Unfortunately, leadership doesn’t work like that. You need to understand your people. Get to know their personal stories. What makes them tick? What inspires and motivates them? Use this to design specific opportunities that excite and challenge them. Also, learn their strengths and opportunities so that you can best leverage their skills on different projects in the workplace.
- Be Empathic: This is the tough one. In the last 20 years there has been tons of literature written in empathy and emotional intelligence in the workplace. Empathy is more than just being in touch with your emotions though. It is about genuinely putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and walking a mile with them. It is about getting to see things from their perspective. Specifically, look to understand how cross cultural differences and life experiences contribute to the employee they are today.
- Demonstrate Courtesy: Do unto others, as we would like done unto ourselves. Courtesy is about being respectful of the people on your team. It is about valuing what they bring to the table and letting them know you appreciate their efforts. It also has to do with how we model behaviors for others. Leaders have to talk the talk, and walk the walk. Modeling the proper behaviors with your people will leave a strong leadership legacy.
Follow these simple behaviors and you will be well on your way to leading with compassion.