I recently worked with a group of managers on how they could be more effective as leaders. During one of our sessions, I mentioned the importance of having empathy and compassion for their direct reports. One of the managers was quick to push back and say, “If we are empathetic, if we show compassion, that could be taken as a sign of weakness, and at the end of the day we need our employees to acknowledge our directives, do their jobs and get results. If we are viewed as soft then they will not work hard.”
There is nothing soft about empathy or compassion.
For some people, building empathy can be challenging, and showing compassion towards others is difficult. But from my experience and research I know that if you as a manager can truly take the time to understand and appreciate how others are feeling, you will be able to take the right action needed assist them work through any issues they may be having. Compassion is taking positive action on empathy.
Compassion takes courage.
It’s not easy to take a step back when you are feeling pressured by deadlines or other factors. It takes courage to slow down and listen, and allow your employees to confide in you. Here is a true story about the power of compassion at work.
Rob, a manager, had an employee struggling on how best to complete a major project she was working on. The project was in danger of falling behind schedule and Rob was concerned about how this would impact the performance of his entire team. Rob wanted his employee to be able to solve the problem on her own. She did not need to Rob to tell her exactly how to do it. Rob also knew that even though he was frustrated by the delay, it would not help the project, or her if he became a angry and voiced his frustration about the delay towards her.
Rob understood the frustration his employee was feeling as well as she struggled to finish the project. He approached her with positive intentions, scheduled a coaching session with her, where he learned more about the problem she was having with the project. Through this one-one-one meeting he was able to coach her toward finding a solution that worked for her and meet the expected outcomes for the project.
By leading with compassion rather than acting out of anger and frustration, Rob helped his employee move forward, and she was able to not only complete the project, but gain a new confidence in her ability to solve challenging and complex problems.
Compassion is one of 5 Human Centered Skills — The 5 C’s — vital to effective leadership.
Supervisors and managers who lead with compassion will be able to better communicate and collaborate with their employees which will enable them to tap into the critical thinking skills and creativity of their teams, departments, and organizations.
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