What is compassionate leadership?
Compassionate leaders not only see their employees as integral parts of their organization, but they also view and recognize them as individuals. They recognize the needs of their employees in their entirety, not just as they mutually fulfill the needs of the business. Compassionate leaders are influencers, not authoritarians. Their leadership style is focused on encouragement, and they rarely (if ever) make demands of their team. They understand and respect their team and provide a leadership style that supports and empowers them. They inspire team members to unite towards a common goal through messages of hope, commitment, and passion that they demonstrate every day.
Why is compassionate leadership important?
Your team wants more than a paycheck from you! Today’s hiring market is competitive. If you want to attract the best, you must be the best. Top talent is seeking a workplace that will offer feedback on their performance, provide professional support, and allow them room to grow and develop. A recent Gallup poll asked 13,085 US workers what the most important factors were to them when considering a new job. Of the top six responses, one was a pay increase, however the others all involved issues related to their overall wellbeing: work life balance, the ability to work to their strengths, job stability, and inclusive policies. Being a compassionate leader will allow you to meet these expectations and provide an attractive workplace for new talent.
How can compassionate leadership be practiced?
There are so many ways to show compassion to those around you, and compassion does not always fit into a one size fits all box. As mentioned earlier, you need to see your employees as individuals in order to be a compassionate leader, so you will need to recognize those individual needs. Here are a few tips to help you do that:
Listen to your team members. Start by letting them speak. Give them a safe space to voice what they feel and what’s important to them, without any fear of retribution. Be okay with hearing the good and bad.
Engage in the conversation with them. Hear them out. Remember, though, that productive communication is two-way. Afterwards, follow up and take action! Check in on them from time to time to show that you heard and remember their thoughts and concerns. If there was action needed, don’t forget to take that action. That simple act alone lets the team member know how important they are to you. Be honest when action cannot be taken immediately or at all. You can still hear out their concerns, even if an immediate fix isn’t possible. Studies have shown that the simple act of voicing concern and being heard is impactful.
2.) BE PRESENT
Compassionate leaders are in touch with their organization and their team. When you are working with your team members, try to really be there in that moment with them. Focus on one thing at a time and minimize distractions. When your team members speak to you, make sure they feel like they are your priority at that time. Put your phone down and ignore your email. This is possible if you time block your day appropriately. This will allow them to feel like they are your priority in that moment.
Being present also means recognizing our thoughts and feelings about a situation. So again, lead by example. If you are cognizant of your own feelings, you will be able to show your team that you recognize their feelings as well. A useful tool for all leaders is mindfulness, and that comes with practice. It’s a skill you can hone, just like any other. Being in touch with your own feelings means slowing down to recognize your thoughts, taking deep, slow breaths, and doing a “self check” on a regular basis. There are many guided meditation tools that can help you as a leader be more present and mindful.
3.) SHOW GRATITUDE
Showing gratitude towards your team for their contributions can raise their morale, increase engagement, and raise overall productivity. Recognizing their achievements with frequent notes and messages can have a tremendous effect on your team. Understand that some people respond better to private praise and some respond better to public praise. A compassionate leader, that is in touch with their team member’s individual needs, should seek to understand which form of praise an individual will respond best to.
In addition to individual praise, compassionate leaders can show gratitude to their team as a whole. Recognize success in a way that lets your whole team know that their contribution counts. Make sure team members at all levels feel that you see them as an important piece of the success. In fact, just being compassionate and recognizing them is an important way of letting your team members see and feel your gratitude.
4.) COACH AND DEVELOP
Coaching and development is a key component of compassionate leadership. A good coach celebrates success and recognizes areas ripe for improvement. Your team members have needs. Those needs include the ability to feel competent and successful in their work. Ensuring that they can meet that need will make you a compassionate leader.
In addition, they might have higher career aspirations. Showing that you not only recognize those aspirations but are also committed to helping them achieve their goals will make them feel like a valued member of your organization. Have honest conversations with your team members about their career trajectory and the timeframes involved.
When things don’t go right with a team member, a hard conversation must be had. Having laid the groundwork as a compassionate leader will help you connect with that team member at that moment and navigate the difficult conversation. Compassionate leaders are able to run a highly effective business, while not losing touch with human connection in their organization. Coaching in the workplace has a direct correlation with higher work performance and team member confidence. If you want to have high expectations for your team and expect them to meet those expectations, you’ve got to equip them for success.
Compassionate leadership can help you achieve high productivity from your team, but it allows you to accomplish that goal in a way that empowers, not belittles your team. Having high expectations isn’t enough if you don’t provide the motivation and guidance your team needs. In order to be a compassionate leader, you must also live up to those same expectations yourself. Ensure that you are leading by example. Practice what you preach and set the tone for compassion throughout your organization. Keeping the four elements above in mind will help you on that path.