When members of your team are fearful and stressed in these uncertain times, the prescription most needed is for leaders to turn up the volume on compassion. Many leaders, having been told by the individuals I coach, are not aware of how others feel and demonstrating understanding for those feelings is not their strength. These leaders shared that they feel their best when they are solving problems and producing significant results. If you know me well, then you know I am a bottom line, results-oriented leader. So, I am writing this blog for myself, and all other leaders who would describe themselves as directors or drivers. You know who you are – bottom line, results-oriented leaders with a reputation for getting things done. Both at work and at home, my natural behavioral style is to focus on the goal, and what actions are required to achieve the goal. I have to make a conscious effort to consider when I need to listen, value the opinions of others, and be compassionate. Getting goals accomplished, for me, is easy. Being compassionate, on the other hand, can be really hard.
For all my compassionate family members, clients, friends, and followers, you will read my tips and say… duh. For all my family members, clients, friends, and followers who are fellow drivers, this blog is for you.
Encourage people to talk, socialize with appropriate distance, and connect
Martin Seligman (one of the thought leading researchers on self-esteem) states that connecting with others in a meaningful way leads to better mental and physical health, as well as speedier recovery from illness. Providing your employees with encouragement is great. But even better than providing encouragement is taking the time to talk, socialize, and connect with others on your team. If you struggled communicating, socializing, and listening when everyone was working next to each other in an office, it is now even more difficult to successfully do this when team members are working remotely. A few minutes spent with one of your team members today can be a valuable investment for years to come.
Walk in another person’s shoes
I always find it easier to be compassionate when I think, “How would I feel if I were in their shoes?” I will never forget watching a video of an NBA basketball game with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015. The little girl singing the national anthem forgot the words, and the fans, the players, her parents, and even the referees stood there in stunned disbelief, unsure of what to do. It was then that Maurice Cheeks, the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, walked out to center court and joined this little girl in singing the national anthem. That is both compassion and leadership displayed at the right time.
Drivers want to solve the problem and have a strong urge to tell their counterpart what they need to do. Compassion is about listening and trying to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. Nelson Mandela learned the importance of listening from watching his father, Chief Jongintaba, interact with his tribe during meetings of the court. When Mandela would conduct a meeting, he always listened first, and spoke last. This is a great example for leaders especially now in these uncertain times as well as in any circumstance. Once you’ve listened, it is important as a leader to respond compassionately… which may be to say nothing, or to relay your understanding. Once you’ve listened, you’ll have a better understanding of what is needed.
When you genuinely care more about the other person and their needs, rather than your goals, it is much easier to show compassion. Mother Teresa successfully established a thriving Order in the Catholic Church during a time when most Orders were failing, all the while staying committed to modeling a caring and selfless dedication to those she served. To be a successful leader in these times, as well as good times, it requires a level of caring for your team.
Give your time
The greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Giving your time demonstrates that someone is really important to you. As drivers, we have a lot of goals we want to accomplish, and things we want to accumulate. In the end, it is the relationships you create, build, and nourish that truly matters. Someone once told me, “It’s better to give someone your time, because no matter what you accomplish or acquire, you won’t be taking it with you when you die. They don’t put trailer hitches on hearses.” So true.
Recognize that true compassion demonstrates leadership strength
Research shows that compassion is a great, and necessary, attribute of a leader. However, managers often shy away from showing compassion for fear of appearing weak. Some of the strongest leaders who accomplished great things in their lives include Mother Teresa, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and even Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan demonstrated excellent leadership and compassion in his speech honoring the astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. Compassion is a sign of great leadership strength.
I have two questions for you: As a leader, focused on results and the bottom line, do you aspire to be great? Do you also aspire to build relationships and accomplish something more significant than anything you could ever accomplish on your own? If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then compassion is a must. Without the help of the people in both our professional and personal lives, we won’t get very far. Compassion is a powerful tool, and the greatest leaders practice it often. In stressful, anxious, and uncertain times, increased compassion is what is needed from leaders. It may not be easy, but it is well worth it.