"I believe that the methods by which we increase our altruism, our sense of caring for others and developing the attitude that our own individual concerns are less important than those of others, are common to all major religious traditions … They all advocate love, compassion, and forgiveness." -The Dalai Lama
In the book Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, Stephen Hall suggests that compassion has three components. First, is the acknowledgment of, and respect for another’s perspective. This is emotional intelligence. The process of possessing a heightened sense of reading cues from those around you is base-line in developing compassion. Second, it requires a person to feel something in the “heart” of another person’s pain, and this includes physical, emotional, and mental pain. This is empathy. Third, is possessing an emotional response to another’s suffering to such a degree that you feel compelled to act. This is compassion.
The whole world is literally in flux, and compassion is something we need to focus on actively and practice. This is especially true for leaders inside organizations. Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton, in Awakening Compassion at Work, suggest that we seldom consider that suffering occurs within organizations, but rather at the level of the individual. However, right now, many individuals inside organizations are suffering. None more significant than those with front line workers in healthcare, the service industry, or, every small to medium business, For many, there will be some form of PTSD after this is over. I hope that after the world moves on after COVID, leaders lead with more compassion. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, is no better example of a leader, embracing the tenets of compassion. Jeff recently stated:
“….Work from home employees will not only seek tools that facilitate productivity and collaboration, but software that enables them to feel seen, heard, and truly connected to their colleagues and supported by their company…..”
4 things you can do NOW to lead with compassion
1. Listen, Empathetically - Turn-off that voice in your head when someone is talking. You are not listening; you are only hearing. To listen, it to understand. Your team wants to be understood.
2. Put the gavel down - For many of use, we are the judge and jury of others’ actions. How might it look if we moved from judgment to acceptance? Use this time to encourage and accept the strengths that your team has, not the weakness you perceive.
3. Random acts - Go through your mental Rolodex and find one colleague and do something small and kind. This could be a quick phone call, email, or pigeon carrying a note. Whatever, the goal is to have no expectations of a return action. Just be random in your kindness. They will be intentional in their effort.
4. Do a safe hug - In a time of social distancing, we all need some physical contact. Take a minute and purposefully and intentionally hug your spouse, your kids, or even your pet. Just do it because of it right. I know this has nothing to do with your team, but we need to have self-compassion, so practice that also.
There are many ways to think, act, and be more compassionate, but until you start with you, leading with compassion won’t be easy. Use this unique, crazy, and personal time on you, to be a better leader for all.
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James Kelley, Ph.D.
CEO of qChange.