Over the past week I’ve been thinking about the horrifying shooting in Orlando, which stirred up memories of those in Aurora, CO and in Newtown, CT. And I’ve been thinking I have been thinking a lot about compassion. When to be compassionate versus angry or frustrated or something else? How to be compassionate? What role does compassion play in business?
For most of us, on most days, we’re not confronted with such violence and horror. But there are plenty of situations where people make mistakes, some so significant a project can be ruined. And you need to clean up the mess, sometimes literally like James Doty, Neurosurgeon, who tells a story of operating on a young boy’s brain tumor. A resident who was assisting in the operation accidentally pierced a vein, obscuring the operation sight. Fortunately, Dr. Doty was able to blindly find and successfully clamp the vein.
Peoples’ actions or inaction might also make us look bad. Sometimes colleagues drop the ball, by not finishing their part of project on time. A former co-worker of mine took so long to get his section of grant completed that we nearly missed missed the submission deadline. We had 5 minutes to spare. I’m a get it done well ahead of time type of person. And I was ticked off.
Frankly, sometimes it’s hard not to be quick to anger and lay into the other person. But what happens a manager chooses address the person and issue with compassion?
“Compassion and kindness aren’t expensive. But the yield is priceless.”
- Lloyd H. Dean
When Managers Choose Compassion Performance Improves
Compassion is a doorway to new possibilities and improved performance. That’s because compassion leads to a new space. Space to:
- Be curious, to explore different perspectives and learn something new that improves productivity.
- Teach a person something new when they make a mistake so that they improve the next time.
- Develop loyalty and build trust because compassion leads to positive relationships and a sense of warm both of which have a great impact on loyalty than a paycheck.
Compassion Is Not Letting Someone Off the Hook
Compassion is your conscious concern for another person’s experiences or feelings. It gives you the grace and breathing room to be understanding when mistakes are made or when there is a setback. Then you can help ensure lessons are learned and mistakes corrected.
Four Simple Steps to Be Compassionate
- Count to 10. Taking a moment or more to cool off, to collect your thoughts and emotions allows you to control your reaction and thoughtfully respond to the situation. I have a friend named James Holmes who lives in Aurora, CO. After the events in Aurora he was inundated with hateful messages with people assuming he was the other James Holmes. What was my friend’s response? "I think people just wanted to reach out and express their feelings and I happen to have the same name." That’s compassion.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Looking at different perspectives is a key leadership trait because it allows you to take in more information so you make well-informed decisions, negotiate well, and preserve valuable relationships. Dr. Doty recalled his own blunder of nervously sweating during an operation when he as resident and being berated by the attending physician, which was degrading and demotivating. He could empathize, and focus on saving the boy’s life.
- Let it go. Harboring a grudge or being hostile does not inspire better performance in others. Forgiveness goes a long way in creating positive and productive relationships, decreasing stress and decreasing turn over. I had to let it go once my college and I got the grant submitted, so that I could continue to have a decent working relationship with him.
- Have compassion for yourself. If you cannot apply 1, 2 and 3 to yourself it will be harder, if not impossible, to be compassionate to others. Observe what is happening it is, without being judgmental or suppressing your thoughts and feelings. Be understanding with yourself when you’re suffering or frustrated. Remember you are not alone.
If you can be compassionate on a small scale, you can be compassionate on a large scale when the time comes.