Compassion isn’t the first skill we tend to think of for successful leaders, yet it is a crucial skill when leading through the uncertainty and it can be learned. My experience of working with a wide range of people is that everyone cares in their own way. They need to be given permission to care about people as much as they do the results because it is those people who will achieve the results.
Our working lives are challenging with the 9-5 long replaced by being continuously connected to work. We need to find a new way to engage with each other, with work and to find space for self-care. The following is an extract from my book Leading through uncertainty.
Remember to be human
Everyone who chooses to lead will experience the glory of success and results and the crushing defeat of failure. We are human after all. With the highs, come the lows. To avoid the lows denies us the full human experience. Organisations with a culture of fear of failure inhibit innovation and creativity and create stress and pressure. We sometimes forget to be human.
In the pursuit of doing great work, achieving goals and meeting deadlines and targets, we exert pressure on ourselves and others to avoid failure at all cost. Whilst pressure can enhance our performance for a short period of time, it is not sustainable over longer periods. The cost of excessive pressure is poor physical, emotional and mental health.
Compassion for everyone
We need more compassion in business. Compassion for those who are struggling, as well as compassion for yourself. We need to shift from trying to be machines in a world of technology, to using technology to allow ourselves to be human. When we accept our humanity, we can be kinder to ourselves and others. We live and work in a time of significant pressure.
The volume of workload is immense and the pressures outside of work continue to grow in parallel. The expectations we place upon ourselves of what is achievable are often unrealistic. We blame others for that pressure – it’s your boss’ fault, the shareholders’ expectations or the person in your team who is slowing you down by not doing what you want them to do. There is a tension between what is humanly possible and our belief of what we think we can achieve in the timescales available.
In this fast-paced techno world, we sometimes attempt to be super-human. We forget to be kind, compassionate and considerate towards ourselves. We focus on the results we want to achieve and sometimes on the relationships we want to create or maintain with others. In the process, self-care is overlooked, and expectations are unrealistic. Where do you fit in your daily life?
Give yourself permission
Often people want to be given permission to be compassionate. They consider it a weakness until they realise how essential it is for themselves as well as their team. Considerate leaders include and embrace everything. They hold compassion for people experiencing challenges. That includes having compassion for yourself as well.
How senior leaders behave sets the tone for the organisation. Having compassion for yourself and others shows that there is space for humanity, knowing that you will never have 100% full capacity from every single person on every single day. Having compassion means choosing to act with self-care and choosing to minimise stress and overwhelm. It may mean saying no to unrealistic targets and deadlines, or taking time out to recover and recharge after an especially busy or stressful period at work.
In an interview in January 2018 with Sue Grindrod, CEO of the Albert Dock in Liverpool, Sue explained: “I make sure that I take time out for me. It’s important to be kind to yourself, especially when you are under pressure, and to be realistic about what you can actually achieve. If you try to cram everything in, you set yourself up for overwhelm.”
How do you hold yourself with compassion when you are struggling too?
Who in your team is suffering and needs your compassion?
Compassion for self and others is imperative in challenging times, yet we often overlook it. Continuing to drive ourselves as machines leads to burnout. It’s the responsibility of every leader to look out for their team and consider their needs.
If you would like to explore how compassion can improve your business
and support your team when leading through uncertainty,
contact me on 07584 248822 to discuss how I can help