Compassion in the tough business environment? Seriously? Sure, there are corporate social responsibility activities that cover this part in companies’ annual reports. But what about compassion in the daily world of work? In terms of hard performance indicators, this seems more of a luxury or even a hindrance to doing tough business. But is that correct?
Let’s imagine the organization as a human body. There is the brain that invents products, makes plans and controls implementation. The master of the house. Then there is the body. The organization with its parts and processes, which are effectively trained to put the brain’s requirements into reality. And then there is the heart, which keeps the organism alive.
But the heart has a double meaning. It is not only a mechanical circulation pump but also stands for the soul. It is difficult to measure and is therefore partially neglected – until the heart attack painfully asks for attentions.
In today’s business world, the brain dominates. Even during our entire education, we are trained to optimize for the IQ test. It wasn’t so long ago that we started speaking of an EQ – an emotional coefficient. In the meantime, however, its importance has been recognized.
It is worth taking a look across the pond to America. If you want to learn something about the importance of compassion, you should watch a video by Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. He is one of the great leaders and for him, compassion is not a nice accessory.
There is a clear reason for this: we are dealing with people everywhere. Be it employees, colleagues, superiors or clients. Even the most rational person has an emotional level and if we want to reach the person, compassion is key.
Some young graduates already learn this nowadays at school. A programmer used to be the processor between pizza and program code. Social competence wasn’t part of the training back then and so the introverted specimens, in particular, retreated to their snail shell. Modern collaborative development models have fundamentally changed this. Communication with colleagues, team, and clients has become an essential part of their training and working life. They are now able to express themselves in a social context.
The renowned Roffey Park Institute for Leadership defines 5 aspects in the Compassion Workplace Model:
- Being aware of the needs of others
- Being non-judgmental to the viewpoints of others
- Being resilient and tolerant toward personal distress
- Feeling and showing empathy at all levels of a professional life
- Being accountable and responsible for all good and bad outcomes of the team
This already sounds like a proper challenge for a leader.
As a leader, I may sometimes find myself in a dilemma. I put a rational armor on protecting myself from difficult feelings by staying completely on the rational level. “Which good manager decides from his gut feeling” a particularly skeptical colleague once threw at me. Well, quite some successful ones. The question is whether you stubbornly only judge by data points and risk to get directed into the river by the navigation system, or whether you use data as input parameters for a holistic decision.
I got to know a company where the management has changed. The old CEO was a visionary who was able to inspire employees and clients. This is especially important in a consulting company. After all, the entire working capital consists of people. The new CEO was the exact opposite. He steers mostly by numbers and sees everything as a big business transaction. It’s not surprising that there have been quite some resignations, which have hurt the business once the business situation got tougher.
The most important aspect of a leader is working with people. It is precisely in this area that the work with the emotional side is essential. Compassion distinguishes us from machines. Otherwise, leadership work could certainly be performed much more efficiently and economically by robots.
What about you?
Does compassion have a place in your work?
How is this supported in your company?
Is it lived in your company culture?
How do you use compassion in your work?