A question for you to ponder on over the coming weekend. Just how compassionate a manager are you?
Now I know that the word compassion generally doesn’t have much of a place in the business world. But recent research from the Australian School of Business suggests that there is in fact a strong link between profitability, productivity and what it calls ‘compassionate leadership’.
It’s not as soft and fluffy as it sounds. What the research is actually saying is that the best leaders are able to understand people’s drivers, dreams and difficulties and know how to put the right support mechanisms in place so they can be their absolute best.
Often, it’s about tough love, rather than handing the tissues out. So having the courage, for example, to raise an issue about poor performance with an employee and discussing how you can help them improve, rather than burying your head in the sand and hoping the problem will go away.
So what do you need to do to become a more ‘compassionate’ manager? Here are our top tips, drawn from the research:
- Invest more time and effort in managing your people. Recognise that managing your team isn’t what you do ‘as well as’ the day job – it is the day job.
- Communicate a clear vision and goals for the future. If you don’t provide a route map, you can’t expect others to find their way successfully.
- Walk your own talk. Make sure you are leading by example, demonstrating clear values and that you practice what you preach.
- Actively encourage employee development. Provide plenty of opportunities for your people to learn new skills and stretch themselves to the best of their abilities.
- Welcome personal feedback. Compassionate leadership is a two-way street. Encourage your people to give you feedback on how well you are performing as their manager and learn from it so you also can be the best you can be.
- Recognise employee effort. Make sure you acknowledge what your people do and show them that you appreciate their hard work. Recognise the small steps as well as the big achievements.
- Foster co-operation among employees. Strive to create an atmosphere of collaboration rather than competition among your team.
- Be innovative and encourage your staff to do the same. Let it be known that you welcome new ideas and are open to suggestions for alternative ways of tackling tasks.
The research suggests that managers sometimes struggle to get the balance right and confuse compassion with kindness. Those who let the scales get out of kilter risk being either too ‘hard’ or too ‘soft’. The key is to find a way to use your power ‘responsibly’ so that you achieve business goals, while also getting the best out of people.
Is there a place for this ‘compassionate’ style of leadership in the workplace?