Compassion goes wrong when it goes too far – too much compassion prolongs helplessness, failure and mediocrity. Compassion done well fuels confidence, excellence and success. Organizations without compassion are fear-filled, ugly places to work.
Don’t extend compassion to those who won’t acknowledge need. They’ll despise you for it. Extend compassion to those who acknowledge failure, struggle, turmoil or uncertainty. Otherwise, stay available, but let them struggle.
Compassion is weak and irrelevant in organizations that punish honesty, frailty, transparency and candor. Where imperfections are punished, compassion is liability. Compassion only matters when things go wrong.
Who on your team needs compassion today? Watch for the following:
- Painful failure
- Personal struggles
- Personality clashes
- Physical maladies
- Emotional turmoil
- Circumstantial uncertainty
- Challenging opportunities that stretch skills and experience
Seven ways to be a compassionate leader:
- Face the inconvenience that comes with concern for another’s well-being. Compassion takes time, energy and patience. It takes strength to show compassion.
- Move toward those who struggle even though others want justice – stand with rather than standing aloof.
- Extend forgiveness to those who regret failure. Give second chances.
- Speak with kindness while holding high standards.
- See from another’s point of view.
- Withhold anger.
- Meet a need.
Bonus: Compassionate leadership includes managing out those who don’t fit.
Seven tips for being compassionate:
- Don’t extend compassion to excuse-makers and blamers unless you want more blame and excuses. Compassion is affirmation.
- Remember your own struggle, frailty and failure. Competence is won through hard-fought battles.
- Show concern, but don’t intervene unless invited.
- Discuss issues kindly. Help people find their own solutions rather than solve for them.
- Affirm past efforts before talking next time.
- Extend compassion after struggle or failure, not before. Don’t protect people, enable them.
- Ask, “What are you learning?”