Now more than ever, the wellbeing of ourselves and others at work has been brought into sharp relief. As we care for our physical and mental health and navigate different ways of working, the importance of our collective experience as we work towards shared endeavour is heightened. Many people are reporting that although we are in some ways further apart, in many other ways technology has enabled us to be more purposeful about our communications and more intentional about how we spend the time we have been gifted. On the other hand, there are risks associated with the blurring of lines between home and work, including burnout.
So, what opportunities does this present for leaders at this time? Paula Leach, Chief People Officer at FDM Group, the global leader in the recruit, train, deploy sector, believes it is a time for practising and nurturing compassionate leadership.
Compassion can be defined as: “someone who shows kindness, caring and a willingness to help others”. So why would we not root our leadership practice in this?
Leadership is about many things, but never about the leader. Truly effective leadership is all about others and how others experience the leader.
This following list of 7 areas should provide some thought starters to enable all leaders to pause for a moment and consider how we can grow our compassion and support our colleagues to be the best they can be and thrive.
Start with curiosity
Rather than providing answers, ask more questions. Genuinely seek the views of others, help people to feel involved and ensure they know that their opinion and perspective matters.
Share more of yourself with your team. None of us are perfect: we all make mistakes, feel low at times, or are unsure and uncertain. Sharing will generate reciprocity and trust, so they share more with you.
Learn about yourself
Seek feedback in a variety of forms. Greater self-awareness enables us to understand if our intention has been comprehended by others and enables us to stay further out of judgement.
Ensure that everyone has a voice, and everyone is heard. Enable people with different learning and communication styles to contribute in the ways they feel comfortable and ensure one perspective does not dominate. Be particularly alert to ensuring that those who are most like you do not have favoured airtime.
Listen to hear and understand not to reply. Practice listening by challenging yourself to summarise what other people are saying, in order to test if you understood them correctly. Create and allow silences and pauses and allow other people to fill them.
Acknowledgement can be enough
Not everything needs to have a solution right here and right now and as the leader you certainly do not have to provide all the solutions (see ‘start with curiosity’). Whether it is a problem that needs working through or an issue someone may have, sometimes just being alongside can be enough.
This can be interpreted in two ways. One interpretation may be about creating space for others to work together and grow their creativity and problem-solving skills. The other is about creating clear and specific directions or parameters within which others can work. Lack of swift decision making and clarity when this is required creates unnecessary confusion and conflict.
How are you growing your compassion as a leader? Try reflecting on the 7 points above and challenging yourself to be a little more intentional in these areas. Others will respond with compassion, and leaders need compassion themselves just as much as anyone.
Paula Leach is the global chief people officer for FDM Group, a role which she undertook in April 2019 having previously been chief people officer for The Home Office. Previously Paula was chief people officer at The Home Office, responsible for an HR function of more than 300 professionals, supporting the people agenda for approximately 30,000 civil servants responsible for critically-important areas across the security, policing and fire, and borders and immigration systems.