During many of my speaking engagements, I ask the audience if they can think of a leader in their past who always expressed kindness and compassion throughout their career. Would it surprise you that it takes a little while for those hands to go up? But when I ask the opposite question, if there has ever been a leader in their past that has not expressed kindness and compassion, almost every hand goes up. So why is it so easy for us to remember when we were treated poorly instead of when we were treated with care? Those acts of poor leadership stick in our brains because we know we deserve better, and when it comes to demonstrating compassionate leadership in your own shoes, you are in control of delivering a better experience.
The most effective leaders share a pattern of foundational Self-Leadership behaviors, which all of their other actions are built upon. Our successes or setbacks are directly tied to how we show up when engaging with our harder situations. The SOAR Self-Leadership model provides a framework to develop the essential knowledge and tools for effectively managing Self, bringing awareness and clarity to your opportunities through your Outlook, creating insights for the best Actions, and understanding and learning from your results through Reflection.
As always, listening is truly the heart of it all. Keep having consistent one-on-one meetings with your team and engage with them on employee surveys. Give your people the opportunity to speak up about how they’re feeling in their role or within the workplace culture. You will always have room to grow and improve, and what better way to re-engage with your people than to create the change they want to see?
Giving your people the recognition they deserve goes a long way. I’ve said it before, and I will say it forever. Our minds thrive on knowing that we are doing well, so when we receive appreciation or encouragement, it takes us to a place of satisfaction and joy. That feeling can empower your people to work towards a common goal and know that the work they are doing matters and is purposeful. Give appreciation often, whether it’s verbally, in the form of a gift, or a nice thank you note. Let your people know that you wouldn’t be successful without them.
Discovering the Greatness in People
I have this purple tree in my front yard. My neighbors moved out some time ago and when we crossed paths before they left they told me, “We made the best jams and pies from the plums that fell from your tree into our yard!” Mouth wide-opened, I said, “That’s a plum tree?!” I spent so much time focusing on just going in and out of my house, I never took the time to see the landscape and know I had a plum tree producing amazing fruit all this time. That is exactly what happens in the workplace. We have these amazing people with incredible skill sets they bring to the table that can help us achieve innovative things inside the workplace but we aren’t paying attention to the fruit that they can bear. So how can we do better? Make sure that you’re spending time with your people and ask them what sets their hearts on fire and gets them out of bed every morning. Find out their strengths with something such as a strengths assessment and empower them to do that work inside their greatness zone.
Being Thick Skinned
Being thick-skinned prepares us for very tough situations. A lot of those tough situations we will face in the workplace, whether it be a conflict between team members or even yourself with another leader. That doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally destitute, but learning how not to take everything personally is a key growth opportunity in leadership. All situations can become positive ones, but there is a skill in learning to not escalate a situation or understand when someone may be expressing their emotions in a way they don’t intend.
When we think about what it means to be a caring leader, there are a few things that might immediately come to mind. Being a good listener, paying attention to what is going on around you, and learning to develop and grow your skills as you move along your journey. But most of all, demonstrate compassionate leadership. When we care about our people, they care about us too - encouraging a joyful and healthy workplace culture. If you’re on the path to finding your way through caring leadership but need a little help along the way, I would love for you to check out my book: The Art of Active Listening: How People at Work Feel Heard, Valued, and Understood. I take a deeper dive into these 5 effective ways to demonstrate compassionate leadership and even more!