Creating a Culture of Compassion
In addition to the Coronavirus, our country is facing another crisis. As I write this, I am watching protests take place in Austin in response to the death of Black people at the hands of police officers. My heart aches as I think about my friends and peers and feel hopeless about how to facilitate meaningful change.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t change, I will focus on what I can impact. I am not an Inclusion and Diversity expert. There are thought leaders more experienced than myself who can share ideas on how to create systemic change, become an ally and address inequality in the workplace. But I do have 20 years of teaching leadership development where I need to create a safe space for people to speak up, learn, debate and listen. Creating this space requires leading with compassion and care so employees can feel safe and ask for what they need.
Here are some ways leaders can support their teams during these difficult times:
Check in With Your Mind and Heart
I was facilitating a meeting with a team who are the stewards of care and development of employees within a tech company. I started the meeting asking how we can create a safe space for people who attend our coaching sessions and learning courses. Someone on the call wisely chimed in and asked, “Can we check in with ourselves first?”. We spent the first 10 minutes just talking about our reflections and feelings. They ranged from hopeful and optimistic to angry and tired. There was no right answer. Not everyone spoke and that was ok.
Check in with yourself. Where is your mind going? Where is your heart going? Now, look at what is on your plate for the day. If your mind or heart isn’t in a place to tackle everything that’s on your plate, make some changes. It’s better to postpone those high stakes meetings then muddle through them.
Now Do The Same For Others
After checking in with yourself, check in with others. Stop. Ask. And Listen. Really listen. Just like you shouldn’t take key meetings or make difficult decisions if your head and heart are elsewhere, so should the members of your team. Give them the space to re-prioritize.
When I teach this week, I will ask my participants to ask for what they need. If they need a break, tell me. If they need to take the training on another day because they can’t absorb the material, tell me. If they want their cameras off, tell me. If they just want to listen and not participate in the discussion, just tell me.
Just know that you can ask the right questions and you may not get any responses. That’s ok. The silence isn’t about you; it’s needed for your team to process and think.
If you want to increase the level of compassion in your company, share the stories of times you have seen it in action. These stories should be from all areas of business; not just leaders flying in to save the day. Stories spread throughout an organization like wildfire and can codify how you expect others to act.
In the next few weeks, people on your team will need different levels of support, communication, care and flexibility. By leading with compassion over quotas, you can create a foundation for employee well-being and care. Put human beings over human doings.
Vaishali started her career nearly 20 years ago as a Consultant with the Gallup Organization where she used the organization’s thought leadership on employee engagement to help clients cultivate engaged leaders and cultures. After receiving her M.B.A and a career in Washington, D.C., she accepted a role at Whole Foods Market. At Whole Foods Market, she worked on a variety of talent management programs including co-producing its inaugural Team Member Innovation Challenge, facilitating Global strategic planning and stakeholder summits, and launching the learning and culture program for WFM’s new store concept, 365 by Whole Foods Market. She is most proud of her work in supporting WFM’s Academy for Conscious Leadership — an immersive leadership program designed to help leaders cultivate the tenets of Conscious Capitalism.
She is currently focusing on cultivating strong leaders in tech. She launched the manager development philosophy at Indeed.com and recently moved to Procore Technologies where she will focus on leadership development.