Bring Kindness and Compassion into Business
Business is often too much about the facts and science and not enough about the way people are feeling. Here's why you should place more importance on things like kindness and compassion in business for the good of everyone.
I have recently been inspired by hanging out with my old school buddy Andy Bradley. I hadn’t seen him in 30 years and yet over that time he has developed into one of the best facilitators I’ve ever seen. His passion is to make this world a kinder place specifically through bringing more compassion into care homes and the NHS. Check him out on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMelRxXl3-M
Whilst talking with him it struck me that compassion is incredibly undervalued in business. It's rarely talked about and yet it is absolutely key in creating a culture that helps people be at their best. In some ways we have tried to focus too much on science in business, so much so that we can only trust things that can be researched, modelled and indeed counted. And yet so much of what makes businesses fantastic are those things that are way more nebulous and fleeting and imprecise.
Love, kindness and compassion come top of the list.
Too many people think that connecting these words with business is the same as showing sentimentality, weakness and emotion but I believe that they should be fundamental and play a key part in your KPI’s if you are hoping to win in the future.
There is growing evidence that demonstrating love and compassion within a business has huge impacts upon employee engagement and a general feeling of well-being at work.
Jane Dutton, from the University of Michigan, investigated this. She said: “We found that employees who experienced compassion at work saw themselves, their co-workers and the organisation in a more positive light. Statistically, they demonstrated more positive emotions such as joy and contentment and more commitment towards the organisation.” These results were consistent regardless of whether employees receive compassion or merely witnessed it.
Regardless of what research can tell us about the benefit of love, kindness and compassion in business (and there has been plenty to support the notion) we all know instinctively that it’s true. If the cynic within you is now saying ‘Well is it?’ then that’s the response that is the cause of major problems we have in organisations. The need for evidence for everything. If we trust our human instincts, we get better answers every time.
If someone in your team is having a hard time in their life outside work, there shouldn’t be a question as to whether we help them or not. We should just do it but invariably business leaders struggle with this and there are plenty of reasons for that, not least that we are working way too fast on way too many things.
When we get bombarded by too much stimulus our brain flicks onto standby. Standby is a coping mechanism and is designed to get us through our to-do lists and not react to the avalanche of messaging around us. But standby mode also makes us numb, desensitises us and it’s a mode from which it’s impossible to engage with emotion holistically. We are like little robots - only the big emotions get noticed and it is generally the big stuff that knocks us sideways and leaves us reaching for a cappuccino, a whisky, a spinning class just to balance ourselves out again.
Bringing some compassion into business might seem like a big ask but here are a few tips on how business leaders can begin doing it:
1. Show yourself
The most compelling leaders are happy to publicly share their own emotion. Use sparingly but with absolute genuine commitment and folk will notice.
2.Encourage others to express themselves
All too often weak leaders are uncomfortable with others’ emotion and therefore try to avoid it or shame those that do express themselves. When you see somebody demonstrating emotion, hang out in it. Spend some time guarding their space so that they can say what is important to them and how they’re feeling and then working out how you can all move forward.
3. Feel versus think
When evaluating potential options for the future, don’t focus on what they think and respond with tried and tested solutions. Ask people how they’re feeling and why.
4. Share the love
Expressing gratitude and thankfulness has a huge impact on our health and well-being. Every time you have an interaction, practice appreciating the people involved. It’ll soon become second nature and before you know it they’ll be appreciating you too.
5. Moose on the table
We often shy away from having that tricky conversation because it’s riddled with potential ‘danger’ but that potential ‘danger’ is usually negative emotion in our perception. Too many important conversations don’t happen because we shy away from them. Get those issues on the table, own your perspective and own your emotion and then you can move forward.