Let’s face it: Business is challenging, and so is life. In this time of our country, where leadership is at the forefront of every news story and national narrative, it’s important for us to realize that we are all part of the implications of the leadership confrontations that are occurring, in one way or another. As employment rates continue to drop, the challenge for HR professionals to find qualified candidates has suddenly become even greater. While the skills gap remains, now the number of potential new candidates has diminished. Don’t get me wrong, this is a GOOD thing for people and for our economy. But it also highlights the need for companies to recruit and retain the talent that tops out their staff, and benefits the overall performance of your company.
It seems now, more than ever, is an opportunity to meet people where they are, in what they need from their daily job and career. With so many hot button issues that seemingly continue to get hotter, at least in the political debate, fear of the unknown and the general infighting can produce a new level of stress on American workers. Quite simply, it’s time for us to give our employees and staff what they need: A culture of compassion.
Now before some might go off and talk about how we need to toughen up or stop being so soft, understand, I’m not making a case for or against strength. I’m making a case for compassion, a place where people relate to one another on the one thing that connects us all, our humanity.
As a leader today, the most important factor in success is your people, whether it be your partner, your advisors, your staff, or your peers. At the heart of compassionate leadership is humility. When a leader has compassion on people who make mistakes, she can actually create a culture that gives the space for employees to make mistakes freely, using it as a springboard to achieve clarity on what needs to be done moving forward. Meeting people in their weaknesses, their shortcomings, their fears, their lack of self-esteem, can actually propel people into productivity and even greatness.
In a study from the University of Washington Foster School of Business, humble people are more likely to be high performers in individual and team settings and they also tend to make the most effective leaders. “Humble leaders foster learning-oriented teams and engage employees. They also optimize job satisfaction and employee retention,” says study co-author Michael Johnson.
So what is the source of humility?: The recognition that you too are in process, that you haven’t arrived, and you’re on the journey. The reality is that there are very few people in the world who really want to hurt us, or who would intentionally do things that would hurt us. All of us want to succeed on some level, and what prevents us from hitting the mark so often are the blind spots and “ruts” of the way we’ve learned to live and work. A humble leader can have compassion on his or her leaders because he or she understands that he suffers the same failings in his own way.
When a leader is able to exhibit this kind of compassion, it becomes part of the fabric of a company and it’s culture. Some might think that too much compassion is a means of giving people permission to make mistakes carelessly, or not have to “own” their failures. But what it actually does is give people the space to get up and try again when they do fail, without feeling like they are…less than human. In a real sense, a humble and compassionate leader allows his or her employees the opportunity to fail, AND to shine. And it is this freedom, driven by compassion and understanding that brings out the best in people!
In a world that seems to be turning up the fire on the missteps and mistakes of people, it seems that a rescue of compassion in the place where people work everyday could be a healing salve to the human condition.