Lead with Compassion
The novelty of working from home has worn off. The pressure of our shared uncertainty is building. There is nothing “normal” about our “new normal.” While your team members might be settling into a routine, odds are good they continue to struggle with all the impacts of our ongoing pandemic lifestyle. Every day, we juggle uncertainty, anxiety and even a sense of threat.
These are not average times, and going about business as usual will likely seem out of touch with reality to the people you lead. To truly connect with your teams, you must tap into something deeper. This is the classic leadership challenge; it’s no longer what you know that matters to your team. It’s who you are and the humanity you bring with you to your relationships.
Challenging times are an opportunity to build more meaningful relationships and a greater sense of team loyalty. This approach to leadership requires compassion and vulnerability: Here are just a few ways you can reset your style to lead with deeper compassion:
Employees are working in a variety of circumstances, and your acknowledgment of that means a lot. Some have toddlers at home, others might be caring for elderly family members, still others might be feeling isolated and lonely.
In normal times our workplaces tend to be structured and process focused. But times like these require that we operate with more flexibility and heart.
Recently, I was on a conference call with one of my clients. There were about five of us on the call, and the client asked first thing: “How is everyone doing?” She followed up with “I mean really.”
The group, at first a little off guard, eventually took about 10 minutes to share. Then, we were able to discuss pressing work issues and assignments on tap for the week. I was struck by my client’s humanity at that moment. Then, I was struck by her smarts. By giving voice to the group’s anxiety, we were eventually able to have a productive meeting.
Take the Time
In times of uncertainty, good leaders listen more. “Listening goes well beyond being quiet and giving someone your full attention,” writes Glenn Llopis, a leadership expert. “It requires you to be aware of body language, facial expressions mood, and natural behavior tendencies.”
But, how do you do that remotely? Start by setting yourself up for success. Schedule video calls if you are able. Make sure to clear your work area, close your email, and do whatever you need to do to minimize your own distractions and make your colleague the center of your attention – whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.
Practice Active Listening
I am the first to admit that I am a talker. When I hear experiences that I relate to, my first instinct is to share. However, active listening is more powerful than relating, and it isn’t hard. You can practice active listening in three ways:
- Engage in the conversation: Ask clarifying questions and summarize back to the speaker.
- Don’t interrupt: Your people’s experiences and perspectives are valuable. Make sure they can share them with you.
- Don’t judge or offer immediate fixes to problems: Instead, listen to what’s actually being asked.
As a leader, tapping into your deeper compassion can build engagement and trust — creating a stronger work environment now and for the future.
Jennifer Proctor contributed to this article.
Loretta Cooper is a Senior Consultant at Wheelhouse Group. She is an ICF Certified Executive and Team Coach (PCC) and an accomplished consulting professional with more than 12 years of private and public sector experience. Loretta comes to consulting after nearly two decades in network broadcasting. As an award-winning, Washington-based, National Affairs Correspondent for ABC News, Loretta (aka Lauren Rogers) had the opportunity to observe leaders in every sphere of influence – political, government, corporate, activist – and learn from their strategy successes and failures. She is married, the mother to two fabulous young men (just ask!), and enjoys long walks, jet skis, good books, and knitting.