When we look back at almost every tragedy in human history, we usually ask: “How can someone do such a thing?” Historians and politicians will usually answer with an introspection of geopolitics, anthropology, financial interests, and other fields of study. However, at the core of every tragedy are decisions, and behind every decision is a human being. Now imagine how many tragedies could have been avoided if compassion was at the heart of most decisions.
Compassion is a beautiful tool that is rarely utilized across human disciplines. Within leadership and management, compassion is sadly a nice to have. When managers have conversations with their employees, it usually revolves around business goals and “performance.” An employee’s feelings and well-being are rarely taken into account, and if they are, it’s because they directly relate to a business goal ( e.g. a deal that needs to be closed ). This is the single greatest tragedy that is happening everyday in our workplaces.
Management theory has created robots out of managers, when we need human beings listening to human becomings. “How’s work going on project X?”, “How can I help you perform better?”, “Did you blah blah?” These are samples of questions we ask in check-ins that seem great, but are truly meaningless. As much as you’ve been taught, your job as a manager isn’t to facilitate people’s work, but to put them in the best position to perform well, and dare I say, be happy. You should be paving paths of happiness and fulfillment that your employees can trek on, not the path to your ego. The occasional work talk will come up, but it shouldn’t distract from the main topic: them.
Management theory created robots out of managers, when what we need are human beings listening to human becomings.
“How are you? Like, really…. how are you?” is a much better way to start a one-on-one, especially when you truly mean it. You evolve in your craft as a manager when you can differentiate a sad “I’m fine” from a happy “I’m fine”. You don’t evolve by hitting goals and treating people like machines. As an employee, you are going to remember managers and colleagues that touched you on a human level, not the ones that “helped you hit your goals.” I’m not telling you to change one question for the other, but to deploy compassion and figure out what the person on the other side of the conversation needs from you. Do they need some love? Do they need a mentor? Do they need better benefits? Do they need to be left alone? You obviously won’t know without asking, but more importantly without listening.
If you need a step-by-step guide, then it looks something like this:
- Listen, listen, listen, and listen.
- Deploy compassion and put yourself in their shoes. You have to understand where someone is coming from.
- Once you develop an understanding of the situation, ASK them if you understood what they’re trying to convey. Don’t just assume that you “get it.” For example: “From what I’m hearing, your work load is really stressing you out?”, “No no…. it’s the type of work I’m doing.”, “Aaaaaaaa”.
- After you understand the situation fully, brainstorm solutions with them. You can always propose solutions, but the best solutions are ones that come from the person experiencing the problem. They are also much more likely to commit to the solution if it comes from them.
- Follow-up and invest your own energy into their happiness, not just in the business goals.
The best part? The results will come flowing in once someone is happy and motivated. By focusing on people’s happiness, you’re not compromising company goals, you’re actually boosting your chances of success. If you do it really well, you can transform your workplace into an oasis of innovation, something that requires a healthy mind and body.
You should be paving paths of happiness and fulfillment that your employees can trek on, not the path to your ego.
If there is one thing you should take from this whole article, simply: “Start deploying compassion and actually giving a f***.” If you find it too hard to care, then you’re in the wrong profession. A bad manager can make or break a team, and thus a business. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes a lot of sacrifice. Yes, it takes a lot of emotional energy. But if you’re not willing to invest in any of those, then you are causing pain without realizing it and you should find something else to do in life.
For the managers and leaders out there already deploying compassion, your work cannot be thanked enough. Keep doing what you do, and I hope the smiles you create on people and their families smile back onto you and your families.
This is the second article in a series of articles about “How the f*** do I build culture at work?”