Teams, like friendships and family groups, are social units like any other. Even though you may not have chosen the people you work with every day, and they might never be your best friends, your dynamic depends on the same basic principles of trust, respect and compassion. But it is this latter quality – compassion – that often goes overlooked in company culture.
Its absence can lead to low morale, a team with little respect for management, and a community with no culture of support – which are all ridiculously bad for business. Here’s exactly how compassionate leadership can directly impact the effectiveness of your team.
One of the biggest benefits of compassion in the workplace lies in employee retention. A working culture where you feel uneasy calling in sick or opting out of a meeting is a rotten one; fear never leads to anything productive. Showing your team you care, and fostering an inclusive working environment where everyone is considered and supported makes it far more likely they’ll keep turning up.
Compassionate leadership also has a powerful impact on productivity. A warm and positive approach to projects – and honesty when approaching their successes and limitations – is far more likely to encourage your employees to commit their best than the cold shoulder, handing out blame or having a stern word. Cooperation over competition does wonders for productivity, as does a sense of pride in work.
Compassion, thoughtfulness and investment in people nurtures motivation. Familiarize yourself with the personalities and working styles on your team and distribute new opportunities accordingly. Encourage learning and growth, and get better at celebrating your successes. Including your team in decision making fosters a sense of mutual trust and respect, while sensitively managing workloads illustrates that you’re aware – and care about – your employees’ time and stress levels.
Any person in a position of authority has influence, whether they seek it or not. Coming to work in a sour mood will cause a negative domino effect, while a positive attitude provides a sense of optimism for the day ahead. Aspire to be inspirational and reflect the attitude you want your team to adopt for the day – and beyond.
Studies have shown that employees who feel camaraderie towards senior management, as well as their peers, feel safe enough to take risks at work. It’s the basic foundation for creating a more creative and innovative environment. Friendship and community make for happier and ultimately more effective people in the workplace.
As a team leader, you should enable your employees’ lifestyles as much as possible. Work is something that should fit seamlessly into their personal lives, not undermine them. There might be childcare, health issues and transport limitations to consider. Flexible hours, the option to work remotely and a basic provision of compassionate leave create a more comfortable environment for employees with individual priorities.
Making compassion a priority
Clearly, emotional intelligence forms a huge part of our professional influence, and recognising the importance of kindness in leadership is essential to its effectiveness. But as power and responsibility mount, compassion often slips down our priority list. We need to realize that compassion is an action – not a happy consequence we have no control over – and we all need to get better at practicing.