Seven Choices To Compassionate Leadership

It’s easy to give up on team members or colleagues when they don’t meet our expectations. When co-workers don’t pull through in the way we thought they would or should, we often become angry or feel let down. We even may become defensive and be ready to go on the attack.

Have you faced any of these frustrating situations in your workplaces or collaborations?

  • Missing information for a project
  • Deadlines that are ignored or miscalculated
  • Being omitted from an important email
  • Not being part of a team decision
  • Overlooked to be part of a Happy Hour after work

Many of these actions may not be a deliberate stab at us, yet we may interpret them that way. Our first thoughts turn to feeling slighted or not valued. But instead of jumping to the conclusion that we are being left out on purpose, we can choose to readjust our thinking. We can decide to swap out our anger for compassion. We can choose to model compassionate leadership.

Seven choices to compassionate leadership:

1. Look at the facts

When we sense that others haven’t quite kept us in mind in a process or decision, take a hard look at what is actually taking place. Is it possible that information was left out of a report because it was never received or clearly stated it was necessary? Was the gathering after work an impromptu thought not deliberately exclusive? What is the truth and examine if we have contributed to the dilemma in any way. Show compassion.

2. Accept imperfection from others

We all make mistakes and we all have bad days. Maybe our teammate just forgot to include some information or didn’t realize the significance of the data. Maybe we were left off of the email erroneously and all we need to do is remind them that we should be included next time. Show compassion.

3. Don’t jump to conclusions

It is so common to make assumptions about the actions taken by the people we work with daily. Step back before jumping and ask:

  • Am I being judgy about why important information was excluded from this report?
  • Was I not invited to attend the Happy Hour because people didn’t want me there or was it just an oversight?
  • Was I deliberately left out of that team decision because my opinions don’t count or perhaps they didn’t ask everyone due to a time constraint?

Whatever you think, breathe and make sure you are not running in a false direction. Show compassion.

4. Meet to share feelings

When we are not feeling valued we need to talk to our co-workers or colleagues and share our thoughts. I know when I have felt unappreciated and approached the person who I perceived wronged me, I felt more empowered. Just letting them know that I give them the benefit of the doubt and care about working with them in a productive way, can forge a deeper relationship. Show compassion.

5. Partner to realign

If we sense a “disconnect” with a colleague, offer to help them meet a deadline or roll up your sleeves and complete the project with them. Then suggest ways to improve the outcome or develop stronger procedures. Take the first step. Show compassion.

6. Model new procedures or actions

Once new standards are set, lead by using those new processes or behaviors.

  • Exhibit ways to include all co-workers on team decisions by asking each person for their ideas about a project
  • Volunteer to arrange the next social team event and make sure all teammates are invited
  • When information is mistakenly excluded, demonstrate how you might go about obtaining the data

Show compassion.

7. Help create a compassionate culture

Recent research shows that having a culture of compassion may not only build a happier workplace but also improve an organization’s bottom line. When we are supportive of one another there is often higher performance because team members feel valued and appreciated for their contributions and want to add more. Show compassion.

 How have you brought compassion to your leadership?

(Credit Image-Flickr CC Adam Grabek)



8 thoughts on “Seven Choices To Compassionate Leadership

  1. I’ve been in several situations where I was “left out” of coffee banter and happy hour outings…at first I was resentful. I figured it was because I was the only female on the squad but as I got to know the guys on an individual basis I realized that I was excluded primarily because I wasn’t one of the “gang.” And then I looked around and realized I was not the only one excluded—several of the guys were not invited to be part of the coffee banter or happy hour either. Breaking through the social barriers took a little more effort and savvy understanding than I first assumed…in fact, to be excluded simply because I was female would have been the easiest barrier to break. Turns out that I had other barriers I needed to break through as well…to your point: don’t assume anything!

  2. Thank you for sharing such a great story LaRae! Jumping to the wrong conclusion could have made you angry or very frustrated at the very least but instead you chose to look at the facts and see what was really going on. You chose to be a compassionate leader as you delved deeper into why you were being excluded. I am sure in the end your patience and emotional intelligence helped you connect more deeply with the “gang”.

    Thanks for adding your wonderful insights!

  3. I was working with someone today who is very stressed at work about a current situation that’s playing out. In a meeting (to prep for a bigger meeting) their ideas were put down left and right and of course, they got frustrated… especially at the person who kept pointing out their (different) view of the issues. My client told me that they regretted that they were not very nice to the person in the meeting. Afterward, they sought them out to explain and apologize. Definitely highlights compassionate leadership to me. When a leader is less than compassionate, we need to give them room to make a better choice instead of creating an environment where the only choice is to dig in.

    Really appreciate your insights here, Terri and will absolutely share.


  4. Great post Terri!

    A mentor included something he called his stand in his business plan it included the desire to practice compassionate/accountability. That combination of concepts is so powerful it encourages us to see each other as flawed humans that want to get it right without avoiding the things we need to talk about.

    Your points reminded me again – how much I love that concept and how much health and life we can breathe into relationships and the workplace when we do.

  5. Your point about giving others room to make a better choice is so important. Sometimes we become so upset or frustrated that we can’t stay open to understand what had transpired. The key for leaders who want to add compassion to their toolbox is to examine the real facts and partner with others in solving problems and issues creatively. One of my clients is always on a budget and that often means designing a program with different types of activities.

    Thanks Alli for helping us to see compassionate leadership in a different light.

  6. I love the idea of “compassionate/accountability”leadership. It makes perfect sense that when errors or missteps are made, leaders add compassion in resolving them. We build deeper and more meaningful work relationships when we bring humanity onto our teams. Along with that humanity we must never lose sight of what we want to accomplish. That’s where the accountability comes in. There is no need to lower our end results. We may just need to adjust them.

    Thanks Chery for your wonderful comments!

  7. Excellent post Terri! So much resonates with me, but I thought I would share with you ‘one thing’ that really stood out to me. The one thing that really resonated was that we should not assume anything. It’s natural for us to have an immediate reaction when we feel disrespected in some way, however as we know there can be much more to it. I have learned this through the years and now take a step back (don’t immediately do anything), get my thoughts together… then when clear start asking questions. Asking the right questions of ourselves and to others gives the answers we need for the immediate situation and moving ahead. I love your articles Terri. Thank you for being an awesome leader!

  8. I think stepping back first and getting a better understanding is fantastic Cynthia! Similar to you, I try not to jump to conclusions even when I feel unappreciated. Compassionate leaders are able to go beyond the superficial actions of others to see what is actually happening.

    Thanks Cynthia for stopping by and adding your insights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *