Why leading with compassion will be crucial when we go ‘back to work’.
Sudden change, especially during a crisis, can really affect us. It can make us feel out of control, panicked, emotional and anxious. You only have to read my recent thoughts about asking for help when times get tough to know that I have felt most of these emotions recently.
Change can throw everything we thought we knew out of the window and leave us longing for what we had before or searching for something completely different.
I think people are likely to want different things from their professional lives when we get back to ‘normal’. Maybe they’ve experienced working from home for the first time and want to do it more often, or perhaps they’ve enjoyed being able to volunteer one or two days a week and want to carry on. Or maybe they’ve truly missed the buzz of the office and realised how much they thrive among their colleagues.
All these reasons are why, when we do go ‘back to work’, ‘back to the office’ – or whatever you want to call it – leading with compassion will be crucial. There will be requests for flexible working, productivity might drop slightly while your team get back into their flow, and someone might want a half day Friday to make room for some permanent volunteering.
In these instances, and the many others we’re set to come across, leading with compassion will help us achieve a happy, productive and profitable workforce. It does so by making our teams feel supported, feel valued and feel heard – and it fosters goodwill between employers and their teams, each knowing they have supported the other.
So, how can you lead more compassionately? These are the top four traits I believe will stand you in good stead:
- Empathy – demonstrating empathy towards your team members and their individual circumstances is key, but it must be genuine. It’s likely most of our teams will have been directly or indirectly affected by coronavirus, whether that is the loss of a loved one, a partner being made redundant or another similar circumstance. Put yourself in their position. How would you think, feel and act if it were you? This will naturally help you be more empathetic.
- Understanding – if your team is close knit and spends a lot of time working together in the office, there’s likely to be a period of time where productivity might be lower due to colleagues re-adjusting, settling back in and taking time to catch up with their co-workers. Instead of discouraging this, be understanding of the reasons why it’s happening and, if its appropriate, facilitate times for it such as a return to work night out. We’re all human and showing understanding as a leader demonstrates that.
- Care – by this, I don’t just mean in the ‘looking after’ sense. I mean by really caring about the reasons why the people in our teams do what they do or want what they want. If a member of your team has spent time making PPE while they’ve been off work, care enough to ask them about the reasons why they chose to do so. It shows you are interested in what makes them tick, and not just in the workplace.
- Gratitude – don’t underestimate the power of someone telling you they’re grateful for what you have done. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and know they play an important role in the team. When your colleagues are together again, make time to thank them for the work they’ve delivered remotely or how they’ve dealt with being furloughed, for example. You will foster a culture of respect, admiration and loyalty in return.