Business and compassion are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, the most successful people I know have compassion. Before we get too far, yes, I am using the word compassion. Not empathy. Compassion.
Let’s take a look at the two words:
Compassion: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Empathy expresses understanding and sharing of feelings; compassion shows concern.
Empathy matters because it affords us a way to connect to our fellow human beings. Empathy is literally putting ourselves in the shoes of others so that we understand what they are experiencing. In truth, empathy is a precursor to compassion. We cannot have compassion without first understanding what we are concerned for.
So why does compassion matter in business?
Because we are human and humans are designed to connect.
My youngest son recently had a very bad fall that resulted in a concussion. The side effects were impaired vision, dizziness, severe headaches, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound and vomiting. Thankfully the doctors did not detect anything more than a concussion, but a concussion alone is still something very serious.
In pure, modern form, I shared this with my social media friends (Facebook to be exact). The outpour of love was wonderful. Friends offered prayer. Some offered to help me if I needed anything. Others offered kind words of support. Compassion poured out of my cell phone screen, into my heart, mind, body and soul. I felt surrounded by love. The fear I had dissipated. I felt strong because of the compassion shown towards me and my son.
In stark contrast was an interaction I had with a business associate. We were closing a joint project when this happened. Although I expressed what I was going through personally, the associate acted as though I said nothing. A simple, “I hope he is ok” was all they texted me, followed by straight-laced business talk. Via email, they made a request for my portion of the project we were working, but failed to ask about my child. Unfortunately, my child had an episode at school that required me to arrange to have him picked up. Though I shared this with my associate I received radio silence.
Considering our working proximity, it would go to figure that my associate would have at least shown empathy. But they did not. And because they failed to express empathy, they failed to express compassion. And because they failed to express compassion, I have ended our business relationship.
If my associate were to have expressed even a little bit of concern for my son, I would not have felt dismissed and unvalued. Neither of these emotions are favorable for an effective work environment.
Empathy and compassion go a long way when interacting with people. People crave belonging and to be understood. Both empathy and compassion fulfill those needs.
In business, if you want repeat customers, dedicated employees or die hard fans, you cannot compromise compassion.
Is there a cap on compassion? Certainly. A business must still function, however a drop of compassion goes a long way. Just like adding water to the last few drops of liquid hand soap gives us more use, adding a few drops of compassion give leaders more clout.
Expressing compassion doesn’t have to be a daunting or laborious task. Here are a few simple expressions of compassion:
1. Send a Text: A few friends (not even my closes) sent me text messages just to make sure I was ok. Two minutes out of their day put them in a different light amongst my friends. They took time to check on me and my child – that is significant in the age of busy-ness.
2. Reorganize Your Message: This is a small thing but goes a long way. Instead of putting expressions of concern at the close of your message, put them at the top. This let’s the reader know that you care about them as a person, not just the task at hand. End your message with one sentence to reiterate, “I care about you and your situation.”
3. Give Someone Time: If someone is going through a difficult situation, GIVE THEM TIME! Extend the deadline. Let them take a day off without logging it. Move someone else to the project. Show compassion towards what they are going through and give them time to tend to it. You will have a more dedicated and engaged employee afterwards.
4. Pray: It is amazing what the simple six words, “I’ll keep you in my prayers” can do for someone. Even a person who practices no religion, finds comfort in those words during challenging times. If you know the person is a praying person, stop what you are doing and pray with them in the moment. Stand in the gap.
5. Ask How You Can Help: There might not be anything you can do, but the simple fact that you ask goes a long way. Sometimes people just need to feel propped up by the idea that they are not alone in their situation. Provide them the prop. Offer them support.
6. Listen: If an employee calls into work because they are going through something serious, listen to them. If a friend rants in a text, listen to them. When they are done. Let them know that you heard them and you are there for them if they need.
Compassion doesn’t cost anything. It might require strategic thinking to get a task done, but a good leader embraces those types of challenges.
Don’t burn bridges by failing to show compassion when it matters. Be a wise leader – learn how to be empathetic to cover your bases, then master the art of compassion to dominate the field.
I love setting goals; and have loved it since I was a little girl with plaits. I vividly recall being around 9 years old stating I was going to go to Julliard School of Music to play the flute. Over the years my goals changed a bit but I was still making goals. (I’m lookin' at you 15 year Ashley René who dreamed of being a serial entrepreneur.)
I was unaware of SMART goals at the time. It wasn’t until I was in college that I was exposed to this method of goal setting. A professor introduced it to me as a way to plan better.
The method was great. Very well structured and easy for me to follow through on my goals. For those of you unfamiliar with the SMART goal method, here it is:
T: Time Bound
This tried and true method has helped me read 10 books one year, run a marathon another year, get amazing promotions at work multiple years and become a better business woman last year. But I wonder if this method has kept me from really reaching my full potential.
You see, I take exception to one word in the SMART goal setting method – Realistic.
Oxford Dictionary defines realistic as “having or showing a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected.” Just reading that definition gets me worked up. It is #plainjane #boring
What is the fun in living a life that is merely “sensible” or “practical?” The world has NEVER been changed by individuals who acted sensibly or practically. The world changes when people take the road less traveled. Sure, lives can be impacted by sensible and practical people, but the people who make the biggest impact on someone’s life are the people who dare to be different and do what seems impossible.
The world has given us clear directions on what is realistic and to be expected. Wake up. Go to work. Perform your job as best you can. Leave work. Go home. Tend to any people or pets you have. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. You can throw in fun activities, but they need to fit into what is acceptable.
If this makes you happy then I am happy for you. For me however, I can no longer do realistic. Realistic has come to bore me and stifle my potential.
This year, as I make my goals I am still going to employ the SMAAT (pronounced SM-AHT) goal setting method
T: Time Bound
Your goals should be AUDACIOUS! They should seem so impossible when you share them people will be a little confused. Audacious goals make us work harder and keep us dreaming, just as we did when we were a kid. See, I am sure many of you once dreamed big and bold but somewhere along the way you were told that big and bold dreams weren’t for people “like you.” A female. A kid from poverty or from a small town. A kid of color or with a disability. And like that, your dreams became smaller and more practical, reasonable.
I love this quote from Steve Jobs, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." Safe keeps us safe, but audacious can take us places. When executed smartly, audacious can change the course of history.
You were meant to do great things. You were meant to have happiness and success as defined by you. Now, you still need a have a plan to get there but do not let the enormity of your dreams stop you from pursuing them. Could you imagine if our trailblazers listened to those around them telling them to just stop: Sojourner Truth, Booker T Washington, Henry Ford, Madame CJ Walker, The Wilbur Brothers, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep.
This is your year my friend. Whatever you have been holding back on, this is the year it comes out. It is your year to break personal records and impact the lives of those around you. It is your year to see gains in areas of your life that haven’t seen gains in ages. This is your year. Don't be afraid of your audacious goals - go after them and make it happen.