Compassionate Leadership in a Covid-19 World
Leadership right now is a huge responsibility, as work can provide a haven or hell - compassion is the key.
Compassion is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘Suffering together with another, participation in suffering’. During this totally unprecedented time, exceptional leaders will clearly stand out from the average, by their ability to ‘be with’ their teams; suffering (and surviving) together. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on the mental health of your staff in helping them navigate these incredibly uncertain waters. Compassion now, means building a deep level of trust for the future, which is priceless in longer term loyalty and overall team performance.
‘“It turns out that trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.” Brene Brown
Here are 5 key thoughts on how to approach with Leadership with Compassion:
1. Connect & Celebrate
There’s a whole lot of value in the “Morning, how are you?” chats over the first coffee of the day. People working from home may be surrounded by chaos or looking at a wall alone, so set up a quick morning Zoom / Video team catch up (15-30 mins), to run through how everyone is and who is going to be working on what. Add some lightness too – a daily quote or a ‘one word’ check-in from each person will go a long way. Bookend the week with a longer video meeting on Monday and close out on Friday (with virtual drinks if possible!).
Don’t be afraid to do more than you would normally to celebrate success and be positive - goodness knows people will need it.
2. Demonstrate trust
Working from home has varied levels of acceptance from management and organisations. Many will feel they have to prove themselves by creating more email traffic to demonstrate they are working. Great leaders will clearly say “We trust you and know you are working hard”, so will base performance on outputs, not on volume of emails. Everyone can then focus on the work at hand, not their accumulating inboxes.
3. Empower Empower Empower
Set up and discuss a structure for your teams on how you’ll work and support each other. Get input from them too so they are part of the process and use your check-ins to course-correct as required. This will avoid frustration and can provide the rock of sanity that people need. Let this also be an opportunity for your top talent to step up and shine. The trust you put in them now (with support) will go a long way in their motivation levels and enabling their rapid growth.
In the words of Rockefeller, "Disaster is opportunity" – allow your talent to really demonstrate what they can do under pressure.
4. Clarity and Authenticity
What seemed clear before for your teams may have turned upside down now, so don’t assume people know your new path or even which way is up. Massive uncertainty needs a reiteration of expectations, timeframes and in some cases, how to get to your goals. Being transparent, calm and directive when people’s hair is on fire is crucial. But don’t make it up – if you don’t know the answer, say it and figure it out together – your staff will appreciate you being honest and authentic.
5. Patience and Kindness
This pressure cooker environment means everyone is running very high on stress, so be kind and patient. Assume the best, not the worst of people - what they do and how they behave. And if they lose it or make a mistake, its most likely due to the situation they are dealing with in their lives outside of work. As tempers fray over the coming weeks and months, understanding and potentially mediating to reach that understanding, is going to be the name of the game.
The same applies around job security. Many are frightened of losing their jobs, so will be listening attentively to what you are (and what you aren’t) saying. They'll be more sensitive and paranoid than normal. So be mindful to the messages you are giving in terms of future security and don't add to the uncertainty. Make everyone feel that right here, right now, in this moment, we're / they're good. In short, don't manage with fear, manage with kindness.