Via Forbes: Five Steps To Improve Your Leadership Skills In The New Decade
A new decade has arrived, which makes it the perfect time to take a step back from the day-to-day hustle and bustle of running your business and finetune your leadership skills so your business and employees can thrive.
The speed of technological, economic and social change in the 2020s will force executives to improve how they retain and develop their most valuable asset: their employees. There’s no way around it.
When I was writing my book Vitamin B (For Business), I devoted many passages to the art of leading teams to achieve company goals. While leaders decide the company’s strategy, it’s the attitude and actions of your team members that determine whether the business succeeds.
Here are five steps that will guide you in building your business, developing the talents of your team members and improving your leadership skills:
1. Create a sense of purpose.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to establish a work environment in which all team members embrace the company’s purpose and values. When team members buy into the company’s foundational principles and understand how to live them out, they’re more likely to give the extra effort needed to help the company grow. If you’re not doing it already, display your company’s purpose, values and mission where everyone can see it so they’ll be reminded of what they’re working for and why it’s important.
2. Achieve your company’s ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ (BHAG).
Every company should have a long-term goal (think 10-15 years) that will transform the business and that all employees can easily understand. What do you want to accomplish by the next decade? Reaching your “Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), a term popularized by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras in their book Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, requires a written strategic plan that outlines the steps needed to accomplish the ultimate objective. Now is the time to review your BHAG to see if you’re on track. Take a close look at the shorter-term goals in the plan to make sure they are still SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).
3. Develop the leadership skills of your team.
Repeat after me: “I can’t do it alone.” You may have been wildly successful at building your businesses to this point, but in the future, your company will go only as far as the talent, drive and ideas of your team members. Make the 2020s the decade you help your team members improve their skills. Empower them to grow professionally and take on new challenges. Find money in the budget to fund professional development activities (conferences, online classes, memberships in trade organizations, etc.) for team members. The return on investment may be hard to quantify, but believe me, the increased passion and commitment will pay dividends down the road.
4. Stay on top of technology trends.
I’m not a futurist, but it’s a safe bet that advances in science and technology will change how you do business this decade. Artificial intelligence, for example, has made a lasting impact on manufacturing, health care, agriculture and telecommunications. It’s hard to believe that Siri and Alexa came into our lives in just the last decade.
At some time during the 2020s, your business will be disrupted by new competitors taking advantage of technology that you are not using. Enhance your leadership skills by looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. Test new platforms and methods to deliver your product or service and manage company operations. Playing it safe is not an option.
5. Lead by example.
In my experience as an entrepreneur and business coach, I’ve learned one critical lesson: The leadership skills that got you this far in life will not get you to where you want to be during the next decade. Starting this year, get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn new skills. Identify three new areas of improvement and create a comprehensive list of clearly defined, measurable tasks that will lead you to achieve each goal. Your team members will likely follow suit and increase their energy and commitment when they see you learning new skills.
Steve Jobs once said, “If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” Use this decade to improve your leadership skills so your vision pulls you, your team members and your company to greater success.
Via INC : 5 Signs That Instantly Identify Someone With Good Leadership Skills
For starters, do you foster a culture of transparency?
Whether you subscribe to the notion that “everything rises and falls on leadership” or that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (and, I might add, lunch, dinner, and the midnight snack), no company on the planet can grow without growing leaders first.
While the word leadership conveys hundreds of possible scenarios about what a leader is or does, I posit that the best leaders are people-centered; they aspire to lead by serving others first, and everything else follows to exceptional results.
In the words of Robert K. Greenleaf, the man who kicked the servant leadership movement into high gear decades ago, “The servant-leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
Here’s my most recent list of what I feel makes a great servant leader and, in turn, how instantly identifiable they become in the eyes of their followers.
I recently connected with David Graham, founder and CEO of Code Ninjas. He starts his brainstorming meetings with the hard truth: eliminating any tension with his team by being transparent, and opening every brainstorm by announcing that 90 percent of what his staff is going to say is never going to happen.
“There are no stupid ideas, so just let them flow. You never know what you might say that will inspire someone else, even if your idea was a flop,” Graham tells his team.
When an idea strikes a chord, he has four simple questions to ask his employees to determine if it’ll get pursued: How is it going to fail? Can we mitigate the failures? Is it in our realm of expertise? And is it on brand?
2. Sharing the decision-making process
Traditionally, an autocratic style of management has been effective in getting results. But the nature of work today, along with its workforce, has changed. Success in management today requires collaboration — not command. Asking people to take part in deciding the goals that they will be a part of is an essential component to engaging employees.
3. Listening without distractions
Before you assume you’re fit to lead, you have to ask yourself, Am I a good listener? Because if you’re going to lead, you need to be.
Recent research published in Harvard Business Review supports evidence that leaders who listen well “are perceived as people leaders, generate more trust, instill higher job satisfaction, and increase their team’s creativity.”
One reason leaders don’t listen more in the workplace is that they think they’ll be perceived as weak or without authority. Another reason is that they are simply under time pressure or distracted by other thoughts.
The first step to becoming a better listener is to eliminate the noise — from your distracted mind and your physical and digital environment.
4. Creating a friendship culture
Employee burnout is a real threat to the well-being of today’s workers. Recent research conducted by Gallup found that 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means up to two-thirds of your employees could be experiencing burnout on the job at any one time.
Leaders are now faced with fostering a healthy environment for happy employees to perform at a high level. One of those leaders is Shawn Riegsecker, CEO and founder of Chicago-based ad tech provider Centro.
Riegsecker shared with me the idea of establishing a workplace where friendships are developed for competitive advantage, or, as he puts it, a “culture of professional intimacy.”
Sounds soft and fuzzy, but what he’s getting at is backed by science. Office friendships boost individual performance and increase lifetime happiness. A recent Gallup study found that women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged than women who don’t. Look beyond the bottom line to create an office that encourages friendships in and out of the office.
5. Flexing self-awareness muscles
Improving self-awareness is an emotional journey but can be incredibly rewarding. One of my favorite executives I’ve featured in my column a few times is Chuck Runyon, the extremely self-aware CEO of the multibillion-dollar Self Esteem Brands, parent company to Anytime Fitness, Waxing the City, and Basecamp Fitness.
“Just as you have to work out consistently to build muscles, you have to actively work on improving your leadership, too,” notes Runyon. In a previous column, he shared five steps to becoming more self-aware, which will help in your interactions with employees, colleagues, customers, and investors.
One of those steps is to know your team members on an intimate level in order to build them up, because a business is only as strong as its people.
Runyon shares: “Get in the weeds with them, celebrate their wins, and be there for them if they fail. Encourage and empower them to take risks in order to continue improving and advancing. Provide opportunities for professional development such as conferences, events, and courses for personal growth.”
Via SMARP : Leadership Communication: How to Build Trust in the Workplace
Effective leadership communication is one of the biggest drivers of company success. Leaders are the ones responsible for building trust within organizations and, therefore, improving employee engagement and experience.
What Is Leadership Communication?
Leadership communication is transfer of information, data and knowledge by which leaders are influencing their colleagues, teams or entire organization.
Good leadership communication involves understanding people and their styles, understanding culture, being well informed, holding meetings and driving organizational alignment.
The Importance of Leadership Communication
Communication is one of the most important skills a leader can have. If a leader is incapable of communicating with his or her peers, company’s overall strategy, mission and goals may never be achieved.
Great leaders need to be good communicators because they have the responsibility to drive efficient communication among all the members of the organization.
For someone to become a good leader it takes constant improvement of many communication forms, such as: non-verbal communication, listening, counselling, speaking, writing, etc.
Barriers to Effective Leadership Communication
It is not easy to achieve effective leadership communication. That is especially true within large corporations with employees across the world.
Here are some of the main barriers to effective leadership communication.
Lack of trust
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, both personal and professional, and when it’s broken, it is extremely hard to repair.
Therefore, one of the main goals of corporate leaders is to build trust within their organizations.
One the other side, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer showed in a survey of 33,000 individuals in 28 countries that almost 1 in 3 employees don’t trust their employers.
Effective leadership communication is the best way for leaders to build trust with employees.
Lack of clarity
Being too ambiguous is one of the biggest barriers to effective leadership communication. Leaders who are unable to express themselves with clarity and precision, struggle to motivate their teams and keep them engaged.
Lack of transparency
50% of employees say that a lack of transparency holds their company back. Therefore, effective leadership communication should strive towards embedding workplace transparency into the corporate culture.
They should share company news including milestones, events, personnel changes, innovations and even challenges. However, this is not easy to do while avoiding overload of irrelevant information.
Overload of irrelevant communication
Not every employee should get all the information about the company. Some information is simply not relevant to certain employees.
Too much irrelevant information often leads to employee frustration and decrease in productivity.
On the other side, being able to filter information and communicate it efficiently is not easy without the right tools.
Wrong communication technology
Some businesses are still using outdated communication tools. In addition, many organizations use multiple internal communication and document sharing tools.
Today, leaders need modern internal communications solutions that enable both leaders and employees to communicate efficiently and have an easy access to all important information.
Most emails that employees receive don’t deserve their immediate attention. For that reason, it is common for employees to miss out on important information.
9 Ways to Build Trust with Effective Leadership Communication
Poor leadership communication is often the biggest reason for lack of trust within organizations.
Here is what you can do to make your company and leadership communications more trustworthy.
1. Be transparent
Strong leaders are transparent in their communications. Employees need for CEOs to improve trust by behaving in a transparent manner, treating employees well, and taking responsible actions to address issues or crises.
Luckily, organizations can easily get access to new internal communication technologies that can be used to increase transparency across organizations, locations and systems.
2. Be specific
Being clear and specific is crucial for effective leadership communication. Make sure you are as specific and as clear as possible. Leaders who are able to communicate with clarity and conciseness are much better in avoiding confusion or misunderstanding in the future.
Moreover, 71% of employees believe that their leaders do not spend enough time communicating goals and plans.
3. Listen and support two-way communication
The imperative of every strong leadership communication is the ability for leaders to create a safe space for open dialogue. When employees are talking to you, make sure you are listening. This type of engagement establishes a meaningful trust and respect between leaders and employees.
Listening means nothing if you are not encouraging two-way communication. Millennials and younger generations want to be able to express themselves and share their ideas with others.
4. Give feedback
Leaders should strive towards giving meaningful feedback to their employees and feedback is essential for building trust in the workplace.
For example, if you are expecting your employees to adopt certain new behaviors related to culture transformation, they you get feedback and recognition for embedding the new behaviors.
This approach will help employees to develop a trusting and authentic workplace relationship.
Consider introducing communication tools that encourage feedback and employee communication in an instant way.
Asking for feedback, on the other side, can be tricky. The damage happens when a leader asks for feedback and then either does nothing to improve him or herself or attempts to identify the source of criticism and punish it.
5. Make important information easily accessible
Today’s workforce expects information to be easily accessible and found. Whatever leadership communicates, this information should be at employees’ fingertips whenever they need it.
Many organizations today use numerous tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Jive Sharepoint, Facebook Workplace, intranets, Social Media platforms and many other tools to share and deliver important information.
Now, the focus should be to have the content from all these platforms in a single place.
If information can not be easily found, it will get lost. In order to make sure that employees stay engaged and informed, leaders need to make sure to provide efficient communication tools.
6. Choose the right communication technology
Modern communication tools like Smarp enable leaders to deliver relevant information to their employees. On the other side, they enable employees to easily access important information from anywhere.
When choosing a communication tool to improve leadership communication, have your employees in mind. Millennials in the workplace and used to accessing everything on their phones, so should your communication solution be mobile-first.
Employers that don’t understand how social enterprise tools work, fall behind in efficient internal communications. Leaders must be aware of how these tools are transforming cultures, employee behaviors and supporting teamwork and collaboration.
7. Be personal
The most effective leadership communications are those that connect with the audience. The more personal and engaging your conversation with employees is, the better.
Communicating on a deeper level helps displaying a strong level of authenticity and transparency that establishes a sense of trust between a leader and an employee.
8. Measure trustworthiness
Leaders, with the help of HR professionals can create a greater awareness of trust issues. In the near future, we may see organizations measure trustworthiness as they now assess engagement. Such a metric would give companies an advance warning system for problems.
9. Measure engagement
Can you measure the performance of your internal communications messages? Can you measure what type of content triggers employee interest?
Internal communications play a big role in driving employee engagement. However, they need to be able to measure what drives engagement.
Sending internal newsletter that no one reads makes no sense. Therefore, you should measure and test both the content and channels that employees prefer to communicate internally.
8 Consequences of Poor Leadership Communication
Poor leadership communication and lack of trust within organizations have a very negative impact on employee engagement, and therefore, business performance.
Below are just a few consequences of poor leadership communication:
1. Decrease in employee engagement
Engagement starts at the top, where the culture of the organization is formed. Since lack of communication is one of the main reasons why employees are disengaged, leaders now must build a solid foundation where employee engagement can thrive.
Remember, leadership engagement equals employee engagement.
2. Decrease in employee motivation
85% of employees said they’re most motivated when management and leadership offer regular updates on company news. Employee awareness of company goals and challenges accompanied by a clear definition of their role, leads to increase in employee motivation.
3. Lower employee productivity
Employee engagement is one of the top drivers of business growth. In fact, companies that have highly effective internal leadership communications had 47% higher total returns to stakeholders.
When the employees buy into the company’s goals and consider them their own, they are more likely to achieve their own goals.
4. Increased employee turnover
Lack of trust and poor communication are some of the biggest reasons why employees leave their companies.
Moreover, 81% of employees say that they would rather choose a company that encourages open communication than a company that has good perks such as health plans, free food and gym memberships.
5. Harder employee attraction
An Atlassian survey demonstrated that 87% of people want to work for transparent companies. The more trust and transparency leaders manage to embed into company values and culture, the easier it gets to attract and retain talent within companies.
6. Poor reputation as employer
In addition to lack of engagement, morale and employee retention, John Blakey, the author of The Trusted Executive, says that the lack of trust within organizations can harm the overall company’s long-term reputation.
7. Inefficient change management
According to research, two thirds of employees don’t receive sufficient information during corporate change. On the other side, effective change management is crucial for business success and employee engagement during the change processes.
Communicating changes within organization is leaders’ homework, and the only way to be successful in doing so by improving leadership communication.
According to research, companies with effective change and communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
8. Higher financial losses
Poor leadership communication also results in higher efficiencies and financial loss.
A survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.
In addition, a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, translating to an annual cost of $528,443.
Via Forbes : Things Every Boss Should Do To Avoid Being A Nightmare To Work For
I was chatting with a new manager the other day, who was so excited at having just hired his first direct report. Looking for tips on how to be a great boss, he said, “Karlyn, I really don’t want to be a nightmare to work for.”
No one wants to be a bad boss because most of us know what it’s like to work for a nightmare manager. Yet, as many as 65% of American workers would choose firing their boss over getting a pay raise. There is an obvious disconnect between how managers want to be perceived by their team, and the reality manifesting in the workplace.
If you’re committed to doing it better, here are a few human strategies to work into your management approach.
According to a study from Dale Carnegie Training, 88% of people want to work for a leader who truly listens to their employees. Only 60% say they do. When it comes to listening, perception is reality. So, make sure you’re setting the stage to give the full impression that you’re being attentive. That means getting rid of distractions, like your computer or your phone. You might assume that taking notes on your laptop in a meeting is no big deal. However, to your employees, it’s a clear sign that you’re not fully present. At a minimum, they usually assume you’re checking your email when you should be giving them your full attention.
Next, demonstrate you’re listening by engaging in the conversation to fully understand their perspective. Ask thoughtful questions about what they’re telling you to dig past the surface and to make sure you’re not making any assumptions. This shows through your actions that you’re taking in what they have to say. And if they say something you disagree with, try to keep the conversation focused on possibilities and finding common ground. Instead of turning it into a debate, or issuing an edict, ask a question: “What if we tried it like this? What do you think?”
Finally, wrap the chat by repeating back to them the main talking points of the chat: “Here’s what I heard you say. Do I have that right?”
Adapt your approach.
Everyone comes to work with different preferences and tendencies in their approach to managing tasks and projects, as well as in how they communicate and receive information. Sometimes you get lucky, and the people reporting to you have a similar work style. That means you can approach them in the same way that you’d like to be approached. But, most of the time, you’re going to have team members that simply like to do things differently. Resist making the assuming what works for you will also work for them.
Your goal as a manager is to get the best out of your team members. That only works when you’re adapting your management approach – for motivating, developing, and delegating – to each person reporting to you.
That might sound complicated, but luckily we have the tools to make this really easy. Use a work style assessment like the DISC Profile to remove the guesswork. It will help you to understand your work style, your team’s work style, and come up with a clear adaptation plan.
Meet weekly one-on-one.
I know, I know. You don’t need another meeting on your calendar. But a weekly one-on-one meeting with each person who reports directly to you is a meeting you can’t afford to miss. They are a critical element in the success of the team, and the success of the manager/employee relationship. Never assume that an open-door policy is enough to keep the lines of communication open.
It’s always apparent when I’m working with a manager who is not having weekly one-on-one meetings. Here the things I hear from their team members:
- “I never get face time with my boss.”
- “I wish I got more feedback from my manager.”
- “I don’t know how to prioritize my workload.”
- “They don’t care about me.”
The purpose of a weekly meeting is not just to get a quick update about their projects and tasks. It’s to provide the foundation for a working relationship built on trust and transparent communication, a venue to offer ongoing, consistent, and timely feedback, and to offer each member of your team your undivided attention so that they feel they have the support they need to succeed.
We make time for the essential things. The weekly one-on-one is one of those things you need to make time for.
Ask for feedback.
Face it: You’re not perfect. There is always room for improvement, and the best bosses go right to the source for guidance. That’s why you should make asking for feedback from your team members a regular practice.
Receiving feedback can be a downright terrifying proposition, but most often, the anticipation is the worst part. Once you try it, you’ll see that there’s nothing to be afraid of. You could even do it in your one-on-one weekly meeting once a quarter as a routine conversation by asking your team members the following questions:
- What am I doing that you like?
- What am I doing that you don’t like?
- What should I start doing that I’m not doing already?
This simple structure allows you to ensure you’re getting a little bit of good feedback, a little critical, and some new ideas to consider. The critical stuff might be tough to hear, but that’s part of the burden you take on when you accept the job of being a manager. And consider this too, if you’re still feeling anxious: Your team wants you to be a great boss. It’s in their best interest to help you.
In a world where instant gratification rules the day, patience is indeed a virtue. This is particularly true when it comes to managing people and guiding and supporting them to achieve their best results.
But what does a patient manager look like in practice? Here are some ideas:
- A patient manager makes the time to hear their employees out when they have concerns. They seek to understand and appreciate their point of view, even if they don’t agree with it.
- A patient manager practices empathy, understanding it will lift their team up when things get tough.
- A patient manager takes the time to teach their team new skills through conversations, coaching, and development opportunities. They do so knowing that learning something new takes time and are there to offer guidance and support when mistakes are made.
- A patient manager knows that when behavior change is required for their team members to be successful, it takes time. And often, the cost of that time is less than replacing the person with someone new.
That’s not to say that patience should be unlimited. If someone has been given a chance to succeed time and time again and is still not stepping up to the plate, that is certainly something that must be dealt with. However, it’s important not to skip over the patience step. Patience creates the opportunity and space for an employee to contribute their best work, knowing their boss as their back.
Finally, be consistent.
Let’s be honest: Most people at work are busy. Your days are likely filled will meetings and pressing deadlines, and it seems impossible to keep up with all of it. And that’s why, many times, it’s hard to keep up with the steps we’ve already explored. You might cancel your weekly meetings or lose your cool when things get stressful or put off with your regular round of asking for feedback. These are very human mistakes to make.
However, the best managers make committing to consistent positive behaviors a priority, even on a busy day. Your number one job as a boss is to be there to support the success of your team. Keep yourself honest about committing to these behaviors by checking in with yourself. At the end of every day, document what you did to support your team that day. Make a list to keep track of what you’ve done and give yourself a big pat on the back every time you make progress.
Via Forbes : The Response To Workplace Burnout Is Compassionate Leadership
Uvinie Lubecki created a leadership curriculum based on the teachings of the Dalai Lama. She and I met on LinkedIn and have been able to transform a social media connection into an authentic friendship and collaboration. This post is an interview that goes deeper into her unique story while providing insights from one of the thought-leaders in the compassionate workplace movement.
Our journey began about six months ago with her reaching out after my first Forbes.com post while I was being impressed with her thoughtfulness in her Wisdom 2.0 talk. Our direct messaging shifted to bi-coastal Zoom conversations and now, we are working experimentally and deliberately on a podcast called the Buddhist and the Pagan.
Why compassionate leadership? Why now?
If we do not look at our humanity – what we’re doing to ourselves and to the people we work with and for, we’re looking at a bleak future. Our economic growth is not going to come from producing more, but from creativity and innovation to rethink how we live and work. This cannot come about by treating ourselves and employees like machines. We’re seeing the impact of that. We are burning out, so much so that even the WHO has now recognized it as an occupational phenomenon. Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. Increasing incentives and adding more perks will not solve this challenge. We need a new model of leadership, one that enhances our innate human potential while honoring our human limitations. This will require a paradigm shift. To make this change toward a new way of working and leading, we’re going to have to look at our underlying fears and beliefs that keep us stuck in old patterns and worldviews. Our generation has grown up with a worldview steeped in striving, individual performance, succeeding at all costs, and that looks like more money, more power, more status. It is a mindset based on fear and scarcity. To shift this mindset to a new way of leading, we need to transform these fears and reconnect to what gives us meaning and purpose. This is where compassion comes in. Compassion provides the space to understand and recognize our own suffering in order to be of more benefit to ourselves and others. Only by cultivating compassion can we lead sustainable organizations and build workplaces that nurture and cherish true innovation and creativity.
How do you go about doing that in an organization?
We need to start by redefining compassion in leadership. In a survey we conducted, over 80% of leaders misunderstood compassion to mean “being nice or soft” or “loving everyone.” This is not true. Compassion can look fierce or gentle, but it always has an intention to benefit oneself and others. We define compassionate leadership as understanding what you and others are going through, feeling for yourself and others in a genuine way, and taking action to help you and others to be successful. Unless we redefine what compassion means for leaders, bringing it into organizations will be difficult because leaders will misunderstand compassion to be counterproductive to getting things done.
Once we redefine compassion, we can start to apply it in our leadership. Thankfully, we now have scientific research that shows strengthening compassion is not only possible but trainable. In addition, there are evidence-based practices that we can incorporate in our daily lives that can enhance our compassion, resulting in improved wellbeing, resilience, and connection to others. We need more tools and methods to translate compassion into applied leadership behaviors and study their impact over time on business performance. This needs to happen in the real world in order to be impactful. The first step is for leadership teams to cultivate compassion for themselves so that it becomes embodied. When it is embodied, I’ve seen how leaders transform and recognize and define for themselves how compassion can shift their own thinking and way of leading. This is crucial work before we can scale compassionate leadership across organizations. If leaders do not walk the talk and shift how they treat themselves, they do not provide the safety or permission for the rest of the organization to change. Once leaders are able to cultivate and embody compassion for themselves, then it becomes possible to bring these practices in a scalable way to teams and individuals.
How did you become a compassionate leadership expert/trainer? What is your background?
I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Ithaca, New York when I was two years old. When I was six, we moved to Lagos, Nigeria. At the time, Nigeria was facing massive civilian unrest and political instability. It was the first time I had seen abject poverty. Amidst such suffering, compassion was the only way to stay sane. I didn’t understand that at the time. More than two decades later, I joined the executive team for a business unit within McKesson. I suddenly had everything I thought I had wanted – a loving husband, a home in San Francisco, and a leadership position at a Fortune 10 company transforming health care.
Yet, after some time, I was surprised to find myself absolutely miserable. I was burning out and the leadership model I was being groomed in didn’t show a way out. I became obsessed with a question – how do leaders, with all of the demands made on them, all of the responsibility they hold, and all of the decisions they need to make, stay connected to each other and the people they serve? One day, I was driving over the Bay Bridge and a voice in my head said that I needed to leave to find the answer. After a circuitous path involving going to South India to receive teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, creating a leadership curriculum based on mindfulness and compassion for a leadership development organization called Dalai Lama Fellows, and extensive periods of meditation, I rediscovered the power of compassion. I learned how you can use compassion not just to face suffering from poverty or illness, but to overcome the kind of intense mental suffering leaders undergo today. Much of what keeps leaders in a cycle of suffering is the responsibility they feel they need to individually hold and the personal sacrifices they feel they need to make to ensure their organizations thrive. In addition, leaders are often shamed and blamed because they are noticed most when they mess up. I started developing a compassionate leadership curriculum for leaders because I believe genuine compassion for leaders is rare and needed. A few years later, I founded Leading Through Connection.
What is one action we can take to start leading with compassion?
The first step to compassion is self-compassion. The lens through which we see ourselves is the same lens through which we see others. If we can extend kindness toward ourselves as leaders and recognize when things get tough that we’re doing our best and that our intention is to be of benefit, this can be a powerful practice. This practice can bring space, take us out of fear and judgment, and over time, it can transform our views of ourselves. Ironically, this small habit of self-compassion will do as much for others as for oneself. As the Dalai Lama loves to say, “If you want to be happy, practice compassion. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.”
Take her advice and think about one specific thing you can do in the next seven days to be more self-compassionate. It can be fierce such as standing up to a critic or more gentle, like taking more time to to be in nature.