I was three months pregnant with twins when I got a phone call at work saying I needed to come home; my mom was gravely ill. After I hung up with my dad, I tried calling my husband. The gym office was busy each time I tried. After several attempts, I gave up, closed the door to the small conference room, and with tears in my eyes told the secretary I needed to leave. I uttered the words that my father said, “your mom is very sick, and she’s asking for you. I think you need to come now.”
I left that day and didn’t return for two weeks, after my mother’s funeral.
Normally the hour and a half drive is simple and quick. That day, my racing thoughts tortured me for the entire drive. Shelly, the secretary, was able to get in touch with my husband, so he wasn’t too far behind me. His school’s response was the same as mine: “Go, now.”
Each of our respective schools offered so much love and support during our time of need. My coworkers and teammates picked up my work load, sent flowers and cards, and many made the drive to attend the funeral. One friend even reached out to my obstetrician’s office to let them know of my situation, wondering if this stress would affect the twins.
Looking back, it was the compassion and kindness of my coworkers that kept me going after losing my mom.
I have been extremely fortunate; I have worked in organizations that value kindness and compassion in the work place. However, for many, that is not the case.
The symptoms are everywhere. Work place memes on social media often depict sad employees not wanting to go back to work. “TGIF” is something many can identify with and heard frequently in the work place. Many people dread going to work and look forward to their time outside of work. A recent Gallop poll showed less than 30% of people are engaged in their work. They feel devalued, not listened to and disrespected. How can we change this reality for so many?
Instead of creating a dog-eat-dog environment, focus on compassion, not pressure, to motivate and inspire colleagues. Hidden leaders will be more compelled to step forward in an environment that values building trusting relationships rather than the cut-throat atmosphere that is evident in many workplaces.
A compassionate environment helps create a positive work culture, improves working relationships and reduces stress. A compassionate workplace is a win-win for everyone.
Here are some simple tips to begin creating a compassionate work culture to inspire your hidden leaders.
Begin making deposits into people’s emotional bank account, a metaphor coin by Stephen Covey. You can make deposits through kindness, courtesy, being honest and keeping promises. Doing this allows you to build trusting, long-lasting relationships with colleagues.
Start small. According to business professor Adam Grant, the most successful ‘givers’ don’t try to be Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Creating a compassionate workplace can begin with making it a goal to smile and say good morning to every co-worker every day.
Be Kind To Yourself
Sometimes our biggest enemy is ourselves. Negative self-talk can derail our best effort to maintain kindness and compassion. The more self-compassion we have, the more we can give to others. We must also make deposits into our own emotional bank account to be able to make deposits into other’s accounts. Make time for yourself to do the things that inspire and nurture both body and mind.
Assume the best in people
It can be tempting to see negative first. Dwelling in bitterness and negativity seems to be easier than giving someone the benefit of the doubt. However, most people really do have good intentions. People often live up to your expectations. By focusing on the good intentions of others, you are creating a positive and compassionate frame of mind.
Make compassionate decisions whenever possible. Before acting ask yourself some reflective questions, What is our motivation? Are there any harmful implications from this decision? How would I feel if I was on the receiving end of this decision?
Compassion is contagious. If we begin with these simple steps, creating a compassionate workplace will begin to take on a life of its own. Creating environments where people feel inspired, cared for and celebrated allow for hidden leaders to emerge and be agents of change.
Don’t wait for an illness or tragedy to bring compassion into the work place. The start of the year can be filled with uncertainty and stress. This is a time when colleagues need kindness and compassion the most. As we wrap up this first week of school, reflect on how you can fold compassion into your everyday routine. Compassion and kindness need purposeful, daily practice to become deeply rooted and valued if we want to truly inspire and cultivate leadership.