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Leadership is a skill, a commitment to thinking, communicating and behaving in a way that empowers the people within your team to play to their strengths while showing them they are valued, heard and understood.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many challenges, it’s impacted each and every one of us in unexpected ways.

For me, I have a business in tourism, Margaret Rivers’ wellness retreat, Chalet on Percheron  and a practice in speaking, presenting and coaching in workplace wellness. Two industries that have been majorly impacted during this time. After almost losing everything in 2008 during the GFC I made the decision to act quickly and return to work in the mining industry.

What I’ve seen and experienced during this time as a workplace wellness expert has been concerning. Some rosters became longer, there were dietary changes as the regular service and food options changed, working conditions were changing on an hourly rate. For many who live in other states of Australia or overseas, they found themselves spending their rest and recreation time in hotel rooms totally isolated during lockdown, trying to come to terms with the uncertainty of when they’ll be reunited with their families and loved ones.

One of the most frustrating and saddening things I’ve experienced and witnessed has been the inability of many leaders to lead with compassion during this time.

On a recent trip away, I was asked to facilitate a series of workshops on mindfulness and resilience. When I arrived at site, I was informed by the company I worked for that my workshops had been cancelled due to the new cleaning requirements. Instead of delivering programs in workplace wellness, which I was contracted to do I was assigned the task of cleaning and sanitising hourly.

Disappointed and frustrated I approached management to express my grievances, only to be told we were in “unprecedented times; I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture and that many other people didn’t have a job during this time.”

It’s fair to say these words only added to my disappointment and frustration and didn’t serve either of us in getting the best result for the residents in that mining village.

The picture I was seeing, was many people in need of stress management tools, ways to cope with the uncertainty they faced and a person to talk to, to hold space for them while they made sense of the situation. While cleaning and sanitising is an important task, in my view, anyone could do this task, while delivering wellness programs required a different skill set all together.

While I don’t hold that managers comments against him personally, as I believe he was communicating with me in the only way he knew how, I didn’t feel heard, valued or understood.

To leadWELL and get the best from your people it’s vital to lead with compassion.

So, what is Compassionate Leadership and how can you help your people to lead from their heart and head in a mindful way?

Compassionate Leadership has been developed from mindfulness, thanks to the  wonderful work of Jon Kabat – Zinn in Mindfulness – Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Unlike empathy (where you feel another person’s suffering even when its uncomfortable), compassion is more of an action that has 3 components to it:

  1. Listen to understand
  2. Empathising with another’s problem
  3. An authentic desire to help

A compassionate leader knows and understands that every team member within the organisation is important, they seek to understand, influence and empower their people. They offer hope and inspiration while guiding, acknowledging and supporting team members to play to their strengths to enjoy work they’re passionate about and to show their people that they are the vital threads in the fabric of the organisation. A compassionate leader looks for ways to work together to create solutions to problems that arise.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the 3 components of compassion.

Listen to understand

We all love being listened to but few of us are very good at listening ourselves, we’re usually too busy thinking about what we’re going to say next, making judgements about what the person is saying or distracted by something else altogether.

When talking to your team, really listen to what they are saying, give them your full attention. Seek to understand everything they are saying without the need to minimise, listen to their perspectives, what motivates them and what’s getting in their way.

We feel it when someone is really listening to what we are saying, and we know when the listener has drifted off or is waiting for the opportunity to say their piece.

Empathising with another’s problem

Cultivate a culture of empathy. When empathy is demonstrated, defence mechanisms drop, trust builds, and healthy relationships are forged. Empathy softens the heart and mind opening the doors to productive communication.

Take time to find out more about your people, what interests them, what stokes the fire in their belly, learn more about things that have majorly impacted their lives. This demonstrates you care and helps your team to understand each other’s differences.

Authentic desire to help

Be brave and show your vulnerability. If something is out of your control, admit it. I knew that managers hands were tied, the issue was staff limitations and budget constraints.

We don’t always have the answers, but we can demonstrate a willingness to learn and find out. Be perfectly imperfect.

Know your strengths and weaknesses and help your team discover theirs. Empower your people to develop into the best version of themselves and allow them to grow professionally and personally. Lead from a space of abundance not scarcity, courage not fear and hope not despair.

Suspend your stories and judgements and maintain the understanding that we are all making our way through life in the best way we know how. The compassionate leader’s role is to help each person on their team find the giant sleeping within.

“Leadership is lifting a persons vision to higher sights, the raising of a persons performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. – Peter F. Drucker

Where to from here?

I deliver a range of workplace wellness workshops to help your organisation workWELL. LeadWELL – The 7 habits of healthy leadership a workshop for leaders who want to step up and play a bigger game.

Rebecca Hannan is known as The Momentum Maker.

Your workplace wellness expert. Specialising in working with organisations and whole communities to take back control of your life so you can live and work WELL.

Rebeca’s passion and enthusiasm for living and working well is infectious. Her mission is to educate, inspire and empower you to take back control of your life so you can live and lead a life of wellness.

She is the author of The 30 Day Momentum Maker Challenge workbook. A book crafted with love to help you get out of your funk and into your flow.

Wife, mother, entrepreneur, runner, yoga lover, salad queen, chaos buster………The Momentum Maker