‘No-one, in my whole professional career has listened to me in that way’ a recent client reflected. ‘My boss is great but she doesn’t have time! It has been so helpful to say out loud what I have been thinking and feeling for a long time and not feel judged. I can see how this (coaching) relationship will be of huge benefit.’
How familiar does this sound to you I wonder? Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you feel there isn’t time to share what you think and feel or to listen to those on your team, besides pleasantries and then turn to what needs to get done that day. It’s true we live in a world where time is a precious resource. We live in a world where others seek solutions quickly. We live in a world where we are measured by the results we achieve sometimes above the way we treat others in achieving those results.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
It is a privilege to listen to others and help them tap into their own resourcefulness, create new liberating beliefs and often breakthrough ideas and actions in service of them growing as individuals and in turn growing their teams and their business. It is what we do as coaches. It is what we can do as leaders, as parents, as human beings for one another. It doesn’t take a lot of time, some time, but not a lot of time.
Time is the currency of leadership.
Listening is a powerful process. An innate skill. A way to show compassion. When we listen to another it shows how much we care. It shows our respect for who they are. When people feel cared for and respected, they will add value to themselves, their teams and the business.
Listening well, with empathy, free from judgement is not reserved for coaches. Compassion is not a behaviour reserved for coaches. Each of us in our way can try to spread compassion into people’s hearts. Showing compassion is where value is added.
The Dalai Lama suggests: “True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment characterised by action”.
I remember, more than 25 years ago now, when part of my role was to allocate secretarial support on a weekly basis to partners if their regular secretary was absent that week. For various reasons, this particular Monday morning, one of our senior partners was without a secretary. It became clear we were unable to allocate a dedicated secretary to him for that day. I had to make the call and let him know. I was dreading it as he had a reputation for not accepting ‘no’ as an answer! I plucked up the courage and made the call. I explained the situation, acknowledged his frustration and let him know that if dedicated secretarial cover became available, I’d be in touch.
My message was not well received. In fact, he hit the roof! He yelled at the top of his voice suggesting that this was simply not good enough. I felt terrible. Not only was his secretary unwell, I was unable to free up secretarial cover from the team given their commitments to other partners. At that moment, I wanted the floor to open and swallow me up.
As I began to gather myself, my leader, the head of the department walked passed my desk. She could tell something was up and invited me into her office. She asked me what had happened. She listened. She listened with empathy. She knew the partner well. She knew me well. She cast no judgement. She trusted me in that I had done all I could to resolve the situation and thanked me for my efforts and for treating the partner with respect, despite him yelling at me! She made a call and arranged to see the partner there and then! I was to go with her.
As I walked to his office alongside my leader, I felt my stomach turn. I didn’t like confrontation. I didn’t like conflict. As we entered his office, my leader spoke. She introduced me afresh, explained my role and how I had endeavoured to resolve the situation. She asked him never to treat me like he had just treated me again! And then she listened to him. Without the need for any explanation, he apologised without hesitation. Together we figured out a way where his work could be attended to without a dedicated secretary that day.
My leader acted with compassion. She listened. She cared for me. She showed me the way. She responded with kindness. She taught me how to confront another in making a powerful request and listening. I will always remember her compassion. Her leadership. The trust she had in me. Because of her, at that moment I grew as a person and in the months ahead became the leader she had been to me.
Each of us in our way can try to spread compassion into people’s hearts. It doesn’t have to take long. Below are three simple ways you can make a difference today through being compassionate.
- Take just 5 minutes to think about and then acknowledge someone for who they are as well what they accomplished. It will make a difference to their day!
- Notice when things are not going well for someone on your team and encourage them to share their frustrations and listen. Not listening simply to reply, rather listening to generate their own thinking for a way forward.
- Be a role model and care for someone on your team. When the chips are down and things are tough. Do the right thing. The story I shared above is more than 25 years ago and I still, to this day, remember how I felt cared for.
Let me ask you what if there was more compassion within your organisation? What if there was more compassion within your team? What if you were more compassionate?