It is not rare to see unrealistic goals and expectations thrust on someone; unforeseen situations unfold and one finds oneself clueless in dealing with the complex situations and hard problems; events take an unfortunate turn and one feels like a fish out of water. What do we do in such situations? Do we empathise, put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and feel the pain? Some people come forward to lend their ears, sympathise with the person and offer comforting words with the hope that the person will feel better and rise. Some offer suggestions, offer examples from the past and try extending a hand to pick the person from the quandary. These are different approaches to dealing with someone who is dealing with a problem. What works well in the setting of an organisation?
Can we see the pain of others?
People get ensnared in office politics, run into difficult interpersonal relationships with customers or some important stakeholders at work, and receive some unrealistic deadlines despite the best efforts to drive pragmatism among others and many such situations just flow down to one’s desk. They run to their bosses if they have a decent working relationship there. They speak to colleagues and friends either out of frustration or in a genuine quest for solutions.
Leaders stand tall when they listen and see the pain of others. Research has shown that such behaviours among leaders help create higher engagement among employees and create a greater degree of affinity in them towards the organisation. Yet many leaders do not adopt this in their style. They ignore the feelings of their team members and keep pushing their agenda single-mindedly. As a result, we see employees burn out faster and they are willing to leave their job to try out something else that promises a greener pasture.
Empathy is not a great approach
Leaders have to listen to their team members, care for their feelings and help them get over the painful moments and difficult situations. And at the same time, they have the responsibility of delivering business results which are rarely easy to achieve, rather are often stretched goals. So, they need to act in a balanced manner such that the goals do not take a back seat and at the same time, the team feels heard, emotionally connected with the organisation and experiences a hand of support.
The empathetic approach of a leader transports them into the world of pain, suffering and worries of their team members. The leader feels driven toward solving the issues of the team and often compromises one’s focus on the business goals. Hence, compassionate behaviour is the right approach where a leader suggests alternate solutions, provides resources and assistance with minimum disruption in the work routine and becomes an example for the others in helping people deal with pain points.
Personal involvement in leading the way
We live in a time where changes happen fast and we are expected to keep pace with those changes. Hence, leaders cannot be fixated on their thinking and over-reliant on the examples from the past. They must keep pace with the changes taking place around them and accordingly change their decisions and approaches, as required.
Organisations are increasingly collaborative and multi-linear; thus, the leaders have to influence the multiple stakeholders laterally apart from working with their team members. They need to build relationships with people beyond the bounds of their team, listen to them and influence them to be successful. These tasks cannot be delegated and hence, a leader needs to invest time in establishing connections across teams, listening to people, and influencing them positively. Leaders have to demonstrate compassion as a matter of habit.
Someone has said rightly, “Compassion is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of strength.”