Leading with Compassion: How to be a Flexible and Understanding Manager

The traditional approach to management typically involves a “You do as I say” approach whereas the employee must comply or risk being reprimanded in some way. The hope with this style of management is that the punishment will teach the employee a lesson that helps them perform better in the future. Some managers, however, are choosing a different approach when confronted with an underperforming employee: compassion. Even though they might be frustrated by the employee’s mistake, they suspend judgment and approach the situation by coaching the employee instead of reprimanding them. Research has shown that compassionate leadership actually yields more positive results than tough leadership. That’s because compassionate leaders who show empathy are actually boosting morale and building stronger relationships with their employees. In a world with deadline pressure, bottom lines, ever-changing technology, and high-stakes work environments, showing compassion to employees is more important than ever. Here are a few ways you can practice compassionate leadership. 

Get to Know Your Team

You probably know the expectations you have for each team member and what performance goal they should be trying to achieve but do you really know them as a person? It’s important to treat your team members as human beings, and not just numbers. Take time to learn about each person by engaging them in conversation. Ask them about their families, hobbies, interests, and professional goals. A compassionate leader stops focusing on themselves and their goals, and take time to learn about their people. 

Listen to Your Team

Employees feel valued when they feel like their manager is listening to them and cares about what they say. Ask your employees to give you feedback, share concerns, offer suggestions, and provide input in meetings and conversations. Give them a chance to talk and acknowledge their contributions and truly listen to what they have to say. 

Show Gratitude

Everyone wants to be appreciated for the work they do. When managers show appreciation and gratitude to their employees, they demonstrate kindness that builds a trusting and respectful relationship. There are plenty of simple ways to show appreciation such as verbal recognition, approval, support, or whatever is most meaningful to each individual. 

Encourage Your Team

Compassionate leaders encourage and guide their employees rather than giving orders and making demands. Even if the employee is struggling or the team is working on a tight deadline, approach tasks with optimism and encouragement. Offer additional support during stressful work periods and help them if needed. You should also invite them to take more ownership by acknowledging their individual skills and inspiring them to use those talents.

Support Employee Well-Being

Your compassion should extend beyond workplace expectations. Remember that your employees are people and they have lives outside of the office. Promote a healthy work-life balance and flexibility by being understanding when an employee needs to take off to care for a shield, attend a school function, or care for an aging parent. When you support their well-being you will end up with happier and more productive employees.