Hello C Factor Community,
This month we focused our attention on COMPASSION as one of the critical skills that every leader needs to cultivate. We considered compassion for others, compassion for self, and shared a variety of ways you can practice compassion.
To wrap up the month, I want to talk about compassion at the organizational level. Can an organization be compassionate? The answer is a definitive yes.
Compassion is not just words that comfort alongside a hug or encouraging pat on the back. Compassion is reflected in how an organization responds and reacts to the needs of its people, its customers and clients, and the community at large.
A compassionate organization is led by people who understand the impact that every decision they make has on others.
A solid example seems in order.
Allow me to present Southwest Airlines as a compassionate company culture.
Herb Kelleher, a man who reached mythological status before his death, is regarded as one of the greatest founder/leaders of the modern age. He was beloved by every employee at Southwest Airlines and in many ways he epitomizes the tenants of servant leadership.
Well known for helping out, I have met many a person who saw him throw bags onto the plane before taking off or serving drinks alongside the flight attendants of whatever flight he hopped on. The culture of Southwest Airlines is known for prioritizing the needs of their people first. This is by design. The story of the creation of SWA is a legend now--it happened over drinks where Kelleher used the back of a cocktail napkin to map out the idea.
In that conversation, Kelleher created a business model that was truly compassionate: people first, customers second, shareholders third.
Why is this compassionate you ask?
Because it prioritizes their people above all else. The customer doesn't come first. The shareholder isn't delivered a good return on their investment at the expense of their people. And this was a revolutionary approach to building and leading a company.
His inverted business model where people come first is a kind of compassion that every company should adopt. It sends a clear message:
We care about you.
We will take care of you.
You come first.
This is reflected throughout the organization and its practices. SWA is so dedicated to compassion that there is an entire group in the company whose sole responsibility is staying aware of when employees have a need for compassion and responding and reacting with real acts of kindness.
The business case for compassion is one that makes sense: take care of your people and they will take care of the customer. When this happens, you take care of your shareholders too.
Dr. Leah Weiss, a Standford professor and researcher has dedicated her career to Compassion Cultivation Training (conceived of by the Dali Lama himself) and notes, "You can skip over compassion and say, 'I don't have time to worry about all this,'" Leah says. "But it's going to come back and bite you."
A LACK of compassion shows up in your business outcomes. Is turnover high? Are customer complaints becoming more frequent? Are you having a ton of employee performance issues? Look to COMPASSION and ask "Could we solve these issues with more compassion?"
Organizations are only compassionate when there is a compound effect of compassion by the individuals who make up the business. EVERY time you choose compassion, you make a bold statement not only about who you are but who the business is too. You can create a ripple effect by role modeling compassion and prioritizing it every day.
To wrap the month, a few things to focus on.
1. If you are a decision-maker, audit your policies and procedures to see if they are compassionate. Adjust as needed.
2. TALK about compassion with your people. Collect and gather instances of compassion and share them inside and outside of the organization.
3. Ask more questions. "Where could we be more compassionate as an organization?" Make a list and get to work. As a leader, it is your responsibility to model compassion.
Make compassion a priority and watch as your organization changes for the better.