What's On Our Minds This Week
Recently, I received an email from a client and noticed an addendum to his signature:
My working hours and your working hours may be different. Please do not feel obligated to reply outside your normal working hours.

It was the first time I had seen a message like that, so I couldn't resist asking him about it. He explained that his organization had encouraged senior leadership to add this to their signature in an effort to promote work/life balance in a time when the lines have been blurred with many working from home.

I asked him if anyone else had commented on it. He said he was surprised that a few of his direct reports had already commented how much of a relief it was to see that message and to thank him for including it.

A relief!

Imagine the stress of unexpressed yet assumed expectations some employees had weighing on them thinking they were expected to "be on" into the evenings and weekend, ready to reply to any and all messages from those who sit higher on the org chart!
In the wave of the early 2000s, 'tone at the top' became a corporate governance buzzword after the downfall of multiple duplicitous organizations such as Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco. Legislations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act made it clear that those at the top were responsible for corporate cultures.

Fast forward twenty years, organizations and leaders are still struggling with setting that 'tone at the top' because it now transcends compliance and governance. As the world descended into a global pandemic tailspin over the past year, it became clear a culture of compassion was no longer just a nice-to-have. With study after study indicating decreased employee mental health, it is now a must-have. And it requires more than just an added line to your email signature.

So what does it require?

Let's be clear. Building a culture of compassion is not a one-and-done. It takes time and effort, but here are a few personal tips to set a compassionate 'tone at the top':

  1. Sharing is caring: A magical thing happens when you open up to others and be vulnerable: they are more likely to do so. For example, that same client from above had also recently started openly sharing more about his own mental health challenges, even publicly sharing them on social media. This sharing has not only led to messages of support, but also started important conversations about others' struggles.
  2. Compassion in action: The quickest way to destroy trust equity you or the organization has built up through its words and policies is to display or, worse, reward contradictory actions and behaviors. Whereas, modeling what you say can quickly earn trust points. For instance, consider your own moratorium on evening and weekend emails. If that's something that brings you anxiety, consider scheduling emails to send during regular business hours.
  3. Listen up: You don't have to work as hard to show compassion when you truly feel compassion. And you're more likely to feel compassion when you take the time to get to know someone better and better understand their challenges and struggles. Tap into your curiosity and take the time to ask good questions and listen to what they tell you.

And here are a few resources to dive deeper into the how and why:
  • Click here to read why leaders who show vulnerability is a good thing.

  • Did you see this viral tweet from the beginning of the pandemic? it's a great example of compassion in action—as long as you support what you say!

  • Watch this 3 minute clip. of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat explaining compassionate listening to Oprah Winfrey.


What's on your mind this week?

Reply to this email or hop on over to your favorite social media channels and tell us — What's on your mind this week?
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