Patience and Compassion

“Patience and Compassion can only arise 

from the experience of our mistakes.” – Author Unknown

I vividly remember an afternoon a few years ago when I was practicing my solo docking skills with a 32’ sailboat.  The boat had no side thrusters and docking was accomplished stern first, meaning I reversed the engine and used the wheel and rudder to guide the boat ever so slowly into the slip.  I remember my instructor saying, “Be patient, if you’re not bored you are moving too fast!”  Those words stuck with me, and on more than one occasion I was witness to another skipper’s lack of patience and the subsequent damage to his or another’s boat.  No less is true on land, especially during a period of crisis.  Effective leaders embrace patience, are models of composure, and when their teams show the signs of strain, they know how to guide them to a temporary port of refuge.

COVID-19 has created an environment of unprecedented uncertainty.  In an effort to “normalize” things again, some seek the “quick -fix”; an approach reinforced by a digital work world, which embraces hyperspeed; a practice akin to docking too quickly.  On the other hand, the patient leader is not looking in the rear-view mirror and seeking to return to normal, rather they are surveying opportunities to innovate and grow.  However, the desire for immediacy, is replaced with the recognition that solutions to new challenges take planning to put into practice; patience prevails.  Likewise, leaders are watching over their team, and are intensely aware of the stress and anxiety being faced by employees both at home and at work.  A second leadership trait needed now, more than ever is compassion. 

We demonstrate empathy through our efforts to understand and connect with what is happening in another’s life, and we do that best by listening.  However, when we lead with compassion, we become an active part of the solution. Compassion enables a leader to use their position and resources to help others.  In his recent blog at People MattersTerry Rowinski, suggests five actionable strategies that can be used to build compassionate leadership.

  • Let Compassion Be a Topic of Discussion:  Talk to colleagues and direct reports about your intent to start conversations about  topics like empathy and compassion, and then listen to what they have to share. 

  • Treat yourself with compassion:  Practice the same compassion on yourself as you would a friend or family member, even when they fail. Make time to be mindful of your feelings, whether through meditation, working with a coach or another form of self-care. 

  • Schedule time for practicing compassion:  Set aside time during your week to actively think about what you can be doing to cultivate compassion in your organization and encourage others in leadership positions to do the same. 

  • Foster connections with employees, customers and stakeholders:  Compassion depends on frequent, purposeful communication, especially when working remotely.  Make time to build relationships with, and actively listen to others.

  • Use your position to alleviate challenges:  As you begin hearing input from others, consider what you can do to be part of the solution.  For example, institutional support during this time could take the form of:

    • Extended paid leave

    • Additional sick days

    • Expanded healthcare coverage (e.g., tele-health, mental health, family coverage)

    • Flexible schedules to accommodate the needs of the individual and family

    • When possible, remote work policies supporting work from anywhere

Shaping the reentry of an efficient and productive workforce will require logistical and operational planning, but there is much more that organizational leaders  must take into account.  Equally, if not more important, is how organizations will respond to employees’ emotional and psychological health.  Patience and compassion are a good place to start.

Embrace the Challenge!