Google's research on what constitutes a great leader revealed that employees appreciate managers who care for them both professionally and personally.
Whereas taking care of your people professionally may come a little more instinctively (providing development opportunities, coaching, mentoring, etc.), showing that you're genuinely interested in their personal well-being may be foreign territory.
Although the process will be unique from employee to employee, there is a universal skill that can be levered to connect with others on a more personal level. This ability comes through the development of your emotional intelligence or (EQ).
Jen Shirkani, a nationally recognized expert on EQ, describes EQ as one's capacity to recognize their emotions (their thoughts and feelings), read situations and people, and respond appropriately. Doing so effectively leads them down a path to self-mastery and enhanced individual performance.
However, as a manager, your success isn't based on your personal performance anymore. It's based on the output and productivity of your team. So, once you've learned to govern your own emotions effectively, you'll need to scale your EQ skills to better understand and empathize with your team.
Christina Boedker (lecturer at the Australian School of Business) conducted a study on the correlation between leadership and organizational performance. After aggregating data from more than 5600 people across 77 organizations, Boedker concluded the ability of a leader to be empathetic and compassionate had the greatest impact on organizational profitability and productivity. She describes compassionate leadership as, "to understand people's motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be."
That research is really interesting, but what's the difference between empathy and compassion? They seemed like synonyms to me. Well, according to Google's definition, there is a major distinction. Empathy is the ability to consider other peoples' perspectives and sympathize with them, whereas compassion is when you have the added desire to act on that understanding and alleviate their discomfort.
To help you cultivate compassion, here are six tips from Google's Re: Work site, a resource that shares Google's perspective on people operations.
1. Ask how you can help, and don't assume you know what's wanted.
Forced compassion is the same thing as meddling. Although you may think you're being helpful and empathetic, failing to tailor your advice to your team's unique needs will render it useless.
Make sure you ask great probing questions, listen objectively, and don't pass any preconceived judgments until you've heard the whole story and understand their viewpoint.
2. Look for commonalities with your team members.
It's hard to show genuine compassion for others when we're unable to relate. Even if the situation is unique, we've definitely shared their emotions through one experience or another. The point at which we can disregard titles and connect through shared feelings is the point at which walls are brought down and people open up to your advice.
3. Encourage cooperation instead of competition in your team.
Compassionate leaders understand the importance of team cooperation as a means to form bonds and increase employee morale. They welcome their team's dynamics and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
4. Cultivate a genuine curiosity about the individuals on your team.
People can tell when you're faking it. If you can get into the habit of understanding your employees' lives in and outside of work in times when it's not obligatory, it will go a long way in showing that you truly care.
Also, with that information in your back pocket, it will be much easier to adjust your approach and tune into your employees' unique frequencies maximizing your effectiveness when you need to provide some coaching.
5. Lead by example; treating others with compassion is contagious.
All it takes is a single act of kindness to set off a chain reaction within organizations. As leaders, you have the added ability to influence this behavior and can single-handedly change your teams' attitudes with each decision you make.
Be cognizant of this sway and make sure you use your power for good.
6. Be mindful of boundaries and avoid being an emotional sponge.
It's important for employees to feel like they can come to you with anything, but you can't have them coming to you with everything. There's a fine line between being compassionate and being an enabler. Make sure to set boundaries and not to inadvertently create codependent employees who can't manage their own situations.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, giving employee's some slack and showing a little compassion can help leaders drive better results. In the 2015 Global Empathy Index, the top ten businesses reported 50 percent more net income per employee than the bottom ten.