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3 Ways to Manage Your Team with Compassion

What are the desired and ideal characteristics that Filipinos value most in a leader? A 2011 dissertation done by Dr. Felerina Ellamil, a then-PhD candidate in Social-Organizational Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University, sought to provide a revealing glimpse into the Filipino concept of leadership.

According to the study, which was based on a survey of 1,411 Filipino employees across different job levels, what's important are the following:

  • being mainly person-focused and group-centered
  • being knowledgeable of the job and the industry
  • being easy to talk to
  • listens with understanding and compassion
  • takes care of the employees’ personal and professional welfare or being makatao

All of them seem pretty commonplace and easy to understand except one - listening and understanding with compassion. What is compassion? As a leader in your organization, how can you be compassionate? How do you respond when an employee under-performs in his assigned role or commits a crucial mistake?

Whether you understand fully what compassion is or not, it get results. According to an article by Stanford University research psychologist and corporate well-being consultant Emma Seppala, PhD in the Harvard Business Review, “The more compassionate response will get you more powerful results.”

Seppala states that when model leaders respond with compassion, they restrict judgment and use the moment where the employee erred as a teaching moment. Simply put, “what goes around, comes around” – any reaction or emotion you give to the people around you will return to you ten-fold.

Exercising compassion has other benefits too. Like:

  • increasing loyalty and trust among your direct reports
  • increasing employees’ willingness to trust their leaders
  • fostering productivity and creativity
  • as a leader, being viewed as more effective

So how can you lead and respond with more compassion? Here are 3 ways recommended by Seppala:

1.Take a moment.

Whatever it is you do to get a hold of your reactive emotions - be it breathing in and out for ten breaths or stepping out of the office, do it. By doing so, you'll be able to respond properly instead of reacting impulsively.

In moments of anger and frustration, it’s wiser to cool off by stepping back to see the bigger picture more objectively and more detached. Never let strong emotions play a big role in your decision-making, especially if they're negative ones. Taking the time to pause and think things out lets you enter a calmer and clearer state of mind.

​2. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes

By taking a step back, a leader gives himself the space to empathize with the employee. Looking at the bigger picture will help you see aspects of the current situation you may have overlooked. Relationships between bosses and employees aren't meant to be one-sided, otherwise you're a boss and not a leader. Thus, it's important for leaders to ensure they view situations from the eyes of their employees.

3. Forgive

With empathy comes the ability to forgive. Not only does forgiveness strengthen your relationship with your team members but also brings benefits to your health too (i.e. lower blood pressure and stress levels).

What small changes do you plan to make on your leadership style to fit the “manage with compassion” strategy? Share your insights below. Through these lessons given by Seppala, it is not too late to fulfill your version of becoming the best model Filipino leader you can be.

Photo by Creative Sustainability