There’s a call for more compassion in the business world. Traditionally, businesses have been created to make money, profit from trading and selling goods. However, companies are made out of people and people are what makes a company. This is largely ignored in the modern age of profiteering.
From its Latin origins, ‘compati’, which means ‘to suffer with’, compassion makes us humble. It acknowledges a greater challenge that we are all faced with in life. Greater than each of us. When we have compassion, we have a care and concern for our fellow colleagues and others with whom we interact.
Compassion comes from the heart. It’s the job of the heart to feel compassion. It’s the essence that makes us humans. Compassion is tolerance, empathy and consideration for others. It’s the ingredient that enables us to respect each other despite differences in culture, age and opinion.
In the work environment, without compassion, people cannot perform. In Maslow’s Needs Model, compassion is essential in having the most basic of physiological needs met as well as the next levels of psychological needs. Maslow’s theory says that as humans we cannot achieve our true achievements and meet full potential when we are struggling to meet our basic human needs. Too many managers are still under the illusion that people must suffer in order to perform.
Customers engage with people not companies. This is a fact that companies forget all too often. The service staff create the brand, the barista of the local coffee shop who greets you, or, the friendly smile at your local grooming salon. When your service staff are suffering, it isn’t possible for them to be able to intuitively respond to the needs of the customer. No wonder the working population are feeling threatened by the developments in artificial intelligence.
Compassion is a prerequisite to any human interaction. It motivates effort, commitment, performance and provides the rewards of the effort. Companies that fail on compassion fail on providing a supportive environment for their staff. Compassion fuels everything that is required for high performance, innovation; creative problem solving; strong alliances; negotiation; and exemplary leadership.
You cannot fake compassion, in the same way you cannot fake authenticity. It’s something that is felt and not thought. Which means it’s harder to demand from others and impossible to put into your company handbook. You have to demonstrate compassion for it to impact the spirit of your business. This is the challenging but most exciting part. It has to be role modelled from the top down in order to work its magic.
Capturing the essence of humanity is slowly getting recognised as a necessity in business performance. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom and Tata have successfully built this concept into their values and seen the positive impact on their performance.
Build compassion into your business and see the results transform your customer loyalty, sales, staff accountability and management capability.
- Put compassion at the core of your customer strategy. Consider how compassionate towards your customers your products, trading environment, communication and internal processes are. Most companies create these with themselves at the centre, not their customer.
- Live compassion as a corporate value. Values represent the most important aspects of your manifesto. Have a zero-tolerance policy to ensure your staff live and breathe your company values. This will only work if it’s all staff top down. Senior leaders must role model compassionate behaviour. This means complete retirement from toxic games, blame culture, turning a blind-eye and double standards.
- Give it the time it deserves. Change takes time to imbed. Make the commitment to embrace compassion and maintain the focus until it eventually becomes ingrained into how the business works. All human behaviour is adaptive. Repetition is key and consistency.
- Involve everyone in defining what compassion means. Let your staff and your customers define how they see and experience compassion. Allow them to speak from their hearts. Think about how you incorporate differing perspectives into an overarching definition and design.
- Give it a voice. Be proud to be compassionate. The days of old fashion, unhuman management practices are well and truly over. Lead your industry and talk a lot about your successes. Not only will it encourage others to follow suit, it will create new opportunities with other companies that share the same value.
The nature of compassion is that it brings out the best of you and others. Multiply that across your business not only will you have a performance model that excels in every aspect of your company, it will retain more customers and help you outperform your competitors.