Disruptive Times Call for Compassion, Learning, and Conversations

Leadership in disruptive times is no easy feat. To succeed, leaders, executives, and managers must lead with careful consideration and mindful intention. Richard Boyatzis, a Professor in the Departments of Psychology at Case and Organizational Behavior at Case Weatherhead School of Management writes, along with his colleagues, in the book, Resonant Leadership. Disruptive times call for leaders to support learning and to have compassion, mindfulness to center and calm, and emotionally intelligent conversations.

Practice compassion: Fear of overwhelm keeps us from recognizing the feelings (and existence) of others, and often, even our own fears. Ironically, the key to overwhelm is an ongoing practice of compassion. As a leader, how do you make compassion a daily practice?

Mindfulness teacher Tara Brach, PhD, has developed a great tool leaders can use. In her book, Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN (Viking, 2019) Brach details a four-step meditation that quickly breaks the grip of fear, judgment, shame, and other difficult emotions:

1.     Recognize what is happening

2.     Allow life to be just as it is

3.     Investigate with a gentle, curious attention

4.     Nurture with loving presence

Grounded in modern brain science, the practice of RAIN helps leaders uncover limiting beliefs, fears, and our tendency to feed a sense of urgency that chokes the very creativity we hope to inspire.

Support learning: Learning and development are more than teaching employees the knowledge they need to perform the basic requirements of their job. Learning encompasses a broader process to increase skills and abilities across a variety of contexts.

According to a 2019 employee survey reported by Statista, the top five skills employees need to develop are influencing and negotiating (46%), having difficult conversations, design thinking, leading and managing change, and coaching.

Likewise, effective leaders pursue personal and professional development opportunities to improve their competence, self-awareness, and other-relatedness. They grow in ways that are transformative, not just transactional.

: Recognize and acknowledge fear and uncertainty.

In the recent Oscar winning movie, American Factory, documentary film makers take a thoughtful look at how a Chinese billionaire opened a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant located in Ohio. It is a deeply nuanced view of globalization, the decline of labor and organized labor, and the impact of artificial intelligence through automation. And your employees are talking about it.

Are you engaging in these conversations? How?

Despite all the advances in technology and innovation, organizations succeed because of people. As USA sailing team skipper Rome Kirby says, “Stuff happens at a pretty high speed. The pace of the game now has changed a lot, so we got to make decisions and communicate at a pretty high pace…when you get it right, and sail well, it’s the team that wins the race.”

That’s why CEO and helmsman Nathan Outteridge brings home the gold medals. He and some of his team mates have sailed together for as much as ten years. According to Outteridge, ”The F50 is a one-designed boat, so all the foils, all the rudders, all the wings, everything is the same. The only reason one boat goes faster than another is because of what the people onboard are doing…if each person doesn’t do their role properly, performance suffers.”

Remember: your communications should be logical and consistent with facts and experience. To understand nuances, explore both sides of the coin. While you want to strike an emotional chord, avoid using fear. Instead, address the interest of all stakeholders. A qualified executive coach can help.

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