Leading with Compassion in the Healthcare Workplace

Marketing Manager

“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes” is commonly expressed to someone who lacks understanding or compassion for another person’s situation or point of view. In fact, to have compassion, experts say is to be able to live with the other's misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion such as joy, happiness, anxiety, pain and even fear. Not only is compassion important for effective team building in the workplace, but in healthcare, it’s also critical for developing empathetic employees who care for vulnerable patients every day.

In a recent podcast titled, “Jeff Weiner: Leading with Compassion,” Oprah interviews LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner about his success and how his practice of compassion in the workplace has earned him the highest CEO approval rating on Glassdoor as well as among his peers. Weiner explains the values he and his team follow each day, discusses daily workplace challenges, and highlights why it’s important to develop a more compassionate culture.

The fact that compassion and leadership are rarely correlated is perhaps the very reason why leading with compassion is more important than ever. Here are a few practices you should consider for your healthcare organization.

What values are instilled in the company's culture?

LinkedIn follows the following six values:

  1. Members come first. If it benefits the members, it will ultimately benefit the company.
  2. Relationships matter because organizations are run by people.
  3. Be open, honest and constructive. Encourage people to be open about what’s on their mind in a way that lifts the dialogue rather than tears them down.
  4. Demand excellence to achieve results or even exceeding your own.
  5. Act like an owner. Employees must understand the business decisions they make impact the bottom line.
  6. Take intelligent risks.This mindset will attract and inspire the most innovative employees who will take the company to great new heights.

Values are the heart of the culture. They guide appropriate behavior in the workplace and let employees know what is required to be successful. 

What is compassionate leadership?

Compassionate leadership begins with connections between individuals because a company is comprised of people. When you build upon a foundation of compassionate management, ultimately, what the company is about—it’s vision, mission and value—is manifested through its leaders and managers.

What’s the fundamental difference between the role of management and the role of leadership?

Management is telling people what they can do, while leadership is inspiring them to do it. In fact, in a 2016 Gallup engagement survey, 82 percent of employees rated their leaders as uninspiring. Since then, many forward thinking organizations have been working hard to make their workplaces more people-centered by training their leaders to be more human. Inspiration comes from three areas: the clarity of one’s vision; the courage of one’s conviction; and the ability to effectively communicate them.

How do you manage compassion?

It’s important to become a spectator of your own thoughts when you get caught up in your emotions. You must stand out of your own self, thoughts, frustrations and anger to recognize what’s triggering you as well as the other person. In those moments, you gain clarity and understand what’s going on. It’s a complete game changer in the way you interact with others. Not only can this apply in the workplace, but this can apply in your daily life as well.

What is the least compassionate thing you can do?

The least compassionate thing you can do is leaving employees in a role they’re incapable of completing successfully. They will carry that energy home to their friends and family, and over time, they will build resentment toward you and the company. Observe their performance, confidence and body language such as posture and tone. When you realize they’re no longer a fit for their role, you take them aside and tell them it’s currently not working out. You demonstrate where the bar is set and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help them reach or exceed that bar. Not only is it about how much time you’re going to give them, but it's also the amount of work you’re willing to put in.

How do you fire compassionately?

In business, you’ll often be faced with difficult decisions. As stated above, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is leaving employees in positions they’re no longer suited for. Compassion is being able to transition somebody even if it means transitioning them out of the company. However, it must begin with conviction, which includes body language and eye contact when you’re delivering the news. You want to approach the conversation with full confidence and ensure that your decision is not only right for the company, but it’s also best for the employee. In healthcare, leaving someone in an unqualified position not only lowers productivity and morale, but it may also impact patient safety and the quality of care.

What are your thoughts on developing a more compassionate workplace? Please share in the comments section below.

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