How to lead with compassion in these harsh times

By Eilat Aviram

I don’t know what to tell them! – The Problem

“I can’t reassure them that their jobs are secure! I don’t know what’s still coming or how this business will survive. They’re unsettled and anxious and there are a few of them that are really not coping. They’re making more mistakes, they’re taking longer to respond or get their work done, I have to follow up on them…”

Jack is facing what so many employers are dealing with right now. He’s doing all he can to secure the future of his business. His industry has been hit hard by Covid restrictions and his income has slowed to a trickle. He’s the sole breadwinner and supports his wife and two children with this business that he’s spent the last ten years building up. It was just starting to do well enough that he’d hired extra staff and was planning to spend more time away from the office… Now suddenly that’s all changed.

“I feel like I’m back to square one where I have to work all hours and rush around putting new systems in place and trying to figure out what to do next so it doesn’t all crash!”

What if it won’t be ok? – The Fear That Makes it Worse

In addition to this, he is responsible for nine staff members, some of whom have been with him for seven years. They support their families with their salaries and Jack is feeling the enormous pressure of their well-being on his shoulders.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not sleeping well, I’m stressed all the time. I just don’t know what’s going to happen and when they ask me if we are going to stay open and if they will keep their jobs, I just want shout at them to leave me alone. I’m avoiding talking to them and it’s making things worse.

I already know I’m going to have to let the two new guys go. And maybe some of the others too. But I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. Will they be ok?

I’ve got these crazy fears going on in my head, like will they end up on the street? Will they do something drastic and take their own lives or rob a store out of desperation and end up in jail?

I wish I could just focus on my business. It would calm me if I knew they were going to be ok. It would ease some of my stress. I wish I could just give them something that would help them get through whatever comes next, but I can’t afford therapy for each of them.”

How to get clear – Starting to make sense of it

How do we cope with stress like this? If you’re a leader and others are depending on you and you don’t know what’s coming or how you’ll cope yourself, it can be overwhelming. And being stressed interferes with clear thinking so that makes it even worse.

During my 24 years of working with people as a clinical psychologist and healing teacher I’ve helped many people overcome loss, trauma, confusion and uncertainty.

I know that to help Jack now, we have to start with whatever is causing him the most distress which is his sense of responsibility for other people’s lives. I can see that until he feels at peace about supporting his staff, he won’t be able to relax enough to focus on his business and come up with clear solutions to help it survive.

Jack is a compassionate leader but currently his feelings of responsibility and worries about his staff are paralysing him. We want to use Jack’s compassionate leadership style to strengthen him, his business and his team rather than overwhelming his clear thinking and good decision-making.

What is a compassionate leader?

Dr Abraham Khoureis lists 7 characteristics of compassionate leadership. Let’s use these to look at where Jack is strong and where he’s tripping up.

  1. Empathy

“Genuinely trying to understand others and feel what they feel to help you make your decision.” Jack was putting himself so intensely in his staff’s position that it was actually disabling him.

  1. Sympathy

“Caring about their well-being and be willing to provide them with the help they need.” Jack really wanted to do this but didn’t know how.

  1. Consideration

“Showing careful thought and behavior towards your staff and using your influence and authority to improve working conditions.” Again, Jack was thinking and feeling in large amounts but didn’t know how to action it in a constructive way.

  1. Understanding

“Compassionately perceive the behaviors of your team and use conflicts as a way to help you and the business grow.” Jack was avoiding the conflicts. He was seeing their distress but not engaging with the anxious questions from his team about their job security. Instead of discussing it and seeing how they could all grow, he was pushing them away so they did not feel understood by him.

  1. Caring

“Try to show that you care by being kind and empathizing with your followers.” Jack was trying to but because he was avoiding answering their questions, his staff felt like he was withdrawing and it made them even more anxious. It set up an us-versus-the boss dynamic which was making everything harder for everyone.

  1. Concern

“Make sure your concern is genuinely practiced in ways that help them improve, achieve and become.” Jack was not actioning his concern. It was drowning him and had the opposite effect which was to create the impression that he was only concerned about the business and not about his team.

  1. Ability To Collaborate

“Work together with others while leading. Your open communication is key to an effective collaboration.” Jack was so uncertain of what to do about his concerns that he did not want to collaborate. He was taking full responsibility for the well-being of everyone. He wasn’t being open about his situation or asking his team to help him come up with solutions. This left him feeling isolated and burdened and his team felt cut off, disempowered and unimportant.

Coming up with solutions

Jack and I sit together and explore what he can put in place for his staff so that they have a better chance of dealing with what’s going on now. We want something that will also strengthen them and give them life-skills to cope with whatever might still happen. If he knows they are cared for he will be able to let go and trust them to manage their own life journeys and be ok.

  1. Jack decides on financial support packages he can offer them and gets clear on exactly how and when these will be offered.
  2. He purchases a team package of 21 Days to Stop Being Scared of the Unknown. This affordable online journey will give him and his staff the emotional and psychological support and information they need to survive – and even thrive – during this time.
  3. He now knows what to say to them and sets up a meeting to get real about the situation the business is in and discuss his plans with them.

Once he knows he has taken care of his people to the best of his ability – financially, emotionally and psychologically – Jack feels more able to turn his focus to his business and trust that even if he needs to let people go, or lower their salaries, he has been a compassionate leader. He has been true to himself and to them.

The results

The results are that he’s sleeping better at night knowing he has honoured his staff. He can think more clearly and suddenly has the energy to put into innovative solutions.

His staff are now more relaxed and productive because of their new skills from the 21 Day journey Jack gave them. They feel cared for by Jack because he understood their needs and gifted them with something that not only supports them now, but also has given them tools to improve the rest of their lives.

As result of this and of understanding where the business is, they are even more dedicated to work as a team to keep the business going and make it even stronger than before. Jack now feels less alone in this situation and realises the strengths of his team.

Leading compassionately during these times of change has surprising and strengthening results for you, your staff and your business.

Empower yourself and your team with the 21 Days to Stop Being Scared of the Unknown too.

For more information go to https://ifilovedmyself.com21-days/

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Eilat Aviram is a Daring-Decisions Teacher.

She's worked with people for 25 years as a clinical psychologist, hypnotherapist, best-selling author, speaker and energy-healing teacher and she is passionate about helping people dare to love themselves in their moments of decision and find the courage to live their truth.

Eilat Aviram