If I had to pick the virtue missing from many office cultures today–the virtue that without you really don’t have a foundation to build a culture–it’s compassion.
The ability to feel for someone else’s situation outside of your own. To walk a mile in their shoes. Synonymous with tolerance, kindness, humanity and love, it’s compassion that helps us shed the judgmental attitudes that feed impatience–maybe even bitterness–and definitely kill creativity and drain passion.
I’m talking about believing people really are trying their best. Giving them the benefit of the doubt.
When we’ve worked with teammates or clients for a long time, think about the judgmental baggage we sometimes carry as we go through our workday. Take meetings, for example. You get ready to walk into what should be a productive meeting and you just know colleague A is going to have that same snarky attitude she always does. Colleague B is going to shoot down your every idea. And colleague C, well, it doesn’t matter the meeting’s outcome because he’ll be on the road right after it absolving himself of all team responsibility.
Who can function when we already assign motivation and worse, intention, to all the other members of our team or our clients? No one.
Now, maybe your team does have its issues, but the time you spend thinking you know what your teammates or clients really mean/intend is the time you don’t spend using your creative energy or unleashing your passion to arrive at productive interactions and powerful results. It’s hard to respect and build on the ideas of people we harshly judge.
What if you took a day and decided it would be free of judgment? You wouldn’t announce to the rest of the staff the frustration you’re experiencing with the client you’re sure is just stupid because they don’t agree with you. You wouldn’t because you’d look for other reasons the client has an issue, like maybe they have a different idea of what constitutes success.
Have you ever been upset that someone you work with isn’t returning your emails in the time you feel they should only to find that they’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness? It changes your perspective in an instant.
Compassion sounds all touchy feely. But, it’s necessary and it’s effective. One of the surest ways to motivate the best in others is to treat them as if they are the best. Will you occasionally get burned? Sure. But, more often, you won’t. And you’ll be encouraging excellence because you’re showing support. You’ll notice the people you show compassion toward work to reach the level of faith you put in them.
Companies are better with the engaged members who want to give their best to their work. At its core that requires that we give each other the benefit of the doubt and treat each other with compassion that allows us to shed judgment and run forward with respect. From there you’ll build trust and see accountability. And, that has the making of a culture people will want to be part of.