Compassion is a strategy

“It can’t be that people just want to work with Lindsay’s team because she’s good to them, we need a strategy for that.” – A colleague.

Compassion is not only a strategy, in this moment, it is the only one that I know works, which provides a glimmer of hope moving forward. My management experience is made up of crises. I transitioned into management in June of 2020, at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, just before the killing of George Floyd and months of fires in California (where I lived).

I also live in the United States.

This means that about 3 weeks ago I learned that the Supreme Court was ready to oust Roe v. Wade, along with all other decisions giving women the right to bodily autonomy and reproductive health care.

A week ago at a grocery store in a different city 10 people were targeted for the color of their skin.

On Tuesday, 19 children and their teachers were murdered in their classroom. Now we’re learning that the police stood by for an hour, teasing parents who tried to get to their kids, while every fourth grader in a class died.

This is just the last month of more than two years of mass death and national terror. I am writing this with an enormous amount of privilege as a white woman and as a parent with two young children who have been out of school for more than a year.

The suffering of the past few years is not evenly distributed and every single person with whom I interact at work and whom I lead has shaped their experiences of the past few years. No one is perfect, but part of management through this era has come with a deeper awareness of the ways that the weight of our woes affects my peers and colleagues differently. I want to talk about my personal experience in this article, but I think the point I make isn’t just about me, and I hope something resonates with you and helps us think. That’s how we work together to create teams and organizations that not only promote “human-centered design” but create organizations and structures that help people thrive rather than crush them.

Becoming a manager and nurturing teams during this time has made me realize the business value of building compassion, kindness and positive relationships. We don’t often talk about this “squishy stuff” at work, but it’s the stuff we need to work successfully these days. I would argue that compassion for oneself and others in the workplace is not a “good-to-have”, it is a “need-to-have” that is often the difference between resilience and success or failure and burnout. This is true for everyone, but especially for managers.

Story time:

For most of my adult life, I prioritized work over my physical and mental health, which is how I was taught. I’m not just talking about paid work, but all work: school work, paid work, and parenting work. I was the kid who used to call my professor from the hospital to tell me I’d miss class the next day because I was having my appendix removed, to be a mom of little kids like how to breastfeed with a stomach flu . , and couldn’t manage how tired you were, still having to get up whenever your kids needed you, and screaming kids and carrying a balance bike while one with a kid in it How to push a stroller. When I started working in tech, I became someone who refused to cancel meetings or business trips even if I was sick all night or broke my arm and needed surgery three days before the trip. I was always a high performer, no matter what the cost, despite my desire to raise slogans.

However, this way of being at a certain point breaks down. The tipping point for me was becoming a manager. Pushing to the breaking point did not work. In fact, the harder I pushed, the less I worked.

I could struggle through IC work and early parenthood, but I couldn’t struggle through managing any success. Managing people in constant distress is a caring job. My success (as it is) depends on how well I can take care of my team, from crisis after crisis, to helping people navigate organizational structures optimized for capital formation. How well can I find the not-human-centered design. My role being completely other-oriented means that I need to re-think how I show up and how I prioritize my self-care. We’ve all probably heard the clichés “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and “put on your oxygen mask before helping others”. They resonate with both my role as a parent and my life as a parent in new ways, from just the need to get things done to a point where I do more than how I do things or what I do. is important.

I can’t be a good manager when I’m sad and burned out. I know because I tried. I used the “dump up and motivate down” mantra in my former role during Season 1 of Pandemic to split my exhaustion and frustration, while trying to show up and advocate for my team and my colleagues, as well. Along with regularly weeping from despair. The projects I was managing and the frustrations I felt about their impact, my career opportunities, my performance, and the constant crises that challenged my hope daily. I didn’t set good boundaries for my team, and the harder I pushed, the harder I was on myself and the more I let my own expectations for personal achievement outweigh my choices, the worse I felt and I Equally bad at work.

When I arrive now, I’m expected to serve as a calm guiding presence for our team, as a trusted companion to our cross-functional peers, and as a guide to the changes needed to grow our design and research practice. Must appear as a compelling advocate. influence. Management is another role oriented, where success is not individual, but the result of interdependence and relationships. What is meant by achievement in this context? Achievement means enabling more than achieving. This means that, simply put, it’s not about me. It doesn’t matter how smart I am or how much I can achieve personally. It’s about how I make people feel. My success lies in my ability to nurture and guide my team. For me, this requires a gradual but radical change in the way I think about my job and manage my time and energy, as well as making conscious choices about how I want to pursue my career. So that I can act with care and compassion as the guiding force.

Some things I’ve changed that have made me a more effective compassionate leader:

  • Relinquishing Control and Deliberate Delegating: Giving the people on my team a chance to shine through or learn from failure is usually more important than making sure something is done perfectly or the way I would do it.
  • I show and tell my teams that it is more important to take care of myself and my family than work.
  • I let the news and the fullness of people’s experience come into my work. If something bad is happening in the world or with their life, I try to make room for it to talk about it, the problem that needs to be resolved, and provide cover and reassurance that it’s okay to take some time. Is.
  • I create moments of recognition and engagement in all of my team work. When partners help us (which is always the case in any organization), we try to find ways to increase their contribution to our work.
  • I cancel things! A year ago, I would introduce myself to my staff in the morning after the Supreme Court leak. Instead, I canceled it so that I could take extra time in the morning to read and process the news with my partner. It allowed me to calmly show up instead of shedding tears. I sometimes have “struggles” that aren’t feeling like I can show up productively and that I need a break. I’ll never try to work out all day after a night of food poisoning (that’s a low bar, I know).
  • I am working my emotional distance. Every success or failure over the years after coming from academia felt like a referendum on my personal worth. I’ve stopped seeing things that way most of the time. While I still emphasize things like publicity and sometimes making projects successful, I spend more time trying to understand aspects of the system that have nothing to do with me, and that I try. Can’t even impress (I usually try).
  • I write these short articles. Since I don’t get to control everything on how my team works, but I love researching, thinking, and writing, I’ve found that these short articles are something that are taken out of my job. I can control.
  • I value my mental and physical health a lot more than I used to, even when I have time off at work or with my kids, I still feel I owe it to others.

Relationships at work are always important, but for people managers, relationships are work. Navigating politics becomes a bigger and bigger part of the job, the organization you go to, and people have greater influence and the ability to shape the organizations and values ​​they climb into. Hurt people hurt people, and I think many of us have had the misfortune of working with or for someone whose version of success didn’t change when they moved on to management, to build meaningful relationships. instead focused on individual competition. Such a “genius blow” manager leaves a trail of body behind and below him. They create organizations that run on fear and reward short cuts, unethical behavior, external costs, and above all win – just what our society needs less. Managing without compassion for yourself and others breaks people and teams down at the best of times, and it’s not the best of times. We can’t show up like this to each other these days and expect good results at any stage. The past few years have shown the centrality of care to our lives and careers, and if we have learned anything from the unwelcome trauma over the years, I hope that we are all intertwined and interdependent on both a personal and systemic level. , We cannot power through it, but we can only create systems based on care and humanity at work and at home if we show up with vulnerability and compassion. option is not working.

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