I wanted to end the 2020 year by sharing my experience about believing the best in people, compassion and leadership.
Here is my story: my stress levels had reached a point where I was having trouble thinking straight. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this or not, but it really bothered me because I don’t normally react that way to stress. The stress had built up over time and I didn’t notice how much until I found myself with muddled thinking.
The first time this happened, I was working for the worst manager of my life. This manager labelled everything as URGENT!! This constant exposure to URGENT!! (the manger really did use exclamation marks), impossible deadlines, and poor management style created a stress response in me that resulted in muddled thinking and less than stellar work. If I didn’t meet the deadline, it was a big problem. If I met the deadline, but made a mistake, it was a big problem. This manager’s management style was to berate, humiliate and threaten staff. Needless to say that the strategy was not very effective and consequently people left. This is not leadership.
The second time this happened, I was working for the best manager of my life. I was faced with impossible deadlines over a long period of time and I was sick. The result was stress, muddled thinking, and less than stellar work. The difference in the second scenario was the response of this manager. His response to me when we discussed it was, “I knew there was something going on with you.” This manager is good and kind, and he believed the best in me. His simple response spoke volumes. He knew that what was happening was not normal, and he gave me the space and grace to work it out. I was able to lower my stress level so that I could function normally again. This is leadership and speaks to compassion and believing the best in people.
By modelling behavior, my manager showed me what true leadership looked like. My manager, who is also one of the best leaders I have ever worked for, really does believe the best in his staff and trusts them. He has a genuine interest in his staff’s well – being because he knows that it affects the overall performance of his team and reflects on his management. Beyond that, he is a genuinely nice and kind person who likes people.
A colleague, who was having a hard time at work with his manager, felt misunderstood and underappreciated, said “people go to work to do a good job and take pride in their work, they don’t go to work to screw up, frustrate a manager or hurt someone.” His comment reminded me that most people have good intentions in mind. When we assume that we know what others are thinking, this gets us into trouble. Expectations and misunderstandings if not sorted out, will lead to hard feelings and dysfunction.
Real life examples
I have also been thinking about some people in my life that model “believe the best in others.” My Aunt Mary, who died several years ago, was outstanding in this category. She believed the best in people and had compassion for others, and she made me want to be the best around her. She was good and kind, and accepted people for who they were – I never felt judged around her.
I have a friend, Theresa, who believes the best in people and shows compassion when people are not themselves. When Theresa was faced with an unpleasant comment from a friend, Theresa responded with “I guess she has something going on in her life right now.” She could have gotten angry and started a good old – fashioned fight, instead she let it go and gave this person the benefit of the doubt.
What does the research show?
Compassion gives you more powerful results, here is why:
An angry response increases the individual’s stress level when they are in fear and anxiety mode. Neuroscience shows that when people act as if they are threatened, their reasoning, mental and intellectual capacity is diminished. This in turn reduces productivity and creativity. Brain imaging studies show that when we feel safe, our brain’s stress response is lower.
Increased loyalty and trust
In my last blog I talked about how humble leaders inspire feelings of warmth and positive relationships at work, these feelings spill over into employee loyalty and outstanding bottom line results.
A study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University showed that the more employees look up to their leaders and are moved by their compassion or kindness, the more loyal they are. So, if you are more compassionate to your employee, not only will he or she be more loyal to you, but anyone else who has witnessed compassionate behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted to you. Employee trust in turn improves performance.
We are especially sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in our leaders, and compassion increases our willingness to trust. Brains respond more positively to those who have shown us empathy, as neuroimaging research confirms.
Loss of creativity
An angry response stops creativity by increasing stress levels which in turn makes people shut down
I learned from the real life examples above how important it is not to jump to conclusions, because misunderstanding happens very easily. Your assumptions about the person may be wrong.
Talk to the person. Whether you are a manager, leader, mom, dad, sister, friend, brother…, communication is a key skill to success. Use it. Maybe the person can’t talk to you about what is happening yet, give them space, but find a time to discuss it, because if you don’t, it can lead to further misunderstanding, fester and create other problems.
Calmly listening and talking it out, leads to better outcomes for both parties and it creates a sense of relief that things are out in the open.
When we believe the best in others, we get the best from others.
The truth is we don’t know what is going on in the lives of others, so why not give them the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t you want someone to extend that to you? Wouldn’t you want someone to believe the best in you even when you aren’t your best? YES!!!
I speak from experience when I say yes, I do want someone to give me the benefit of the doubt when I’m not at my best.
If what someone has said to you, or done to you, has offended you, either let it go, or talk to them about it, nicely! Chances are it was a simple miscommunication, and they will appreciate the opportunity to correct the misunderstanding. If you let it go, then don’t bring it up again or keep thinking about it.
We live in a world that is hard and judgmental and we have the power to make it better. I challenge you to pay if forward and believe the best in others!