“The managerial rule books fail us at times like these when people are searching for meaning and a reason to hope for the future,” according to a Harvard Business Review article. Surely, that applies to Myanmar in the spring of 2021.
In the article “Leading in Times of Trauma,” authors Dutton, Frost, Worline, Lilius, and Kanov share essential lessons about responding compassionately during tumultuous times.
A leader’s response helps the organization “to maintain high performance in difficult times… to heal, to learn, to adapt, and to excel.” Compassionate leadership involves “some form of public action, however small… to ease people’s pain.” These actions, in turn, often inspire others to act in compassionate ways.
1. Form a compassionate institutional response. Allow employees to “freely express and discuss the way they feel, which in turn helps them to make sense of their pain, seek or provide comfort, and imagine a more hopeful future.” In addition, encourage people who are experiencing pain or suffering to seek to heal their own and others’ suffering.
When your employees “no longer have to expend energy trying to ignore the pain” that is present, then “they can more easily and effectively get back to work.” Openly expressing strong emotions and feelings will lead to honest expression and motivate people to rebuild hope and confidence. And, remember that leaders should model this behavior.
2. Remind people about the larger purpose of their work. Seek opportunities to communicate and reinforce your organizational values. Even as [employees] struggle to make sense of life crises and challenges, being reminded of their organization’s values can help them feel better about their work.
3. Evaluate whether your organization is compassionate, by these four indicators.
- Scope: What types of resources does your organization provide in times of crisis? Consider various resources such as work flexibility, physical aid, gestures of comfort like flowers, financial support, childcare assistance, time, and/or attention.
- Scale: What level of support can your organization provide? This means the volume of resources, time, and attention that people who are suffering receive, proportionate to the scale of need.
- Speed: How quickly is your organization able to respond to employees’ needs? The quicker the response time, the more compassionate your organization is.
- Specialization: Can your organization provide specific responses for the employee’s specific needs?
Providing a compassionate response is essential for you to lead by example during times of crisis.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.