Compassionate Leadership: When The Dalai Lama And Brain Scientists Agree on Something, You Want To Listen
When I was a little girl, I’ll never forget seeing a stray dog. It was running along the street in a panic, approaching a freeway onramp. It was disoriented and fearful, panicking and not knowing what to do. For me, as a small child, this was traumatic to see. I knew what would happen if that dog got up the freeway ramp; I think we can all conclude he wouldn’t have had much of a chance.
I cried through the closed window of our car, tapping the glass with the hope that it could save him. “Doggy! Doggy! The doggy needs help!” My mom was focused on driving and didn’t hear me. Meanwhile I was distraught, imagining the impending doom of someone’s loyal companion.
I envisioned a little girl much like myself crying herself to sleep, not knowing where her dog was.
Then suddenly, a car pulled over. A good Samaritan got out, approached the frightened dog, and managed to rescue it from the side of the road. At that moment, my sadness flipped to elated joy. Every fiber of my being was happy, and for a couple reasons. First of all, Doggy was going to be OK. And second of all, I felt immense gratitude for the kindness of the rescuers. I witnessed compassion, although I didn’t know that word when I was a young girl.
Witnessing compassion has an emotional, spiritual, and physiological effect on people. And this experience shaped my beliefs about the world, teaching me that we are inherently good and that doing good is part of our DNA.[headline style=”1″ align=”center” headline_tag=”h2″]
What Is Compassion?[/headline]
Compassion is defined as a concern for the misfortune of others and wanting to do something about it. It’s often confused with empathy, which is having the understanding of another’s feelings or experience. The main difference is that compassion sparks action.
A beautiful example of compassion in action (and technically, in a workplace) was when professional tennis player Rafael Nadal stopped a tennis match he was in because he heard a girl crying for her mother. Something inside of him was moved to take that single action. He could have ignored it, as I’m sure many people who’ve heard children in distress have blocked it from their minds. But he stopped… in the middle of a game… and made it possible for them to find each other from across the courts and to each other.
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When The Dalai Lama and Brain Scientists Agree on Something…[/headline]
Religious and spiritual leaders have been teaching for thousands of years that compassion is a virtue. Compassion rests as a foundational tenet of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want to be happy, practice compassion. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.” Biblical quotes and sacred texts from mystics and spiritual leaders speak of the gift that is practicing compassion.
And now Western science has chimed in on the topic.
Brain imaging studies by the National Institutes for Health show that the pleasure centers of the brain – the same ones that light up from sex, money, and chocolate- are activated by compassion. In other words, we feel PLEASURE when we observe someone doing for another. Children, such as myself when I saw the stray dog being rescued, respond when they see good being done for others. It creates an emotional and physiological impact.
Our brains are wired to respond positively to compassion. Researchers say it’s part of our evolutionary survival strategy: when our primordial ancestors showed compassion, it helped the species survive.[headline style=”1″ align=”center” headline_tag=”h2″]
Compassionate Leadership: From “Me” to “We”[/headline]
Compassion helps us in more ways than just a warm, fuzzy feeling… it helps us create healthier, happier, more productive workplaces.
Approaching leadership from a compassionate standpoint is about moving your focus from “Me” to “We”. The “I’m only in it for myself” mindset isn’t what’s needed to create more peaceful, productive workplaces. The shift towards a more compassionate workplace are far reaching: on an emotional level it keeps people happy, and on a financial level it saves money.
- In a 2012 study by BMC Public Health, it shows employee stress levels decrease when they feel more bonded. We all know what happens to communication, productivity, and interpersonal relationships when stress is high. Imagine the reverse of that.
- A compassionate leader encourages stronger relationships and communication: people are encouraged to develop friendships. These deeper levels of understanding help with attitude, focus, and commitment.
- Think of hostile environments you’ve been in. Studies show that compassionate leadership promotes higher employee retention. When people are feeling appreciated and part of something bigger than the job, it promotes a positive work environment and company culture.
- A study published by the Academy of Management review shows that compassion can actually lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate. The decrease of stress and increase of feeling part of something helps the body be more resilient, thus decreasing sick days.
- Compassion replicates itself: A study published by the National Academy of Sciences shows how cooperative behavior “cascades” to others around. It’s actually contagious. When you raise the compassion bar, others follow suit. It becomes the new normal. And here’s an important sidenote: it does NOT open the door to being taken advantage of. The fears of being compassionate have been put to rest.
- An Australian School of Business leadership study polled 5,600 participants from 77 different organizations. Those leaders identified as compassionate consistently showed productivity increases in employees, higher morale, and yes… higher profitability.
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Compassionate Leadership: Just Remember These 3 Things[/headline]
Being a compassionate leader really hinges on 3 main principles. As long as you stay focused on these, it will be much easier for you to make the inner changes you need in order to create organizational changes too.
- Seeing The Big Picture
Be aware of what’s going on, such as situations, processes, and dilemmas in your workplace. If you tend to isolate, or veer away from finding out anything other than what’s on your personal to-do list, then you’re missing out on vital information that is impacting your entire organization. Stay informed, being observant and caring.
2. Understanding Feelings
If you saw this woman with her head in her hand, sitting in front of a laptop, what would you do? What would you say to her?
Here’s a multiple choice quiz to test your response style:
a. Make a joke. “Hey what happened, did someone die? Lost the lottery again?”
b. Try to cheer her up to ease your discomfort: “Hey, wipe that frown off your face, let’s get happy!”
c. Ask a question: “Hey, looks like something’s frustrating you.”
If you answered c, then you came at this from a compassionate standpoint. Asking questions and listening are two of the greatest compassion builders around. Yes, there are loving meditations you can also work on, and I encourage you to do just that. But putting this into action requires us to do things to create a new normal for our responses.
Listening helps you get out of yourself and focus on the needs and feelings of others. When you do that, you cultivate your compassion skills. It’s an all around benefit.
Try this exercise:
Sit with a friend and have them share about a challenging situation for 2 minutes. Your job is to LISTEN. You may not interrupt or offer advice. You may not even nod your head, as that’s a way of communicating. Hold a still, silent, loving space for that person to share a challenge. Your urges to solve, fix, and move on will be immediately put to the test. Be sure to switch roles for another 2 minutes so you can experience what it feels like to be fully heard and given the space. This is a great exercise for a teambuilding event.
3. Move From “Me” to “We” Mindset
Knowing we’re all in this together, and feeling part of something bigger than ourselves elevates people to be their best. It strengthens the workplace relationships, keeps people on board with the company vision, and creates positive change.
Brain scientists who’ve researched human behavior note the evolutionary need for humans to stay together for survival. We have vulnerable offspring who need protecting, we rely on others for our survival as a species. Compassion is a natural human trait that can take us to our next phase of greatness in business and in the world around us.
Curiosity, that insatiable desire to know or learn something, doesn’t just make you an interesting person… it actually has far reaching benefits around happiness, achievement, relationships, and survival.
Holding the thought, “Why?”, can lead to discoveries that open you up to new adventures, discoveries, maybe even a new business or career idea.
The Greater Good Science Center from the University of California at Berkeley studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well being. Their research uncovers findings that aim to make our society more thriving, resilient, and compassionate.
What’s even better is it gives scientific evidence that something I’ve known all along is true: being incurably curious is A GOOD THING!
Here are the 6 surprising benefits of curiosity according to the Greater Good Science Center.
1. CURIOSITY HELPS US SURVIVE
Your brain rewards you for being curious, and that’s a fantastic trade off for human survival! When you encounter something new, your brain releases dopamine, the feel good chemical. That’s incentive to explore and seek novelty.
2. CURIOUS PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER
This goes along with #1. The more dopamine running through you, the happier you feel. The reward of curiosity is shown to create happier people with lower stress levels, higher levels of positive emotions, and a greater sense of well being.
3. CURIOSITY BOOSTS ACHIEVEMENT
According to the Greater Good Science Center, “Studies reveal that curiosity leads to more enjoyment and participation in school and higher academic achievement, as well as greater learning, engagement, and performance at work. It may seem like common sense, but when we are more curious about and interested in what we are doing, it’s easier to get involved, put effort in, and do well.”
4. CURIOSITY CAN EXPAND OUR EMPATHY
Curiosity can lead you to explore outside your social circles and develop deeper levels of understanding people with different lives, experiences, and worldviews than yours. This expands your empathy. Empathy helps us break down the barriers between us and others, and to move into a more peaceful existence. Findings on the positive effects of empathy have been published extensively by the Greater Good Science Center.
5. CURIOSITY HELPS STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS
According to the Greater Good Science Center, “One study asked strangers to pose and answer personal questions, a process scientists call “reciprocal self-disclosure.” They found that people were rated as warmer and more attractive if they showed real curiosity in the exchange (while other variables like the person’s social anxiety and their levels of positive and negative emotions did not affect the partner’s feelings of attraction and closeness). This implies that demonstrating curiosity towards someone is a great way to build your closeness with them.”
6. CURIOSITY IMPROVES HEALTHCARE
Studies involving doctors and patients found that the quality of healthcare improved when doctors held genuine curiosity in their patients. By asking questions and listening more deeply, there was less frustration and ultimately more effective treatment.
So go out into the world with a spirit of wonder and awe, look for the new and unexpected, try things you might never would have tried, and see each person you meet as a gift waiting to be revealed.
Curiosity has the power to open you up to new directions for your business, career, or mission in life. To learn how my style of approaching creativity and leadership can benefit you, your organization, or event contact me HERE
In Spring 2014, I had a numerology reading with the very gifted Peter Vaughan.
One thing really stood out. He said “By the end of 2015, your business is going to be very different than it is now.”
I wanted to understand what that meant RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Hearing “your business is going to be very different than it is now” could mean I’m making more (or less) money, could mean I’m working with a different clientele, could mean I’m panhandling, could mean SO MANY THINGS! Not knowing what it meant drove me crazy… but I kept following each indicated step. I vowed to trust the process.
Trusting the process is wonderful when viewed through the rearview mirror. However, when in the middle of it, it freakin sucks.
It puts you face to face with all your shit: inner fears shit, core wounds shit, money shit, parenting shit, relationship shit, car breaking down shit, ex-husband shit, adrenal exhaustion shit, perimenopausal shit, family shit, colleague shit, client shit, and all forms of miscellaneous shit.
Dammit, why does it have to be so complicated!
So many things changed in this time… unplanned but following God’s plan: a complete revamp of my business, creation and destruction, birthing and ending.
But as I take inventory today, I see that a lot of good shit happened too! The rearview mirror is looking quite nice:
1. I met The One and fulfilled the prophecy of finding true love when I’m 50. We now share a beautiful home and each day I’m filled with smiles, hugs, and love. Being happy and loved is good for my business and my creativity.
2. I attracted amazing clients: Powerful leaders, 7 figure entrepreneurs, visionary changemakers who saw their strengths in a whole new way. Together we built a plan for them to lead and grow from their genius, communicate their genius, create a legacy, and make a global impact.
3. Developed a podcast (coming soon!) with the amazing help of Doug Foresta! LESSONS FOR THE LEADING EDGE. Which brings me to my next item…
4. Owning MY GENIUS as a guide for visionary leaders and innovators. Boldly integrating LEADERSHIP as an area of expertise. it’s always been there, it’s just now spelled out. Finally!
5. GETTING MY BOOK DONE! The Genius Finder is in the works. OMG did that take only a decade to start or what????
6. Laying out the framework for an INSTITUTE for leading edge entrepreneurs and their organizations. Book and podcast to support this. (message me if you’d like to know about the next training).
Trusting the process… more doors yet to open, more discoveries yet to be made. Step by step.
My mother was a nurse for over 50 years. From the perspective of the patients she cared for, she could be either angel or tormentor, depending on their pain tolerance or mental state.
It wasn’t easy work. Some nights she’d come home so mentally exhausted, all she could do was cook up a batch of popcorn at midnight and watch Johnny Carson, then Tom Snyder, then go to bed well after the TV stations went off the air for the night.
Patients would demand things from her that she was unable to provide like increased doses of medication or for the doctor to come to the hospital in that instant. They’d get testy and angry with her for a policy she was powerless to change.
I asked her how she managed through all that.
“I kill them with kindness” was her standard response.
Jokingly, I created a signature line for her email account and put “Author of the upcoming book ‘Kill ‘Em With Kindness'” and people actually thought she was writing it. That made her chuckle, then she’d explain that her creative daughter was always thinking of crazy things to write.
Her kind nature changed situations from turbulent to calm and it transformed difficult people into calmer, more understanding souls. Because she worked and lived in the same town, it was a common occurrence to bump into former patients at the post office, grocery shopping, at the gas station, or walking through a shopping center.
She’d whisper in my ear, “I took care of that guy in the hospital.”
Then I’d look at her. “And?” I’d ask.
“Once I killed him with kindness, he was tolerable.”
We smiled and went on our way.
My mother’s mantra of kindness won her many fans. She was constantly receiving cards, flowers, chocolates, quilts, cookies and handmade gifts from the families of patients she cared for. The notes would always speak of her patience, dedication and most of all her kindness.
I like to think that her bedside manner was a big part in her patients’ recovery, and a part of the legacy she left behind.
One day, she told me her secret.
“When you look at someone, imagine they have a sign on their forehead that says ‘I’m important!’, and treat them that way.”
She made me laugh when she shared such simplistic advice, because at that time in my life I was looking for complicated solutions to understanding the deep meaning of everything.
As I grew older, and especially after I started my business, I found myself relying on her advice. I noticed how I felt when I’d go to business events and people would look past me and not care who I was or anything about me. I vowed not to be that way. I’d make it a point to say something kind to people. When it came to marketing and selling, I found myself being as appreciative and kind as I could and not coming down hard as if my job was to punish people into working with me.
Fact of the matter is, I’ve been criticized by a couple of colleagues for being “too nice.”
Isn’t that interesting? To me, that’s like criticizing fresh air for being too breathable.
Kindness counts when you walk into a room and don’t dismiss someone because they’re a “nobody”.
Kindness counts when a person just starting out asks you a question, like “What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone like me?”, and you actually take a moment to address them.
Kindness counts when the group you’re around goes on a gossip rampage and you choose not to participate.
Kindness counts when you refer prospective clients to someone else because you know deep inside they’re not the best fit for you and a much better fit for your colleague.
Kindness counts when you speak to your audience with intelligence, respect, and honor. Your audience can be a target market, a social media following, blog readers, a room full of people… they’re listening and following your every word so make them matter.
Kindness counts when you are kind to yourself, watching out for the signs of burning yourself out or not taking enough breaks.
Kindness counts when you’re honest with yourself and the people around you.
Yes, I am a firm believer in the power of kindness. I believe it has the power to transform our lives and the lives of those around us because it reminds us all of what my mom believed every day of her life: imagine each person with a sign on their head that says “I’m important!”
Find a way to be kind today.
Yesterday I was talking to a colleague about people who are successful but not enjoying their success. For everyone out there who is hustling to make the money, believe it or not, it doesn’t always lead to happiness. Yeah, nod your head and say “Amen, sister, that’s right!”, but take a moment to feel into this.
**Successful and not enjoying the success.**
Do you know what happens when everything externally says you should have it all together, but inside you’re not?
It stinks. You feel off purpose and empty. But because the money is coming in and all looks peachy-keen on the outside, you can easily stay there and hide. You’re standing there with golden handcuffs on, not sure what to do.[images style=”0″ image=”http%3A%2F%2Ftalentandgenius.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fgolden-handcuffs.jpg” custom_width=”Y” width=”500″ custom_width_val=”500″ align=”center” top_margin=”0″ full_width=”Y”]
Last year, I dismantled a high level coaching program that was a 6 figure revenue stream for my business. But… it was my version of the golden handcuffs. I loved my clients, they got results, but there was something missing from it and I knew it had to end. I could have continued re-enrolling people and bringing in new clients, but until I got my head around my own purpose for what I wanted this group to be, I just couldn’t run it anymore.
Yes, it was scary to dismantle this.
Yes, when I told people what I did they looked at me like I was half-baked.
I told myself the answer would reveal itself to me when it was ready… when I WAS READY.
At times I felt a bit panicked and impatient… “Ummm, hello God? It’s been a few months now, I kinda thought we’d have resolution in a few days… I’m getting a little worried!”
The time is NOW. Things are READY.
My Golden Handcuffs are off. I have the clear vision of my intensive work with leaders and impact entrepreneurs. The habits and behaviors I had that attracted in non-ideal clients have been replaced with habits and behaviors to bring in my ideal clients- the visionaries, the change agents, the leaders feeling the need to know who they really are and what’s their unique genius…
OK let’s just let this sink in… golden handcuffs… feeling trapped… breaking free. Can you relate? What comfort is holding you prisoner?
(Originally posted on Facebook)
#TAGtip #TalentAndGenius #FeelingFree #ComfortableInYourOwnSkin
Want to be in on this exciting new program? If you’re a successful entrepreneur but feel like your identity has gotten lost along the road to success, contact me to set up a conversation to explore if this is for you.
Here’s another gem from a series I created a while back called The Wild Idea That Paid Off.
The Wild Idea That Paid Off celebrates creative risk taking that defied common sense and netted big gains. In this segment, I tell a powerful story about my own path that illustrates 3 big points:
1. Don’t wait until you know everything.
2. Learn how to improvise.
3. Leverage the heck out of opportunities!
Using this philosophy, I took a bold move with a seemingly insignificant event and turned it into massive media attention that still pays off today. Listen in below:
Note: the link I mention in this presentation to Virtual Chat Series is inactive. To touch base with me, go to www.TalentAndGenius.com Share your wild ideas that paid off in the comments below!
A while back, I grabbed a few of my most wildly creative entrepreneur friends and asked them all the same thing:
Tell me about a risky, wild idea you took action on… and it paid off.
I wanted to hear their thoughts on risk taking and innovation… and inspire YOU to take risks with your wildly creative ideas.
Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation and her latest, Body of Work, is a risk taker extraordinaire. From her days as a high school exchange student to her current fame as a best selling author and coach, Pam’s life is devoted to curiously seeking new ways of understanding the world and ourselves.
Listen in to this inspiring conversation!
P.S. The link I mention to the VirtualChatSeries.com site is inactive but if you’re not yet a subscriber to my list, Click here to get my free training Get Paid to Be You!
Patti Keating captured my enthusiasm for all things GENIUS during this great interview we did for her podcast, The Entrepreneur Unleashed.
Patti and I have Facebook messages dating back to the Stone Age, but it wasn’t until this past year that we really got to know one another on a more personal level. I love her!
We’ve shared business ideas, motivated one another, sang Karaoke with a couple of hunky Aussies, gotten our backs walked on by masseurs who spoke no English… so in other words I’ve vetted her for you: She’s one of us!
Click here to listen to the interview she conducted- it’s honest, inspiring, raw, funny and will remind you that YOU are a genius. Just like that!
I first learned this acronym when I was training to be a coach. Listening (and letting people talk) are more powerful tools for getting to the solution than lecturing. It works beautifully when selling too!
Keep this over your phone (if you do a lot of phone work) or in your head as you work with people. It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received!
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