I have a very wise friend. She has no idea that she is wise. Little does she know her sage wisdom taught me soft skills that helped me succeed in executive management.
While I was riding my waves of emotions post business closure, I was working on a three-month plan to focus on myself. At the end of month two, an amazing opportunity fell on my lap. A friend referred me to a company that was looking for a Head of Analytics.
The idea of a new venture so soon spun my emotions out of control. I had jumped from a 4-year hostile work environment at an advertising agency, to launching a million-dollar business, to closing my business. I wasn’t ready! I had a three-month plan! I needed to execute my three-month plan! Getting back to work wasn’t on the roadmap until my six-month plan.
But am I really complaining about an opportunity presenting itself on a silver platter?! Am I an ungrateful pathetic person??
I experienced a couple days of anxiety about this interview when I met with that wise friend. My situation came up in conversation and I said in a sarcastic tone, “Oh boo hoo, I have this amazing opportunity that fell on my lap, poor me.”
She looked at me and said, “Dude, you need more self-compassion. You wouldn’t be this way if someone else was in the same situation.”
I thought about it and said, “No, I totally would, I’d think they were ungrateful and not appreciating opportunities.”
She replied, “Then you need to work on compassion in general.”
I thought about this statement. It’s true. The light bulb turned on and I thought about my experiences with compassion in the workplace.
In business we are so fast paced and cutthroat that sometimes we forget about compassion.
This is especially true at advertising agencies. At an agency, you are tethered to difficult client deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment where if one person makes a mistake, ramifications are significant costing jobs for everyone on that team. This high-stake environment causes a pressure cooker and leads to a lack of compassion.
In a setting where consequences are so steep, hearing an employee’s life problems that caused them to complete work below the necessary standard is the last thing that you want to hear. Disillusionment makes it so that you don’t care. All you know is that it’s costing you personally more hours of your life to fix the problem taking time away from your life and your family. You know it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time.
But ignoring compassion has even worse long-term effects. By lacking compassion in a situation like the one outlined above causes staff to become disillusioned, they get stressed out, burnt out, and unhappy with the company. Having a company that lacks a compassionate culture will lead to turnover, bad Glassdoor reviews, hostile work environments, lawsuits, and eventually losing clients and revenue. At the end of the day, these outcomes are way worse than the extra hours to compensate for uncontrollable situations. It’s better to be compassionate.
My friend questioning my compassion, opened my eyes to how I could be better in business. Not to let pressure cooker environments compromise human decency. Practicing empathy will build better relationships and stronger business practices. Executive management’s responsibilities should include shaping the culture and overseeing overall conduct not just performance.
In terms of my self-compassion – I had been through a few wild and crazy years professionally, it’s ok to not be ready for the next big adventure. It’s ok to stick to my plan knowing what is best for my long-term success. Amazing opportunity or not, if the timing isn’t right, is it actually that amazing?
Realizing this newfound self-compassion, I feel free of that anxiety and guilt to perform my best. I don’t always have to be an above and beyond amazing human being. Chances are, even when I’m not trying, I still am.