Can you manage to lead the 6C’s? Compassion.

“The myth of management is that your personal values are irrelevant or inappropriate at work.” ― Stan Slap


OK, lets put this in a frame of thinking.  I’ve been a manager for about 11 years.  According to my job description anyway.  Was I one before? Well I didn’t instantly morph into one at the end of a successful interview, I started a process of learning.  According to everyone in my teams, I was a manager though.  That label, that expected way of working, that bunch of competencies, that job.  Suddenly feeling like a goldfish dropped into a new tank where everyone is looking at you but you’re swimming about trying to get to drips with your new surroundings. I evolved into a manager, I managed teams, managed budgets, managed projects, did Management qualifications, could go through my job description happily ticking off and feeling confident I was doing it.

So what’s the problem? The problem is, and always has been for me, that I like to create and innovate and those are traits of leadership that if you yourself are managed not led then it creates a disconnect.  I’ve had a lot of managers, a lot of years and some leaders, and through taking the best from each I hope I now lead but then manage when I have to.  It takes me back to playing a fair bit of rugby when I was younger (and fitter, and even had hair) where to be the difference you had to give yourself to the team, not expect to be told. So, what’s this to do with my blogging? Where’s he going with it?

It’s just that this morning I saw a tweet from the 6C’s live team

Do we know why some leaders don’t get ‘compassion’?

I think these sorts of questions, and certainly my answer, comes with a caveat.  I’ve met some great leaders in the health professions.  Compassionate, committed, communicative, caring, competent and courageous leaders.  Id like to spend the next few blogs picking out what I have seen (no names, libel is something I can’t afford to court!) and perhaps creating the ideal leader from my point of view as a dad, and as a carer. So, a good place to start, compassion. Leadership and compassion.  Compassion knows no grade, and doesn’t respect status.  Hence, if you’re a leader thinking ‘i’d better lead with compassion’ you’re already on the wrong foot in my view.

It shouldn’t take effort, it should be pulling it back to what you want, or wanted, when you’re at your most vulnerable.  It’s about you showing what is underneath the name badge, or role.  Showing you. Leaders may think it’s risky to do that, to show too much.  I used to think that.  Hold the door open but keep a hand on it just in case someone tries to push it more open than you want.  What i’ve found is that the stronger your emotional connection, your empathy, your compassion the better you feel. For some people ’emotional connection’ and management are two silos that shouldn’t mix – particularly in change ; you know the change graphs, the way people you manage will react ’emotionally’ and it can, wrongly in my view, be seen as a risk to emotionally engage. So, how do you show it?

Me, by shouting randomly and emotionally at everyone and everything that happens.  Except I don’t.  Why? Well there’s the idea of becoming (slightly) more insightful and realising that being emotionally connected means something very different than being ’emotional’ in behaviour.

I have an emotional connection to Isaac, and who would ever doubt it, he’s 33.3% of my children.  That paternal bond means that I can’t not be compassionate. If I meet another child with similar issues to Isaac will I feel compassion? Yes, because there’s a commonality of experience, an empathy, a desire to see that child’s needs met and, and I’m shouting here….I CARE!   Now for leaders how is that different? You see someone, a staff member or a patient (hate that term), or a service user (hate that term) or a client (hate that term) and you have commonality of experience if you’ve grown up on earth. You surely have a desire to see that persons needs be met? If you don’t then seriously, find a profession that will reward individualism.  Care professions almost have a sign above the door saying ‘you have a desire to help if you work here’.  So really the only next step is to show you care. When I meet leaders who care, I care about them.  There’s people I have only known months that I care about, and theres others I’ve known years who don’t show compassion or care that I also care about.   I used to see it that if they didn’t care why should I, but then I started to realise that – without sounding like the cord trouser wearing social worker in me – that seriously, change only happens when some people see the bigger picture.

The 6C’s is one angle on that ‘bigger picture’.  I believe -call me naive I’ll call you cynical -that if there is an investment all levels that there sometimes pulling back the layers and letting the barrier down of emotional connection then there won’t be a 6C’s campaign.  There’ll be a legacy of people at all levels who, without thinking, show compassion.  People who will go the extra mile for Isaac, people who will invest of themselves into the care they give. I hope I haven’t sounded sanctimonious here, i’ve been a manager, captain of sports teams, coach of sports teams, and i’m far from an academic or an expert. What I do know though is that Isaac doesn’t care whether the person in charge of the ward he’s on has managed the Trump Corporation if what they’ve created is disenfranchised staff by not being true to themselves and giving a little bit of that emotional equity.  Equally, Isaac doesn’t care if the nurse looking after him was the best team player and compassionate carer if they’ve become battered by a turbulent change process and have stopped giving him that bit of emotional connection and care he needs. Next up i’ll try and tackle care for leaders.  All take your bosses a cake in on Monday, thats a start ;0).

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