Good People - Chap. 4 - The Human Factor: Compassion
I Am A Cold-hearted Monster
My first failure as a compassionate professional happened right after college. I was promoted to supervise a small team of coworkers who were older and mostly more qualified than me. That led me to develop a bad case of imposter syndrome and to come across as much cooler and detached than I actually am.
Under normal circumstances that might've been fine, but two of my team members were experiencing significant health problems and probably would've benefited from a little more warmth. I felt awful about their illnesses and I tried to be accommodating with their schedules, but because I wasn't sure how to professionally navigate sensitive health conversations, I never really checked in or genuinely asked how they were doing.
In retrospect, I think if I had opened up and intentionally shared my concern for them it would've helped our sometimes strained relationships and made them feel more supported in their work.
But I Am Trying To Be Human
The key takeaway for me from this chapter is that competency and compassion are not mutually exclusive ideas. I already knew this to be true, but the anecdotes were an important reminder of how important it is to selflessly appreciate where your coworkers are coming from. Compassion and empathy are especially relevant in the context of EdLab, because the acts of being open-minded about others' ideas and empowering them to make their own decisions don't just increase happiness, they also encourage learning:
"Over the years the research evidence keeps piling up and it keeps pointing to the conclusion that a high degree of empathy in a relationship is possibly the most potent factor, and certainly one of the most important factors in bringing about change in learning." –Carl Rogers (p. 78)
Tips For Not Being Terrible
I think it can be difficult to activate your sense of compassion at work. This chapter has a few practical tools for building a culture of generosity, empathy, and openness. One idea that I liked and will be intentional about trying is the 24x3 rule: after someone tells you about a new idea, try waiting 24 seconds, or 24 minutes, OR 24 hours (omg) until you respond with any criticisms.
Also, this seems to be a popular topic in professional development and leadership blogs, and there are other useful tips out there:
Maybe An Unpopular Idea But Still Probably Better Than Trust Falls
In thinking about how to develop a better sense of empathy as an organization, an idea that stood out to me is participating in a group service/volunteer project. Painting a high school hallway is probably less fun than kayaking on the Hudson, but a service day could be an opportunity to engage with the community and get to know one another better outside of meetings and seminars.