Today we remember the 9/11 attacks that left thousands dead and wreaked havoc throughout the nation. We would never be the same.
But what do we remember today? Do we remember the damage or do we remember how people responded?
In times of trauma, there is an unmatched potential to change lives. As leaders at all levels but especially in operations and human resources we know it is in the traumatic moments that we shape the culture of our organization and team. Our team will remember how we responded when they were at their lowest point. It is easy to do the right thing when profits are plush but when the difficult days come, that reveals our values. That is what people will remember.
In our newly revised book, “The ROI of Compassion” my wife and I detail a four-step process to be compassionate, i.e. come alongside others to help them alleviate their pain. This is important because showing compassion helps us do what is right for the team member and what is best for the company. In other words, Compassion is the best business strategy to unleash the ultimate performance, production, and profits. When we care, we have a much more engaged team than when we don’t care. When they are engaged, we see the difference in our bottom line. Unfortunately many consider compassion an unnecessary expense when it is actually the best investment.
Here are the four steps to show compassion in times of trauma.
As we think back to that dark day in September of 2001, I turn back to photos I took of New York five weeks after the attack. We went specifically to see first hand what had happened. We took the train to Penn Station and decided to walk south toward Ground Zero. Along the way, we noticed a wall covered with pictures and notes. We had heard about it and even seen some photos. But noticing in person was different.
What pain is your team experiencing? The trauma might have happened years ago but reminders, like today, might bring it back like it was yesterday.
Do you notice that they are hurting?
The Wall of the Living and the Dead at St. Vincent’s Hospital stunned us. Looking closer, we began reading each of the fliers posted by loved ones. Reading the notes moved us to tears as we could feel their pain.
Many times we protect ourselves, especially at work, from feeling another’s pain. We think “feelings have no place in strategic business” but we also know that business is built upon relationships that are built on emotions. To create engaged employees, we must care. If we don’t care, neither will they. That all starts by feeling their pain.
Have you allowed yourself to feel the pain of your team?
So how do we respond?
Five weeks after the attacks we were aware of the many spontaneous acts of compassion. Store owners offered bottles of water without charge. Hotels offered places to sleep as well as blankets and pillows when rooms ran out. Complete strangers offered help. At that moment, many didn’t need to think, they knew exactly what to do.
But others had already strategized the best action. Firefighters and police officers followed the prescribed plan and entered the burning towers.
After the attacks, many different agencies worked to help alleviate the financial, emotional, and physical pains of the victims and their families.
Too often we don’t do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing. Or we may not know what to do, so we don’t do anything.
Other times we rush in and do what we would want to be done. That is commendable but may not be what they need to alleviate their pain.
What is the best strategy to alleviate their pain?
Following 9/11, many companies quickly made plans to deal with terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, they were working reactively. Because of 9/11, many formulated strategic plans in case it happens again.
Unfortunately, trauma comes in many shapes and sizes and occurs far more frequently than terrorist attacks. The death of a loved one and extended illnesses inflict pain far more often. So does financial reversals and a child’s struggle to fit in socially. Whenever a team member suffers what they consider a significant pain, that distracts from their ability to perform at work.
How can you build a plan that best comes alongside them and alleviates that pain in a wide variety of common traumas?
Nike said it best, “Just Do It!”
If we have a plan, then the challenge is to execute it perfectly at the perfect time. Know who is going to do what, when and how. Just do it. Make sure that the person responsible performed as assigned.
The firefighters and police officers had plans in place to respond to massive disasters. They had rehearsed the situation so they could perform perfectly.
When you have a plan in place that successfully helps to alleviate another’s pain and move on to the “new normal” in their lives, they won’t forget. They will remember and most often, will greatly remember you and your company. So will all the other employees. When compassion becomes a central focus in your strategic plan and culture, team members and others notice and respond.
Are you ready to act for any trauma that takes your team member’s attention away from their job?
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
I help individuals and organizations think bigger to reach higher, doing what many never thought possible. Contact me today to learn how you can implement this process in your organization.
Start learning how you can engage employees during their most traumatic moments in our newly revised and just released book, “The ROI of COMPASSION.”