My dad often said, “The older I get the smarter my parents get.” I didn’t get it until I got older and started appreciating the lessons and values I learned from him. I quote him often in my writing and training, and share many stories of his wisdom in my professional work. I tell most of his best jokes, over and over until my kids roll their eyes.
I get more and more agitated every time I hear about a new philanthropy giving millions of dollars to a needy cause. I’m tired of another heroic act of altruism by Bill Gates. I’m done with servant leadership.
Don’t get me wrong. I admire the heck out of Bill Gates, the Dali Lama, and Mother Teresa. And I try to focus every day on serving others. My problem is that these beacons of compassion have set the bar too high and created an unrealistic view of what compassion is. This is especially true in today’s complex workplace.
Leaders who practice self-less compassion are headed for burnout.
Compassion comes from the Latin root meaning “to suffer with.”
- alleviating suffering
- suffering instead of
- solving the problem for someone else
- taking over responsibility
- having sympathy
- giving til it hurts
- putting your needs on hold indefinitely
- becoming equally vulnerable and transparent
- honoring your own needs in order to stay healthy
- taking care of you so you show up ready to serve
- being available but not taking over
- leveraging their gifts as well as yours
- building capability and capacity, not dependence
- knowing your why, and sticking to it
- enforcing your boundaries
- holding others accountable too
Compassion is a two-way street that sees self and others as valuable, capable, and responsible. If you compromise any one of these three, drama might be just around the corner.
We need more role models that practice the full definition of compassion. Do you know any? Will you share in the comments?
Arthur Brooks, economist and author of Love Your Enemies estimates that seven percent of the population profits from contempt. Contempt is how we feel when we view others as invaluable, incapable, and irresponsible. This is exactly the opposite of compassion.
Contempt-mongers make their living by using conflict as a weapon. They have honed the art of stoking division, emphasizing differences, inviting fear, and normalizing the degradation of anyone who gets in their way.
Conflict was never approved for use as a weapon.
Conflict is a natural consequence of diversity. Diversity is a natural and wonderful part of this world we live in. The purpose of conflict is to create, not destroy.
Conflict has been approved as a viable energy source for creating something amazing.
Compassion is the mechanism for harnessing the positive potential in conflict.
So what’s up with the seven percent?
- Ignorance; we don’t know and don’t want to know about those other people
- Greed; compassion threatens our personal stockpile of stuff
- Fear; I don’t know what would happen, but it’s probably bad
- Upbringing; it’s how I was raised
- Us vs. Them; we are right, they are different, they need to be eliminated
- It pays off; contempt-mongering gets me what I want
The good news!
93% of the world prefers compassion.
Who is your role model in the 93%? Will you give them a shout out on this post?
It’s been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. A time when leadership really matters.
In May 2019 we launched The Compassion Mindset at the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Expo in D.C. We’re going all in with TCM. We are bringing every ounce of knowledge, experience, faith, grit, and optimism we have to this thing. We have high hopes of breaking into the biggest markets in the world and are passionate about the impact we believe TCM can make in the world. It has been like starting a whole new company from scratch. Exhilarating. And scary as hell.
ATD was awesome! After four years exhibiting at this conference, this year was the best. Clearer message, more interest, stronger leads, better networking.
Cloud nine, baby!
Returning from D.C. we diligently and enthusiastically began our follow-up and sales work. We faithfully executed our go to market strategy for TCM.
May evaporated. June came and went. What even happened to July? Only a small trickle of newly booked business. Nowhere near our projections.
What have we done? When will it take off? How long can we hold out? Why isn’t our plan working? This summer was supposed to be the best ever!
These questions started to dominate the conversations. Anxiety began to creep in, along with forecasts of gloom and doom.
Thank goodness for leadership. This time it didn’t come from inside our company. It didn’t come from me, the CEO who is suppose to have it all under control. It came from Stephan Mardyks of SMCOV, the consultant we hired to help us build and launch TCM. Here’s how Stephan is helping us carry our vision and ourselves through the ups and downs. It has nothing to do with his immense knowledge and expertise, and everything to do with great leadership.
Stephan believes in us and encourages us, even when we doubt our dream and our own abilities.
Stephan genuinely respects each of us, including our unique backgrounds, personalities and skills.
Stephan is not just positive by nature, he has cultivated a discipline of optimism that embodies a growth mindset.
It’s easy to lose focus when things aren’t going great. It’s tempting to grab at straws for anything that might get a quick result. Stephan helps us distinguish what matters from what is noise.
Stephan sees the big picture. He shows us how each activity, each day, contributes to the long-game.
Stephan reminds us that great things take time and there are no magic bullets.
No matter what we say or do, Stephan is fully with us. No judgment, no criticism, just validation of our experience.
Stephan doesn’t mince words and he doesn’t sugar coat things. He gives us helpful and honest feedback without attack.
Stephan is generous with his time, energy, and wisdom. Every time we finish a phone call with Stephan or pay a bill, we feel grateful and blessed. How is that even possible?!
Turns out Stephan is much more than a consultant. He is a leader and a partner in our success.
My guess is that any leader could be ten times more effective if they added these qualities to their resume. It’s certainly something I want to emulate.
This past weekend our team gathered in Colorado for a company retreat with the goal of stepping back, regrouping, filling our tanks, and re-aligning ourselves with our purpose.
We are going to be OK. We are going to change the world. Thank you Stephan.
Harvard social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, says people quickly size you up by answering two questions when they meet you.
Can I trust you?
Can I respect you?
Is one of these more important than the other?
I recently accompanied my mother to a doctor’s appointment. We spent an hour in the waiting room and witnessed something that is all too common in patient care and impacts everything from satisfaction to the reputation of the practice itself.
I desperately wanted to rescue the billing representative during her interaction with a patient. If I could have slipped her a script using the ORPO template we teach in our Compassion Mindset course, it would have said,
Mis-communicable diseases are illnesses passed from person to person through miscommunication. That’s because miscommunication infects people with negativity; inferiority, guilt, shame, and fear. Forget the basic cases of not understanding each other. I’m talking about getting hooked, and the next thing you know, you’re under the weather.
Personality only matters if two or more people are trying to get something done.
This is Part 2 of a short series on how to increase engagement with six different personality types in coaching. Using the Process Communication Model (PCM®), coaches can adapt how they communicate and motivate to greatly increase buy-in, engagement, and participation in coaching. Coaches can use these insights to monitor their own behavior better, recognize how to keep themselves in a healthy place, and reduce miscommunication with their clients.
Last Spring I attended an introductory coaching course offered by the Coactive Training Institute. The two facilitators, both experienced coaches, were extremely gifted at establishing rapport. They were able to create a safe place for the 25 plus participants to open up and explore difficult issues. And, they had something more. Both of them had an uncanny knack for adjusting the way they communicated depending on the personality of the person with whom they were interacting. I noticed one situation where one facilitator gave a participant high-five and exchanged joking banter. With another person, she sat down next to her and exchange warm, nurturing conversation.
This pattern continued through out the three days as they “read” the audience and individualized their communication and motivation for each person in the room. Furthermore, these two professionals demonstrated keen self-awareness and self-management around their own needs, preferences, and distress. Somehow they managed to be themselves by letting their personality shine through, while still adjusting to others.
Adaptive Communication and Coaching
I imagine what I experienced from these gifted coaches was an extension of the adaptive communication skills they use in their one-on-one coaching relationships.
Adaptive communication is the ability to recognize individual differences in personality and communication and adapt our approach accordingly.
Some people are naturally good at it. Some develop it through experience. The rest of us can either wing it and take our chances, or learn how to do it. Ideally, coaches could fast-track their skills in this area since it is fundamental to developing rapport and nurturing an effective coaching alliance.
Adaptive communication does not depend on a formal profile on the other person, although these can be incredibly helpful to the coaching process.
Adaptive communication requires the ability to assess and decode verbal and nonverbal communication and discern patterns correlating with someone’s personality structure.
From here, a coach can adapt how he/she connects, motivates, and proactively deals with distress behavior. This skill goes far beyond rapport, and helps coaches create a strong, trusting, working relationship that greatly improves the chances of helping clients achieve their goals. As it was with my coach trainers, it also helps coaches with their own self-care and self-management, a critical component of healthy, ethical coaching.
PCM: A Framework for Adaptive Communication in Coaching
Using the framework of Process Communication Model (PCM®), a behavior-based model of personality and communication, coaches can predict with high-levels of accuracy how to individualize their approach in order to quickly build rapport, enhance communication, properly motivate clients, and anticipate and respond proactively to sabotage behavior.
There are six different personality types that a coach might encounter. For each, I’ll outline how to quickly establish rapport, how to motivate them towards positive behavior change, what types of sabotage behavior is most likely, and how to respond positively. I will also include comments on self-care if this happens to be the coach’s personality preference. I’ll introduce two of the six types in this article, the other four will be covered in the follow-up article.
CAVEAT: Before reading further, I want to caution that none of the six types explained below exist in isolation. We all have all six within us, arranged in a preferred, set order. And, we all have types that are more developed, more primary, and a stronger driver of our behavior. As a coach, you will likely experience one predominant type, and one or two other secondary types displayed in coaching. The predominant type will come into the foreground especially when personal/professional motivation is in focus and during distress.
Every coach has a sweet spot and a blind spot. Sweet spots are where a coach can leverage their own strengths, but can also unconsciously assume that others see and experience with world that same way. Blind spots are where a coach can’t relate to a personality type that’s less developed in themselves, so they unconsciously have negative bias.
PCM represents personality like a six-floor condominium, with a preferred base floor, and five other floors arranged in a preferred, set order. Each floor has corresponding communication, motivation, and distress patterns. These are evident by decoding language structure and nonverbal communication. Connecting with, and leveraging a person’s communication profile can greatly enhance rapport, motivation, and success in coaching.
Logical, responsible, and organized, Thinkers want data and facts so that they can form logical conclusions. Logic is their communication currency. Small-talk, sharing feelings, and playful exchanges are aversive because they want a structured, linear flow that connects the dots. In distress they will disrupt by over controlling, dominating conversation with excessive over-explaining, and criticizing the logic of the coach’s and others’ ideas. Motivate them towards positive behavior by acknowledging their hard work and respect the value of their time. If you are a Thinker coach, be careful of imposing your need for structure on other personality types. Take time every day to make note of your accomplishments. Respect your own time and don’t over-commit.
Compassionate, sensitive, and warm, Harmonizers seek harmony. They embrace relationships and anything that will help people get along better. Compassion is their communication currency. They love intimate environments where they feel safe to speak up. In distress they can interfere with the coaching process by losing assertiveness, not asking for what they want, and avoiding conflict. Motivate them towards positive behavior by affirming them as a person, attending to creature comforts, and showing you care about them unconditionally. If this is you, give yourself permission to take elegant care of you and hold firm to boundaries. Be careful not to take things to personally, and practice leaving your clients’ problems at the door.
Tune in to Part 2 to learn about the other four Kahler Types and how to adapt your communication for better engagement in coaching.
Empathy fatigue is a phrase coined by Mark Stebnicki, a professor in the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation at East Carolina University. He explains that, “empathy fatigue results from a state of psychological, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and occupational exhaustion that occurs as the counselors’ own wounds are continually revisited by their clients’ life stories of chronic illness, disability, trauma, grief and loss.”
Empathy fatigue is especially common in high-touch professions where empathy, care, concern, and emotional support are job duties. Although first recognized in the counseling field, empathy fatigue is gaining more recognition in corporate settings, especially in companies promoting a customer-centric and people-focused culture.
Losing our selves. Losing our soul.
Symptoms of Empathy fatigue are described in Lynne Shallcross’ article, “Who’s taking care of Superman.”
- Feelings of powerlessness or helplessness
- Loss of meaning, purpose and hope
- Lowered concentration
- Somatic complaints
- Low morale or motivation
How did we get here?
Empathy fatigue is caused by the relentless pursuit to serve the customer coupled with a distorted understanding of compassion.
On the way to perfecting our customer-first strategy we’ve forgotten that the customer is an agent in the equation. We have accepted that we are responsible for making everything better, so we listen more, care more, empathize more, and suffer more.; so that they will have a pleasant experience, stay engaged, and buy more.
Most people believe that compassion is synonymous with empathy, altruism and kindness. That’s wrong.
How do we get out?
The obvious answer is self-care. It’s a good step, but it’s not the full solution. The solution is to practice compassion in its fullest sense. Compassion means “to struggle with,” not “to struggle instead of.” Here’s how compassion can help you solve empathy fatigue.
Keep caring and giving
Don’t shut down your heart. People are hard-wired to care about each other. And, don’t forget to also protect your heart. Bleeding-hearts don’t last very long.
Engage others in the process
Stop solving problems for people. Get them involved to take ownership over the solution. Customers are much more loyal and engaged when they take an active role in the solution. When you are doing all the emotional (and physical) work, you are undermining their capability and dignity and creating dependence.
Set and enforce boundaries
Protect your soul by knowing your boundaries and investing in you. Without it, your tank will always be on empty. What keeps you healthy and balanced? Do it. What gives you joy? Do it. Recognize when saying “yes” means you are saying no to what keeps you healthy. You are worth as much as the person you are trying to help. When you are fatigued you aren’t helpful.
Solving empathy fatigue requires difficult conversations with yourself and with others. It’s not easy, and we have a solution.
Start your journey towards more energy and better relationships today with The Compassion Mindset course, offered regularly in a two-hour webinar format.