Compassionate Logic


“There’s this woman on my team who thinks she’s above doing the project I gave her, so she’s not doing sh*#,” says a cherished family member on our most recent phone call.

“And now I have to have a conversation with her tomorrow morning that’s not going to go well,” he continued in a frustrated tone.

As I was listening to the back story, all I could think about were the many clients who have said something similar to me recently: they don’t understand why their team members aren’t motivated to produce.

Leaders make a lot of assumptions about their employees’ lack of motivation. Likewise, employees make a lot of assumptions about their leaders. So during our conversation, my brain was questioning whether or not she really thought she was “above it” or if she was just behaving that way due to her own beliefs and assumptions.

My work gives me a unique opportunity to observe, listen to and oftentimes unite multiple differing perspectives. As a result, I have a broader view as I seek the truth.

The truth is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March of this year. That’s just two months ago. If you haven’t been paying attention to the incredible need to lead effectively, it’s time.

Leading effectively doesn’t always require you to know what’s not motivating your employees. It is about engaging them meaningfully so you can learn how to help them motivate.

Though the truth may hurt, it will inevitably free you to become more successful.

There are a multitude of reasons for someone’s lack of motivation. It ranges anywhere from crises at home to health challenges to a lack of direction to too much pressure. The long list goes on and on. You may or may not ever discover the culprit behind a person’s lack of motivation. Some may not want to share their private challenges. Others may not even know why they aren’t motivated.

Regardless, your solution isn’t in becoming your employee’s best friend. Your ability to motivate them is not in learning all the heartbreaking details of each person’s private world, as if that were even possible.

Having a meaningful conversation with an employee doesn’t mean that you have to dig, poke and pry into their personal lives in order to legitimize their poor performance. It simply means that you lead with compassion. You actually care about more than what they do. You care about who they are.

If an employee believes you care, they believe in you. If they believe in you, they will be far more likely to invest in you. After all, post-pandemic, no one is willing to invest their energy carelessly anymore.

By example, last year Forbes cited a study by Catalyst regarding empathy in the workplace. They found that 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy.

A logical suggestion: instead of making assumptions, accusations or condescending inquiries, let’s all get out of our heads for a minute, get into our hearts and genuinely care about the other person’s well-being. Behaving with kindness, you will be amazed by the difference in the person’s willingness and ability to engage.

Some leaders think kindness, empathy and compassion are analogous to being too soft, naive or stupid. These beliefs don’t convey the truth. They are merely excuses to keep leading with non-feeling robotic agility. Good luck with that in 2022 and beyond.

Compassion is a fundamental block upon which to (re)build relationships – and your team’s productivity. Compassion isn’t a magic bullet, but it is the crucial foundation most likely to support success in today’s market.

By the way, as my beloved relative and I wrapped up our phone conversation, I gently suggested that he go into the next morning’s conversation with a genuine interest by asking meaningful questions before making statements.

“Lead with compassion,” I recommended.

“You do know me, right?!” he responded. “I am all logic. All the time.”

“Well, then, if you want results and you want her to be productive, then it’s logical to believe that if she thinks you care enough to inquire instead of accuse, she’ll start caring more about her work. It’s simple cause and effect.”

“I see where you’re going with this,” he said with humorous resignation.

The sooner you decide to (re)build your professional foundation with compassion, the faster and more effectively you will build – and successfully lead – an exceptional team in spite of today’s workforce challenges.

You got this.