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Business and Leadership

13 ways to be a compassionate leader

In my work, I have the fortune of being able to lead people and influence the community.  I also have the privilege of learning how to lead compassionately.  What is compassionate leadership?  For me, it is a way of leading people in a real and human way by making heart-felt and ethical decisions, which sometimes is the opposite of what they taught me in business school.  So, here’s how I do it.

1.      Listen to feed back

This is the most important thing you can do.  Listen to your people, listen to stakeholders, listen to your critics, listen to your fans, listen to EVERYTHING.  I’m not saying that you should take everything to heart, but have a measured idea of how you’re doing and where you stand.

2.      Hire good people and let them do their jobs

This means that you must relinquish control of every little thing that happens in your domain.  You have people there to do a job, and you must let them do it.  Nothing undermines the progress of a good team like a control freak or a micromanager.

3.      Be real

You’re human.  It does no one any good to pretend otherwise.  If you’re afraid you’ll look weak to your subordinates, then you need a reality check.  Trying to mask emotion or illness or stress is counterproductive and leads to overall burnout.  Be real and honest with your team.  They’ll thank you for your authenticity and this will lead to trust in your organization.

4.      Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions

I hate firing people, but sometimes it must be done.  I hate walking away from losing situation because I think I can always win.  These things, whether an unproductive employee or the proverbial Kobayashi Maru, are facts of life and pursuing them is a drain on you, your team and your resources.  Know when to cut your losses.

5.      Don’t Lie and Don’t tolerate Liars on your team.


6.      Lead with your Heart and not your Head

Instinctively, we know what’s right for our teams and what we need to accomplish a goal.  Sometimes this is counter intuitive to those higher on the food-chain or is contraindicated in your Ops plan.  If you know what’s right and what it takes to get to where you need to be, don’t be afraid to stick up for it.

7.      Know when to say No

It is just as important to put the kibosh on a bad idea as it is to boldly go forward with an innovative one.  So if it’s unrealistic, unethical, or just plain unattainable based on current resources, know when you can tactfully say no to those pushing the "Next Big Thing."  Your team will thank you for sticking up for them and recognizing their workload.

8.      Say Thank You – Often

Everyone wants to be appreciated.  So recognize people for what they do and bring it back to what it means to the organization and the bigger picture.  People don’t just want to work for a pay check, they want to have what they do mean something.  It’s up to you to make sure that bigger picture remains paramount and that your people feel a part of it.

9.      Have a Vision You’re Passionate About

You may be steering the ship, but your people are doing all the rowing.  You’ll get to your goal faster if they all are on board with your vision.  The easiest way to do that is to identify a vision that gets you excited.  Impassioned leaders make impassioned employees and accomplish amazing things.

10.   Practice self-compassion

Hey, you’re not perfect.  And that’s ok.  Let go of the idea that you need to be and that you need to help accountable for every single bump in the road.  As much as we would all like to think we’re omnipotent, let’s be realistic: we’re not.  So don’t beat yourself up if something goes sideways.  This self-flagellation leads to guilt and guilt demands punishment.  That’s no way to lead an organization.

11.   Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes you get it wrong.  Admit this when it happens and own up to your mistakes.  Don’t pass the buck, don’t dodge the issue, and don’t ever carry on like you didn’t screw up.  Nothing will tear down the trust you’ve built faster than pretending to be saintly when everyone knows you totally fumbled.

12.   Let go of Ego

Letting go of ego is probably the toughest thing you will try to do because normally leaders tend to be addicted to their egos.  In fact, whole nations have risen and fallen on the whim of some leader’s ego (Er… North Korea… Rome, anyone?).  So, just like you need to be able to swallow your pride and admit when you’re wrong, you need to be able to let go of claiming all your victories for your own.  You may be in charge, but by no means did you do all the work.  Which leads us to….

13.   Be humble, be gracious, and ask for help

You’re not an island.  And it is foolish and unrealistic to expect to be able to accomplish your goals without the help of others.  Don’t be squeamish about reaching out and building alliances with others.

Spirituality and Metaphysics

The Universe wants you to stop being a control freak 

As spiritual beings, we abhor stagnation – our lives are all about shifting and learning and growing. Of course, on an entirely human level, we often crave control, stability, a sense of security and some degree of predictability. I mean, change is scary, right? What if you, *gasp*, DIED?!?  No wonder so many of us have a white-knuckle grip on our need for control.

It stands to reason, then, if you’re experiencing a bout of significant shifting and growing, you might feel off-kilter, scared or just plain stressed out.  These spiritual changes often come disguised as significant life events like losing a job, ending a relationship, moving or incurring unexpected, large expenses.  These events aren’t the Universe knocking us down and taking our lunch money, but are designed to get our attention and move us toward a new path.  For some of us, we may get these “plot twists” every few years or so.  For others, we may get them every other month.  Of course, this can be overwhelming and exhausting if you’re viewing them as punishment.  However, it is important to remember that lessons or shifts are neutral from a Universal perspective.  That is, the Universe doesn’t assign “good” or “bad” connotation to lessons as they are simply the vehicle to our growth.  It is we humans who view things like losing a job as “bad” and winning the lottery as “good.”  The Universe doesn’t attach such labels.  

So if these things aren’t “good” or “bad” then why do we feel such stress when the unexpected happens?  This goes back to our human, ego-driven need to be stable, secure and ultimately have control over our immediate circumstances.  But, guess what… the need for control is an illusion and a human construct that does us more harm than good.  We fight wars out of our need for control.  We lose sleep over our need for control.  We fight with loved ones over our need for control.  Control is diametrically opposed to the Universal constants of growing and shifting.  


Fumbling towards happily ever after...

So often questions from my clients seem to be clustered into themes.  One week will be when all the divorcees call me. Then next is when everyone has a job crisis.  Followed by the week everyone seems to be having issues with their teen aged children.  It’s uncanny really.  But recently all the folks who think their love lives are “stuck” have been beating down my door.   Paralyzed by the phrase, “But I/he/she just don’t/doesn't know how to BE in a relationship!!!” they call me in frustration and desperation.  And I think I repeatedly let them down.  Not because I don’t assuage their fears, but because the answer is so simple and yet so complicated.  And here it is:  No one (and I mean NO ONE) actually knows how to be in a relationship.  Period.  The end.

Allow me to explain things a little bit more.  We have suffered a Disney-fication of marriage and have all been operating under the delusion that that we’ll walk into a ballroom (or run up the turret of some castle, or walk into a board meeting, etc.), lock eyes with Mr./Miss. wonderful and BAM! Married happily ever after.  No matter who you are, you subscribe to this fantasy to some degree.  What fairy tales (or anyone else for that matter) don’t seem to cover is what happens after the honeymoon.  I mean how the heck are you suppose to actually LIVE with this S.O.B.?   Maybe she leaves shoes everywhere and always wants to talk to the cat like its human.  And maybe he obsesses about NASCAR and thinks good sex is when you watch Seinfeld after he rolls off of you.  This, friends, is called real life.  And maybe you’re significant other doesn’t have these particular issues, but I’m sure he or she has some other ones you could name without trying.  Being in a relationship with another human being is hard work.  Why?  Because you’re two living, breathing beings with your own egos, fears, attitudes and opinions.  And sometimes yours won’t mesh with your partner’s.  This doesn’t mean that your relationship is necessarily broken.  It just means you’re human and so is your spouse.

It’s a good idea, always, to take stock of what’s happening in your relationship.  Are you just frustrated or truly feeling undervalued and ignored? Are you white-knuckling through some deal-breakers or just annoyed that his socks are on the floor (again)? Are there harmful behaviors and/or addictions present or does her love of ‘N Sync just make road trips a cringe-fest? If you’re dealing with truly harmful or neglectful behaviors, then it might be time to evaluate the viability of your relationship.  But if you’re just irritated at your significant other’s quirks, well, welcome to being a grown up.  Real, loving, long-lasting relationships involve relinquishing control, removing the ego and loving your partner unconditionally and unabashedly.  In the face of true love all the other stuff becomes background noise and tolerable.  At the end of the day, you’re two perfectly imperfect people trying to make something extraordinary.  And you know what, it happens all the time.

So take heart, dear ones.  You’re not alone.  Sure, some people seem to be better at the relationship thing than others, but I assure you, they’re fumbling towards happily ever after just like the rest of us.


It's ok to not have a plan

I really love trying to find lessons and synchronicities in everyday life.  Even the most seemingly uncomfortable and irritating situation can lead to learning experiences and epiphanies – in fact, they are the most fertile ground.  And I can think of nothing more irritating and uncomfortable than a bad date.  I’ve had a few, but a few weeks ago, I came home from the worst one on record, plopped down on the couch and laughed and laughed.

Here’s how it went: After arriving late, he proceeded to launch into a diatribe about how he hates his parents, why he won’t admit that his own brother is gay, and that he lived with his mother until his late 30s.  All red flags, really.  But it gets worse.  Before the appetizers arrived, he had started planning out our lives together.  Everything from what we would do the next weekend, to where we would have dinner the next night, how long we were going to date before we got married, where we would live, and when we would retire.  By the time the check arrived, he had decided that I would likely need to give up my cats since he was allergic.  Whoa.  Seriously?  So I did what any self-respecting girl would do: I ran for it.

In the calm and sanity of my cat-infested living room, I debriefed.  Why was planning so patently ludicrous and down-right frightening to me?  Well, probably because I don’t really do it.  Planning out every nuance is exhausting and completely unnecessary.  That’s not say I don’t have goals; I do – lots of them.  But I can’t plan the minutiae of how they will manifest.  I can only work hard, follow my passions and live in the moment trusting that the future will be absolutely perfect.  Sometimes I get a little uptight about what’s coming, especially when it’s an outcome or a relationship that I’m particularly interested in.  But if I waste time obsessing over every single “what-if” then I’ll have missed the whole point.  And the point is that we enjoy the ride on the way to the outcome; it makes it that much sweeter to see how the Universe has plotted and planned to work for you, instead of you working against it.  It’s exactly the same thing as being “in the flow.”  I sometimes need to remind myself of all the things that I tell my clients which is this: I could never in a million years have planned the life I have now.  It is perfect and amazing and full of love and laughter.  So if I couldn’t have even planned this, what on Earth makes me think that I have any idea about how to plan what’s coming next?  It’s impossible.  I must simply allow myself to move through space in my own time all the while following my heart.  That may sound silly, but its worked for me so far, and I’ve never been happier.  In fact, I’d like to think that this process has allowed me to co-create my own miracles.  And that’s just amazing.