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Compassion: A Competitive Advantage?

We all want it. We need it. And the world would certainly be a better place if we all contributed a little bit more to cultivating a culture of compassion.

Some people say Compassion has no place in the workplace. We say Compassion is necessary everywhere

I’m in South Africa and will share my experience, cases and beliefs on How to Cultivate a Culture of Compassion with organizations and individuals in the next weeks. In a Talent Management context and with The Happiness Sweet Spot as the reference.

Last week I was in Pakistan, also sharing, talking about and co-creating around The Happiness Sweet Spot and what Real Talent Management & Talent Leadership means. In practice. In real everyday life. For organizations and the individuals we have the responsibility for in our organizations.

It seems that, when we talk about Compassion it’s like a universal language. We all relate to it. I know what it is – to me. And for many people its a part of their everyday life; To be compassionate.

My experience is also that the ground for having a fruitful conversation about compassion is more fertile in some countries and regions than others. I think this will change over time.

Compassion is a very important component in The Happiness Sweet Spot and I believe that from an organizational point of view, a focus on Purpose, Compassion and real Talent Leadership is the best way to create a real, unique, competitive advantage; What most organizations are looking for and pursuing. This is what The Happiness Sweet Spot is about.

We define Compassion as: “An interest in understanding the difficulties of other people AND a burning desire to do something about it.”

I have had interesting conversations with very good, professional and competent people about this definition. Very often it relates to “…and a burning desire to do something about it”.

Some people practice compassion by cultivation a feeling of compassion; to be compassionate. For me it is essential and necessary that we act according to that feeling. And that we want to act. That’s compassion to me.

I think the conversation about the definition of compassion is somewhat academic.

If we agree that compassion is necessary – also in our organisations, let’s not over-engineer or complicate the discussion by demanding the right academic definition of of compassion. Compassion is not – and should not be complicated.

In my experience, working with the three elements of The Happiness Sweet Spot and the cases we have for cultivating a culture of compassion, it starts by defining and agreeing on what behaviour is conducive for and cultivates a culture of compassion.

You might also want to have a short list of what is a total flaw in terms of leadership behaviour: what is no-go and absolutely not-at-all acceptable behaviour.

This is not a “one-size-fits-all-exercise.” It’s about defining the competences and the behaviour that will work for you. Respecting the circumstances you are in from an organizational- and market point of view.

In my opinion there are no quick-fixes for this exercise. We need to do the ground work and in best practice cases we connect the work we are doing on cultivating a culture of Compassion in a strategy where our Purpose and how we do Talent Leadership is linked and combined into one strategy; The Sweet Spot.

Compassion is an essential pre-requisite for good leadership and thereby for Talent Management & Talent Leadership. From an organizational point of view, Compassion is not a personal talent, a strength or a competence. It’s a culture.

The way we define and work with culture is by defining the essential competencies and the desired behaviour. And we need to have a process and an assessment that gives us input on the potential of our employees in this context.

Depending on the situation, I sometimes use a competence model as a solid reference for this work. The TMA Competence Model is one of the best and most comprehensive one, in my opinion. You can evaluate and play with this model for yourself here, if this is of interest to you. It also has corresponding behaviour examples, interview questions, coaching tips etc., if you are really into organizational development.

So what is typical compassionate behaviour and competencies that cultivates it? To you? In your organization? What does it look like?

With reference to The Happiness Sweet Spot definition of Compassion; “An interest in understanding the difficulties of other people AND a burning desire to do something about it.”, we have created a little “kick-start-list”, to start your own brainstorm.

  • Helpfullness?
  • Empathy?
  • Responsibility? (combined with Energy & Action?)
  • Courage?
  • Purposiveness?
  • Sociability and contact?
  • ?

What do you think? What is it to you? What does it look like in your organization? How would you like it to be?

Compassionate greetings from Durban, and as always – I’m happy to help!


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