Cultivating Organizational Compassion
Written by Susan Stansberry, President/CEO at Tucson Federal Credit Union
I am the CEO of an organization that encourages not only work/life balance, but more importantly, work/life integration. In February 2019 my life was forever changed with the death of my beloved son after 12 long years of addiction. For many years I worked very hard to hide the profound struggles that were taking place in my family. I was not being the most authentic leader that I could be, and it created an invisible wall between me and those I was supposed to be leading. The moment I decided to become more transparent was the moment I deeply understood that every employee deserved the same opportunity to feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles and to gain compassion and understanding in return. If we were truly promoting work/life integration, that had to start at the top. The idea of leading by example has always been important to me. Add in servant leadership and everything began to fall into place. I believe it is important to recognize that employees do not leave their problems at the door when they report to work. The desire to see employees be successful cannot be singly focused on how quickly they are moving up the corporate ladder. It should be broadly focused on fostering their success in all aspects of life.
There are so many lessons I have learned along the way, including:
- Show your humanity and vulnerability as a leader. After spending years as a notoriously private person, I learned that organizational strength can be built when we are all encouraged to simply be human, even at work. Those you are leading will know that you can understand their struggles when you do not hide your own.
- Create a connection between the personal challenges of your employees and those of your customers. This encourages empathy and will result in your employees truly becoming advocates for those you serve.
- Use your own struggles to be a caring set of ears for your employees. When you do not hide even your most painful moments you can become a more trusted coach and mentor. This promotes a level of loyalty that can only come from being authentic and transparent. I have had the opportunity to talk to employees who were experiencing trauma in their own families and these conversations have become a very meaningful part of my role as a leader.
- Show the heart of your business to the community. Employees ARE the heart. While it is important for your organization to have community connections, it is equally important to encourage employees to form relationships within community organizations to gain a broader understanding of community (and therefore customer) needs.
- Allow your employees to have a voice in the causes your business supports. They will bring passion to community service in very meaningful ways. This demonstrates that you, as their employer care about the things that are important to them. In 2019, Tucson Federal Credit Union employees performed 4,483 hours of community service that touched 160 local non-profit organizations. And they did it with a full measure of compassion.
The impact of compassion on your business can be profound in many ways. When your employees serve customers with compassion, you will be rewarded with loyalty from your customers. They will become advocates for your business. There is no marketing effort that can compete with a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. So why not close the compassion loop with your organization to your employees, your employees to your customers, your customers to the community, and the community to your organization? This will be a recipe for true success in so many ways.