5 simple ways to motivate your team through compassionate leadership

By Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer

October 29, 2021

Efficiency, the motto for the 1990s and early 2000s, allowed companies to reduce the cost of doing business and increase financial gains. Then business pivoted from a focus on efficiency to a focus on productivity. If efficiency is about “less is more,” productivity is about “doing more with the same.” Since the push for heightened productivity began, the unrelenting demands to get more out of people are taking a toll; a mental and physical toll on the humans doing the work, toss in the impact of a global pandemic and the effect is a burned out, demotivated, detached, overworked workforce. And people are reaching a breaking point as evidenced by the “Great Resignation,” where a reported 11.5 million people quit their jobs in April, May, and June of this year and record levels of attrition. It is time to look at a different way to drive productivity. It’s time for humanity.

As a leader, you can be the one to ignite more humanity at work. Take time to pause and reflect on how you may be contributing to a work environment where people are disengaged. Your people are watching you all the time, taking cues from what you do and say. What is your impact? Are you helping their work feel deeper and more connected? When you do, people will give more of themselves and business wins. Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take, highlights productivity gains found from cultivating a positive workplace culture. He showcases the connection between team and organizational outcomes and the need from leaders to demonstrate positive human characteristics, such as kindness and generosity. In today’s dramatically reconfigured world of work, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. Take the lead in helping your people thrive.

Where to start? Change starts with you because the only thing you can control is you. And when you change, the people around you begin to change. To bring more humanity into your workplace, take steps to become more aware of your own actions and the impact they create on others. With this insight, you can shift how you interact with others and create a positive humanity-centered culture, one where people feel like humans, not resources.

Here’s how—we have created five practices to bring more humanity to your workplace.

    Creating safety. The most important aspect of working with people is to create an environment that feels safe, physically and psychologically. When people feel safe, there is a sense of belonging to the group. This sense of belonging promotes fully expressed individuals, aware of whom they are and what they have to contribute. When people feel safe, they will do better work. Period.

    Working together. The secret to working together is to realize it’s not all about you—it’s about everyone working together to achieve a common goal. This may require a perspective shift. It means being clear on what outcomes you want, open to how you can achieve them, and having faith in the power of cocreating to get there. Engagement is all about them, be sure every team member feels heard and knows their contributions are valued.

    Claiming values. Claiming values means knowing what you stand for, your non-negotiables. When you know what is important to you, you act on those values. This creates intentionality and offers clarity to those you work with. It helps create alignment. As a leader, you can help people discover their values—why they do what they do—for the company and for themselves. When people feel connected to what they are doing, they are more productive and engaged.

    Owning your impact. Your impact is how people experience you. When you take responsibility for your impact, it creates personal accountability; your words and your actions align. You deliver what is needed to drive results, and you do it in a manner consistent with your character. Owning your impact is a practice of being responsible for what you create—both with your work and your workplace culture.

    Daring not to know. This is the practice of surrender. It paves the way for deeper engagement and loyalty from others. It takes strength and confidence to appreciate things will be better when more ideas are included, when fuller representation is present and diverse perspectives are heard. As a leader, when you show that you are human, vulnerable, and don’t have all the answers, you open the door for others to step up. That’s the magic! Daring not to know makes the entire organization stronger. Lead the way by saying, “I don’t have the answer for that, what do you think?”

These five practices help you create a culture where you get the best—not just the most—out of your people. They help you increase your self-awareness, and from this place you can stand in choice about how you are behaving with the people you work with, and what type of work culture you are creating. Productivity is all about people. As a leader, when you have the courage to change, and help your organization be more human, you make humanity work better everywhere.

Excerpted from Humanity Works Better: 5 Practices to Lead with Awareness, Choice, and the Courage to Change. Copyright ©2021 by HumanityWorks LLC.

Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer are the cofounders of HumanityWorks, a leadership development organization that focuses on increasing productivity by embracing humanity at work. Their new book, Humanity Works Better: 5 Practices to Lead with Awareness, Choice, and the Courage to Change is out now.