What’s The Cure For The Great Resignation? Leading With Heart

The Great Resignation has made it clear that employees at all levels are reevaluating their lives and their priorities – and are willing to walk out the door if necessary. What’s an organisation that’s looking to retain its valuable professionals to do?

The solution for organisations is leading with heart. So, how can an organisation begin this path?

Compassion = empathy + action

Leading with heart means embodying the concept of compassionate leadership, a philosophy popularised by LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner over the past half-decade. Jeff describes a working definition of compassion as empathy plus action. Put another way, while being an empathetic individual is great, you need to channel that empathy in a way that delivers actual real-world impact and results for your people and teams.

Leading with heart also means being human within the workplace. Organisations are made up of people, and people are individuals. Leading with heart is something that starts with an individual having conscious awareness within themselves. Conscious awareness is the acknowledgement of your thoughts and feelings. It’s the self-realisation that one is acting, thinking, or doing something in a certain way. 

This is an important first step because once employees and leaders of people have conscious awareness of their thoughts and actions, this provides the foundation to develop a positive mindset shifting into compassionate leadership. Helping employees develop more conscious awareness within themselves with wellness initiatives and compassionate leadership talks can go a long way in establishing programs to support a healthy mindset.

Listening to understand is essential

When leading with heart, listening is critical. One strategy to employ is to build listening posts into the DNA of your organisation. Surveys, table talks, and open discussions with “people leaders” on a regular cadence are all examples of how organisations can begin to build listening into their DNA. Helping people leaders learn the skill or art of listening to hear and understand – not to respond – allows them to lead with heart. 

Case in point: The old, outdated model of being in an office five days a week is no longer acceptable. The world has changed. Employees are now insisting on flexibility and work/life balance. They want to be able to collaborate with their colleagues and customers from home, the office, or anywhere in between.

Leaders need to start by truly hearing what their employees are telling them about valuing flexibility and work/life balance – that’s empathy.

Additionally, they need to put in place policies to match and provide employees with the technology they need to carry out their work securely and effectively, regardless of location – that’s action. And together, that’s leading with heart.

Focusing on what truly matters to employees reduces stress

For those organisations with an eye toward improving employee retention and staving off the impact of the Great Resignation, leading with heart also means putting forth initiatives such as DE&I, volunteer days, and community building, front and centre to establish a positive culture within the organisation and make a true connection to what matters to employees. 

For instance, what is the experience of women like at your organisation? In a number of fields – technology, famously, but also finance – there just aren’t as many women in the organisation as there are men because it’s a male-dominant field. 

The question becomes: What is the organisation doing to get a better balance of male to female ratios in the workforce? Do they have a plan? How are they going to retain, develop, and grow their existing female employees? Again, empathy isn’t enough when leading with heart – it needs to be paired with action.

Creating and supporting employee resource groups – in this case, a resource group specifically for women – is a great place to start. Providing a safe space for women to network amongst one another and hear presentations from outside speakers is a valuable resource that shows that management hears their concerns and is aiming to do something about it.

By taking these approaches, a company can help reduce the stress of employees and start developing the building blocks of a more coherent workplace.

Clear communication helps everyone

Another key aspect of leading with heart is strong, clear communication and the ability to handle difficult conversations. While we’d like to think having compassion is all about kindness, it’s more than just warm fuzzies and high fives. 

Building relationships with employees as individuals allows for trust to be established. When employees have trust – and that trust is earned, not given – it creates a safe space for the foundation of a beneficial relationship where communication can flourish, and emotional stress is reduced. Having a structure of regular feedback discussions in place sets the stage for difficult conversations to come from the space of leading with heart. Whether it’s understanding challenges, or re-establishing outcomes and expectations, there’s a way for leaders to do this with understanding and empathy.

Facilitating a safe space, providing listening posts, and emphasising compassion brings forth the energy of the heart, allowing for a more resilient and coherent workforce primed for supporting the organisation and its customers. A little known scientific finding from HeartMath Institute shows that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart. This science-based research opens the doors for expansion into energetic communication. And this communication benefits everyone: More satisfied employees tend to stay put and continue to contribute to the organisation in a meaningful way – a boon in an era when workers are jumping ship in record numbers.

As an added bonus, when employees are heard and put first, it has the natural effect of producing happy customers.

Employees that are truly satisfied tend to fire on all cylinders in their daily work, positively impacting customers – creating a win-win for all involved.

The heart-smart approach

As long as the labour market remains at historically tight levels, organisations will be challenged to hold on to their employees while creating happy customers. However, organisations that key into the human needs of their employees – and prioritise addressing those needs through a combination of empathy and action to lead with heart – will be the ones to emerge from the Great Resignation unscathed and poised for continued success. 

About the author: Natalie Alesi is Global Senior Director of Customer Success at iManage.

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