Creating Great Managers: Part 3 – Honesty and Compassion

If you’ve been following along on our series, Creating Great Managers, so far, you’ve learned how to think about your role as a manager and determining what kind of manager you want to be. This five-part series breaks down Cosgrove Partners’ Seven Fundamentals for Creating Great Managers – a concept and organizational strategy in which we dive in much deeper with our clients. In Part 3, we will discuss honesty and compassion – two very critical principles of being a strong manager.

Fundamental 2: Honesty is the Best Policy

Think about a time you have been lied to or consciously mislead? How easy is it for you to trust that person again? Do you feel comfortable that that he or she is looking out for you? Accepting direction or input from someone who comes off as dishonest is a challenge for most.  While the concepts of honesty and transparency have likely been instilled in you as good virtues in all areas of life, keeping them top of mind and as high priorities as a leader is imperative.

The first step towards good leadership is to gain and share mutual trust and respect. Once you have built trust in your manager-employee relationship, you have earned an additional layer of loyalty and dedication to the organization. Going one step further, this level of trust also allows the employee to feel as if he or she can depend on their manager, which is ultimately the mutual relationship every team should strive for. It generates empowerment and it even creates a more productive environment when obstacles or challenges present themselves-the ability to have real honest conversations is invaluable in times of conflict. We live in a world of transparency. If you are honest with those who work for you and with you; you can expect the same in return.

Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Know yourself. Identify your strengths, limitations, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, etc., and simply be honest about those when managing situations and people.
  • Be truthful. Tell the truth but be tactful when discussing something that might be painful or perhaps surprise or offend someone.
  • Operate with integrity and drive out ambiguity. Speak and act in such a way that you are seen as consistently clear about your words and actions, and reasons for them both.
  • Honor others. Start with the presumption that everyone has value and they are worthy of your respect.

Fundamental 3: Lead with Compassion

This third fundamental is possibly the most difficult to accomplish, especially in work environments that have been exposed to cultural toxicity. With particularly difficult employee personality types or sudden changes in performance, attendance or other behaviors-it is easy to lose patience and compassion. When problems arise, rather than letting tempers fly-there is a unique art that managers must learn, and that begins with compassion.

What is leading with compassion? It is the balance of giving people the benefit of the doubt and being proactive enough to have honest open conversations. Approaching discussions on the foundation of trust that we discussed above to dilute any defensiveness or emotions that may arise. This could be not assuming that your team has a bad attitude or that they are lazy people when deadlines are missed, or someone shows up late. Rather, it requires asking yourself: Are they feeling overwhelmed by work because of a lack of training or unclear expectations? Is something going on at home? Do they feel under-appreciated? Are they lacking perspective? Are they just stressed in the moment?

Compassion is a very powerful management tool. Try to “understand before being understood” and see things from a different perspective. Take the time to ask someone to expand on what is going on in their life that may be influencing their responses or behavior, then acknowledge their feelings and thoughts.

Put compassion into action by doing the following:

  • Listen well and empathize. Try to get beyond the person’s first wave of emotion by asking probing questions to find out what is really going on. Think before you react. Seek to understand and then ask them to understand your perspective, advice, or decision.
  • Be genuinely caring. If you only care about yourself, it is hard to connect with others and hard to be an effective manager.
  • Share some of yourself. People follow authenticity. Sometimes the best way to help someone by sharing something about yourself—your thoughts, desires, actions, failures, or successes. Your experience may be the example someone needs to deal with a challenge, so humbly share a bit of yourself as appropriate.
  • Admit your own mistakes. Be quick admit fault when you make a mistake, then ask your people for help. When you admit your own mistakes and shortcomings, you make it easier for your people to admit they need help and it creates great environment for teaching or correcting a behavior. They see that you are human, like them, and that you have experienced similar situations.

As you’ve read about fundamentals two and three, how have you reflected on the level of honesty and/or compassion in your managerial style? It helps to reflect back on your day or week to “grade” yourself based off these fundamentals. Perhaps you use a Needs Improvement / Exceeds Expectations scale and track your performance, this way you can hold yourself accountable for improving your management skills.

We’ve discussed the concepts of internal perspectives, honesty and compassion as they relate to a successful management role. The first half of our fundamentals relate to the values that should be established within your management style. We will be progressing to more tactical fundaments in our next post, covering expectations and goal setting. Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn for updates on the rest of the series and more leadership content!