Later this year, I will be teaching a course called “Becoming an Agent of Kindness in the Workplace” under the auspices of The Charter for Compassion Education Institute. One of my fellow instructors, Margaret Meloni, will be teaching a course called “Leading with Compassion: How YOU can be a Compassionate Leader.” I reached out to Margaret to learn more about the work she does. She focuses on conflict resolution strategies, emotional intelligence, dealing with difficult people, and effective communication, all of which help to build successful working relationships and keep the peace. According to Margaret, “a peaceful team is a high performing team.”
Here is a transcript of the discussion:
You describe your consulting and coaching process as a path to peace. How do you help people and organizations become more peaceful environments?
The idea of having a path to peace in the workplace originated from watching how one harsh word or thoughtless behavior could negatively impact a colleague for an extended period of time. With this came the realization that in any difficult situation, what you and I can control is our own emotions and reactions.
Initially, I provided coaching to individuals who were experiencing difficulties at work. Typically these difficulties stemmed from a challenging professional relationship or working in a corporate environment that was not a good fit. What this has evolved into is providing individuals or groups with tools that help them to strengthen their own skills in dealing with difficult people and difficult situations. The approach is really that peace comes from within, so why not become aware of how you behave while in conflict, how you communicate and how you lead? Work on yourself, because that is where you will make the biggest impact and the greatest contribution. You cannot force others to change. But your own behaviors and your response to their behaviors may in fact lead to positive changes. Then you can model peace at work, and you can set the tone for bringing kindness to the workplace.
How can kind project management approaches lead to better results (in teamwork, outcomes, etc.)?
Quite a bit of work has been done around the negative impact of stress in the workplace. High stress environments contribute to low morale, absenteeism and poor quality of work. A common cause of stress in the workplace comes from poor working relationships. Poor working relationships often stem from unresolved conflict and feelings of being disrespected and unappreciated.
Social support among employees helps to combat stress. In one laboratory study participants were exposed to equivalent levels of stressors. Researchers leading the study found that members of cohesive groups reported the least amounts of stress. Although employees can develop strong social support structures without their leaders, it is even better when a leader sets the tone by creating a culture of kindness.
It may sound trite, but it is true that a happy team is a productive team. A happy team is better able to work together to solve problems and overcome obstacles. The result is the highly sought after high performing team.
What can project managers do to maintain authentic and compassionate relationships with project stakeholders, especially when the project hits bumps in the road?
Here is a list of behaviors that a project manager can use to bring compassion to his or her stakeholders.
- Encourage the productive resolution of conflict.
- Discourage pent up negativity.
- Practice forgiveness.
- Reach out to team members who are going through a difficult time and express your concern and let them know you are sorry they are suffering.
- Stop thinking about ME and start thinking about WE – when you stop focusing on your own status and ego, so will your team and this fosters a culture of kindness.
- Allow your team to question you and even to occasionally debate with you – without fear of repercussion.
- Allow your team to experience failure and then use the situation to teach and to help them grow, not to punish and admonish them.
- Don’t think that being compassionate makes you weak.
- Encourage employees to interact with one another, it is these interactions which create the bonds which help us to think about others besides ourselves.
Margaret’s ideas about intentional peace in the workplace create a healthy, stable foundation for kindness between colleagues as well as fertile ground for solid business results.