Feeling like you are part of a compassionate community at work is important, and just a few achievable changes could make all the difference.

Your people matter.

Well, of course they matter.

But at the risk of launching this piece with a controversial tone, may I ask a blunt question: when was the last time you told them that their contribution is significant, and that it really counts?

Not necessarily by expressing a “well done” in explicit terms, but with empathetic communication and active listening?

A Leader in Your Community

In this article, I’m referencing the change in organisational culture that’s been forced upon all of us due to the pandemic.

But more importantly, the desire in most of us for a strong sense of compassionate community in our working lives and how you as a leader can set a precedent. To be fair, this is something that may already be on your radar. Nevertheless, as we’re starting to emerge from troubled times, it’s started to take centre stage.

What do I mean by this?

In a nutshell, simply that now more than ever, it’s vital for each and every member of your staff to know and to feel that they play an essential role in your organisation. In effect, that they’re a part of the bigger picture and recognised as such. In brief, that he or she is making a difference, right here right now.

A quick Google search, “importance of social connection during a pandemic” throws up myriad pages of references, far too many to list here. This article from the Mayo Clinic, for example, expresses articulately the need for social contact to maintain our mental and physical health:

This Australian publication, goes further, warning about the profound impact of isolation on every aspect of the human condition:

We are social animals and at the risk of stating the obvious, no man or woman is an island. We seek out each other for love, support and solace. We need each other in order to thrive.

So far so obvious, but extrapolate these concerns into a working context, and we’re looking at very similar issues. My recent blog about resilience focused on effective leadership through in-the-round communication. Here, I take it further:

Your Organisation is a Community

And community is everything.

We may see a brand, an office, or a series of processes or systems, but one thing is clear: an organisation consists of people. And people are what make up a community.

For the public sector, interactions between councillors, residents, external suppliers and even trades unions create communication and relational links. Within commercial organisations, your clients, suppliers and shareholders could be your working “village”. Yet both consist of a variety of human beings, each with a basic yearning to belong, to understand and to be understood.

The Problem With Teams and Zoom

In my opinion, whilst video communication enables communication on one level, and can be ultra-useful, on another, it can reduce all of us to a single point of data. We become flat, 2-dimensional images on a screen. As a result of Covid, formerly close working relationships are being stretched, and the links that join us together have started to loosen.

Whilst we’re cautiously emerging from the effects of lockdown (but watch this space), many teams are still working remotely. Indeed, for some, WFH looks like it’s here to stay. Teams normally accustomed to being in the same room together – and for the most part enjoying each other’s company – have had to adapt to remote working.

In my experience, department members who have never even met face to face now make up a significant proportion of an established workforce.


Yes, because we lose the subtle complexity of body language, of confidences shared, of informal familiarity with those we’ve become friends with. And, possibly, the opportunity for you to lead authentically because you’re not actually “there”.

Distance creates loss; a loss of understanding and a thinning of the ties that bind.

Three Things to Know About Workplace Communities:

  1. Communication is key. Everyone likes to know what’s going on, and to be aware of what’s going to happen before it actually does happen. There’s a degree of comforting predictability about this.
  2. Feeling accepted. Fundamentally – my work with clients has taught me that being believed, recognised, acknowledged and allowed to “be” makes for a motivated, productive member of any team.
  3. Contribution. For your staff, aligning what they do to the organisation as a whole is central to how they see their role. In other words, your team will benefit from a clear understanding that they are making a difference, and a positive one at that.

Your organisation is a wrapper that surrounds the people you lead. So, keeping connected at a level that’s wholly separate just from a professional one could affect, quite literally, the quality of someone’s life.

What Do Successful Leaders Do?

As an experienced organisational development consultant and executive coach, I appreciate that we’ve come through challenging times. I can see it, feel it, and I’ve developed programmes to help support the changes that the pandemic has brought to our lives. Moreover, I’m aware that we’re not out of the woods yet. Times are still tough, so the following could help your interaction with those you lead and create a more compassionate community:

Ask them how they are.

And listen to their answer. No, really listen – let them speak, go with what they’re saying, and acknowledge what they’ve told you. Active listening is an acquired skill, but it works.

Talk to your team member about their bad day – if they’re having one. Without crossing boundaries, recognise and remember their family circumstances. Working remotely can be isolating, and some find it easier than others.

Compassion and understanding are what makes a true leader. They’re the hands that reach out to care for someone and catch them if they fall.

For more on the impact a compassionate community at work can have, click here.

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