Compassion is the cornerstone of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). If we can’t develop a sense of compassion for ourselves and others, how can we make a more diverse, inclusive and equitable world?
Compassion isn’t always afforded to women entrepreneurs, who often face barriers to progress in the workplace — and in other aspects of society. Women entrepreneurs perhaps know better than most how essential compassion in the workplace truly is. Cultivating a compassionate environment not only helps women entrepreneurs manage their own businesses and personal life with more balance and ease but also fosters an environment of diversity that helps other women and under-represented groups succeed.
Here are four types of compassion women entrepreneurs can cultivate to navigate trying times in business and life.
In my consultancy, I encounter many executives who have the capacity to be compassionate to their employees yet are very hard on themselves. It makes sense — we’re the leaders. We have to perform at our best regardless of the circumstances. But if we tear ourselves down more than we build ourselves up, and we become vulnerable to challenges that can steal our joy and peace.
When we have compassion for ourselves, we can better practice DEI in our businesses. When we occupy ourselves with positive thoughts, affirmations and kindness, whatever is happening around us suddenly seems small and insignificant. Consequently, this shift refocuses our minds on building an inclusive work culture, supporting employees with marginalized identities and being agents of change in our businesses.
We also need to remember that we are worth caring for. Nothing in our businesses can go well if we’re not well ourselves. We often view self-compassion as soft or lazy. Don’t fall into the trap of overlooking your well-being. You are the only you there is and your company needs you to be well enough to champion DEI.
Practicing self-compassion is easier said than done. Here are a few practical ways to start:
– Allow yourself to rest by turning off your laptop and phone after work hours.
– Take an afternoon off for a walk or time with friends and family.
– Walk away from obligations that drain you or cause you to spiral mentally.
– Say no to unnecessary opportunities when times are difficult.
Offer extra compassion to women employees
Women employees are navigating male-dominated spaces at work and a health crisis outside of work, including restricted accessibility to essential healthcare and insufficient childcare and caregiving support to name a few. This can be tough on their mental and physical well-being.
Your business can be extra compassionate by offering extended PTO and leave opportunities for employees who need time away to manage their mental or physical health.
You can also host team talks that would allow employees to express their honest concerns and emotions about these issues in a supportive group setting. During team talks, your executive team can practice active listening and use what they hear to implement more compassionate policies in the future.
Most importantly, you can offer compassion by noticing if your women employees seem less productive or have a damper on their spirits. Not everyone will come out and say they’re not okay, but if you suspect members of your team are experiencing challenges at work due to troubling events, it’s best to offer a compassionate ear sooner rather than later.
Be compassionate towards those who disagree with you
As the CEO or a member of the leadership team, it’s a top priority to get all employees on board with your company’s vision. However, some people may not agree with the company’s direction or its approach to certain matters. And that’s okay. Not everyone in the company has to see things the way you do. But it’s a good idea to hear the differing opinions that some employees have and see where they’re coming from. This, in essence, is called psychological safety.
Psychological safety involves creating space for employees to voice concerns and raise issues that leadership may not be aware of. It also empowers employees to share information that may benefit the company as a whole — even if it directly disagrees with your stance or policies.
This is not to be confused with allowing employees to espouse vitriol or negativity in the workplace. If an employee isn’t offering helpful feedback or is making other employees feel unsafe, maintain compassion but protect your workforce.
However, if an employee is offering a perspective that disagrees with yours but could be good to consider, be open. This type of compassion and the ability to be open to new ideas is a positive one that will help you, your business and your personal life develop.
Be compassionate towards things you cannot change
As CEOs and entrepreneurs, there’s a lot we’d like to change in the world and our businesses. However, one of the best things you can do for yourself in trying times is to accept what you can and cannot change. This is an emotional control skill that allows you to focus on things that you can impact, like your company culture, policies, inclusivity practices and diversity makeup.
What you cannot control is what is happening outside of your business, like supply chains, political affairs, how people perceive you or whether traffic will be bad today.
By having the emotional control to let go of the things you cannot change, you move from feeling powerless to calm and accepting. Taking a step back can illuminate all of the things in your control, what’s outside of your control and allow you to be at peace with the things happening around you that may distract from your work and purpose.
A few questions to ask yourself to illuminate what you can and cannot control include:
– What can I do about this situation?
– Is this situation draining me or inspiring me?
– What would happen if I let this go?
– What can I do to feel better about this situation?
In challenging times, compassion and acceptance for ourselves, others, differing opinions and what we cannot change can help us let go of the stress and anxiety of the issues around us. There is so much to be concerned about. However, those very things can drain our energy and distract us from our work and purpose.
As women entrepreneurs, we have so many institutional factors stacked against us. What we can control is how we react or respond to those outside factors and which ones we use for strength and resiliency. Practicing the various types of compassion sets us up for success, whether that means focusing on our DEI initiatives or leading our companies with more balance and ease.
Compassion helps us hone in on what’s important, impactful and matters. That way, we can show up in our businesses and personal life with resiliency.