Last week I heard of a heart-warming story about a Mum who went on mission to help her little boy feel OK about having to wear glasses. The story goes that after finding out he has to wear glasses, Noah broke down and cried, telling his mum Lindsey he thought the other kids would laugh at him. Lindsey decided to set up a Facebook page called Glasses for Noah and asked people to post photos of themselves looking cool in glasses.
She wrote “Our sweet 4-year old, Noah, just got glasses and is having a hard time adjusting. The saddest part is that he doesn’t want to wear them because; as he keeps telling us, “everyone will laugh at him”. Soooo… Let’s show Noah how awesome glasses really are by posting some pictures for him to see you in your glasses!”
Over 40,000 people have responded providing yet another example of mankind’s capacity for compassion. We spend so much time and energy focusing on the hateful or destructive aspects of humanity and not enough appreciating how truly wonderful people can be. Reading Noah’s story also made me reflect on how important acts of compassion are to influencing the sense of self-worth we all deserve to feel.
It saddens me how often people limit their potential by holding back or denying reality. Fear of being ridiculed or reprimanded can cause people to hide away and out of the spotlight. In the workplace people fear losing credibility in the eyes of their peers, boss and even customers. In an attempt to appear OK and in control, people are often tempted to hide mistakes, cover up gaps in their understanding, deflect blame and avoid accountability.
Often all it takes is for a compassionate leader or colleague to extend a hand of support or offer words of encouragement to help people begin the journey to overcome their fears. With the support of a compassionate group people are more likely to continue down the path and ultimately conquer the thoughts and feelings that are holding them back.
What reading Noah’s story reminded me of is that most people are inclined to help, when they are aware it’s needed. A little boy’s fear of everyone laughing at him is enough to pull on most people’s heartstrings.
But in the workplace people aren’t quite so quick to feel compassion.
Often people look past the signs of fear and sadness in their colleague’s eyes and body language. They stand firm in their high expectations regardless of the stress, insecurity or ineptitude people feel. Unforgiving and uncompromising attitudes are unfortunately common and at times seriously impact upon the well-being of people on the receiving end.
A lack of compassionate regard for people and their well-being is, I believe, the number one reason 70% of the working population are uninspired and disengaged at work.
A compassionate approach balanced by a strong focus on performance outcomes and accountability, is most likely to get the best from people. It’s important for people managers to understand that for people to thrive most need to:
- Be at peace with themselves; feel OK with who they are, faults and all
- Feel they belong and are accepted; by the people they work with
- Know someone cares and has their back
- Confront their shortcomings and work on becoming a better version of themselves