COMPASSION is an interesting topic, so I was fascinated by a challenging article by Jeff Mowatt entitled Is compassion the fourth bottom line?
He makes a powerful argument that improving peoples’ lives can be just as important as any other business objective. In fact, one could even state that it’s more important than any other objective, because it’s what makes a business sustainable.
Unfortunately, I think the evidence would show us that successful companies could rarely be described as compassionate – to customers, employees, or society.
At least the way we currently define success.
This means that you’re an outlier, a renegade. You have some altruistic motives with your company, but the business world isn’t naturally inclined to support you in this effort.
Jeff describes compassion mostly as directed towards benefiting society and the human population in general. I’d like to propose that compassion has to begin at home, with the people you touch most directly. You have to love and forgive yourself, your employees, and partners you work with to get things done.
You have to have compassion for your customers – even the ones who are unreasonable and drive you crazy. In service industries such as coaching, there’s a question which gets asked occasionally: “Should you fire that client?” The wording is intended to be a little startling, of course, but it’s a useful question which can open up some deeper thinking.
You might have to “fire” a client because it’s an abusive relationship – someone who’s only interested in damaging you. Fortunately, that’s pretty rare. More common is a client which frustrates you. You don’t share the same goals, communication just isn’t working, and you’re not really able to deliver the value they deserve. Yet this may be hidden by a friendly relationship and historical obligations.
The way out of this quandary? To focus on compassion. If you’re not able to deliver fair value, how could that be changed? If communication is a problem, what would help introduce some more productive patterns? Is there a way to align your goals?
At the end of the day, you may have to admit that separating the professional relationship may be the best thing for both of you. Notice that my wording is much different, more respectful, than just “firing the client.”
Compassion begins with the people you touch every day. It’s not just a big theoretical exercise for benefiting society out there.
When you see a large company launching a new campaign about how green they are, and how much money and time they’re giving to charity, you’re right to be a little skeptical. If they can’t practice compassion with their own employees, how credible is their claim for caring about others?
How credible is your claim of caring about your church’s contributions to the needy if you’re not able to reconcile with the person next to you in the pew?