Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.
― Lloyd Shearer
About fifteen years into my career I thought of myself as a strong manager. I had progressed up the ranks and was finally running an entire facility, leveraging Lean with a great group of people.
Then the demand for our product went off a cliff. One day the vice president I reported to visited our facility, gathered all two hundred of us in a room, and proceeded to simply say “my spreadsheet says this operation is no longer viable, therefore I am shutting it down.” Then he left and went back to his office 250 miles away.
In all honesty I knew it was coming. I had been part of many meetings trying to figure out an alternative, but demand really had dried up almost overnight. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made.
But they don’t need to be communicated this way.
My team was understandably very upset. They knew times were tough, but they didn’t know this decision was coming so fast. They didn’t want to hear that a spreadsheet had determined their fate. They wanted to hear how difficult it was, at least for me, to make the decision. And they wanted some understanding and recognition of how hard it will be for them and their families.
The next day was September 11th, 2001. In one day the world changed and we became fearful, while still processing the “announcement” of the previous day that everyone had lost their jobs.
My site leadership team was a bit different. We were empathetic and compassionate. We became completely transparent with the process, what had happened, and what we could do to help until the closure date. We made special accommodations for some, helped others with their job searches, and simply listened, mindfully, to everyone.
The lesson of this experience helped me several times later on when difficult but necessary decisions impacted people. By treating people like people, like I would like to be treated, truly listening to and understanding their needs and fears, bad situations were made better. Most of all, trust in leadership was created. Do you treat the team you lead, including yourself, with empathy and compassion?