7 Ways to Have Tough Compassion
Compassion goes wrong when it coddles. Tough compassion calls for extraordinary commitment that stretches people.
Coddling prevents people from achieving their best.
Don’t coddle at the beginning of challenging projects. Never say,
- I don’t want to over-work you.
- I’m concerned that we won’t make it.
- Let me know if this is too much.
Every escape hatch you open before it’s needed is an excuse for failure.
Coddling compassion invites excuses and mediocrity. The hidden message of coddling is the mission isn’t worth your sweat. Never provide excuses for mediocrity before you reach for exceptional.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Elliot
Tough compassion says:
- I believe in you.
- Our mission is worth commitment and sacrifice.
- I’m with you all the way.
- We can do this.
- Stretches people and walks beside them at the same time.
- Protects people while they give their best, not before.
- Monitors the well-being of teams and takes action when things begin to go dark.
- Models the pursuit of excellence.
- Expects more of itself than it expects of others.
- Invites people to struggle and sweat because its worth it.
- Acknowledges challenge and difficulty but believes teams can step up.
The most important aspect of tough compassion is monitoring the team as they work. Step in when shoulders droop and frustration persists.
People never know how far they can reach until they reach for something that’s out of reach. Coddling suggests people can’t do it before they try.
Warning: Constant pressure eventually defeats. Time off and fun energize teams to bring their best.
Tip: Celebrate wins!
Failure to celebrate devalues success.
How can leaders walk the line between stretching people and pushing too far?
Embrace the challenge! Taking on a challenge is like working a weak muscle … the more you work the muscle or face the challenge, the stronger you will be in meeting that challenge. Show as much tenacity that you can stand. You will feel better in the long run.
Thanks Michael. Love the illustration of working a muscle. Enough work and you get stronger. Too much work and damage results.
When leaders make excessive indulgence with the people ,they tend to form attachment. And this attachment prevent them to achieve what they are capable of. Even the small goals look difficult to achieve. When people are treated with coddle, they avoid taking pain. They avoid do not realize what they can achieve. You are right when you say that tough leaders stretch and invite them to struggle. Unless one struggle, edge will be blunt. Struggle sharpen edges. Edges are nothing but knowledge, skills, attitude and our willingness to do beyond normal effort.
As we know, leadership is a journey. so, they should create environment of encouragement, courage and determination. People possess qualities but they need someone who can push them, connect them and realize their potential. And leaders just connect them with the goal.
So, to push people, first step is to put them on track. Once they are on the track, you can increase the speed. But if they are not on the track, all effort to speed up may fail. Leaders bring people on track, rest follows.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. The metaphor of getting on track before increasing speed is powerful. Don’t just push people to produce more if they aren’t clear where they are going! Thats imporant in today’s conversation.
The only way this works if you have built a positive emotional bank account with each team member. You can only partner with team members to realize a wildly important goal or tough project. Challenging team members to be there best comes through care and transparency.
Remember it is all about them and very little about yourself…
Thanks Pablo. Establish, build, and nurture positive relationships before calling for extraordinary commitment. You nailed it Pablo!
“We can make it happen yeah” I believe from an old Chicago song early 70’s….
If you have control of your destiny stay positive and you will get it done, just remember to walk away briefly and attack after we get refreshed..
Thanks Tim. Like the idea of “walking away” to get refreshed! Good call
Wow, such a great topic and I enjoy your view. I believe that a great leader first must lead by example. Then must take fault if one fails but if the person succeeds give them all the praise. Leadership is important but encouragement is everything!
Thanks Jennifer. Encouraged people go further than discouraged.
Coddling is such a good term. You see many new leaders take this approach because the fear “upsetting” someone. Thanks Dan and have a tremendous day.
Thanks Cranston. I’m glad you brought new leaders into this conversation. I’ve seen what you see. It can be a challenge for some young leaders to call people to deep commitment.
Sometimes your posts just exactly coincide with something I am undertaking in my own job, which is fun. I especially value the hints you give for avoiding pre-project coddling talk like “let me know if it’s too much”. I would replace it with “let me know if you need anything”. I suppose if you have good communication with your team they will be candid about their real progress and state of mind, so you can more realistically monitor what’s going on.
Happy Friday to you all
Tahnks Catie. Its always fun when the stars align.
Love “let me know if you need anything” as a replacement for coddling. It says I’m ready to help but I’m not holding your hand.
Thanks Dan, this is a powerful message today. It reminds me of the best compliment I ever received from an employee: “You expected a lot from me, but I always knew you had my back.” This employee has since moved up into management and has her sights set on an even higher position. She has high standards, but takes care of her employees.
Brilliant Duane. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you, Dan. This post is certainly helping me process my son’s little league coach – he offers tough compassion. Good principles, like you talk about work for executive teams and little league teams. Thanks for your daily wisdom!
Thanks Derek. Nothing like team sports to develop young leaders. Its exciting to see principles of leadership being applied in families, schools, sports teams, as well as business.
Great topic. Thank you for share
This is so valuable. Thank you. I really enjoy reading your posts Dan. I thought I was being compassionate but really I was coddling and I didn’t realize it!
Thanks Maria. You have my best for the journey.
I’ve thought about this post on and off through the day. I feel even more strongly that when we lower our standards before anyone even steps up, everyone loses.
Wow….Great read…as always
“People never know how far they can reach until they reach for something that’s out of reach.” Powerful tough. You don’t know until you try, you won’t know until you win -BEAST
Thanks beast. Best wishes.
You asked a great question: How can leaders walk the line between stretching people and pushing too far?
This week, in a coaching workshop I facilitated for managers, a manager asked me, “How much can I push my team and still be effective?” I asked him if he would like me to coach him right then to give the group another coaching demonstration and he said yes.
It turned out that this manager’s team isn’t comfortable with risk and it also turned out the manager isn’t either. As leaders, we have to be the change we want for our team; we have to model the change for them so they can see it and feel it.
Challenging others is risky and the only way we can know how much to stretch others is to experiment, assess and experiment again. If we’re not willing to risk going too far, we will fall far short of what is possible. Your quote from T.S. Elliot is spot on..
It’s impossible to know how to walk the line between stretching people and pushing too far without taking a risk.
Thanks Alan. You remind me that helping people reach “too far” is a process of reaching succeeding, and then reaching further. We should avoid giant leaps if we haven’t already stretched a few times.
Dan, that’s an important insight that often makes the difference between success and failure. Few people will take giant leaps but many will take smaller steps that in succession will put them in the same place the giant leap will.
Love this Dan – it was well worth the read!
Thanks Diana. Much appreciated.
Fantastic! I love how concise you are – you have distilled heady ideas down to their most digestable form. Great quality of a leader 🙂 Thanks for this!
Thanks Dan. In reference to your question, “How can leaders walk the line between stretching people and pushing too far?” I think it comes down to engagement and recognition. Leaders who are engaged, or strive to become more engaged with their teams, can gain a better understanding of what their associates are capable of. The encouragement of people to strive for greater accomplishments has to be tailored to the individual, or select team. Recognition has to follow the accomplishment, or genuine effort aimed toward the goal, and also has to be tailored to the individual. I appreciate the article and insight. Thanks again.
I’ve spent the better half of my morning reading over your posts. I’m so glad to have stumbled upon you. This is, without a doubt, my favorite post so far! I loved it. Every word is so true. I wish more leaders, parents and regular people, would read this a time or two! ♥