I give talks all around the country about motivating female athletes. There’s a portion of my talk where I talk about creating great relationships on your team—among the players as well as players with the coaches. Without fail, during the question and answer period, someone will ask something along the lines of: “So, you’re saying that we should be friends with our players…”
I, of course, remind them that I don’t think it’s possible for coaches to be friends with players…not with the power weighted squarely in the coach’s corner. We can be friendly, but not friends. In much the same way, I think the word compassion is misunderstood by leaders and those they are leading.
Understanding compassion and how it relates to leaders
- Compassion does not mean avoiding difficult situations. Years ago, I had a player in a leadership position who floundered. She was off-putting to her teammates and she seemed miserable every time she stepped into the gym. It would have been much easier for me to avoid talking to her about her behavior and trying to take advantage of the teachable moments her poor behavior provided. Instead, we sucked it up and talked to her. Not only because of her impact on the team, but the impact on her future life.
- Compassion is not kindness. Kindness is being friendly and having a gentle nature. Compassion is having concern for others. A kind coach may let poor behavior slide, while a compassionate coach will address it because they know it will make them a better player in the long run. A kind coach will ignore poor team chemistry, because they want to escape the unavoidable conflict that is bound to occur. The compassionate coach will try to get to the bottom of the problem so that she can educate her team on how to function properly.
- Compassion is caring about the development of your players. If we see our jobs as transforming our players into better versions of their current selves, then we’ll develop them. Sometimes that means motivating them. Sometimes that means being their biggest cheerleader. Sometimes that means tooting their horn so that everyone knows about a particular success of theirs. And yes, sometimes that means correction.
I expanded on a very good idea I found on Harvard Business Review’s website. The post was called, “What It Really Means To Be A Compassionate Leader”…it’s just a couple of paragraphs long, but very powerful.