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Show genuine compassion

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It is normal for people to feel overwhelmed, anxious, unsettled or even distracted throughout periods of disruption.

Everyone responds differently and that’s ok. Anticipating reactions and responding compassionately, authentically and empathetically for both the external struggle and the internal anxiety colleagues might be feeling increases a sense of calm

Below are some helpful guidelines from the King’s Fund, an organisation that supports healthcare in the UK around the ABCs of practicing compassionate leadership:
  • Providing Autonomy and Control where possible: When we feel as though we have more control over our situation, it fosters a feeling of empowerment. A helpful approach is to remind colleagues to re-focus on the things that are in their control rather than those that they cannot control. This also enhances autonomy.
  • Fostering belonging: Going out of your way to show a gesture of solidarity is a way to exercise compassionate leadership. Noticing those around you and ensuring that people feel connected, supported and unified is imperative for wellbeing during times of uncertainty.

    Enhancing cohesion means that even though we are all experiencing turbulence, we are not experiencing it alone. An example of this was in 2019, after the devastating attack on mosques in Christ Church, New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand’s Prime Minister) wore a hijab as an act of solidarity and compassion.
  • Supporting Colleagues to remain competent: NSW Health upholds a high standard of care. Leaders need to ensure that teams feel competent to deliver care rather than feeling overworked or stressed. This requires constant checking in and supportive supervision on the part of positional leaders to ensure the work can be sustained. It involves creating psychological safety so that staff feel safe to speak up when they’re feeling drained or burnt out.

    Finally, understanding how to care for team members beyond times of uncertainty, allowing moments for sense-making; time to recover and recalibrate to enable their continued competence is critical.

Further resources to explore:

  • LISTEN Dr David Rock, Dr Kamila Sip and Dr Jay Van Bavel speak with the NeuroLeadership Institute and discuss how leaders can help others mentally prepare for current challenges/threats, including communication strategies around the SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) model that names five constants in human motivation
  • VISIT Agency for Clinical Innovation's Love and belonging
  • LISTEN This Harvard Business Review podcast focuses on the importance of ‘out-collaborating’ the current situation through leadership behaviour, consistency, high emotional intelligence and unity of direction
  • WATCH Webinar outlining how to support healthcare staff dealing with the tension and anxiety caused by the current situation, presented by the British Psychological Society

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