“Compassion in the Workplace” session on November 16, 2012 dream from the Festival of Faiths in Downtown Louisville, KY
by E. Joseph Steier and Dianne Timmering
Our move back to Louisville two years ago seemed perfectly timed with a city-wide charge to create and launch a “lifelong wellness and aging” movement that we could play a major role in. At the same time, the expanding Festival of Faiths International conference was growing and the launching of the compassionate city charter by our new mayor that we were blessed to sign-on early, made it a divine exodus from south Florida seem like a dream come true.
Last week, as Dianne and I sat in a packed room with standing room only, we are surrounded by business leaders, top researchers, spiritual leaders, and just really engaged people getting ready to dig into a panel discussion on “compassion in the workplace” and hear about our spirituality model and other models which link the spiritual and compassion to human well-being. Dr. James Doty, a Stanford neuro-surgeon, and leader in altruism and compassion, started off our panel with the thought on what is compassion, what is non-compassion where one feels no part of anything. Does the lack of compassion in the workplace lead to bad stress and issues with productivity? And what is the cost of bad stress in biased decision making, weakened performance?
There were more deserving leaders than Dianne and me, like Paul Thompson with Bridgeman Foods, Tori Murden McClure, the famed president of Spalding University, and Phil Marshall, CEO and president of Hosparus, the panel sponsor.
But here are the takeaways, we really want to dig into-
People are starting to notice Louisville and the Compassionate City charter -this can be a framework and healing ideology to unify our divided culture and heritage in the same way Merton’s epiphany manifested; a rebirth and transcendence a foot in the stream of our city’s people.
Conference attendees came from everywhere in the U.S. included several delegations from Canada to experience this event. And so is the Dali Lama next May coming to our fair town to embrace this soulful city, to expand this compassionate city charter and contemplative partnership so the vision that Thomas Merton delivered in Bangkok the day he died (Dec. 10th, 1968) visualizing an east-west spiritual balance between western self-directed personal empowerment and eastern selfless reflection can merge to capture what are both mankind’s greatest attributes.
Remember, I did not like the previous workplace environment that I worked in very much either but we may be at the end of the western highly directive command center business model that gave corporate a bad name in the workplace anyway. This will be the next industry leadership cycle requiring embracing the concept of shared leadership, collaborative external partnerships, real transparency, embracing servant leadership where we all must know the work . . . So . . . why not try being a compassionate workplace by being an early adopter if it’s going to happen.
Is compassion rooted in ancient religion? All compassion really means is that to be human is to embrace suffering–knowing it is an intersection to fellow man. If we share and reflect upon it, that everyone’s journey is equal in divine purpose, then we can drive toward the attempt at being present while possessing a non-judgmental awareness. God knows in me, that to feel deep personal suffering made me embrace forgiveness as the only way to heal and stay close to God. And knowing that we were on a parallel track of convergence with everyone in this room make us just feel more connected.
During the panel we learned a ton. One key learning jewel: Dr. Doty made an important point about the compassionate workplace state of mind . . . we must be totally self-aware, if there is a problem that you as a leader are the reason it exists, the critical party that must accept fault for it not being in optimal state, only then can you can help lead the real solution and create the condition around you so everyone owns the collective win . . . something we need to continue to embrace.
Then the magic happens . . . the science of Happiness occurs–your stakeholders have freedom from fear, a new sense of control, relationships with building trust, and they can contribute to something bigger than you and them for the opportunity of transcendence and purpose because you have given them the compassion to be.