Andrew Thornton on Compassion in Business

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I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at the first working Conference on Compassion last week – for be in a work context, being heartful and compassionate are very similar. I was on the business panel and spent 24 hours in discussion with people from all walks of life on compassion. Whether these people worked in healthcare, the arts, education or business, the issues faced where the same. Too much focus on performance measures and too little on people or why we are doing what we are doing at work.

Everyone got that a change to this modus operandi needs to start at the top of the organisation and one of the audience wondered how we could get the message to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.  A real challenge, yet I was also struck by a dinner conversation with a GP who had recently moved from being a partner in a practice that (in her words) was pretty heartless to one where they cared and she shared with me how much better she feels in her life after the move and how it has impacted on her home life. Exactly my point; if we work in a caring nurturing environment, then we will be able to care and nurture in the rest of our lives, spreading this positive energy. And of course, as a GP, she will be able to spread that energy to her patients – even if her daily caseload is set at unsustainable levels by the Health Secretary.

So no matter what type of organisation you lead, this approach can work. And if you don’t lead an organisation, you can engage the leaders of yours – send them some links or invite them to our Conscious Capitalism event in London on the 3rd of December.  Do whatever it takes to get them to see the light!

I put forward a pretty straightforward model on seeing the light.

  • Step 1 – get the CEO and board of the organisation to say, “Yes this is how they would like to be.”
  • Step 2, get the board aligned. I have been struck recently by how many boards of companies and non-profit organisations are in conflict. This conflict and the bullying/hostile behaviour that drives it  is mostly unconscious. Very few humans are evil and deliberately set out to hurt others. Yet their boardroom behaviour is often unconscious acting out of their childhood issues.
  • The work we are doing at Heart in Business Limited aims to get all the unconscious behavior on the table and at the same time getting everyone on the board doing what they love doing. While this took me 10 seconds to write it requires a lot more energy to do. Yet once in this place, a board of leaders can then start to go about setting up a caring, heartful (compassionate) organisation and move on to Step 3;  developing a higher purpose for their organisation. As that happens and people start to feel genuinely cared for, the whole energy of the organisation will shift.

And unsurprisingly, when you get to that stage, performance will improve, those performance measurers that I mentioned earlier will start to shift and everyone will be a winner. And if you don’t believe my logic, check out two studies on our website that demonstrate this.  If you go to the bottom of this page (Under from Stockholder to Stakeholder) you will see two different reports on this.

My discussions with senior business and non-business leaders encourage me that more and more of them get this.  And while I don’t want to sound arrogant, I am pretty confident that in less than 10 years time, this will be how most businesses and not-for profit organisations are run.
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