Compassionate management – make your team a place people want to work


As a manager, you set the tone for your team. Your management style drives how the team behaves collectively. And it can change the way people behave individually as well. Putting people first is rarely the focus in a shareholder/profit driven economy. But there is a growing movement for something more humane. Compassionate management goes beyond managing the mission. It’s about managing the people.

Jeff Wiener is one of the first to start talking about compassionate management. He said, “Compassionate management, compassionate leadership is about taking the time to put yourself in another person’s shoes.”1 He thinks that compassionate management creates more than a better environment for the team, “it’s a better way to build a company.”

There is a growing movement to teach compassionate management techniques. Call it mindful leadership, compassionate leadership, humble leadership ….the intent is similar. Most of these are founded on meditation in some way. I believe you can be a compassionate leader without meditation. Following I share a suggested approach to bring together the core elements of successful management with compassion that I used as a manager at IBM.


Share information – and context – with the team. Make sure everyone has access to the knowledge they need to be successful in their individual tasks. Transparency provides team members the opportunity to take into account the larger, strategic picture and act accordingly without specific direction.

But it’s not a one way street. Solicit communication from the team. Provide a forum for sharing accomplishments and projects – the issues and the learning – not only with you, but with one another. This provides visibility to your team’s strengths and creates unity and pride.

Make the time for regular 1:1 opportunities. Have an open door policy. This helps build relationships, confidence and trust/ It also helps to address problems before they get out of hand.

Create an environment of trust to communicate personal difficulty. Help individuals and the team to manage a difficult period of time by working together on their specific needs. It’s the right thing to do, but it also creates a strong sense of loyalty and dedication.


Instill an ongoing environment of collaboration by encouraging team members to mentor and teach one another on core skills. Encourage them to share their experience and expertise outside the team as well. Sharing expertise in this way motivates individuals to work together and rely on one another.

Engage your team and collaborate with them on decisions. Ask for their input based on their experience and specific expertise. Involving people in decisions empowers them and strengthens the decision-making process.

Career coaching

Know your team members skills and career aspirations. Provide and recommend learning opportunities to address skills gaps. Focus on skills helps people individually as well as strengthening the value of your team’s contribution to the organization.

Help your team members see themselves as having a career vs having a job. Set goals together to evolve to the right next step for each individual. Putting a job into the context of a career increases the motivation and satisfaction of team members.

A place people want to be

As a manager, I applied this simple structure to my team. I shared the principles with the team and I shared them with people I was interviewing as an important element in their choice of a work place. Time and again, people told me how much they appreciated the approach. One person I hired told me they turned down a more lucrative opportunity to work in the environment I described during the interview. I believe that if you combine the 3 C’s above with respect for the individual and the organization, you have a recipe to create a team environment where people want to be.