Last week I came across an article from the BBC entitled, “The boss who put everyone on 70K” (linked below). Of course, this got my immediate attention. What did that mean? What happened?
Dan Price, a successful founder of a card payment company, was on a walk with a friend when he had an uncomfortable moment of truth. We’ve all had these moments – when we see things from a new perspective that we cannot ‘unsee’. We must then choose whether to act or not. Dan acted.
Let me share his journey. Whilst hiking with his friend Valerie, she shared with him how her life was in financial chaos. She was working two jobs to make ends meet and even though she was earning $40 000 a year, she was struggling to get by. As Valerie was a veteran, for Dan she epitomised someone who strived to work hard and serve her country, yet here she was having to deal with financial challenges. He thought about his own team and felt the weight of their collective financial struggles, while he himself was a millionaire.
The article shares how he took a massive decision to take the risk and introduce a minimum salary of $70 000 per annum for all his 120 staff, so that everyone in his team could have a good level of life quality and happiness. In so doing, he himself took a pay cut of over $1m per annum along with other considerable financial implications.
What struck me about this story was not his sacrifice or the impact on some of his team having their salaries doubled over night. It was his moment of truth and his empathy born out of his willingness to really sit with an uncomfortable reality and then doing something about it. This is Compassionate Leadership.
Imagine a working environment where leaders really get what their team members go through and can share the feelings and experiences of the other. Empathy is the most important skill you as a leader will ever need to excel at. Empathy means allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your teammates, ask stupid questions, provide direct feedback and receive it too. It’s based on trust. And trust is based on the predictability of others, based on empathising with your teammates. It’s about deeply understanding their perspectives, backgrounds and triggers, and being willing to really listen.
So, here’s the question for you. Have you ever had one of those moments of truth, as Dan did, where you suddenly felt another’s life experience, and it hurt? If you have not yet felt that pang in your chest as the new perspective hits, maybe it’s time to do some work on how empathy could re-engage you and your team. What perspective do you need to have now, which has not been given enough space to reveal itself yet?