By Ted Powell – September, 2023

For nearly 35 years, we’ve witnessed thousands of leaders improve their impact by adopting new skills and behaviors beyond what they believed they could demonstrate.

To inspire similar growth in others, we like to share real-world stories of transformation from our clients and leaders like you. Each story of everyday leaders making remarkable changes reveals principles and techniques you can apply to enhance your leadership capability and impact.

Stories of Transformation Leader Spotlight:

Meet Karla Fabritz, Talent Manager at La-Z-Boy Inc. Her 20-year career includes experiences at both the store and corporate levels. Like all leaders within a retail business, she encounters many situations where customers and employees are in challenging emotional states. She has learned how to “coach” people into a better place through thoughtful and compassionate responses. Karla’s journey toward becoming a more compassionate leader and influencer did not come easily. She had to strike a balance with another quality she values—the need to demonstrate resilience during adversity, which at times made her “callous” toward others and her own emotions.

Watch this video and see how Karla elevated her ability to bring more strength, courage, and compassion into her leadership style. As you listen to Karla’s story, take note of the following principles and techniques:

Karla’s Compassionate Leadership Principles and Techniques

  1. Recognize that everyone we encounter is going through something. Don’t take their angst personally. Be curious and not judgmental, as you seek to understand their circumstance. Karla shared a powerful story with me, where a distressed customer became enraged over what seemed to be a trivial concern about pillows that came with a sofa he and his wife purchased. Karla has since learned that when something small creates an unreasonable reaction, there’s always something bigger underneath – a loved one going through chemo, an unplanned move or loss of a job…or all three. Now, when someone lashes out at me over something I deem “unreasonable”, I remind myself, “it’s not about the pillows.”
  2. Strike a careful and conscious balance between being “tough” during adversity and remaining open to your true emotional state. It is easy to tilt toward one of two extremes—to either become too consumed by our emotions or to dissociate from them altogether. Karla realized she had become too callous in her pursuit of resilience. Her story in the video reveals how she was able to course correct.
  3. Connect to the emotions behind the words. Get comfortable with the discomfort of emotions, whether they’re your own or those expressed toward you. Meet people where they are and invite them up (don’t force them out of their emotion). People don’t allow us to invite them up until they feel understood at an emotional level. Reframing a situation (shifting mental focus from negative to positive) can be a powerful coaching technique. However, it is often ineffective when applied prematurely or while someone is still holding onto unresolved emotions. The movie “Inside Out” masterfully leads us to this understanding by showing the destructive effects of “forcing” ourselves into a state of joy when we might need to experience sadness or other less comfortable emotional states.

Karla’s final word of advice is fundamental to making the previously mentioned principles work: Be where your feet are. Be present in the moment instead of rushing toward the result. Use this as an affirmation to counteract the time-constrained and task-driven lifestyle we experience today.

Allow ample time and space during 1-on-1s and team meetings so that you can utilize these three leading with compassion principles. This is particularly important in an era where more companies and teams are moving to hybrid work arrangements. The time and space for compassionate connecting aren’t as likely to occur naturally. We must create it purposefully.