Build a ‘Culture of Compassion’ In 2018

If you happen to sit next to Sheldon Yellen on your next flight, chances are he’ll be writing birthday cards. Lots and lots of them.

“There is an inside joke with acquisitions that I ask prior to closing: ‘How many more people?'” he told Business Insider — meaning, How many more birthday cards do I have to write? — “since I am constantly calculating that in my mind, rather than ‘What is the EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization)?‘”

Yellen has found that taking the time to write out a card for each and every person in his billion dollar company has created a “culture of compassion” through the whole company.

It Starts at the Top

Regardless of what you may have been told or your beliefs, it starts from the top. That person that sits at the top of the pyramid can change the course of any culture.

“A humble person is more concerned about what is right than being right, about acting on good ideas than having good ideas, about embracing new truth than outdated positions, about building a team than exalting self, about recognizing contribution, than being recognized for making it.” – –  Stephen Covey

I once saw a statement on the career page site for WD-40 that said:

“Before Applying:

Please consider employment with WD-40 Company only if you feel as strongly about our values as we do; we live, breathe and play by our values every day.”

I would love to apply that to any person who ascribes to be in a leadership position. What are your values and are you convicted that this is your true north. Do you believe in the following?

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  • I am more concerned about what is right than being right
  • I believe in acting on good ideas than having good ideas
  • I am more about building a team than exalting self
  • I believe in recognizing contribution, than being recognized for making them

If you can’t answer in the affirmative for those statements, stay in the lane of an individual contributor because, just maybe, you are not cut out for this demanding role.

Be a Humble Leader

Being a leader today requires a different set of competencies than in the past. It is a lot more that having the aura of leadership. So if you are striving for this role, be aware that more is needed today as leadership requires a more humble approach.

The single most important factor today in your success is your people — your partner, your advisors, your staff, your peers. All of these individuals will help you to become successful giving you a higher probability of success that you’ll achieve your objectives. That means you don’t have to do it alone, but you do have to find the right people, and empower them, so you can harness the power and potential of their talent, skill and drive.

So as we arrive at the end of 2017 and your thoughts are already into the next year, reflect on your activities of the past. Now, as you look ahead, take the time to think how you can act on those four statements of true leadership I listed above. Let that be the gap to close in the New Year.

In the end it is about the people in our lives that will determine our success. Connect with them and remember to be humble. Figure out your way to build a culture of compassion.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.