The word ‘Compassion’ is a relatively modern word (derived from the Latin, meaning to co-suffer) but we have come to understand it as the desire to assist another person in need. While most religions of the world consider it a great virtue in an individual,  there is evidence to show that compassion has been around for much longer than we have.

It seems natural that most people would help someone up when they have fallen over (we can imagine ourselves in a similar situation and thus go to the rescue, especially as the act of kindness is only momentary).  However, at a group level, humans often go to great lengths to organize help and support of others over a prolonged period of time.  Charities, Social Security schemes & taxes, health & pension funds are all types of collective responsibility to protect individuals in times of need.

Apparently Dr Penyy Spikins has recently uncovered irrefutable evidence that even the Neanderthals were compassionate people. As much as 350,000 to 600,000 years ago, these people grouped together to look after members of their tribes that were incapable of looking after themselves, sometimes for periods of twenty years or more. (you can read the full story here).

It seems obvious to me that (at a very base level) any act of kindness can be considered as a selfish thing, in as much as we probably see it as some kind of trade for future benefit for ourselves.  By setting an example we hope to ensure that others will learn the lesson and later return a good deed to us. 

With many company pension schemes falling apart and even some governments beginning to change the rules on paying out promised pensions to their long serving and loyal employees, perhaps it is not a bad idea for us to consider where compassion lies in us as individuals?  Not just towards our families and friends, or for the occasional once off act, but what role does compassion play in a fast moving, modern company?  Can everything be simply covered by an insurance policy?

The most effective teams I have ever worked with, always had a compassionate core that was evident to anyone that took the time to witness it.  However, the very same groups, were the first to reject an individual that did not emotionally commit themselves to the group.  This is a complex subject but an important one, if we want to understand just what it is that goes into building ‘super teams’ that are capable of achieving great things.  A shared common vision, with a good mixture of trust, loyalty and compassion are just four of the necessary ingredients.  How does your work team compare?

Have a good week,

Harley