Interview with Dr Bruno Roque Cignacco on compassion, trust, and human-oriented leadership in business.
In the new edition of your book “The Art of Compassionate Business”, you analysed the importance of compassion regarding business activities. What are the positive effects of a company with a compassionate attitude?
A company that adopts a compassionate attitude in all its business projects aims to bring about a positive impact on each of its stakeholders, either internal (employees and management) or external (e.g., customers, community, suppliers, etc.). This company also knows that the development of robust relationships with these stakeholders brings about positive economic results (e.g., higher profitability, increased market share, etc.). This organisation understands that it cannot thrive on its own but with the support of these stakeholders. When a company adopts a compassionate attitude towards its stakeholders, these very stakeholders tend to support this organisation in the achievement of its mission unconditionally. According to research, this type of company also has higher employee engagement, higher customer satisfaction, a warmer workplace, a better reputation, and higher quality levels, among other traits. Some studies observed that a compassionate company also brings about a workplace with lower stress levels, decreased absenteeism, lessened turnover, and higher productivity. Some research has shown that compassionate companies can also bring about higher long-term revenues and reduced costs.
In your new book, you also talked about the importance of trust in business. According to research, what are the different ways that people in business can develop bonds of trust with others?
Thank you for this question, which is fundamental in the current times. We have to understand that nowadays there is a widespread lack of trust in our society. This lack of trust also affects business organisations in a negative manner. Some authors defined trust as a state where people have positive expectations regarding the behaviour of others, especially when there exists interdependence regarding them. When people trust others, they feel more comfortable when interacting with them and tend to share resources (e.g., information, etc.) with them. In trust-based environments, people tend to be less stressed but are also more productive and co-operative. In business, some simple ways that people can develop bonds of trust with various stakeholders are:
- Providing others with some level of autonomy. For example, managers can delegate some tasks to their subordinates and avoid micromanaging them.
- Giving others complete information. For example, when interacting with a potential customer, a seller can inform this buyer of all the relevant contractual conditions related to the purchase, avoiding the inclusion of small print in the contract.
- Walking the talk. In business, people should keep the promises made to others. For example, if the seller promised the customer that the products will be delivered within a specific period, there should not be any delay in that delivery.
- Offering sincere compliments to others. For example, when an employee wholeheartedly works overtime to meet the deadline for a specific project, the manager can show overt gratitude to this employee (e.g., personalised thank you note, bonus, etc.) appreciating their valuable contribution to the business project.
- Looking for mutually beneficial agreements when interacting with others. For example, a company negotiating with its suppliers should aim to develop win-win agreements with them, where the needs of both the organisation and the suppliers are duly met.
- Develop business projects that have positive social and environmental impact. For example, companies whose activities bring about a positive impact on various stakeholders (e.g., donation of resources to a community, development of fair-trade agreements with suppliers, etc.) and the environment (e.g., recycling, using renewable sources of energy, etc.) are perceived as more trustworthy than those that are only focused on profits.
Lastly, in the new edition of your book, you also talked about the importance of human-oriented leadership. What is the meaning of this concept?
Some leaders are narcissistic and self-oriented, they only look at their own interests and needs, which pushes them away from their company’s stakeholders. Instead, human-oriented leaders prioritise the development of strong and mutually-beneficial relationships with all the most important stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers, suppliers, community, etc.). In that sense, these leaders only make decisions that bring about a positive effect on all relevant stakeholders. These leaders realise that their company’s success always relies on the development of long-lasting relationships with these stakeholders. Some studies have observed that leaders who care for others are perceived by employees more positively. These leaders have a better image in the eyes of others. According to research, when leaders are humble and empathetic, they are more prone to behave in a compassionate manner. Leaders with a compassionate attitude towards others understand how others (e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, etc.) feel and think and try to support them whenever possible. The actions of human-oriented leaders are always based on lofty values such as integrity, transparency, care, and empathy. To become more human-oriented, some relevant questions that leaders should regularly ask themselves are:
- How can I build stronger relationships with the company’s stakeholders?
- How can I adopt a warmer and more grateful attitude towards the company’s stakeholders?
- How can I be more empathetic with the company’s stakeholders?
- How can I inspire others towards the achievement of the company’s mission?
- How can I make decisions that bring about a positive impact on all the stakeholders?
This article was originally published on 19 December 2023.
Dr Bruno Roque Cignacco (PhD) is an international business consultant, speaker and business coach. For over 30 years, he has advised and trained hundreds of companies on international trade activities and international marketing. He is a university lecturer and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA – UK). He is also the author of business and personal development books published in different languages. The second edition of his new book “The Art of Compassionate Business” is available at www.routledge.com/9781032445427 His website is www.brunocignacco.com