The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust many of us into being our experimental selves. What we're all used to is now far from the current environment's vocabulary of social distancing, isolation, and remote work. For many businesses, this poses a number of challenges on the leadership front, especially with how you can maintain the connection with your people and, more importantly, reach out with more compassion. Bringing in an expert around that, Melanie Parish talks to Nate Regier, PhD, the CEO and founding owner of Next Element. Nate helps us understand what compassion mindset is all about, how it helps people in a different way than emotional intelligence, and how it can be built into the culture of an organization. Join him in this conversation to learn more and where he also discusses compassion fatigue versus empathy fatigue.
Listen to the podcast here:
Operationalizing Compassion Mindset Into An Organization’s Culture With Nate Regier
I'm here with Nate Regier, PhD. He’s the CEO and founding owner of Next Element Consulting. They're a global leadership firm dedicated to bringing compassion into the workplace. Dr. Regier is a former practicing psychologist and he's an expert on social-emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication and leadership. He's recognized as a top 100 keynote speaker, and he's a process communication model certifying master trainer. Nate is the author of three books, Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability and Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential with the Process Communication Model. He hosts a podcast called On Compassion with Dr. Nate. He writes a weekly blog, contributes to multiple industry publications and blogs, and is a regular guest on podcasts. I'm excited to welcome Nate to the show.
Nate, it's exciting to have you on my show.
Thank you, Melanie. It's a pleasure to be with you.
I am curious about a couple of things. I'd love to know what you're up to in your life and your business?
Besides COVID that we're all up to these days. It has been a flurry of activity for me. I'm launching my third book, Seeing People Through and doing it all virtually. Also, my oldest daughter got married. I'm still recovering from that.
I know COVID has thrown everyone for a loop. I'm always interested in talking about how people are experimenting in their lives. How have you been experimenting?
All of the things that we were forced to do like work from home, gather virtually with our teams, and try to deliver our services without being in person, all of those require so much experimenting. Whatever platform we've been entrust into, we love experimenting with different ways to use it and maximize it to do some of the things that we've done before. One experiment that I learned is my microwave interferes with my Wi-Fi at my house. I know not to have the microwave on when I'm trying to do a recording. During sheltering in place when our whole family was at home, we had a sign we would put on the microwave when I was doing a podcast, training, or we were in a meeting that we didn't want to have interrupted.
I may have to experiment with that at my house. I've found it interesting having my workday. I've been working at home for many years and having my family live in my workplace has been interesting. I was watching the video that's on your home page about conflict and some of the skills that you teach. I'm curious about your compassion mindset. I’ve known about emotional intelligence work for a long time. I’m curious about how your compassion mindset helps people in a different way than something like emotional intelligence.
Compassion has been a huge part of our company from the beginning. Our mission is to bring more compassion to every workplace in the world. That's based on the power of compassion, but also what we've discovered in our research and our work with leaders and cultures is that most people don't appreciate or understand what full compassion is. A lot of people, when they think of compassion or they think they're being compassionate, they're practicing some things that can sometimes have unintended negative consequences.
The compassion mindset is the culmination of about ten years of research that we've done to identify what is a working behavioral definition of compassion that we can measure, that we can train, that we can observe in action, and that we can then apply to transform cultures and relationships so that we can hold people accountable for it in a safe way with dignity. It is a framework that attempts to operationalize compassion so it can be built into the culture of an organization.
Can you give us a little taste of a behavior someone might do that they think is compassionate but it gets in the way?
Empathy. Most people think that compassion is empathy. My heart goes out to you. Think of organizations that have the word compassion in them. They're all about helping people and we are naturally built to have empathy. There are mirror neurons in the brain whose job is to pick up and replicate other people's feelings and it helps us. It helps us to help people, which is great and it's fantastic. Empathy also can be incredibly draining and tiring when we are carrying and holding other people's pain all day. We've seen that what people have called compassion fatigue is empathy fatigue. What research is showing is that when people are practicing empathy a lot, it triggers the pain centers of the brain. When they're practicing compassion, it triggers the reward centers of the brain. It's energizing and rejuvenating. That's one example of something we might misunderstand.
That is interesting, especially right now. I noticed in the leaders that I coach and work with that they are becoming exhausted from that kind of fatigue. It seems like a good place to dig into some learning. Tell me a little bit about how someone knows that they might want to work with you.
For several years, we made it our goal to convince people that compassion was important to try to educate people on what real compassion was. We've stopped trying to do that because we feel like it's more important to try to connect with organizations and leaders that already get it. At some level, they appreciate that compassion is a critical and fundamental leadership competency that they know that it generates better business results and it's the right thing to do. We put our effort on focusing on trying to attract those people and then starting conversations and saying, “If you know that this is important, but you don't know how to do it, we can help.”
I remember watching an interview with, Jeff Weiner, the former CEO of LinkedIn. He was giving a presentation to Wharton School of Business about compassion, and everything they're doing in their workplace is great. They're leading the way and someone got up and asked, “How do you onboard people with compassion? What's your training program?” He had nothing to say because it was just him role modeling and doing things. That day they begin starting to try to operationalize what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. It's those kinds of organizations that we're looking to help. We're not trying to attract organizations that are maybe rife with drama and they want a culture transformation. Usually in those situations, they're not ready. They're not in a place where this works. They're more trying to get away from the pain and they are trying to get towards something aspirational.
What do you think do they need to do to get away from the pain? What would be their first steps?
We work with companies there and usually in those situations, we're going into the sources of intractable conflicts. We're looking at where the drama comes from, how it's been maybe institutionalized in their systems, culture, and processes. In that situation, we're teaching people basic skills for dealing with conflict in a healthy way, basic skills for appreciating diversity and how people communicate and how they're motivated, and helping them understand what negative attention looks like and why people “misbehave” when they're not getting certain needs met. It's a little bit of different training that we do.
What do you do to care for yourself as you do this work?
That is important. When we formed Next Element in 2008, one of our founding principles is that we will practice what we preach and we will be a laboratory for the people skills and leadership skills that we teach everyone else. Not only are we developing these skills and practicing them amongst ourselves, but we have to live them. One of the most important things is taking care of ourselves. For me, that means honoring my unique personality, how I'm motivated, how I'm energized, and making sure that I tend to those things every day.
It's important that I use my natural character strengths as much as possible because I was built to do that and it gives me joy. I also think that self-compassion means treating ourselves as if we are valuable, as if we are capable, and as if we are responsible. There are boundaries there. It has the mental, spiritual, and physical components but it means applying what I know about my personality in order to take the best care of me. I'm happy to share specifics if you want but at a general level, that's what it means for me.
It's super fun to hear the specifics. Can you tell me a couple of things that you do?
The personality in a model that we use is called the process communication model and it identifies six types within each person. Everyone has all six arranged in a particular way. One of them is uniquely important for how we feel our take. The thinker part of my personality is the part that is important for me to pay attention to because it's the one that motivates me. I'm motivated by the recognition of productive work, by honoring my time and structuring my time well.
COVID has made this difficult because of all of the unexpected and unpredictable nature of it all. For me to be able to feel productive, I have to craft my day. I pick what I'm going to do and how I'm going to prioritize myself. I have a few things that I can check off the list and feel like I've done at the end of the day. That's important for me to feel productive. Also, I need to feel like I'm managing my time well, and that I'm spending it well so that I have something to show for it. Things get in the way so then I also have to give myself grace when things don't go as planned, and not get over-controlling and micromanage everybody else, but appreciate and grieve the loss of that time or the loss of that control so I can pick myself up and think clearly for the next step.
Is your book out now?
It is out and the name of the book is called Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential with the Process Communication Model and it is a book about leadership. It's about growing into ourselves as leaders. It's about unlocking our unique personality as a tool and as a way to leverage the diversity of personalities around us. Along the way, new leaders will be able to track their soft skills for leadership fast. Experienced leaders will be able to go from good to great by challenging and exploring some deeper aspects of who they are and what that means for them as leaders.
Where can people find you, Nate?
My name Nate Regier, you can find on Google. The website for my book is called SeeingPeopleThrough.com. That's a great place to start because there's a bit about me and there's a bit about the book. From there, you can link to other things that we do. I'm the CEO of Next Element, that's our company. You can also lookup NextElement.com to learn about our company and some of the other things that we do.
Do you train others? Do you train coaches and other people to offer some of your programs?
We do direct coaching and custom services and a few public seminars. Most importantly though, we prepare and certify other trainers, coaches, facilitators, and consultants to use our tools in their practices so that they can go out, extend and expand the reach of compassion in the world. We then support them from behind the scenes with materials, assessments, and curriculum.
Thank you so much for being on my show. It's been fantastic chatting with you. I am fascinated by all that you're doing.
Thank you, Melanie. It's a pleasure to be here and thank you for having me on.
I love speaking with Nate about how personality can inform how we treat ourselves as leaders and what we need. It’s interesting to dive into ourselves a little bit and to think about what we need is informed by who we are. It helps us to experiment better. It helps us collect data better. It helps us to put together better experiments in the first place. I also love that he talked about the difference between empathy fatigue and compassion fatigue. That has my brain thinking about the difference between those two. I know I’m going to dive in and do a little more research on those. Sometimes we get stuck thinking one thing is true but we need to always be questioning our assumptions. This was a great chat with Nate. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on all that he’s up to. Thanks and go experiment.
About Nate Regier
Nate Regier, Ph.D., is the CEO and founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership firm dedicated to bringing compassion into the workplace. Dr. Regier is a former practicing psychologist and expert in social-emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, and leadership. Recognized as a Top 100 keynote speaker, he is a Process Communication Model® Certifying Master Trainer. Nate is the author of three books—Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires; Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability; and his newest book, Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential with The Process Communication Model. He hosts a podcast called “On Compassion with Dr. Nate,” writes a weekly blog, contributes to multiple industry publications and blogs, and is a regular guest on podcasts.
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.