THE BLOG
07/08/2013 02:51 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2013

Cockroaches, Compassion, and Better Business Results

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On a recent Saturday morning, when walking into my guest bedroom, I noticed that a rather large palmetto bug (a.k.a. cockroach) had found its way into my home. This happens occasionally during warm months. Usually the bugs are on their backs, near death, or already dead. However, this one was spunky!

I practice catch and release with these critters (I'll explain why in a moment), covering them with a cup, then sliding a thin piece of cardboard under the cup, carrying the critter outside, and quickly sliding the cup off of the cardboard. This sends the bug falling safely onto the earth, where they usually scurry off to hide from the light.

The little feller I released on this particular Saturday didn't like the idea of falling safely to the earth and decided to fly: Not just to break his fall, he really started flying! In fact, he flew right back at me. I stepped to the side quickly to get out of the way and when I looked to see where he had landed, I couldn't find him. There were only a couple places to hide on my small porch - under my running shoes, or on me.

A quick examination of the running shoes revealed that he must have been on me. I started looking on the back of my shorts, suddenly noticing a tickling sensation. The little feller had crawled under my shirt and was crawling up my back. As I started squirming, he jumped out the top of the shirt and flew once again - this time right back through my front door and into my kitchen. "You've gotta be kidding me!" I said aloud, partly to myself, and partly thinking maybe the critter would heed my admonishment. I caught him again, and successfully released him outside this time.

Part of my personal development training includes the practice non-harm for even the most icky of critters, like roaches. This may sound a little extreme, but I've found it to be very helpful. By making an effort to be compassionate even with bugs, we can actually train the mind to naturally respond to more and moments of life with compassion.

Why is this important for leaders?

Compassion is not only a very enjoyable state, it is also very pragmatic. Leaders who are more compassionate enjoy the benefits building high levels of trust and influence with their people. When people know that we truly care about them, they are much more likely to follow us. People that are well cared for are also more productive and more innovative. This, of course, is very helpful for the bottom line.

Compassion can also be a very powerful tool for creating capital as a result of our own innovations. The heart of the entrepreneurial spirit is to help others solve problems. Entrepreneurs who have solved problems that were shared by many, many people are now wealthy, both emotionally and financially. The more we cultivate our capacity for qualities like compassion and empathy, the more receptive we are to the struggles of those around us. This helps us to be more aware of the needs of our current customers, which is another a key driver of financial performance. It also helps us recognize opportunities to solve problems with additional products and services, rekindling the entrepreneurial spirit in us.

What are some other ways you've found that compassion leads to better business outcomes?