At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

Love from sunny Canterbury, England!

Every top leader I talk to shares this problem: how can I be compassionate and still manage the business? What does it mean to love our neighbor and meet our numbers at the same time? In running a business or a team, what is the most effective way to balance compassion with profitability?

Let me ask you a question: What does it cost you to care?

Now I’ll flip that: What does it cost you to violate your boundaries?

“I run a net 120 business,” one CEO told me. “We don’t get paid for 120 days, so I lie awake at night wondering if we can make payroll.” That priority doesn’t conflict with compassion because payroll is something in the best interest of most people, yet when it comes to compassion for someone extending maternity leave or repeatedly missing work because of sick kids, there’s a point where leaders need to manage the boundaries of grace.

Best example I can think of comes from the trip to Europe we’re on. Several times a day we’ve run into uncontrollable toddlers – crying, demanding, and fairly set on a single right answer. My daughter used to work in a day care, so she’s very familiar with the difference between true need and a temper tantrum. The toddler is certain that he deserves to get what he wants. The toddler doesn’t care that his parent has more experience as a human and might indeed know better, he just doesn’t want to be invisible. It’s very similar in the workplace.

Employee happiness is not so much about satisfied demands as it is about being seen and heard. The daughter I am dropping off at school in England today is accustomed to not always getting what she wants. If I had given in to every demand she issued, she would not be the responsible adult she is today. I think holding people accountable is compassionate. People grow when they are challenged. If we make too many accommodations, they don’t get the chance to learn what they need to learn to be successful.

Have the bold conversation. Set clear expectation, and then listen. Listen more. Co-create a solution. When you show employees that you care, they will take care of you…and your business.