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Are you managing people totally wrong?

Updated: Apr 16

one man is shouting at another in an office setting


This month’s blog is authored by our Trusted Partner, Hayley Gillard, Founder of Compassionate Leaders.

Hayley is an empowering, engaging, skilled facilitator, trainer, and Organisational Psychology Consultant. 


In the blog, Hayley explains why it’s not enough to be compassionate...



Compassion is an essential leadership trait, but genuine, successful leadership requires so much more than just compassion and experience or qualifications, too, for that matter. But first, I’d like to share a story…


A story about being a good boss


“Once upon a time, there was a young woman called Hayley who worked for a housing association. She wanted to be a manager. She wanted to climb the career ladder, get Director in her job title, inspire people in her team to be their best, and have credibility, impact and gravitas in the organisation.

Recognise yourself in her?


Hayley wanted to be known for being really good at what she did and earn a great salary, too. More importantly, she wanted to make her parents proud.


So, she started learning about managing people and how to be a leader, and she finally got her first management job - managing one member of staff.  She had a great boss who encouraged her, helped her learn from her mistakes and created a work environment where people worked hard, played hard and trusted each other. Everything was great, and she was happy.




One day her boss retired, and a new person took his job, and her dreams went downhill overnight, alongside her happiness. The second boss tore everything up. He was arrogant, rude and micro-managed. Hayley left within 2 months of the new boss starting.”


That story is my story, and since then, I’ve made many management mistakes and can count many occasions when working with direct reports that make me cringe now - things that I wish I could go back and change. But, that experience really affected me and subsequently led to me being fascinated both academically and vocationally about how people can influence each other and how teams can impact individuals and vice versa.


I decided to de-code what felt so good about working for that very first boss at the housing association. I discovered it was about doing more than just trusting your staff. It was about more than having great mission statements or company values. It was more than promoting people and sending them on qualifications and courses to develop them and show them you care. It was about fostering a deep sense of belonging.


People thrive when they are in an environment where they feel safe. 


It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But it isn’t just about compassion.


Everyone is talking about compassionate leadership and being an empathetic manager. We all know that being nice to staff makes them more likely to do a good job. But what most people don’t understand about compassionate leadership is the concept of building psychological safety. It’s not being kind that helps staff do a good job, it’s building the psychological safety in your whole team. And that can happen even if you’re having a bad day, need to challenge someone or have huge pressure and targets to reach.


Psychological safety is the essential foundation on which high-performing teams are built.


Psychological safety describes an environment where team members are confident and free to take risks, challenge the status quo, and engage in open, honest conversations without fear of retribution or judgement.


It is the key to empowering your team to achieve outstanding results. Without it, mistakes are covered up, cultures of blame ensue, and trust and honesty are diminished. 


By developing your team’s ability to challenge, reflect, take ownership and empathise, you can maximise engagement, results, commitment, and accountability and minimise internal politics, defensiveness, ego, aggression and other factors bound to hinder productivity and disrupt the delivery of results. 


Far from easy and fluffy, embracing psychological safety can be a hugely powerful and effective experience. It encourages your team to lean into vulnerability and push themselves to the edge of discomfort, where goals are met, challenges are overcome, and lasting benefits can be harnessed. Benefits include increased effectiveness, collaboration and innovation, minimised conflict, and a culture where people empower each other. 

So, where to start?


Firstly, it’s about your mindset – are you capable of embracing learning, willing to look inwards, self-reflect, and be open to honest, genuine feedback? Here are some reflection questions to get you started:


1.     What excites me about learning, self-reflection and receiving honest feedback at work?

2.     What scares me about it?

3.     How do people perceive my leadership style currently?

4.     What impact do I have on my organisational/team culture?


Your answers are only one view of this; others may answer the questions about you differently, but it’s a great start and allows you to look for opportunities to improve.


And then?


If you’re open to the process, you must work on aligning your team, building rapport and trust, encouraging healthy conflict and not shying away from the hard conversations.


If your team embraces building trust, and healthy challenge, it makes them more able to commit to things, people know their views matter and feel heard. When team members see this happening, they’ll show up and do the work – they’ll hold other team members accountable and not get defensive when others hold them to account, too.


Trust, healthy conflict, commitment, and accountability all connect to shared team results rather than individual competition, egos and backstabbing.


So, being a great leader is so much more than knowledge, experience, and compassion. It’s about developing genuine psychological safety. That’s what my first boss in the story did brilliantly and what made me shine as an employee. It’s also what the boss who took over from him couldn’t do, and the organisational culture crashed overnight.


I challenge you to reflect, diagnose any weak areas, and put a plan in place to heal these issues.


I’d love to help you.


I have an event coming up where I cover all this and more, and you will leave with a full review of your team and a clear plan of action to address it. I invite you to join me at Building High-Performing Teams on Tuesday, 19th March, in Birmingham City Centre.


If you use the code TheHRHero at the check-out, you will get 10% off your ticket price and a complimentary 20-minute SOS call with Kate to help with any issues you highlight.


The HR Hero is pleased to partner with Hayley Gillard of Compassionate Leaderswho can work with you to develop your self-awareness and enable you to lead your department or organisation forward with compassion and empathy whilst promoting healthy challenge, own your views, personality, strengths and weaknesses at work, and help your team to do the same. 


Furthermore, Hayley will help you to understand the importance of psychological safety and foster a culture that values openness, trust and continuous improvement, to lay the foundations on which high-performing teams can align, collaborate, innovate and thrive.


You can find out more at, and be sure to tell her The HR Hero sent you!





Compassionate Leaders Founder and Managing Director, Hayley Gillard, is an empowering, engaging and skilled facilitator, trainer, and Organisational Psychology Consultant. 


Hayley has spent over a decade and a half supporting organisations in the housing and education sectors, and a varied range of industries with tailored leadership training courses, programmes and coaching.

Blending business development training and coaching with psychological safety principles, Hayley is committed to creating compassionate leaders of high-performing teams, made up of fulfilled and dedicated staff.


She holds multiple degrees in business and psychology and recent accolades include having supported one of The Times Top 100 UK’s Fastest Growing Companies, and had one of her training programmes shortlisted for an ASCP Safety and Compliance national award in 2022, you can rest assured that Hayley can help to transform your leadership skills and your team.


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