Successfully Leading Dispersed Teams Requires Compassion

Leading Dispersed teams with Scott Shute from LinkedIn Team Anywhere Leadership Podcast
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Today our guest Scott Shute, Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn, shares with us tips on leading dispersed teams with compassion. Scott is the author of, The Full Body Yes. Scott’s vision is to change work from the inside out, and his mission is to mainstream mindfulness and operationalize compassion for the 3.3 billion workers in the world.  

In this episode, you will discover the mindset and practices of companies that are 14 times more profitable than the standard S&P average, by spreading mindfulness and compassion at work.  

What is Compassion and Where Does a Lack of Compassion Come From?

Compassion is awareness of others, a mindset of wishing the best for them, and then the courage to take action. 

The antonym of compassion is your inner critic. We allow our inner critic to run rampant inside our heads, triggering our fight or flight response. Our amygdala, formerly used to ignite that fight or flight response that kept us safe from predators, is now used in less extreme situations. Today, this response might go off during times when our kids are arguing in the next room while we are on a Zoom call. 

Our inner critic is driven by fear. Our inner critic focuses 99% of our energy on the 1% of our life that is hard or wrong. Scott calls this pothole management. There could be 1000 miles of perfect road and one pothole, and we will spend 99% of our time concerned about that one pothole. 

Because of our inner critic, we don’t spend any of our time on the 999 miles of perfect road. 

The counterbalance to this inner critic is to love ourselves by focusing on gratitude, self care, and the magical question, “What else is true?” 

If you find your inner critic running the show, ask yourself, what else is true? Develop the responses to that question which build a brighter outlook than your inner critic creates. When we look at our lives in totality, deeply know ourselves, and have compassion for ourselves, we become much stronger to deal with the most difficult situations.

A Compassionate Leadership Mindset

The most important asset we have is our people. What we know is when our people are at their best, the company is going to be at its best. This requires leading dispersed teams with a compassionate mindset.

Thinking you need to project confidence and be feared by your employees is outdated – and ineffective – thinking. Inside this old approach, leaders told their employees what to do, and their employees did what was said without questioning it in fear of getting replaced.  

That world is gone. 

The power has shifted from the company and its leaders to the employees. Employees today have more power in where they work, and who they work for, more than ever before. The best people write their own tickets to the best companies. If you want to be successful as a leader, you must treat your employees as the most valuable resource you have. 

Compassionate Leaders Focus on Authenticity – Be Human

People don’t want to work for a robot. Being human as you are leading dispersed teams allows your employees to see that you are just like them rather than feeling a sense of separation. There is typically a sense of separation where employees can’t identify or connect to their leader when the leader is seen as too perfect, or has a facade of perfection. When perfection is presented, employees believe they can not achieve that perfection, leading to despair and defeat. 

If leaders deeply know themselves, they can then know other people. The best leaders that are leading dispersed teams have a mindset of kindness that enables them to wish the best for others. 

For example, if leaders share their own challenges, then that gives employees permission to also share their challenges. The employees see their leaders as being authentic, open, and vulnerable; therefore, they are more likely to be as open in sharing themselves and offering the same compassion to others. 

This will make it easier for employees to open up during hard times as well. For example, if someone on the team is going through a personal issue that requires them to take time off, then within an authentic environment it is  the role of the leader and the rest of the team to say, “Your health and mental well-being is the most important thing. So do what you need to do. The work will be there when you get back and we’ll figure it out together.”

Compassionate Leaders Communicate Clear Purpose & Values

Strong leaders have a clear purpose, centered values (individually and organizationally), and clear communications– and they never deviate from that. They repeatedly share where the company and team is going and why it’s important. 

Compassionate Leaders Have the Courage to Take Action

Compassionate leaders have courage to take action for themselves and others. They declare that they are going to do the hard things for themselves, which allows them to then do the hard things for others. 

Compassionate Teams

In Google’s Project Aristotle, researchers discovered that the number one factor in building a high performance team was psychological safety. 

In other words, team members need to be able to ask, “Can I be myself in front of my team and know that they have my back? Can I succeed in front of others and know that they have my back?”

As a Leader leading dispersed teams, there are several things that you can do to improve psychological safety. 

Before jumping into business,  take the first 5-7 minutes of your meetings connecting personally.  You can ask your team if there is anything they want to talk about, ask them what they are grateful for, or ask them to share a personal or professional win that they are celebrating.

This conversation moves your team from their head to their heart. Their mindset shifts from being task-oriented, to seeing each other simply as humans. When we look at each other as humans first, and then as colleagues second, we build connectivity. When we have this connectivity with our team, we’re much more willing to be our authentic selves. The only thing we have as a company is our people. If these people feel comfortable at work, feel safe with the people they work with, then they can bring their Full Body Yes to work. 

Making Decisions: Back to the office? Or Continue Remote Work?

From a Team Perspective

The mechanics of working on a hybrid team will be different and nobody knows what the future of this hybrid work is going to be like. This is a grand experiment. Teams must focus on their awareness of others, a mindset of wishing the best for them, and the courage to take action to succeed in this new hybrid work environment.

For example, imagine someone who is typically outgoing becomes silent inside a hybrid meeting. Teams need to be aware of this sudden change in communication, and then have the courage to ask that team member for their input. It’s this level of commitment to connection and to being present that is going to be required in this new working environment. This level of commitment and connection is important regardless of the technology and how many of us are at the office versus home.  

Individual Perspective – The True Path To Happiness

In a recent article by the BBC about the cult of work, the authors share that our addiction to work is rooted in fear. We think good things will happen if we work hard or bad things will happen if we make mistakes. We base our happiness on these outcomes. 

We all have an  inner critic bringing up concerns about weighing the pros and cons of making the decision to head back to the office, continue remote work, or create a flex option. 

When it comes to making that decision, each person is in charge. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. Each individual could quit a job, go back to the office, or choose a flex option–and every one of those choices have consequences. Ultimately, every employee is in charge of that choice. 

Each person should ask himself/herself: “What do I really need right now? Do I need to be at home for two days a week because my kids are at home? Or do I need to work harder for three days because there’s a big project?” There’s really no one right answer.  There will be some seasons in your  life where you need to invest a little bit more in your career, and that’s the right thing to do at that time. Or there’ll be some seasons in your life where you need to invest in your own health, or the health of your family and that’s the right thing to do at that time. But you’re the only one that knows the right answer at that moment.

ROI of Shareholder Value

Inside the book, Firms of Endearment, the authors’ research found that companies were more successful when they took care of all of their stakeholders rather than only their shareholders. 

If a company cares solely about their shareholders, they then make every decision through the filter of the shareholder benefit. But when a company focuses on all of the stakeholders, shareholders, employees and customers are 14 times more profitable. 

These companies went beyond shareholder value, and focused on taking care of their employees and creating a great place to work. Not surprisingly, this resulted in the employees taking care of the customers. This teaches us that successful organizations of the future will be led by leaders who really care about their employees, their customers and their shareholders. 

About Scott Shute

Scott is at the intersection of the workplace and ancient wisdom traditions. He has been an active advocate for customers and employees in the technology space for over 20 years, with roles ranging from sales, customer advocacy, and customer service leadership.  Previously, he was the Vice President of LinkedIn’s Customer Operations organization.

 In his current role as Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn, Scott blends his lifelong practice and passion with his practical leadership and operations experience.  His mission is to change work from the inside out by “mainstreaming mindfulness” and “operationalizing compassion.” He is the author of the book The Full Body Yes.

If you want to support your local bookstore, but you want to buy the book online, there’s this place called You can buy the book online, but assign the profits to your local bookstore. 

To learn more about leading dispersed teams with compassion, listen to the full episode below.

Online Courses for Leaders Leading a Team From Anywhere:

Check out these online courses for remote leaders from the Team Anywhere Team.

How to Be an Effective Remote Manager | How to Build Virtual Accountability


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