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Is Embedding Self-Compassionate Leadership Principles the Key to Building High Performance Teams?
Episode 6510th August 2023 • Engaging Leadership • CT Leong, Dr. Jim Kanichirayil
00:00:00 00:24:59

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Stacey Baird, Chief People Officer at Community Medical Services, discusses the importance of self-compassion in building an elite organization. She shares her personal journey of discovering self-compassion and how it has helped her navigate challenging situations, such as her daughter's cancer diagnosis. Stacey explains a simple three-step model for practicing self-compassion: mindfulness, recognizing our common humanity, and self-kindness. She emphasizes the need for leaders to lead by example and create a culture of self-compassion within their teams and organizations.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Self-compassion is the best off-ramp for burnout and compassion fatigue.
  2. The three steps of self-compassion: mindfulness, recognizing our common humanity, and self-kindness.
  3. Leaders should lead by example and create a culture of self-compassion within their teams and organizations.


  • "Self-compassion is the best off-ramp for burnout and compassion fatigue."
  • "What do I need right now? That is the foundational element of self-compassion."
  • "Recognizing our common humanity is about normalizing our human responses to challenging situations."
  • "Self-compassion is treating yourself as kindly as you would treat someone you love."
  • "Leading by example is the easiest way to create a culture of self-compassion."


0:00:00 Introduction to Stacey Baird and the topic of self-compassion

0:02:31 Realization of the importance of self-compassion in building a high-performance team

0:03:49 Personal experience with self-compassion during daughter's illness

0:05:55 Balancing personal and professional responsibilities

0:08:09 Importance of self-compassion in a mental health services organization

0:11:06 Communicating the need for self-compassion to the team and organization

0:14:38 Three steps of self-compassion: mindfulness, recognizing common humanity, self-kindness

0:18:04 Applying self-compassion in real-life situations within the team

0:20:53 Leading by example and integrating self-compassion into all aspects of life

0:22:58 How to connect with Stacey Baird on LinkedIn and her podcast HR to HX

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CheeTung Leong: [:

She's a proud mother of five children and is passionate about treating burnout and compassion fatigue, as well as more broadly moving from human resources to crafting the human experience at work. Welcome to the show, Stacey.

Stacie Baird: Thank you so much, CT.

CheeTung Leong: Would you be able to share a little bit more about your background?

Stacie Baird: I've been in this practice. Next year it will be 25 years that I've been in this seat, full time. And I started doing the work really around self compassion probably around three or so years ago.

Started to connect the dots [:

And then personally January of this past year in my personal life, my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and then it became very personal work for myself around how do I demonstrate self compassion in my own life and really lead by example in that seat. And. So I started digging into this work because also my podcast, HR to HX, I wanted to share with my listeners because my listeners are typically people again in the seat of leading HR teams and the work is inside out.

really got into the space of [:

CheeTung Leong: wonderful. And, when we had a chat earlier, just talking about this, I was curious, I was really curious because we often think about, self compassion as something that's very innate to the individual. Was there a realization that you had that helped you to apply this as a core part of building a high performance team?

Stacie Baird: The journey here was when I started community medical services, we have a town hall every Friday. And it's an open forum. It's, it can be pretty intense. It can be a bit emotional. And of course, as the chief people officer, many times myself and my team end up fielding a lot of the employees questions.

starting to practice my own [:

I work out a lot and so I started to recognize that going to do really extensive workout versus. Doing what felt good that day wasn't really serving me. So I started to really focus on Freedom Friday, which is where Freedom Friday for me was born. And I started posting about Freedom Friday. And then to your question in the moment that happened and I was sitting in the hospital with my husband and my daughter and finding out about my daughter's leukemia, like all the things that I had.

eing a chief people officer, [:

What is the balance of that? And then that for me was, this is the seat that we sit in every day in HR, we have to navigate. An insurmountable amount of emotion and challenge and compassion for others. How do we internalize that? So I started looking into the science behind this and the research behind this and recognized that starting with my own team, we call it the employee experience team.

How do I start to install this practice? As we get together with meetings, how do we start to do self work and motivate each other to do the work because everyone in the space of human resources has been in the seat of having a lot come at you of other people's emotion. How do you help navigate your own?

t of and now, many months in.[:

We have a thousand employees helping those employees navigate the challenge that they face every day out in the front line of our opioid use. Crisis in this country has become more and more critical.

CheeTung Leong: I can only imagine how tough it was for you at the point of, not just at the point of discovery, but even at the point of care for your daughter. While at the same time, having to step up every day to care for the, your team, the people that your team is caring for how did you, don't mind me asking, like how did you handle all of that?

It's so much to bear at one point.

think prior to this work, I [:

That's the question I asked myself every Friday when I woke up, do I want a hard workout? Is that going to feel great? Do I want to just take a meandering walk and take pictures on Friday? Do I want to hike the big mountain today or not? What do I feel like doing? What do I need today to be my best for town hall?

What's going to be the best solution? That's the foundational element of self compassion is what do I need? And I think where this gets confused is, people think this is, always doing. Self care. What's easy. Sometimes what feels the best for me, at least, is to go really do a hard workout or, get out that stress and aggression in a different way.

on, but I found myself doing [:

It gave me a lot of space to really consider that question, what do I need today on the way there, and what do I need before I get home? Is that a conversation? Is it to listen to music? It's a cliche to say it's 30 days to develop a habit. But it honestly gave me the space to really consider what I needed in that before and after, for example, in the microcosm of going to a children's hospital and the context there, this may go without saying, but no one is at that hospital because someone's being born.

really hard things. It was a [:

And so my work was. To start to explore how to really install this habit in my own life so that I could come back to my team and start to work with my team to do this. That then we can start to work with the organization to do the same thing in our day to day work. It's just the way that it happened.

And I always use CT, this example of the parking garage of a children's hospital is the biggest petri dish of frustration and anxiety. You can imagine all these parents running late. Your kiddo is sick and everybody's probably tired and it's and so I just found myself thinking, man, like this is just slow down, take a deep breath, go at your own pace.

at day is not to go into the [:

I'm gonna walk into the hospital from across the street because that's going to feel better. So it seems so simple, but I think for most people, I always ask my teams this, how many times in your career have you terminated an employee? And then five minutes later, you're supposed to go into another meeting.

And meaningfully contribute to whatever the conversation is. That's a little ridiculous when you really think about the challenge of that. And right after you sever an employee's employment relationship with the company, it's really challenging for the person in front of you. And let's just say it out loud.

and then you're expected to [:

To say, Oh what do I need right now to shake that off and move forward with my day. But we are not taught that in this practice, we are not taught that we are allowed or we have the permission to take that space. And so that's what I'm working with my team to give everybody the permission

CheeTung Leong: thank you for sharing it's very personal and I think it relates. To anyone who's a parent and a leader and HR. I like the word you, the phrase you use compassion fatigue it really can get to you. And I, as you were talking, I was just reflecting how much self awareness does an individual need to have to be able to embrace this approach?

Because I can imagine when[:

Stacie Baird: The beautiful thing is there's a model and the model is so simple, which is why I think it gravitated to this. I really like. Simple, easy models to teach my team and beyond that are science based and backed with studies. If you go on selfcompassion. org, I don't know, the list is like a hundred white papers long of the research around this topic.

the first step of after you [:

And to your question, I wish I knew this in my twenties. I 100% didn't know this in my twenties, except for, I will tell you, I worked in the emergency room when I was 18 years old at a hospital. And so I have been doing this my whole life and my whole career because I remember there was a protocol after an emergent situation in the E.

eam would, some people would [:

I try to give that example to my team that if we think about the human resources practice, many times we are firefighting, dealing with emergencies, emotional challenges and issues. So if you think about it from the context, if you were in an emergency room, just taking the moment after that and giving people that kind of contextual, because everybody can relate to that example and just.

It's taking the first step of the three steps around self compassion, thinking about, am I okay? And what do I need to be okay to move on to the next thing? And that may just be three deep breaths. You don't need to take a long walk around the block if that's not what you need in that moment. But I think that's the muscle memory of starting with the first step is just awareness.

those things are all really [:

So that's where I tell people to start the practice because of the 3 steps around self compassion, that tends to be the biggest. Shift for people is just taking the space, taking just a moment.

CheeTung Leong: That makes a lot of sense. And it's almost, you have to bake it into your response to any traumatic event to just take that beat.

I like that. What's step two?

Stacie Baird: So step two is what they call the model recognizing our common humanity, which again, like the language is their language, not my language. So what I really call this is normalizing . Let me use the example again.

ct on the call. So the first [:

So it's really a step of normalizing that what you're feeling. Is normal. This is a totally normal response to a challenging situation on a call or terminating someone with a leader is it is not weakness and not you're not good at your job. This is about recognizing our common humanity. That we're share. We share this experience. So for some people, what works in that 2nd step is, let's say you had a colleague on that call. And it was a very challenging call, and you can see that person was also challenged in the call. It might just be reaching out via an IM or something to that person and saying, Hey, checking in with you, how are you doing?

t to debrief about it. It is [:

CheeTung Leong: And I can imagine in a team setting, even just calling that out as a teammate really builds that empathy and that strength of that team relationship. And I can imagine even if. Whether you're in person or remote, I think that would still that would still apply. So mindfulness to start off with and then recognizing our common humanity.

What's the third step?

Stacie Baird: It's the hardest for people. And that is self kindness, which is self compassion is. Being as compassionate with yourself as you would be someone you love. And so for me, it's self kindness. This last step is thinking about if someone you loved was experiencing that same, those same feelings, what would you say to that person?

And then saying that to [:

I need a moment. And you would probably tell anyone else that you loved or cared about to take that space if they needed it. But we don't give ourselves that same grace. So the third step is treating yourself as kindly as you treat probably everyone else in your life and giving yourself either. Some positive feedback, positive words, appreciation for what you did well on the call. That is really giving yourself the kindness that you would afford to others.

it to myself. How would you [:

Stacie Baird: Yeah, so I'm gonna give you a real life example from this week. He had. A situation where we had an employee passed away this week, and it happens with 1000 employees and people have challenges and issues in their life. And so 1 of my leaders was the person that. Ultimately worked with the fire department and other people around that challenge.

And I used it as an example in real time, because this individual on my team is probably the 1 that. We'll. Most likely soldier through that challenge and go right to the next thing and not really give him, give himself the compassion. And so on our leadership call, I asked him to share with the team what occurred so that we could all have a knowingness around what happened.

mation in an effort to share [:

And so I think it's used those examples and opportunities on a team meeting. Or when a challenging situation happens as an executive, as a chief, like I try to take this into our executive meetings that when really hard stuff happens, demonstrating again, using these examples in real time to demonstrate the need for us to lead by example, as a team and.

giving ourselves permission [:

So it's, it starts from the top on demonstrating it. It's just like in no rules, where the Netflix book talks about taking epic vacations as a senior leader and talking about it. It's the same thing in sharing with your own team. Hey, this really challenging situation came up. Let me share with you how I walked through that and the steps that I took in embracing the work we're doing around self compassion.

So I think it's using examples and allowing people to share that, but also sharing it for yourself, which is again, what I've tried to do on my Freedom Friday LinkedIn posts is to say this journey with my daughter has been very challenging and in some ways, such a gift, and it depends on the day and who asked me where I'm at in that continuum and this work has saved me.

times or more since January [:

It's changing just every aspect of your life because everyone in this house is dealing with the fact that my daughter has cancer in their own way. And so everybody has their own lived experience, whether it's our, 15 year old, who's the youngest all the way up to our oldest. That's 23.

Everyone's having a different experience with this. Some of them are helping her drive to chemo. So the recognition that this work is just as powerful in the workplace as it is in your life, and I think that's the work of the human experience. That's why I started HR to HX.

f. This affects every aspect [:

CheeTung Leong: That is so powerful, Stacey. You've really inspired me in this conversation, and I hope the listeners are equally inspired to take this upon ourselves.

And I think you're absolutely right. Not only is it critical to lead by example, but by leading by example, we then build the muscles to have that. Compassion for ourselves and to recognize the need in others when they need compassion for themselves and to help them navigate that journey.

And if we have a little bit more of this, I, it feels like there's no way that a team can perform worse. And in fact, I would almost say there's no way that a team cannot perform better. By having more compassion for each other, and it's so powerful. I love that. I just want to wrap up very quickly by asking if Stacey, if people want to find you, what's the best way for them to do so

ay to find me is on LinkedIn [:

But it's, what super magic I think about it is. That you can do this work, consume some things, even while you're taking, demonstrating your own self compassion, right? Taking the walk, listening, thinking through things, giving yourself the space. And so that's the easiest way to find me and what I'm doing most recently.

CheeTung Leong: That's perfect. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today, Stacey. For those of you who are listening, I hope you enjoyed the show. Make sure to drop us a review and tune in the next time on the HR Impact Show, where we'll have another great leader sharing with us their best practices in building an elite team.



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