Tea and Compassion


A few years when I was a teacher in the United Kingdom, I was going through a tough time, feeling really overwhelmed with everything – the workload was hard and life was a tricky balancing act. One day at work, I mentioned it to the Headteacher. She said come and have a cup of tea with me. The Head ushered me into her office, sat me down by a table and she poured a cup of tea.

She just listened to me, never interrupting. She heard my heart. At the end of it and two cups of tea later, she said: “this is what I am going to do.”  She was decisive and she really wanted to help me. She put me on a 4 day week on full pay, with immediate effect, giving me time and space to breathe. She took some of the work load off me and freed my timetable. I was astonished, the Head arose from her chair and said: ‘I want you to go home and spend time with your family.’ She picked up the telephone on her desk, spoke to a Deputy Headteacher and arranged for staff to cover my lessons for the rest of the day.

People said she was old fashioned. Nothing old fashioned about workforce development – here was a compassionate leader who listened to a member of her workforce, had compassion on him and acted decisively to help him. When I returned to a full timetable back to 5 days a week, I felt much stronger and far more positive, with renewed energy, vigour, enthusiasm and gratitude to the Headteacher who treated me with kindness and respect.


The productivity of just one member of her teaching staff went sky high and I was doing more for the school than I ever did and the exam results impacted positively too. The Headteacher cared for my well being, seeing me as a human being who was going through a hard time in life – I wasn’t just a number in the organisation. My life was of worth and value to her. As a leader when you tell members of your workforce: ‘I value you,’ and you genuinely mean it and your actions speak louder than your words – then your workforce will want to do even more for you and the organisation. These leadership actions will result in a happy workforce and in turn increase productivity in the workplace. In my situation, these were the actions of a compassionate leader, who led with both her mind and her heart.

Ivan Corea