EMPATHY – An essential skill

An empathetic leader possesses the ability to understand the needs of others as well be conscious of their feelings. These days a leader has to be more person focused, work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, teams and departments. In order to do so successfully, it is important to establish a link and associate with them. 

Without empathy a leader will not inspire trust or loyalty and also not be able to elicit allegiance among their team members. Understanding the needs and requirements of another person is essential for skillful negotiations and also successful sales jobs as it allows you to know what your target entity’s requirements and needs are, as well as the extent to which they are willing to commit and go along with you. 

Possessing the ability to be considerate and caring as well as the capacity to connect with others, is a critical component of leading a successful life. As empathy is a key part of emotional intelligence and a vital skill for leadership effectiveness, it plays a pivotal role in improving human interactions and effective communication at work with colleagues and other stakeholders as well as personal settings, with friends and family, with positive results.

Global studies on drivers of “Workplace happiness” and “Employee loyalty” show that feeling recognized and valued are the key factors for employee motivation. Employees view these factors as essential leadership skills and an empathetic leader possesses and can display these skills. Showing empathy in the workplace leads to a higher level of productivity and Leaders can show empathy by :

  • Watching for signs of overwork and burnout
  • Being flexible and willing to help employees with personal problems
  • Understanding the unique needs and goals of their team members and trying to fulfill them
  • Matching work assignments to the skills and interests of team members for better work performance and employee job satisfaction
  • Recognizing job performance for motivating employees and higher job satisfaction, making them ready to go the extra mile
  • Keeping lines of communication open within the team for greater transparency and sharing of information
  • Establishing friendships and connections at work, to form personal bonds and support within the team

The capacity to be empathetic is an inborn human trait and some people are naturally gifted at sensing others thoughts and feelings. However if you are low on the empathy scale, develop an awareness that you have this deficiency and teach yourself to think of the impact on people who are affected by your actions. There is a significant business cost if the leader lacks empathy, so addressing this issue will be beneficial for you as well as the organization.

Empathy massively impacts your ability to motivate and empower your people. It is a skill and can be learned and developed to some extent, so put in an effort to do so, if you identify that you are lacking in this area. It takes a genuine interest on your part and a wish to listen to people and understand their needs, to be considerate and empathetic as a leader.

Empathy can be improved by training or coaching and some strategies you can adopt to improve are :

  1. WIN TRUST – Be authentic, develop interest and foster meaningful relationships to build trust and genuine relationships with your team. Trust and transparency are the basis of empathy and being authentic helps to win trust. Be open, show your feelings and compassion to be more approachable to your team members.
  2.  UNDERSTAND DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS – Recognize different outlooks and viewpoints although your opinion may differ, accept other perspectives and take them seriously. Many leaders assume that their ideas are shared by other colleagues but not listening to employees and customers may lead to poor decisions and disengagement in the organization.
  3. SELF AWARENESS –  It may be difficult to relate to another persons thoughts and feeling but being self aware allows us to see things from the perspective of others. It also helps practice self control and productivity, feel a sense of pride in ourselves and our work as well as boost self esteem. Plus points include better communication and self confidence which contribute to job performance and satisfaction.
  4. LISTENING AND REFLECTION –   Listening in order to understand and reflect upon is crucial to developing an empathic relationship. The best way to gain and understanding of another persons problems and feelings is to ask and listen, discover how to help people and make the required changes to improve organizational culture. Doing so will promote better employee motivation, empowerment as well as retention.
  5. PEOPLE ANALYTICS – A very useful tool for Management to obtain real time feedback from all employees. Such surveys provide very deep and comprehensive information on various topics including the prevailing level of employee engagement in the organization. Leadership style, including other areas which may be improved, will provide guidance on the training and development needs for management to focus on. 

By being an empathetic leader you will learn to understand your team and other employees better, you will also be able to develop trustful relationships with people, while they will be more empowered to help the business grow and achieve its goals. 

Remember that “The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, Life Coach & Speaker


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