Some Thoughts on Empathy at Work
Empathy is critical when it comes to effective leadership. Regardless of how skilled and knowledgeable you are in your area of expertise, it will be challenging to lead and keep good people on your team without it. As with anything else in leadership, you set the tone and temperature of your organization, and your team will reflect who you are as a leader. If you aren't one to show empathy, neither will your team. And if you don't have a team that displays a high level of empathy, this could ultimately hurt the bottom line. However, if you make being empathetic a priority, there's a great chance you will see the same in your staff.
There are at least five reasons why you should be intentional and proactively work on your empathy skills:
It can boost your success as a leader.
It helps build stronger relationships within your team.
Improved relationships mean improved team morale.
The higher the team morale, the higher the level and quality of productivity.
And, lastly, the better the quality of the output from your team, the more satisfied your customers will be.
Empathy is not the same thing as sympathy; it means putting yourself in the other person's shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Empathy involves active listening, understanding another person's position, and being open and nonjudgmental.
Improving in this area can be challenging, but spending a little extra time doing the following activities could go a long way:
Reflect on your feelings and emotions. Make sure you understand and are aware of your state of mind.
Pay attention to other people. Look at body language, facial expressions, and listen for the tone of voice they use.
Practice taking on someone else's perspective. This is what Franklin Covey covered in his classic book, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," when he wrote, "Habit 5: Seek first to understand than to be understood."
Like with any skill, the more you work at it, the easier it will become. Constantly monitor your level of empathy. Spend as much time as possible developing in this area and encourage other members of your team to do likewise.