Leadership Tips: Empathy Is Key

from Forbes

For everything that goes into products and marketing and every other aspect of your company, running a business is very much a proposition about people. Facing outward, it’s about convincing people to buy your product, partner with you, invest in you; internally, it’s about the work done by the people you bring in and the relationships that enable everyone to work together. Any leader or manager can be said to be as much a manager of people as tasks and responsibilities, and part of effective management is being able to understand and connect with co-workers and employees, often on a personal level. 

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11 Comments

  1. After reading this article I did not realize how impactful empathy is in regards to leadership. Everybody is a leader in their own right, but before you can lead others I believe you have to know how to lead yourself. Leading yourself can mean many different things but I think it constitutes directly being a good leader to a group of people. As the article stated “empathy would seem to be going through a rough stretch in 2019”, this can be related to not just a rough stretch but more of what society has actually come to. With technology moving at a rapid pace of growth it is becoming a lost art to work with your head up and to have a conversation with somebody face to face and not through a screen. That is how empathy has become “lost” people do not know how to be empathic with each other. Managers who do not connect and build a comfortable professional relationship in a working environment with their employees do not have a chance to be empathic with them. Being empathic stretches to caring more about one’s own feelings are but how other people are acting and feeling. Effective leaders who are able to understand how people are feeling and realize that you need them as much as they need you will go to new heights. As the article said “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” is all about how empathic a person can be. A true leader needs to honestly feel the situation a person may be in when they are going through rough stretches in their life, whether it is a sick family member, struggling financially, or even relationship with others. Everybody is going through tough times and stretches of their own life where there are setbacks and disappointments but a leader cannot show their emotions and how what is going on in their life affecting them at work because then you cannot be empathic with your employees.
    Classes and certification to help people become better leaders are some of the best tools out there to really elevate one’s company or in general how to be a leader overall. Being an effective leader is more than just “keeping people happy” as the article satted, but finding what motivates the people that you are leading and determining what they “want” rather than what you want will help everybody reach their goals. Not one worker is the same, so everybody is driven by different forces, it may be money or gaining experience, or trying to gain a promotion, but everybody has their drive and it takes the leader to find that. The only way a leader can do this is if they show empathy and are not unreachable and intimidating to others. Effective leaders do not take the easy road out and are not shied away by difficult tasks that may occur. For example, there might be an employee who is not contributing fully to a group or may be a terrible team member and just a typical “jerk”, how a manager and leader addresses these situations will say a lot about them. I learned that a leader who truly cares will empathize with these employees and understand what really is going on, compared to maybe a lazy manager who might not want to deal with this nonsense and just start firing people.
    The author at the end of the article speaks about the greatest empathy and that is being able to offer support in other people’s personal problems. I agree with this claim and an “elite” leader who is able to build a strong relationship where work can be put aside and an employee and a manager can speak about personal issues is how you know that an employee has true faith and trust in you. Going the extra mile and showing that you really do care can leave a lasting impact on the employee which will end up helping your company. The employee will want to work for a leader who displays true character and empathy rather than “having” to work for a manager. This employee or employees will not be coming to work everyday just to get through the day but will now be motivated and show the same empathy and faith you showed in them and reciprocate it back. When a group of people are able to work for each other rather themselves is when a true leader has left their mark. Caring goes far away and once it gets infected in one person that can carry to every person in the organization. A blog post by Halli S. said “Therefore, by using empathy, a leader, among anyone, can connect with individuals, and make a system run much more smoothly”. I thought this was a very valid point as I could connect with it. Playing baseball in college has changed my perception about what being on a `team” is really about and how important leadership is. Without leaders to show you the way and set a positive motivating example nothing is going to change within a team or team culture. Leadership from the leaders can bring people together or quickly turn them apart. Being an avid sports fan, I see it every year in championship teams, the teams that win are not necessarily the most talented (although that helps) but are the players who are all brought in to a system and play for something bigger than the team. The teams that are champions motivate, push each other and take that extra step to be more than but a family. Empathy goes a long way and is needed to be successful as a leader and as a person.

  2. I think that this article give a lot of insight of being a leader that is liked as well as doing the right job. A leader that rules with fear and a stubborn mind is no leader at all. They know what they want and make others do what is asked of them. If it is not done correctly, there are strict consequences and you are gone. This starts to create a very hostile and stressful work environment for the employees and anyone else inside the company. Living in constant fear of messing up, will only escalate your chances of messing up because of how nervous you are. There will also be no one taking creative leaps and doing more than they are asked, because there is no point. The consequence of losing their job is not important enough to give their own opinion. This type of leadership will drive a company into the stone age. A better way to go about leadership of anyone is through example and compassion. You are the leader. This means that you have the skills necessary to understand what you are doing as well as teaching and delegating others to do that task with you. If you are empathetic in a leadership position. The people that you are overseeing will be more comfortable. They will feel encouraged to ask question to make sure their job will be correct because you are not going to yell at them for not knowing. They will be encouraged to take leaps that they otherwise would not have. They will also be willing to do more work to benefit the company. If as a leader, you can make people believe in themselves and what they do, they will want to give back. Personally, by boss at ShopRite is a saint. She knows exactly what she is doing and does everything with a cool head. She tells everyone what is asked of them and no question is ever to little for her to help you with. Because of this, I am more motivated to get things done because I want to make her happy. I don’t want to make her look bad and take advantage of how nice she is being. That is the best work environment that I have ever been in and I love showing up to work. Our department has set multiple company records for performance and it is because of how positive the environment is and how empathetic my boss is towards all of us.

  3. This article has a powerful message that goes beyond work, but in our everyday interactions we have. Leadership many argue is not attainable, you are born with it. Well here a question, How do you know your a leader? In today’s environment leadership has lost its true meaning and has been replaced with positions. Many people I have interacted with believe they are leaders due to the position they hold. Leadership is not received from someone or a position that you gained but you have to strive for. You have to want to become a leader through developing your interpersonal skills (Communication, Self Awareness, Empathy, Etc) as well as credibility (Knowledge, experience, Etc) The greatest leaders in our world were not given the position, but earned through actions and words. They took the initiative to develop themselves and then create change which made people follow them since they had a message, values, and credibility.
    Many confuse leadership with positions you hold in school and work which they believe make them leaders or believe leadership is a skill in of itself. Leadership is the mix of intangible characteristics that are displayed in the tangible. Leadership is a skill nor a single characteristic, it is the life experience of the individual and how well they understand reality. They have self awareness, empathy and love running through their veins (Blood) while their desire (Dream, ambition) is in the middle pumping the blood. Their eyes are filled with passion, and charisma that others can see. The others watch his actions, words and inspire them to become a greater person, so they follow him to learn. They see that his mission (desire) is greater than his individual life. They are now pumping the same blood, and eyes are filled with passion like the leader. They have become part of the mission not individually but collectively.
    That is when you know you are a leader. When you inspire others to achieve greater things than they imagined. Leadership is not an individual, but requires a group to bring it out . Leadership is not a skill, and cannot be taught since it is born inside of every single person who understands life is greater than themselves and lives life every day toward their dream spreading love. I personally have only read about leaders, but have not met anyone yet who brings out that desire in my heart. I would like to end this post with a quote to sum up my ideas. The first quote is by Jack Welch who declared “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” The last quote is from John Maxwell who said it perfectly “ A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/10/16/quotes-on-leadership/#79452eb02feb

  4. Pretty powerful article. Something to keep in mind with all aspects of life, not just in the professional word. In some point in our lives we will be either on the giving or receiving end. Unfortunately, life is messy, and you never know what’s coming your way. Let’s just hope we all have ability to handle it with grace. You just never know what people are going through. Showing a little sympathy goes a long way. Unfortunately, the ability to feel empathy doesn’t come easy for all. I wish it did this world would be a much better place. Some may say empathy is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to disagree. Empathy is having the ability to sense other emotions’ not everyone has that instinct. However, being a little more mindful of the situation at hand is more ethical. Building a healthy environment within your organization takes skill. Once you’re aware of it you can lead by example. No matter what position we are within an organization sometimes you must take a step back and remember your humanity.
    There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. If by chance you cannot connect and feel the empathy you should still show some sympathy because it is the right thing to do. It is a sense of professionalism.
    love this quote
    “ but that extra step of letting someone know that you care, and that you’ll offer what support you can because you value them beyond the work they do, can be the difference between being someone that people have to work for and someone that people want to work for” Quoted by Mary Juetten

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/maryjuetten/2019/09/05/leadership-tips-empathy-is-key/#49d5171e70d4

  5. Being a leader within an organization, I know that in my position I need to empathize with others and make sure I am constantly thinking about others’ feelings. This article is surrounded on the idea that leaders need to be more concerned with the wellbeing of those underneath them and care for their workers as if they were themselves. It can be difficult for people to express their feelings with others and they might keep them bottled inside because that is how they cope. Being in a leadership position I have learned that it is very hard to make everyone ( or the majority) of people happy. It is a very difficult task to understand how everyone is feeling about a particular situation because you truthfully never know what people are going through behind closed doors. Being in the position to know about what is going on in people’s lives can be difficult because you don’t want to treat people differently. The last line of this article really does hit differently it says, “ A reminder of our own humanity, and the empathy we need to fully be a part of the world, serves all of us well in our quest to be a better leader.” This really compels me into thinking about how to be a better leader you need to be considerate of others and be empathetic towards your co workers or employees. When you are in a position to empathize with others you need to be trained and prepared in different areas to understand. Some of those might include conflict management, mediation and other areas that might help understand and empathize with other people. This does matter because when you are in the place to question people and understand what is going on in their lives you need to be prepared to speak to them in a way that will not make them upset or hurt. When the article talked about convincing people to buy a product you need to be able to connect and make relationships with people. That is one of the golden rules I learned in my sales classes is that building relationships is the most important. When you are in a position like sales or management you need to be able to build the relationships with others and better those connections over time to be able to empathize for them when something is wrong or you need to talk about something with them. Another good point that was made in this article is that we are all tangled in work and personal life which I feel is not something that is made very clear in the workplace. I think that in the workplace the communication of what is going on needs to be reciprocated and there needs to be a good flow of what is going on and what can be done. Without building relationships and better communication then there is no way that empathy can be displayed or shown. I think personally being in the position to be a leader there needs to be more of a basis of what is ok and what is not because without that basis people can walk all over you or can ignore the relationship that is trying to be formed. When you need to be there for someone you need to have a strong relationship with them in order for you to understand what is going on but also if you dont you need to be able to adapt to the differences and compromise.

  6. This article strongly supports the need for leaders to be empathetic towards their co-workers. It stresses the impact that a leader can have on a business when they are able to connect and understand co-workers and employees on a personal level. This is a very valid topic that definitely has its effects in the workplace. One of the skills that makes a good leader is the ability to be able to create an atmosphere in the workplace where employees feel comfortable asking questions and collaborating with one another. This alone will produce a multitude of positive effects in the company such as an increase in efficiency, effectiveness and overall productivity in the work environment.
    With my personal experience networking with various professionals in the business industry I have learned the importance of a good company culture. This plays a major role when professionals are considering whether or not they would like to work for a certain company. People are more inclined to work for companies and businesses that appreciate them as employees while also valuing a balance between work and their personal life. If leaders and management in an organization can be empathetic and understanding towards their employees this will then ultimately create a high-yielding company while also increasing its quality. Overall, this article has touched some very interesting points and has allowed me to better understand the qualities and the characteristics of effective management.

  7. I believe that a leader should have a good mix of qualities in order to be able to lead people in the best way possible. When the time comes to get the work done, yes the leader should be serious to make sure the work is getting done. But just because an individual is appointed into a leadership position, this doesn’t automatically mean that they have to be stone cold. I was recently told that in order to be successful in the industry I am pursuing, I must be able to take emotions out of the picture and not bring that into a workplace. At first, I believed that this is really how good leaders come about. As I spend more time in this kind of work setting, I’m starting to see that this isn’t actually the case. When a leader is able to still connect with their emotions and understand what their team is going through, it will be more likely for that person’s employees to be more open to collaborating with them. The employees are more dedicated and willing to put in that extra effort to carry forward a company’s vision and mission when they see their manager, director and any other leader wants to do the same as well. Many managers play a significant role in people’s lives, especially in a mentor figure, and I can personally attest to this as well. It is very difficult to be able to connect and look up to someone that doesn’t have the empathetic side to them that allows them to be more understanding. This ultimately helps them understand what is best for their colleagues and how they can support those individuals to achieve the goals they wish to achieve, in the long run helping the team as a whole.

  8. The success of a leader goes well beyond managing tasks and job responsibilities but their ability to relate to the employees. A manager can achieve better production from an individual if they are able to understand their perspective. Instead of just organizing and assigning tasks, the manager can develop relationships with their employees which will lead to a better understanding of proper motivation. An individual is more willing to want to work for someone that listens and cares about their problems and be reasonable to real life situations. Many aspects of an individual’s life may affect their work performance, from sleep deprivation to family issues, and it is crucial for a manager to empathize with this information and make sound decisions with it. An important area where this relationship development can begin is when a manager is able to show the employee that they care for them beyond the what work they do there.
    An intriguing point shown in this article was the importance of empathy, especially as a characteristic of a good manager. In my experience, an understanding and communicative manager has received my hardest and most earnest work ethic. On the other hand, a manger that was dismissive of life problems in the workplace resulted in less dedication and a careless attitude towards the work. Beyond the workplace, the importance of being empathetic towards all individuals is critical to understanding their point of view and reasons for their actions. The best way to motivate an individual is to understand their perspective and align their goals with the task necessary to complete the job. There are many managers who believe that life problems or situations should be left at home and not brought into the workplace, but this may be a closed-minded approach to get the best out of the employees.
    This article brought to the forefront the many important roles that a manger has but significantly showed how being an understanding and empathetic person can be to their advantage. In reading this article, I was able to assess my own values towards empathetic people and how I respond to such treatment. As an individual that has experienced a wide array of manager types, the best relationships and production has come from empathetic managers. One area of my life that I attempt to become better in is the understanding of other individuals’ perspectives in relation to how they are acting or speaking towards me. There are many attributes of successful managers, but as this article highlighted, the key one can be empathy.

  9. This article is very true and timely topic. Nowadays, when working, your mind should be focused on the job at hand and your personal life should be left at the door. You do not see or hear many people talking or initiating conversation about life life outside of work, other than small talk. How often do you yourself partake in conversation with your boss that deal with your personal life? I tend to keep conversations pretty succinct that are more revolved around topics of work. This article brings in the perspective that leaders have to be cognizant of their employees lives outside of work. During work hours it is ok to focus mostly on the work at hand but not focus on the person doing the job is like focusing on the work that a broken machine produces without realizing that there is something wrong with actual machine and trying to fix that problem first. Empathy in a leader shows that they care about more than just their company, but they care about the people who make up that company as well. One of the lines the author of this article states is that “the greatest empathy we can display is in offering others both our support in their personal problems and space to deal with those issues as needed” and that one sentence encompasses how to properly treat an employee and know when to focus on work and know when to switch that focus to the well being of the employee themselves.

  10. This article resonated with me more than anything I have read in a while. Having spent seven years working in management, the accomplishment that gave me the most satisfaction was that I was able to cultivate two offices where the staff wanted to work. That is, more than just the low-bar expectation of people feeling like they have to drag themselves into the office every day, the offices I managed were places that the staff actually wanted to go.
    My offices did not have amenities like Google (ping pong tables, paid meals, smoothie bars, etc.), and things like employee compensation and bonuses were more-or-less automated by Human Resources and largely out of the control of the manager. The raises went according to scores given in the yearly review, but raise percentage points were doled out as a whole. That is, a manager of a staff of 5 might have only 7 or 8 points to distribute between employees – regardless of how well they all might have scored on their review. More to the point, there were situations where I had to decide which of the three most exemplary employees would receive the maximum 2% raise, at the cost of another.
    My point is, this was not a working situation that, on its own, lent itself to nurturing employee happiness. It required empathy.
    I have long held the (unpopular among superiors) view that work, by-and-large, was something that most people would rather not have to do. Even most of the people who really love their jobs, if pressed hard enough, would probably allow that they’d rather be on a beach, fly fishing, sleeping, or doing any number of leisurely activities over being in the office. Given that we spend the vast majority of our adult lives doing something we would rather not do, I felt it incumbent on me to try to make whatever I could control as comfortable as possible. If I could make going to work even a little bit better for those working under me, it was a success.
    Along these lines, I always had the general philosophy that something important in life supersedes something important in work. I made sure the staff understood that they would be given the benefit of the doubt until there was a reason for that to stop. In the seven years I worked as a manager, I had a total of thirteen call-outs, scattered between nine employees. Once any of the new employees had been trained, I never had to worry about looking over shoulders, micromanaging, or following up about completion of tasks. I would relay what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, and I would always find that they had finished early.
    I am not a magical motivator. I am not an inspiring leader, or someone who can gather their team at the beginning of the day and deliver a pep talk that makes them want to run through a wall (in fact, I abhor meetings in general). Rather, I made my offices a place they felt, safe, supported, comfortable, and appreciated.
    The article included the following lines,
    “If we fail to understand and empathize with these people —as human as we are ourselves— we likely take the easy road of firing them, and risk losing out on both a talented asset to your team and an opportunity to better understand others.
    Within that, the greatest empathy we can display is in offering others both our support in their personal problems, and the space to deal with those issues as needed.”
    Understanding that same amount of flexibility is not possible in every working environment, I always prioritized the people over the work. I had the benefit of hiring quality individuals with good work ethics, so I would not presume to take credit for that. That being said, I would make my rounds with the staff on a daily basis, and talk with them. We’d discuss work, of course, but most of the discussion related to matters outside of work: health, family, food, vacations, other fun things, etc. We had a mutual respect as people, and that outshined the mandated respect of our work positions.
    Doing nothing more than being respectful, appreciative, and supportive of my staff, I was able to help them feel good about having to go to work that day, which led to increased productivity, less unscheduled absence, and a willingness to always go above their specific job descriptions.
    Despite the seemingly intuitive nature of this idea, it was not something I was able to do without pushback from my immediate supervisors. I was told that I was too nice, and that I was inviting these people to walk all over me. As evidenced by what I just detailed, it turned out that the opposite was true.
    For most people, most of the time they spend of their adulthood – especially the younger years – is devoted to something they would rather not do. I think that everyone in any position to supervise others should read this article, and should take the point of it to heart.
    Create an environment that makes people feel better, and you will cultivate their desire to work hard for you, and that is more valuable than any kind of skills training or motivational speech.

  11. I found this article interesting because it articulates all the factors that managers/ business owners should have when interacting with their employees. I have worked at the same bakery since 2017 and I can easily say that my boss has none of those qualities, which reflects on the business as a whole. I remember learning about empathy for the first time in elementary school and I understood what it meant then, so it still surprises me that many managers are not able to fully grasp this concept. The article mentions empathy as “…a particularly effective tool in connecting with and understanding the people you need to help as much as they help you.” If workers are unable to put 100% into their job because of things that are affecting them outside of the workplace, leaders need to be aware of this. It is evident that every person goes through things that they did not see coming or things that they are forced to think about even when they want to leave it behind them. Empathy is key when trying to handle situations like that, and if not, leaders run the risk of having employees not engaged or worse, quitting.

    Two of my best friends at my work would up quitting because of the lack of empathy from our boss. One of them had gotten the flu and was unable to come in and my boss would up yelling at her as if it were her fault she fell sick. She quit the next day. My other friend’s grandfather had passed away who she was very close to and was only able to take a couple of days off. She was unable to fully focus upon her return and my boss kept yelling at her for it. As per the article, we could say he let his emotions “…fester into disappointment and frustration.” She required help from a “…person in a leadership role.” If she were given the appropriate amount of time to grieve, maybe she would have completed her work in a more timely fashion. As a result, she quit right after the holiday season. In my opinion, because of the way my boss acted in both situations, he is now missing out on two reliable hard-working employees. Now my boss is appearing to be unsuccessful in hiring new employees. Because of his lack of empathy, he is at a major loss. Both of them worked at least 30 hours a week and now that responsibility is put on me and one other worker. In my opinion, my boss is a clear example of what the author meant when she said “…any entrepreneur who goes into business for themselves.”

    After I earn my graduate degree I do not want to be the kind of boss that people have to work for. I want my future employees to want to work for me. As stated in the article, we need to be more aware that everyone faces hardships and the last thing we need in those moments are bosses who are not compassionate or helpful throughout the process – that would only make life worse for everyone involved.

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