Leading with empathy

In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared with MIT graduates:

“People will try to convince you that you should keep empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.”

If you didn’t follow Cook’s advice then, you hopefully changed your approach this year.

At a time when businesses are still trying to stabilise and grow, effective leadership has to be displayed. Let empathy be your power to a more engaged workforce.

Recognise individual needs

Peter Bregman acknowledges in his Harvard Business Review article “Empathy Starts with Curiosity” the need to understand himself to build the human connection. It’s easy to say “I’ve been there”, yet, do we really mean it? After all, every person’s experiences are different.

While we all may be working from home, how that transition has affected us is high personal. One team member may be sitting in a dedicated home office while another is sharing the dining table with their spouse. Add a toddler racing around the room to the second scenario and you have two contrasting rooms (physically as well as mentally). Could you expect the same focus from both employees at the same time? Probably not.

“What do you need from me?” Such an underused and undervalued questions which has a powerful impact. Ask team members how you can support them and you’ll hear directly what assistance you can give them.

In our two scenarios, showing understanding for the different home working situations is key. As a leader, allow your team flexibility on their working time. The team member in the second example may choose to start in the wee hours of the morning or extend their day to take more breaks to look after their toddler. By recognising their individual needs, you and your team can focus on the quality output while simultaneously reducing anxiety and burn out.

Take perspective when giving feedback

With performance appraisals approaching quickly, empathy can help you build a connection with your team members.

Sharing constructive feedback after such a challenging year will require tact and honest interest to develop and grow the individual. Companies may be more forgiving in the achievement of targets this year. It’s probably not surprising that focus for 2021 is on the whole employee – not only what they’re working on but also how they performing, including more wellbeing support.

During the performance review meeting, show your genuine care to your team member. Be curious and open to listen to their experiences of this year, especially if you don’t have frequent 1:1 conversations. Find out what’s on their mind and pay attention to their body language. Is it matching what they are saying? If not, ask them.

Don’t make performance reviews just a checkbox exercise. Use them to strengthen the human connection. Make your team member feel heard and understood through empathy.

Building high-performing teams through emotional intelligence

Leading with empathy, part of the five areas of emotional intelligence, has created increased creativity, improved problem-solving and higher customer satisfaction. Imagine what you can achieve when you apply all five areas of emotional intelligence at work!

Join us for our upcoming “Building High-Performing Teams through Emotional Intelligence” sessions on 13-16 December. Over 4 2-hour-long interactive virtual sessions, we’ll be sharing insights into creating a winning team and adjusting mindsets to hit and exceed our goals. Becoming more self-aware, you’ll learn how your leadership style can impact your team and guide them to superior performance. You can’t afford to miss it. Register now!

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