Empathy 101: Why Should Leaders or Anyone Care?

      

The words EMPATHY and empathetic leadership are gaining more traction as essential components of high performing organizations. What does it mean for employees, leaders, and organizations? Does it really matter and why should they or we care?

 

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, feelings, and point of view. As a leadership style, empathetic leaders draw on empathy to understand their team’s or people’s situations, as well as what they are going through so they can offer support and help. Interactions based on empathy, can build trust, encourage honesty, and deepen connections between people. However, there is a subtle nuance here; empathy is about the ability to comprehend other people’s situation and not how you would feel or react in their situation.

 

Why it matters

Empathy matters because people are not robots and what works to motivate one person is not what is going to work with someone else. Organizations, teams, employees, or people in general are individual human beings with unique needs, wants, feelings, and motivations. In other words, no one person is the same as another and as such no one person will respond in the same way as anyone else to situations, demands, or stress.

 

Why we should care

Empathy can make the difference between so-so or good results and great results at work. Simply put, showing empathy toward those we lead or work with can start us all on the road of understanding each other better. Understanding what drives us, challenges us, and motivates us can deepen our connections to one another and open the gateway to better, happier, effective, and more productive work (and personal) lives. If you develop and show empathy for everyone involved in your organization and teams, and you’ll likely have leaders and a workforce that feels valued, included, and driven to help you and your organization succeed.

 

There is good news! Empathy can be developed and practiced. Whether empathy comes naturally to you and or it’s miles out of your comfort zone, there are a few easy foundational best practices that everyone can immediately start employing and potentially reap big benefits.

 

Three Basic Steps to Developing your Empathy:

 

Step 1 Listening: This is not a revolutionary concept. Real listening happens with more than just our ears. When we really pay attention to what someone else is saying to us, we listen with our mind, heart, and gut. What is the person really saying? What are they really feeling? What is really going through their mind? If you don’t know, ask!

 

Step 2 Stay Curious and really care: Ask questions. Be interested in what the other person is saying. Assume positive intentions; you’ll probably be right about 90% of the time. They could offer up important information that could impact the rest of the team or even the organization. If possible, avoid “Why” questions, which can put people on the defensive or make them feel judged. Try “What” or “How” instead. Some examples, “What can you tell me….” What else?”

 

Step 3 Honesty and Transparency: We can’t expect honesty and transparency from others if we don’t practice it ourselves. This doesn’t mean unloading all your fears or gripes about something on the other person but remain honest about what is in your power to do or not in your power to do about a situation.

 

Empathy is an essential piece of any leader’s toolbox. Used appropriately and most importantly sincerely when talking to or coaching others, it is the springboard to more productivity, creativity, harmony, employee retention and better performance in the workplace. One of my favorite thought leaders, Simon Sinek says:

 

“We must all try to empathize before we criticize. Ask someone what's wrong before telling them they are wrong.”

Imagine the problems or challenges that could be solved with that simple concept!

 

Empathy can offer up those tiny breadcrumbs of information that lead to a world of understanding and learning about the people we work with and they with you.

 

Pat Rothenberger

Certified Coach - Trainer - KCC Partner

January 2022

 


 

Having Powerful Conversations With Myself!  

 

Let me tell you about a topic I've been talking about a lot lately in my coaching; a topic that is very common in real life. Over the past year or so time spent with my own thoughts has increased as it has for many of us, offering up many opportunities for good conversations with myself... conscious or unconscious. This inner talk defines, whether we like it or not, who we are. I'm talking about that little inner voice that constantly whispers in our ear, shaping our thoughts and therefore our actions. This voice can inspire us, but it can also crush us. In these moments of doubt, I force myself to take a break to do two things:

 

1- Become aware of the discussion going on in my head

2- Regain control of the discussion by changing the dialogue to my advantage...

 

Now, I can already hear you saying "Jean-François, it's really not that easy. I can change the dialogue, but if I don't believe what I'm saying to myself..." Well, you are absolutely righ!. Do you think Mohammed Ali believed his affirmation "I am the greatest" the first few times he said it to himself? Probably not. But as he said it to himself, he took the step-by-step actions to make that statement a reality and began to believe it beyond a shadow of a doubt. He took some opportunities that he might not have otherwise considered. This leads to Step 3:

 

3- Apply/Repeat this new dialogue daily to align your actions to it and thus believe in it more and more each day.

 

I recently saw an interesting text on Facebook that illustrates this taking back control of our inner dialogue, or rather this reframing.

 

If one day you tell yourself that:

 

I am a big loser

No one will dare to think that

I can accomplish great things

I know that

I will fail at everything I do

I no longer believe that

I can succeed

I am worthless

I stopped telling myself that

I have confidence in myself

I am convinced of one thing

I am useless

and it would be silly to think that

I am a beautiful person

 

So read it again, but from the bottom up.

 

Remember: Awareness = Power. If I perceive this inner dialogue and become aware that it limits me, then I have the power to change it. It's up to you to decide how you will do it. Whether it’s via an affirmation that you create for yourself, a quote or piece of text that you connect to. Go ahead and try several options and see what inspires you.

 

I’ll leave you with a little text that serves me in those moments when I want to change my inner dialogue. This is a text by Marianne Williamson that inspired me throughout the years.

 

"Our deepest fear is not that we don't measure up. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all limits. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. (...) To restrict ourselves and to see ourselves as small does the world a disservice. (...) We are all born to shine, as children do. (...) As we let our own light shine, unconsciously we give others permission to do the same. As we free ourselves from our own fear, our presence automatically frees others."

 

 

Have a good conversation with yourself. 😊

 

Jean-François Drouin

Certified Coach - Trainer - KCC Partner

November 2021

 


Meet our coaches

Patrizia (Pat) Rothenberger – Coach and Trainer  – Anglophone

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pat-rothenberger/

Pat is a certified leadership and career transition coach, as well as holding a BSc (Hons) degree in psychology. She is a member of ICF (International Coach Federation).

 

She has over 25 years experience working with clients across multiple industries; including HR, service, travel, manufacturing and more. She is passionate about helping clients reach their highest potential.

 

Jean-François Drouin – Coach and Trainer – Bilingual

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jean-francois-drouin/

Jean-François is an experienced trainer and certified ICF business coach.

 

He is an expert in skills development. Trainer and coach with more than 20 years experience, he guides and motivates the people he works with to help them surpass themselves and go beyond their perceived limitations in order to achieve the 2.0 version of themselves.