A Word on Empathy…

A Word on Empathy…

Written By James Court 

As business leaders, it’s so easy to get caught up in the results and outcomes we are responsible for.

The level of profit we return in our department for the CEO, and for larger organisations the return on shareholder value. None of those things is bad or wrong of course.  

We often think (as Simon Sinek said) as leaders, that our job is to be in charge. We don’t think of it from this angle, that it’s our job to take care of those in our charge. 

What am I saying here – that we forget performance? That we discard the bottom line and our sales goals?  

No.  

What I am saying is, as leaders, it’s our job to work harder on improving our empathy towards our people. 

For example, here are two different scenarios: 

During a review, the manager tells you that your performance is down, the numbers are not looking good and if it keeps going like this maybe you need to think, is this really the right role for you?  

What if the manager said, “Your numbers and performance are down, is everything ok with you?”  

Maybe that person is experiencing some real problems in their personal life, a family member has recently passed away, they have some mental health issues that they are not talking about because they are worried their boss might link it to bad performance or see it as a ‘weakness’? 

From my conversations, the best leaders in our careers are the leaders that have shown empathy when we have not been on our game. They have checked in with us to see how we’re feeling. They have asked us to call them after the medical appointment just so they know that we’re ok. They have said, “That must be so hard, I have no idea how you must be feeling, don’t worry, I’ve got your back” …that’s empathy. 

This approach doesn’t give us an excuse to underperform. Instead, it makes us feel totally understood and most importantly, like we are working for someone who appreciates and truly values us. This approach gains respect, productivity and in the long run, success.   

Empathy is a skill that can be learnt, developed, and practised in our daily leadership, it’s needed now (as we emerge from the Pandemic) more than ever. 

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