I recently participated in a webinar, put on by the Canadian Management Centre called “How Empathy is Redefining Leadership”. Since leadership development is something I facilitate for my clients, I am always looking for new thoughts on the topic. This webinar did not disappoint!
The facilitator – Sheila Jaggard, Ph.D – is a wonderful speaker. She has a great sense of humour and says it like it is.
After defining what “empathy” is: the ability to identify with the emotional state of others in a way that builds connection, creates safety and enables trust, she went on to say that, for some folks this comes naturally. However, if you were not born with the ability to empathize, it is certainly a skill you can learn.
She says that it’s important to remember that we are emotional beings first, and we need to recognize this.
There is a LOT going on in today’s workplaces:
- Increasing organizational demands
- Constant changes
- A globalized, often remote workforce/work teams
- Stressed out employees
According to Jaggard, the success of today’s organizations will be defined by one’s ability to influence people.
Employees are looking for honest and authentic connections with their leaders. They want to feel “heard”. Give your employees the opportunity to have a voice.
So, how does one learn to be empathetic? According to Jaggard, we learn empathy by being human. She says there are two important things you must do, to learn empathy:
You must LISTEN to what people are saying. Too often, when someone is talking to us, we are so busy thinking of our answer, that we don’t really hear what they are saying. Focus on what they are saying to you. Don’t talk. This allows you to learn about the people you work with. The more you know about the people you work with, the more kind we are to each other, the stronger the relationship you will build. If employees have a strong relationship with the people they work with (and for), they are less inclined to get stressed out – because they have someone they can talk to. If employees have strong relationships in the workplace, they are more engaged, and therefore more likely to expend their discretionary effort, to the benefit of the business.
If empathy does not come naturally to you, try Jaggard’s advice. Listen more. Talk less. Be kind. Build relationships. Be a better leader.