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Leading with Empathy

5 Tips to Help you Lead with Empathy

Creating connections is every leader’s responsibility.

Empathy enables us to connect with others in a meaningful way – it is one of the key components of emotional intelligence and a critical leadership capability.

Empathy allows you to relate to people and their ideas or feelings. Empathy is recognizing emotion in others. Empathy fuels connection.

We all want to be seen, heard and valued by others, particularly those important in our lives – including friends, family, managers and senior leaders. When we’re recognized this way, our motivation and commitment go up.

Here are five steps to help you lead with empathy:

1. Be Present in the Moment

Being Present in the moment means you are entirely focused on what’s happening here and now. When you are with people, you give them your full attention so they feel recognized and valued. This can be very challenging for us as leaders given the busyness of our day – however, it’s key to your ability to focus and truly listen. Remember to balance listening and talking, avoid multi-tasking and put your technology away.

2. Reach out and Connect

Get to know each person on your team and understand what makes them tick.

What made them who they are? What is important to them? What do they care about? How do they like to be recognized? When you put building relationships first and create a culture of care – engagement on your team will go up, and the results will come.

3. Listen to Understand Versus Listening to Craft a Reply

Listening to others is the key to demonstrating empathy. The problem-solving part of your brain can sometimes be overpowering when listening to someone else talk. We naturally want to go to a solution and feel like we’re making progress – it can be hard to turn it off. Instead of listening for problems, listen to the meaning and emotion communicated beneath the spoken words. Listen for what moves or touches you. Listen to how someone is feeling and acknowledge it. Find ways to connect yourself with feelings you hear inside and behind someone else’s words. Next, take time to express what you’ve heard beneath the words. Also, observe body language and what is not being said.

Suppose one of your direct reports comes into your office to discuss an issue. You might acknowledge their feelings by saying something like, “That sounds upsetting” or “That must be frustrating.” This simple act will open the channel and connect the two of you. You want to build this relationship with your direct reports so they will be open to coaching.

4. Recognize Perspectives

When you get to know your people and acknowledge their feelings, they will feel more motivated and work more productively, and they are more likely to stay when the going gets tough. Sometimes as leaders, we get so caught up in believing our perspective is the reality that we forget the circumstances people find themselves in. Becoming more aware and recognizing perspectives is key. Once we can appreciate the perspectives of others, it can make it easier to be empathetic and understand what action we need to take to support each member of our team and our customers.

5. Acknowledge Feelings, Values and Strength

Empathy isn’t about taking on the emotions and perspectives of others but more about understanding and considering them. Express what you heard beneath the words being spoken. Acknowledging a perspective or feeling doesn’t mean you agree. It means you recognize something important to the person in front of you. Appreciating the courage of the person in front of you to share something difficult is essential.

The reality is Empathy has no script. There is no right or wrong way to do it

It all starts with listening, holding space and withholding judgment.

Empathy fuels connection.