Empathy is defined as one’s ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. An empathic person is one who can sense the emotions of other people, as well as the ability to imagine how these people must be feeling or thinking.
According to Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, DDI, being empathic (listening and responding with empathy) is a vital interaction skill that comes above all other skills required for one to be successful. In corporate leadership, being able to interact well with your juniors is essential for the overall performance of the team.
A corporate leader must, therefore, be able to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of his team members. He should always step into their shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.
How can this be achieved?
- Through listening: a good leader is one who hears, not just with his ears but also his eyes and heart. He should also be able to pay attention and understand the body language and tone of voice of his team members. By listening well, you will capture the emotions behind their words to be able to take immediate action. Listen without interrupting. Leaders should not dismiss any concern or rush to give advice or change the topic of discussion. Employees should be allowed their moment.
- Engage in non-verbal communication: if you want to know how people feel or think, you have to get down to their non-verbal communication. Sometimes people say the opposite of what they think or feel. You need to be smart to understand them. Practice the 93/7% rule, by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA. Only 7% of what we say is necessary. The rest comes from the tone of the voice and body language.
- Be fully present: when interacting with your team members, be there, both physically and emotionally. That is not the time to check your email, take phone calls or glance at your watch. Think of what they feel if you did not pay full attention to them. Smile at them and give real recognition and praise.
Why is empathy for corporate leadership important?
The relationship between employees and employers/managers is vital in any organization. When an employer strives to understand the feelings and thoughts of his employees, he creates a closer working relationship with them, which can benefit the organization in the end.
Listening to and understanding your employees will help you learn about their challenges faster. You also understand your challenges as a leader soon enough to be able to understand the cause of any issue or failure that may arise.
As a leader, empathy will help you identify your firm employees and also the weak ones, to be able to recognize the best ones and even improve on those that are struggling.
What corporate leaders should know is that dealing empathically with their team helps the organization in the end. When they feel understood, and their needs are well taken care of, employees can effortlessly build a prosperous business.