Empathy is a word that has been overused, I know. I often wonder how many of us truly understand its meaning.
Alfred Adler says, ‘Empathy is Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, And Feeling with the heart of another!’ The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Emotion researchers generally describe empathy as the skill to sense another’s emotions and the ability to envisage what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Briefly put, it is feeling ‘with’ a person.
Great leadership requires multiple skills, but clearly Empathy is a big one! In today’s working environment and overall unpredictability, empathy is taking on a much deeper meaning than ever before. With people experiencing many types of stresses, especially the pandemic-induced one, empathetic leaders are much needed across industries.
Stress at work can have dire consequences including performance issues, attrition, client issues and even personal life issues.
While people go through many stress factors, there is one thing that can contribute to positive aspects and that is empathy. Empathy brings out so many positive traits in teams and here are some proven ones according to a report:
Empathy fosters employee engagement.
Engaged employees are more motivated and remain committed to their employers. If leaders are empathetic, employees tend to be more engaged. I had highlighted the importance of keeping employees engaged in one of my previous articles.
Empathy leads to innovation.
If leaders showed empathy, teams were more innovative in their approach and work. This shows that empathic managers and leaders have a more innovative team.
Empathy makes one productive.
One interesting aspect of empathy that is sure to interest leaders is that empathy improves productivity levels of teams. Life-work integration and positive work experiences are also by-products of empathy.
Empathy improves work life balance.
With empathetic leaders, work-life balance improves and people are able to juggle the never-ending demands better. This in turn increases productivity.
Empathy is inclusive.
Inclusion is much spoken about in all work places today and having empathetic leaders are crucial to ensure inclusivity. It makes the workplace a happier one for all. People tend to feel more included when their leaders show empathy.
Empathy reduces attrition.
Retention is another key benefit when leaders show empathy. Less people think of quitting when they feel valued and respected in all circumstances.
Putting words into action
Active listening, I believe, is the most important aspect of empathy. We may not always have a solution for every issue. We may not even agree or be able to give in to their requests, however, half the problem gets solved when you sit and listen to a person genuinely.
Demonstrating care, concern, and understanding of your employees’ life circumstances will go a long way. However, we must not force people to talk just because you are a leader…we need to understand how much they are willing to open up and let those cues lead you. It is just being there when you are needed!!
The power of empathy in times of crisis is unmatched. The best part is that you can train yourself to be a more empathetic leader if you are not one already! So, the next time, instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in theirs!