Empathy is one of the most important skills that a leader can have. Having the ability to relate to and have understanding for the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of other people is a key part of emotional intelligence that many researchers believe is crucial for being an effective leader.
The Center for Creative Leadership (CLL) conducted a study where they analyzed data from 6,731 managers from 38 countries. The key findings were that:
- Empathy is positively related to job performance
- Empathy is more important to job performance in some cultures than others
- Empathy is clearly important to the full sample
In order to effectively build and maintain relationships (and in this case, build and maintain employees and a solid team), being empathetic is critical. And this could not be more true now than ever. Amid the chaos of the world we are living in, teams need empathetic leaders who will try to understand what individuals are going through.
The Importance of Empathy
Our lives are always full of ups and downs — whether it be a promotion, the loss of a pet, getting married, or getting divorced — there are always going to be hard times that will make it difficult to perform optimally at work. Great leaders understand that this is a part of the human experience, allowing them to not only understand the root cause behind poor performance (that is otherwise good), but also allows leaders to help struggling employees to improve. Empathy that is demonstrated in the workplace (an integral part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness) also helps to improve interactions, in turn promoting effective communication and positive business outcomes.
How Can We Use Empathy to Become Better Leaders?
Empathetic leadership can be displayed in many different ways. A few great examples include:
Showing sincere interest in the hopes, needs, and dreams of your team members.
Empathetic leaders understand that every one of their team members have unique needs and goals. While one team member is saving to buy a house, another might be saving up for travel. Or to start a family. Or to pay off their credit card debt. Having an understanding of these hopes, needs, and dreams will allow team members to feel recognized and is a great way to keep them more engaged and performing at their best.
Keeping an eye out for burnout.
Burnout in the workplace is not uncommon in today’s day and age, and it can come at a greater risk during times of intense pressure and stress. Managers who are empathetic are more often able to recognize the signs of burnout in their team members and are able to communicate with them before the issue results in poor performance or, even worse, resignation. A simple yet effective way to do this is to take a few minutes each week to check in with your team members in order to get a gauge on how they’re feeling, how they are handling their current workload, and providing them with any help if-needed.
Showing compassion when needed.
We all have been through some sort of personal loss, or will at some point in our lives. Going through losses can leave us in a totally different state, such as grief, making it hard to think, eat, sleep, or work. When a leader is able to show compassion for their team members when they are going through a personal loss, even if we can’t understand the depth of what they are experiencing, it allows us to act in an empathetic way and let them know that they are supported and that help is available if they need it.
Maintaining an open-door policy.
There are many benefits to having an open-door policy in the workplace. An open-door policy, in most companies, serves as a reminder to employees that a supervisor or manager is open to listen to any challenges, questions, or anything else that may be on their mind. This is an excellent way to encourage open communication, discussion, and feedback that employees may have. Not only will it help your employees feel comfortable coming to talk to you when they need, it will also help you with maintaining happy, productive employees.
Making real connections and genuine friendships at work (and outside of work) is important. As a leader, it’s important to take into consideration the leaders you have had before becoming one yourself. It’s likely that you have wanted to work harder and stay with a company for longer when your leader has shown you empathy and understanding rather than making you feel insignificant and alienated.
Q Consulting in Minneapolis helps place empathetic IT leaders with award-winning clients across the Twin Cities, from Project Managers to Business Analysts and more. Being empathetic is how we are able to build connections with our consultants and clients, because we understand that there is stress when it comes to changing jobs or hiring the right person. If you are looking for an IT consulting career in Minneapolis, or would like to hire a professional consultant for your next project, get in touch with our team at Q Consulting today. Our team is excited to help you with all of your job hunting and hiring needs!