One of the qualities that is least discussed when it comes to defining a great leader is empathy. Many other aptitudes such as determination and intelligence are often linked to leadership to the detriment of softer skills such as the one discussed in this article, namely empathy.
In simple terms, empathy means: “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s eyes.”
A formal definition of empathy is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings, and motives. Basically, it’s our capacity to recognize the concerns the people around us have and interpret their actions accurately.
Often confused with pity, empathy might sound like a soft, fuzzy emotion that drains us of time and energy. Actually, it's quite the contrary -- it's an incredibly valuable tool for today's leaders. Brene Brown, a well-known sociologist and the author of "Daring Greatly," says empathy involves connecting with the emotion someone is experiencing, not the event or circumstance.
"It's simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message of 'You're not alone,'" Brown writes.
I knew my response in Haiti couldn't just be about the damage of the earthquake itself; it had to be about resonating with the feelings of hopelessness my team was experiencing. Empathy is useful not only in natural disasters but also in healing wounds associated with difficult business situations.
Q: You write about empathy, noting, “The mistake people make is to think that empathy is what you use when you want to be nice.” How does empathy actually benefit the empathizer in negotiations? And can empathy be learned?
A: Empathy is about understanding, as well as possible, the interests, constraints, alternatives, and perspective of the other parties. This is not about being nice or generous—empathy is essential for achieving your own objectives in the deal.
While empathy is a right brain activity, it is far from being a touchy-feely topic. At its core, empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly.
The fact that empathy is an important component of effective relationships has been proven: In studies by Dr Antonio Damasio (outlined in his book: "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain"), medical patients who had damage to part of the brain associated with empathy showed significant deficits in relationship skills, even though their reasoning and learning abilities remained intact.
Indeed, empathy is valued currency. It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our "people acumen" and it informs our decisions.
It’s the companies that provide empathy training for their staff and their leaders that separate themselves from the rest.
“At its very heart, a business is the beauty of bringing together people and things to make the community better off—these are the businesses we admire. Empathy is the one tool that makes it all happen.” Forbes Magazine
“Numerous studies have linked empathy to better business results. They correlate higher empathy levels with increased sales, better performance by managers of product development teams, and improved productivity in diverse workforces. It is increasingly common to see such business terms as empathy marketing, empathy selling and user empathy become part of everyday business vocabulary.”The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations
Empathy turned out to be the most important of the five attributes.
“Frankly, when empathy kept coming up in our research, I was surprised,” Dr. Wilson wrote. “All of the people we interviewed were serious business executives. Empathy was not the first virtue I associated with the rough and tumble of today’s highly competitive business world. I expected to hear about boldness, perseverance, and toughness...
“The paradox, of course, is that Google’s intense data collection and number crunching have led it to the same conclusions that good managers have always known. In the best teams, members listen to one another and show sensitivity to feelings and needs.”
the best performing groups exhibited three key characteristics: Higher empathy. Members scored higher in social sensitivity. That is, the ability to read each other’s emotional states as measured by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test
Only 11 percent of senior leaders are effective at displaying empathy and maintaining other’s esteem.
3. Empathy is the linchpin soft skill.
Of all the leadership soft skills, empathy is arguably the most critical. In his book “Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution” author Roman Krznaric said empathy “is not just about seeing things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of smart leadership.
The real competitive advantage of the human worker will be their capacity to create relationships which means empathy will count more than experience.”
Using the DDI database on new frontline leaders, we correlated the effect of each interaction skill on overall assessment performance and each of four leadership tasks. Empathy was the most foundational soft skill, with the largest positive relationship across the board, followed by encouraging the involvement of others.
It’s the ‘soft skill’ that has hard benefits. Empathy is increasingly recognised as the key to leadership success and the cornerstone of emotional intelligence.
In looking at the key skills of the future; creativity, innovation, design, storytelling and collaboration, all require empathy.
Innovation and design cannot be done without placing humans at the center and understanding how others use technology. But one area requires the highest levels of empathy – leadership. The importance of empathy in leadership is widely discussed, it is understood to build cohesive teams and work satisfaction. Empathy is important to understand your team, helping them work to peak capacity and productivity and it is essential in understanding your market and customers.
According to Nielsen, peer-to-peer trust is growing at the expense of brand trust. Meanwhile, three-quarters of Britons now donate to charity, despite continuing concerns over their own financial future. Empathy is key.
A Red magazine article recently claimed ‘Empathy is the new key to happiness’. The Harvard Business Review ran a piece headlined ‘Empathy is key to a good meeting’.
As with any shift in public attitudes, the trend has commercial implications. Brands should be focusing on encouragement and collaboration in their product and marketing strategies, not just customers’ self-interest.
Parmar points out that five of the top 10 most empathetic are technology companies that are also the fastest growing. "Their market capitalization has grown this year by 23.3% compared to a weighted average of 5.2% of all the companies in the index," according to Parmar.
The Index also makes a case for empathy boosting the bottom line as the top 10 generated 50% more earnings than those ranking least. "Average earnings among the top 10 were up 6% this year, while the average earnings of the bottom 10 dropped 9%," she writes.
Let’s take empathy as a component of emotional intelligence. At first glance, it would seem like a really good thing to understand and share the feelings of others (i.e. empathy). And in a great many cases, empathy is a wonderful ability.
But imagine you employ a team of commission-driven cold-calling salespeople. Every day they face rejection, insults, and objections. A key to their financial and psychological survival is the thickness of their skin. These are people that need to withstand fifty angrily disconnected calls and still make the fifty-first call undaunted.
If they empathize too much with each person on their calling list, they might start to question the very nature of their job. ‘Am I really annoying when I call?’ ‘Maybe I shouldn’t interrupt people while they’re working.’ ‘I guess that I wouldn’t like these calls either.’
The easiest thing you can empathize with is time. Everyone’s time is precious and limited. And data can prove that a 30-second pre-roll ad before a 1-minute video is just not a fair tradeoff at all. But you probably don’t need data to tell you that.
For Fenn, while the top-down approach can help us see what is working and how well something is performing, it also holds us back from innovating because we may stick to what has worked in the past. But just because something is working, do we really know if it is what consumers want, when they haven’t been given any other choices at all? If you were given the option to skip a pre-roll before viewing a video or piece of content, would you still have watched that ad? Probably not.
To start using empathy more effectively, consider the following:
Put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person's point of view. When you do this, you'll realize that other people most likely aren't being evil, unkind, stubborn, or unreasonable – they're probably just reacting to the situation with the knowledge they have.
Validate the other person's perspective. Once you "see" why others believe what they believe, acknowledge it. Remember: acknowledgement does not always equal agreement. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.
Empathy. It’s one of the biggest things to which I attribute my success. It’s the reason I believe that I am one of the great salespeople out there. What a lot of people don’t understand about empathy is that it’s not just about being caring, but it’s also the ability to understand people on a higher level. It has allowed me to easily create mutually beneficial relationships in both business and my personal life.
Sometimes being empathetic can be confusing. You might ask yourself, “Am I being empathetic because I care or am I being empathetic because I know being understanding will give me leverage in the situation? The answer is both. Being good is always the best option. But I’m not gonna lie either: giving a shit is a real thing and gives you the chance to make your relationships mutually beneficial.
In my opinion, It’s not speed or expertise in the latest coding language that sets a developer apart from the pack. While those skills are important, a truly great developer is talented and empathetic.
Empathy isn’t just a buzzword I like to trumpet. Empathy is a concise and extremely potent business strategy, especially in the SaaS industry where everything is about the end user. Think about it: If you run a software company, and your customers don’t trust your product or don’t think you have their best interest in mind, you can delete everything else...
But, empathetic design doesn’t just pay you dividends when you come to the end product. Targeting empathy will also increase employee engagement.
Most companies have corporate values. These are principles that guide the behaviour of employees. They spell out the dos and don'ts for employees and how they should behave internally and with external stakeholders such as customers, vendors and others in the community.
Globally, many companies are making an effort to embed a values-driven culture. They are spending a lot of money to make employees adopt these values so that it becomes a part of the organizational DNA.
While it's true that corporate values are determined by the organizational aspiration, the context in which it operates and what the leaders feel very strongly about, I believe that there's one value that every single CEO should adopt. This value is very relevant and has universal application across contexts.
I believe that empathy is at the centre of everything that gets done in a company.
Promote personal development, inclusion and emotional intelligence at your company with the tech industry's most proven soft skills training.
We developed our Engineering Empathy curriculum (also know as EE) to create an optimal learning mindset and environment for our students by addressing the human side of software development.
The issues that we tackle - implicit bias, privilege, allyship, communication and feedback - are as pertinent to organizations as they are in the classroom. Our corporate Engineering Empathy program offers structured, workshop-style courses delivered by trained Dev Bootcamp facilitators, that address a wide range of issues that often prohibit teams from being effective and productive. We give you the tools to navigate difficult conversations and prepare you to foster and build a diverse and inclusive culture at your company.
Here's some ideas for how you can better tune in to how other's feel.
But such sentiment can too often isolate leaders from their own employees, customers, and other constituents without thought for how important empathy really is for building an engaged culture.
Empathy is the ability to be aware of, understand, and appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others or to tune in to what people feel and why they think the way they do. It means you can imagine yourself in their shoes and relate to what they must be feeling...
There are plenty of benefits associated with leaders or colleagues having empathy at work.
Confrontations can be turned into collaborations.
Stressful times can be moments for pulling together. Workplace bonds can pay dividends in client relationships.
Empathy means giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Instead of having long drawn out arguments, things can get resolved more readily because people feel that they have been heard.
Being listened to frees employees up to continue to offer even more creative and innovative ideas.
People are more inclined to feel that they are part of a team, which increases morale, engagement, loyalty and productivity at work.
The ability and willingness to listen with empathy is often what sets a leader apart. Hearing words is not adequate; the leader truly needs to work at understanding the position and perspective of the others involved in the conversation.
In a recent interview, Paul Bennett, Chief Creative Officer at IDEO, advises leaders to listen more and ask the right question. Bennett shared that “for most of my twenties I assumed that the world was more interested in me than I was in it, so I spent most of my time talking, usually in a quite uninformed way, about whatever I thought, rushing to be clever, thinking about what I was going to say to someone rather than listening to what they were saying to me...
Research has linked several notable behavior sets with empathic listening. The first behavior set involves recognizing all verbal and nonverbal cues, including tone, facial expressions, and other body language....
The second set of empathic listening behaviors is processing, which includes the behaviors we most commonly associate with listening. ...
The third set of behaviors, responding, involves assuring others that listening has occurred and encouraging communication to continue. ..
OVERWHELMINGLY, EMPATHY TOPS THE LIST AS THE MOST CRITICAL DRIVER OF OVERALL PERFORMANCE.
Two things emerged from this analysis. One was the number of participants who were effective in certain skills. For example, 77% were effective at opening a conversation, but half were good at encouraging involvement, and only 40% were assessed as being able to listen and respond with empathy. Worse, just 33% were accomplished at maintaining or enhancing esteem.
Unfortunately, the empathy quotient (EQ) has a major impact on success, the researchers say. "Overwhelmingly, empathy tops the list as the most critical driver of overall performance."
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.