Members in your team don’t have to necessarily know you, they have to feel you!
Many questions pop up in the empathy discussion and many people ask good questions about the applicability of empathy at the workplace and in people management situations. Good people managers will always tell you that in building a progressive career, build yourself and if you have the intention to lead (which you should), build an army of followers and understand emotions and team dynamics. Leaders who do well in team situations, understand their emotions and the emotions of others.
Honestly, a leader must develop the skill to be adaptable to walk in empathy. Empathy in empathy, requires selflessness and not selfishness, understanding others and not self-centeredness, attending to people and not drawing attention to self. Tough, huh! The foundation of empathy- which is a strong pillar of emotional intelligence- is inspired by the word ‘attention’ which originates from the Latin word attendere, meaning ‘to reach out.’
In its simpler sense, empathy is defined as focus on others. Executives who focus on people effectively are easily noticed. Their opinions carry weight and people want to be part of their teams and they naturally emerge as leaders among leaders irrespective of the internal corporate politics, organizational dynamics and the ever-changing workplace in our VUCA world.
The Harvard Business Review Emotional Intelligence Series 2017, elucidates that emotional intelligence is not just a single attribute. It instructs leaders to develop the three key distinct types of empathy. Proposing the empathy triad, leaders must build the cognitive, emotional and empathetic concern. Not to go too far, cognitive empathy describes your ability to understand others by reading team thinking patterns and understanding team perspectives.
Always, remember that the level of education, orientation, exposure, experience, personality types among others will definitely affect how people think and behave. I have had the privilege belonging to many teams from different races and backgrounds across the world, from my previous workplaces and I can boldly confirm that the application of cognitive empathy will always set you apart. You understand people better and you explain yourself in many ways to flexibly get the best from teams.
Emotional empathy is a crucial skill required for customer relationship management, managing group dynamics, dealing with screamers at work and more importantly, mentoring and grooming leaders. When you develop the emotional empathy skill, members of your team don’t have to necessarily know you, they have to feel you. Leaders who have emotional empathy are limber to different characters and also build capacity to contain ever- nagging corporate bugs.
Empathetic concern is the last within the empathy triad. It’s about building that skill to sense the needs of people around you. Leaders who lack this, struggle on the journey. They become loners on the long road. A little Hello or Hi, how are today, will always generate a very good conversation. I always quote J.C Maxwell who says that they don’t care that you know until they know that you care.
To walk in empathy is to learn to listen. Great listeners don’t talk when others are speaking. They have great facial expressions and exciting verbal sounds and they are able to repeat what others have said, almost word for word. Empathy is an attribute. It sits well in corporate values. In 21st century leadership, espousing empathy is a skill and a pillar of emotional intelligence. In the next episode we’ll share how compassion connects well in the empathy discussion.
This is Leadership!