5 Leadership Hacks to Turn Your Empathy Into A High Performing Machine
Many people view displaying empathy as weakness. I understand that point of view, but I don’t agree. Empathy is a right-brain activity, the kind that many people consider a touchy-feely discipline — a soft skill, as it’s called these days. But at its core, empathy is a valued currency. That’s why I’m going to talk in this article about leadership hacks to turn your empathy into a high performing machine.
Empathy is a key skill for progressive leaders who want to understand what makes their people tick.
Empathetic leaders place makes huge efforts to recognize contribution and effort in order to ensure their people feel valued and understood. Actually, empathy massively impacts your ability to motivate and empower your people. If you can’t place yourself in their shoes and understand pain points, frustrations and motivations — then how can you expect to motivate them to be their best at work?
What’s more, empathy doesn’t just help you manage your team.
Sure. Your ability, as a leader, to understand the emotions that your team members are feeling allows you not only to become a more effective communicator and problem solver, but also to build the rapport, trust, and relationships that fuel team success. It also helps you to ask your customers the questions that you need to better understand their goals, aspirations, fears, and objectives, which you can use to inform your overall business strategy and become more profitable. Simply put, it’s hard to overestimate just how important empathy is in creating — and leading — a successful business.
Empathy is the 21st century leadership skill.
It can help you to be better in your role as a leader. Empathy in the workplace can lead to better business decisions, cohesion, and loyalty — and help you lead through a crisis with participative leadership. A manager who demonstrates empathy tends to connect more easily with their team members on a deeper level. They also understand what motivates people, which allows them to create the work environment needed for people’s happiness and help teams to see opportunities, not only challenges.
So here’s what you need to do to be a better, more empathetic, more successful leader.
When you’re trying to put out a fire, it can be tough to think about the other guy. But that’s exactly what leaders must do: Think like a fireman entering a burning building. They aren’t thinking about how the fire might harm them, but of all the innocent people trapped in that building. And with my five leadership hacks to turn your empathy into a high performing machine, you’ve got all the tools to reach new highs!
Empathy Hack #1: Be All Ears
One of the easiest ways for you to improve your empathy skills is to become a better listener. After all, every conversation you have, whether with a subordinate or a superior, is an opportunity to forge relationships, build rapport, and encourage the free flow of ideas which can grow an innovative business.
Many people don’t know how to truly listen. The good news? Paying attention, not interrupting, not being distracted — is all that we need to do to become better listeners.
Of course, listening doesn’t just mean paying attention to the words that your team members are saying. It means understanding the emotions behind those words, as well as the nonverbal cues, including body language, tone of voice, and mannerisms, that speak to your team members’ state of mind. If communication is 80 percent nonverbal, as is popularly claimed, then focusing only on the words being spoken means you’re only getting 20 percent of the message. In addition to making you a better communicator, practicing your active listening skills allows you to show your team that you value what they have to say, you value their opinions, and you value them.
Leadership is often correlated with presentation and public speaking, but rarely is it attributed to the value of being a great listener.
Listening is an untapped skill that many leaders lack. In fact, many leaders hold a reputation for being horrible listeners. The key is to think bigger than your own story. Listening with empathy means listening with the purpose of understanding another person’s situation or perspective, through suspending your own thinking, opinions and judgments so you can really get into another person’s head. Through empathy, leaders recognize that they don’t always have to jump at solutions to their team’s problems. But rather, if they just lend a listening ear, their team is able to work out and come up with solutions to their problems on their own.
Be present with your team members, take the time to really listen to them, be curious and ask questions.
A simple but often overlooked way for leaders to show empathy is by listening better. Become an active listener — someone who pays close attention to what your worker is saying without interrupting. Pay attention to what others say: People tend to ramble on when they’re nervous and talking about their problems, but you might learn a lot more if you just listen closely enough to understand what they’re saying. Don’t begin formulating a response even while they’re still talking. Instead, take time to process what they’ve said and what they might be feeling, and then use this to prepare a thoughtful reply that indicates that the worker has been truly heard.
Active listening means setting all distractions aside and putting your whole self into the conversation.
And it also means you could literally put yourself into the other person’s shoes. Many leaders assume their own ideas are shared by everyone and are reflected throughout the business. This is simply not the case. The traditional view of leadership sees the leader as having complete control over everything. The problem with this is that it ignores other perspectives and does not allow for others to contribute meaningfully. To become an effective leader, you must be open-minded. You must be willing to explore different perspectives and opinions. You must be willing to understand the needs of your team and how they view the world. You see, while being a leader is not about being perfect or without flaws, it is about understanding people and their different perspectives.
Empathy Hack #2: Open Your Mind
Even when the feelings of others are in direct opposition to their own, empathetic leaders don’t judge. They let go of their biases and allow themselves to be open to new perspectives. When you’re an empathetic leader, you don’t look at the feelings of others in terms of agreement or disagreement but as a window into their perceptions and world view, an opportunity to better understand what they’re experiencing and expressing.
Empathetic leaders stay open to new ideas from their employees.
This openness creates a positive working environment in which employees feel safe, which is good for morale and productivity. The concerns of workers and leaders may not always coincide, but it’s imperative to try to see things through their eyes. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself some fundamental questions: What would I feel if I was doing their work? What pressures do they face? What support system do they have? What goals might they have? Switching roles and seeing things from their perspective may give you new insights and build rapport.
Being an open-minded leader doesn’t mean being indecisive.
Indecision can sometimes be assumed when someone is accepting and curious about the world around them. In fact, it generally means an open-minded leader can be more decisive because they understand any decision is simply based on what they know at that moment, and, therefore, an open-minded leader cannot make a wrong decision. Just one that works, or doesn’t. Our experience in this world is made up through a filter of our beliefs, ideas, thought patterns and emotions. Part of respecting the perspective of others shows a good understanding of this. There is a further element to this for open-minded people. Open-minded people realize; not only does everyone come from a different perspective, but it is likely that any perspective is limited. If you’ve ever had to give up a limited belief, without having another belief in place it can feel quite frightening.
We live in a society that is growing at a rapid rate, and consequently, there are challenges and issues everywhere we turn.
Perhaps it’s time to remind yourself of a fundamental truth that Albert Einstein shared many years ago; it’s time to change our thinking, and that starts by opening our mind. Open minded leaders are curious. Leaders with a curious mindset tend to approach work and life with a thirst for knowledge and openness to being less judgmental. Curiosity can lead to seeing new perspectives and approaches. Understand that having an open mind does not mean you have to implement every idea or suggestion that comes you way. Just providing staff the opportunity to be heard without judgment can go a long way to drive employee engagement and morale.
No matter who is the one to fight for change, someone must be willing to listen openly enough to have their minds changed or nothing will change.
When we think of an ideal leader, we often conjure the image of a confident, assertive individual who is not afraid to make decisions and lay down a clear direction. Because of this perception an openness to new ideas, approaches or suggestions from others is an increasingly overlooked and underrated skill. Future ready organizations will be the ones that maintain a curious and outward-looking nature, searching for new influences that challenge all that they do. In a world of impermanence the only sure thing is change and yet more complex problems. It’s time to free your people up and start rewarding them for their learning rather than just their performance.
Empathy Hack #3: Step Into Your Authentic Self
Empathy can’t be forced. If you’re disinterested in your people and their feelings, then it will be very apparent to them. The only way you can truly win their trust is to be authentic. Make efforts to form meaningful relationships with your people based on trust and transparency. You don’t always have to go with their suggestions, but you must demonstrate you understand where they’re coming from and provide relevant reasons why you will/won’t put into action their feedback.
Never hide your emotions. If you’re happy, show it. If you’re angry, show it. You get the picture! These are all human traits that make you relatable and approachable.
You can’t force empathy. If you are truly disinterested in your team and how they feel, it will be incredibly apparent. The only way to show true empathy is through authenticity. You need to be able to show sincere interest in the needs, hopes and dreams of others. This is a crucial part of leading with empathy. By trying to understand the unique needs and goals of each of your team members you can then understand how to best match work assignments which contribute to both high level performance and employee work satisfaction. When your team members see that their manager can recognize them this way then they will become more engaged and more willing to give 110%.
A keen sense of self-awareness is one of the most important traits a leader can possess.
The reason authentic leadership is in such high demand is that people are tired of air-brushed leaders sitting on their high horses. Leading from a distance is yesterday’s game. Today’s workers are inspired by real people who are honest, brave, and willing to roll up their sleeves and climb into the trenches. People want leaders they can connect with who understand them. They seek leaders they can relate to. In other words, we want leaders who are like us but a little further down the path. If you want to fully harness the power of your team, you have to offer more than just a paycheck. You have to tap into their intrinsic motivation and inspire them as human beings first.
People bond with others for whom we feel respect and admiration. These relationships are more fluid than those with whom we do not feel a certain identification.
Respect and admiration are two of the qualities that will have the most impact on teams, and they are precisely related to that degree of human bond that develops every day with those around you. Authenticity is the glue that binds people together. When they perceive you in this way, the approaches are more spontaneous, they solidify over time and can build a greater energy to carry out common purposes, visions and projects. Authenticity is an element that serves as a social lubricant in achieving common goals. The more you exercise it, the more confidence you will project; And if, in addition, you lead with humility, people will come to you for advice or opinions due to this human warmth that they will see in total transparency.
People love it when their managers and executives are unafraid to adapt and become more authentic!
The most effective leaders are constantly evaluating themselves and comparing their actions with their most deeply held beliefs, which, in turn, drives engagement upward. If you are engaging in activities that go against your professed principles, beliefs and intentions, it’s time for some self-examination and self-awareness. Be present for your actions and ask yourself if they are coming from a place of habitual repetition, or if they are truly aligned with your values. Give yourself space to rest and reflect so you can check in with yourself and your principles. Doing so will re-energize you. Then you can show that authentic self off proudly to the world!
Empathy Hack #4: Never Lose Your Temper
Your management style sets the tone for your team in terms of how you lead and the results you will yield as a group. If you are calm-assertive type, you have a very clear idea of the procedures in place to get things done and are able to communicate those expectations with a cool, collected and level head. When a crisis breaks, people are scared and have many questions. While difficult to do amidst fast-paced chaos, empathetic leaders find a balance between being transparent about the situation, as dire as it may be, and providing stakeholders with the calm reassurance they need.
A person with self-control is able to meet stressful challenges with calm resolution. When you lose your composure, you end up feeling weak and powerless.
Self-control is the war between impulsivity and doing what’s right or beneficial. It’s the ability to control emotions, impulses or behaviors to achieve a greater goal. Self-control requires over-riding or inhibiting the temptation to vent, lash out, or meltdown. The goal is to maintain control in the immediate situation in order to maximize your long-term interests (e.g., future promotions, safeguard relationships, etc.). Self-control ensures that we harmonize with those around us. It makes us more likable and agreeable to others. So, what are some ways to improve your self-control? Overall, having some sort of regimen, such as meditation, exercise, or personal improvement, helps you to be centered and grounded, as well as confident in your own self-worth and being.
Emotional self-control is our ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain control over our actions.
While this is important for everyone, it’s particularly crucial for a business owner or anyone in a leadership position. Besides, good leaders care for their people but also know how to keep a healthy distance. If some people around you habitually get themselves up a creek, you may want to reconsider jumping in with them. Think about giving them your leadership guidance, but consider unhooking yourself from the dysfunctions of others. Being mired in others’ drama may weaken your own self-control and may cause you to lose focus.
If you play now you will pay later. It’s not possible to alter the reality of that life principle. This is true in all areas of life, especially leadership.
The wisdom of delayed gratification (pay now play later) is a significant part of making smart daily trades. Self-control and smart daily trades go hand and hand to help you exercise discipline now and enjoy more freedoms later. Think long-term, values-driven and character-based to build the right foundation to support self-control. This kind of “pay now” character yields the life and leadership you desire. Discipline now rewards you with the freedom and options that allow you to live well and lead well. Resist the desire to play now, and lean into the exponential dividends of discipline today. This paves the way for greater rewards in the future.
Unleashing your anger at work incurs considerable costs.
Hot-headed leaders create workplace drama, can lose their credibility and often struggle with clouded thinking when it comes to making business decisions. Acknowledging your reaction to a stressful situation reminds your staff that you’re human. Sharing your vulnerability can be a powerful leadership tool, especially if you use it as a teachable moment for yourself and others. Find other ways to deal with your emotions instead. Take time for yourself, try breathing exercises, walk around your building, share your thoughts with a confidant or write down your thoughts privately. Alternatives can give you the time and space to examine and understand your emotional triggers.
Empathy Hack #5: Offer a Helping Hand
Be willing to help out an employee with their personal problems. Empathetic leaders know that their team members are multifaceted individuals who are dealing with their own personal problems at home while having to maintain their professional obligations. They recognize that, as an effective leader, it is part of their role to support their team members when they really need it. Being open to communication and fostering transparency are great ways to create a safe space at work where team members can feel comfortable sharing when they need to.
Good leaders know that in order to achieve goals, you need to go alongside those who are going to seek those results and make things happen.
Knowing how to accompany and how far to do it is one of the leader’s strategic functions. There will be team members who will need more guidance than others, and knowing how to recognize what you can contribute to each of them is key to regulating the good investment of time and resources that you make available to the members. The leader who is successful is the one who is on par with his teams; he knows that it has to function like the training wheels of a beginner, until he achieves what he wants, and then steps away to continue pedaling alone.
Empathetic leadership is especially important in moments of doubts, while facing failure and when people feel stuck.
If you want to practice empathetic leadership, listen, ask questions, dig deeper when people reach out to you. If someone is sharing their problems with you, it doesn’t always mean that they want you to fix things for them. Sometimes employees need to know that their struggles are recognized, and other times they only need to let off steam. Consider it a good sign that they turn to you. In cases where your help is needed, don’t jump straight to the action plan. Don’t draw conclusions immediately. Ask questions that will help you “get under the skin” of the matter — it is better to understand what problem someone is really dealing with. If something has gone wrong – talk not only about how to fix it, but also how to deal with the feelings of defeat, helplessness or even the bitterness of failure.
Work burnout is a real issue in today’s business world, and it becomes more of a risk factor during difficult periods of time.
It’s important to recognize when your team members are stressed, and finding it difficult to find a work life balance. These are signs of overwork, which good leaders watch out for in others. Managers skilled in empathetic leadership can recognize these signs and pull on the breaks before it can snowball into an even bigger issue, such as disengagement or turnover. This might look like setting aside a few moments each week to check in on team members to ask how they are handling their current workload, and helping them to recover from the stresses of overwork.
A helping hand can be a life-changer; some would say that a small gesture of kindness can, in some cases, even be a life-saver.
Leaders are in a special position to help people, and fortunately, most do just that with a joyful heart and a giving spirit. From a business perspective, it makes all the sense in the world to support those in need. Practicing servant leadership becomes an imperative in many cases where assistance is needed. Strong leaders should be proactive about communicating their desire to aid; this way, employees know that they have a lifeline to use when the need arises. Humanity would be much better off if there were more leaders in businesses, schools, and nonprofits in the world that have such a mindset, so why not step up and set the example? It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
The ability to empathize with your team is one of the most powerful skills that any leader can exhibit. Flexing your emotional intelligence muscles will help you foster a culture of open communication, enable you to understand the motivations and worries of your team, and breed trusting relationships that will help your organization reach its strategic business goals.
Empathy is an emotional and thinking muscle that becomes stronger with use. It doesn’t come across as weak but as the best kind of strength.
Workers who feel that they have been heard, seen and understood by empathetic leaders will not only perform better, but also make the leader’s job easier. Being empathetic naturally requires you to embrace discomfort. It requires you to learn more about yourself and others, and put yourself in uncomfortable situations to connect on an emotional level with your team. Remember, when we are uncomfortable, it often means that there is something we need to take action on. And it is action that gets leaders viewed as better performers.
Few things can make someone feel like you genuinely care about them more than by showing empathy, particularly when times are tough.
When a leader lacks empathy, others approach with their guard up and everyone feels alone in looking after their own interests. With an empathetic leader, though, everyone knows they can be open about what they are thinking and feeling without being judged, dismissed or ignored. Leaders who express empathy will earn trust, minimize fear, and build unity — helping all to get through the crisis together.
Like any tool, you’ve got to take empathy out and sharpen it from time to time and keep in practice with using it. Don’t wait until there’s a crisis.
Hopefully, this post has helped you gain a broader perspective on the role that empathy plays in organizations, and you are able to apply this new knowledge to your own workplace in order to achieve a highly functioning, happy, and successful company. Choose your own path as a leader. Most people think that those bad, awful, terrible psychopathic managers don’t understand the feelings of others. Actually, they do. They just don’t care. Don’t be one.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.