All about Empathy

Imagine if you could become intensely aware of what your employees, colleagues, clients and subordinates were thinking and feeling. Imagine how much more effective your approach to management would be if you had this ability?

Whilst you can’t learn how to read minds or become the latest member of the X-Men in the near future, you can learn a skill that will significantly increase your ability to relate to and understand people.

I’m talking about empathy.

The ability to empathise is under-appreciated; it is shrugged off as a touchy-feely emotional concept that has no real value in the modern work environment. This is a foolish assumption.

In a study of over 15,000 leaders from more than 300 organisation’s – empathy was the number one most critical driver of employee performance. Yes that touchy-feely emotional ability to be able to relate to others and understand things from their point of view is the most important factor in creating more a effective, productive and valuable employee.

Empathy is a dying art

Empathy is in short supply. In fact the study, carried out by Development Dimensions International who have studied leadership for over 46 years identified that only 4 in 10 leaders were considered to have proficient empathy skills.

Even more worryingly empathy is in decline, students at Michigan University – home to many of our future leaders; showed a 14% decline in empathy over an eight-year period.

Why is this happening? Why is empathy in such short supply despite being THE key driver of employee effectiveness?

Well, technology has made it far easier to reduce face-to-face interactions with each other and our ability to connect on a deeper level with people. In addition as organisations become increasingly results driven they are placing more and more pressure on leaders to ‘manage’ their organisation instead of investing time interacting with its people.

There are many potential reasons for the decline in workplace empathy, but instead of worrying about them – we should focus on how to become more empathetic leaders.

Becoming more empathetic

The startling statistics regarding the distinct lack of empathy in leaders poses an opportunity. Work on your empathy as a leader and rise above the rest. This will enable you to reap the rewards of a more effective, happy and productive workforce.

Start investing time into human interactions with your colleagues and employees. Start speaking to them like human beings and become genuinely interested in what they have to say. Start placing yourself in their shoes and view the world from their perspective.

These are all empathetic traits and employing them into your leadership approach will undoubtedly generate huge value for your organisation.

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