In the midst of a global pandemic, social injustice, and an economic downturn, two things are abundantly clear in our world. Empathy is critically important. And, empathy is critically lacking.
As defined by Merriam-Webster, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” Unfortunately, in today’s world of social media and political polarization, we rarely take the time to truly understand the perspective of those with opposing views. Search engine algorithms and confirmation bias reinforce our beliefs while dismissing those of others.
Do you allow this same mentality to invade your work environment? Research has shown that a lack of empathy destroys engagement in organizations. We all know that empathy is good business. We value a boss and colleagues who simply care enough to listen. And we are more inclined to leave a job when they don’t.
It is no mistake that this inaugural challenge is on the topic of empathy. Nothing is more important and more needed at this time. And as most of us have transitioned fully to online meetings and virtual communications, it is easy to overlook. If you are, or desire to be, a leader in your organization, we challenge you this month to demonstrate empathy via the following:
1. Engage Their Stories
Call individual members of your team. Do not discuss work. Simply ask “How are you doing?” Get to know their story. Ask how current circumstances are affecting them? Relieve yourself of the pressure to solve their problems. Simply listen with empathy and compassion. As the saying goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
2. Solicit Their Feedback
Do you do most of the talking during meetings you lead? Do your colleagues defer to you for “the answers?” We challenge you this month to replace insights and directives with questions and prompts. Monitor how much “talking” you do in meetings relative to your peers. Strive to engage your colleagues more and talk less. Assess the impact on the engagement of your team.
3. Consider Their Ideas
Think of a decision that you made within the past weeks in which one or more colleagues disagreed. Take the time to reassess from their perspective. Just like a golfer takes the time to line up a putt from both sides of the hole, take a look at the problem from the other side. If this reflection reveals new understanding, share what you’ve learned with dissenting colleagues (even if your decision does not change).
Remember, empathy is not the act of endorsing another’s perspective. Rather, it is actively striving to understand another’s perspective. Practice empathy at work and at home. Listen to understand and CEEK a Better Way.®