What is leadership empathy?
The emotional influence a leader has on his/her team members, customers, and surrounding community. In a nutshell, it’s showing people you care.
Why should you care?
An HBR article, “Most empathetic companies, 2016,” by Belinda Parmar, discusses research that has shown that higher empathy correlates with increased sales growth, earnings, and productivity. Further, employees are generally happier and more loyal. The article suggests that corporations can transform their business by making “low cost, high impact” changes to demonstrate empathy more consistently.
How does this concept apply to leaders?
Regarding leadership empathy, 360 feedback is the best starting point. 360 feedback tools serve as your mirror, helping you identify your blind spots. They give you a starting point to focus your efforts on. Rarely, do leaders give themselves the gift of introspection because they are too busy focusing on meeting the metrics. Further, leaders may not be fully aware of how their actions/inaction are perceived by others.
My guess is you or someone you know has committed one of these leadership empathy transgressions…
Examples of leadership empathy transgressions:
1) Employee has a service anniversary and receives a form letter of acknowledgement with a printed signature.
2) Major sales awards are announced on a national conference call with a lot of background noise and interruptions. There is no attempt to make the announcement special for the award recipients.
3) Employee retires after a long tenure with the company and receives a form letter with a printed signature.
4) Employee has questions about project goals and is unable to get any clarification or response from leadership.
5) Employee experiences a death in the family and doesn’t receive any form of condolences from leadership.
6) A loyal customer finds out about a better incentive that is only available to new customers. Worse yet, they are never shown any appreciation for being a loyal customer.
7) Internal or external communications regarding organizational changes aren’t clear and don’t connect the “why” to the “how” and “what.”
8) A hiring candidate does not receive timely communication after spending time preparing for and sitting through multiple interviews. A month or more goes by and finally the candidate receives a “thanks, but no thanks” form letter.
These are just a few examples; we could go on and on. Every time a leadership empathy transgression occurs, people notice and they tell other people. Over time, these transgressions can erode trust among team members, customers, and the community. When you look at the examples above, these are easy to fix.
It’s the little things…
However, it takes a leader who is committed to demonstrating empathy and finding ways to improve the organization’s empathy. Most often, it’s the little things that have the biggest impact with your team members, customers, and community. One of the best ways to demonstrate leadership empathy is to take the time to write a hand-written note or card. This may not always be easy to do. However, I promise, this will differentiate you as a leader and people will remember how you made them feel. The rewards for showing people you care will follow.
If you think I can be of help to you or your organization, contact me at ►firstname.lastname@example.org◄ for a free consultation.
Kris Macchiarola, Ed.S.