You can’t read much about leadership these days without running across this notion of the need for leaders to be empathetic.

You would be forgiven for thinking initially that this will require you to become a real softy or that this is a ‘touchy feely topic’.

Empathetic Leadership is the ability of leaders to understand, relate to and be sensitive to customers, their team members and even the communities they serve.  That’s going to require a giant leap forward for some, but don’t worry, we can all do it.

Let’s consider some of the benefits of being more empathetic:

  1. Empathy shows your people you care. And, when you care you create amazing bonds with your people. Imagine the strength of your team when bonds are solid. It’s the old expression, “they won’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care”. 
  2. Empathy gives you better information and insights. People don’t have bad days just because they want to annoy you. They don’t always have the best ideas because they want to fail.  The more you take the time to understand their ‘story’, whether you agree with it or not, the better you will avoid making judgements based on faulty assumptions. 
  3. Empathy will force you to slow down … and be human: Empathy requires you to put your focus on the person in front of you and make it about them in that moment. You’re not there to fix … you’re there to understand.   Put your team ahead of yourself.
  4. Empathy produces better decisions: We all jump to conclusions and judgements based on often faulty assumptions. Taking the time to really understand, and care for, the views and feeling of others inevitably will produce decisions that are less self-serving and narrow in focus.
  5. Empathy produces more communication. When you demonstrate empathy as a leader, others open up and begin to share more with you. The more open communication that exists in the organization the more likely it is that engagement and results will both increase. 

Make no mistake, there is a significant business cost when leaders lack empathy. It can hurt your company culture and you risk losing your best employees.

Putting others ahead of you is a great place to start your journey to becoming an Empathetic Leader.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Truly listen with your ears, eyes and your heart. Be present. Don’t check your phone or your emails while you are in a conversation.
  2. Don’t interrupt people. It sabotages your effort to connect.
  3. Validate the other person’s perspective. Let them know they’ve been heard.
  4. Start displaying more acts of random kindness. Get in the habit of putting others first.

As we all know, the world needs more empathy right now. As a leader, it starts with you.

Linda Montalbano is a true retail operator with a history of leading large retail teams to success. If you need a fresh perspective on what's going wrong in your stores, Linda is the one to tell you like it is and come up with a solid game plan to turn things around!

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