Ah, February, the shortest month but also a month full of love. And of course, the highlight of this month is Valentine’s Day on the 14th. While Valentine’s isn’t exactly a holiday, people are still anticipating it, even your employees. The most common practice on this day is giving of chocolates, but as a leader, you can also give a different kind of present: empathy in leadership.
The Importance of Empathy in Leadership
Do you know the quote that says to not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes? This statement is a perfect example of exhibiting empathy.
What exactly is empathy? Empathy is the capacity to relate to others’ thoughts, feelings, or experiences. It allows you to do more than sympathize—empathy allows you to see things from someone else’s perspectives and be more aware of their feelings and needs.
This is an important and powerful tool for a leader. Having empathy in leadership shows that you respect your team members and that you care for them. Being an empathetic leader has a lot of benefits such as developing closer relationships with your co-workers, promoting healthier relationships in the workplace, and in turn creates a workplace where productivity, morale, and loyalty are at optimal levels.
Ways to show empathy in your leadership
Now that you know how important empathy is as a leader, how can you show it at the workplace? You may consider the following:
Put aside your viewpoint
You most likely have beliefs, principles, traditions, etc. that you go by. But so does the other person. Before or while you’re listening to the other party, put aside your viewpoint so that you could see more clearly the situation. Remember that the person you’re talking to is reacting to the situation with their knowledge and set of beliefs that may be different than you.
Empathy is about the other person, not you
Have you encountered a situation where someone is venting to you and then you rebut their statements with “if I were in your situation, I would…” or “here’s what I would do/feel…”? If you have, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. After all, at the end of the day, we love to talk about ourselves. However, if you want to be empathetic, you have to remember that the conversation isn’t about you, it’s about someone else. Bringing back the focus of the conversation to you will only do the opposite of empathizing. Ultimately, the other party will talk less, until the conversation dies down. They may take your advice, but they can also forgo confiding at you.
Validate the other person’s perspective
Now that you see why they feel or think the way they do, acknowledge their perspective. Acknowledgment doesn’t always equal agreement. Accept that people can have different opinions from you and that they have reasons to hold those opinions.
Listening is such a powerful tool, may it be during conflict or in sharpening your communication skills. To empathize, you need to listen to the entire message—don’t just listen to the words they’re saying. Consider also the tone, body language, hidden messages, and the feelings that the other person conveys.
Gifts don’t always have to be tangible. There are many ways to show your love this coming Valentine’s day. And as a leader, empathy is one of the best gifts you can give your employees.