Over the past couple of years, our world has lost and gained a lot. We’ve been through an incredibly stressful yet profound experience, and we’ve come out on the other side, scarred but intact and hopeful for the future. And while we don’t know what that future will bring, one thing’s for sure.
We are all in this together.
In the workplace, all the turbulence means that employees are still finding solid ground. Empathy in the workplace is needed now more than ever. Employees are looking to their leaders to guide them on this uncharted path, and empathy is your north star.
Leaders don’t need to go it alone, either. Working with a leadership keynote speaker is like finding a roadmap with the most direct route plotted for you. You just need to jump into the driver’s seat and take off towards a brighter and more empathetic future for your employees and a more profitable future for your business.
8 Ways to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace
Just like any journey, there are many ways to get there. You can take the scenic route, winding through twists and turns, or you can travel the shortest distance to your destination. No matter which route you choose, having empathy as your co-pilot will ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip for all.
Old school leaders ruled with an iron fist. Today’s leaders build trust through empathy.
The old-style wasn’t wrong, it was just how the business world worked at the time. Things have changed drastically and today’s employees expect and demand a softer touch.
By developing empathy skills and incorporating the following strategies into your leadership style, you show employees that you recognize the importance of cultivating empathy in the workplace.
1. Lead with Love
While there are many ways to foster empathy, the strongest is to lead with love. It sounds simplistic, but it’s incredibly effective. It allows you to open yourself up to others and exhibit your willingness and ability to listen to and care about their personal experiences.
When you combine it with empathetic leadership, you build a work environment based on trust and mutual respect. Your employees will feel heard and understood, which will make them more likely to be open, cooperative and productive.
2. Open Up Team Communication
One of the greatest ways to start cultivating empathy in the workplace is by encouraging open communication, not only between your employees but also with your executive team. When you create an environment that allows employees to feel safe and gives them the freedom to express their individual thoughts, opinions and ideas without fear of repercussion, you are showing them they matter. As an Extreme Leader, it is critical to guide your team into creating a shared bond built on honesty and trust.
Communication is key.
Effective communication leads to increased collaboration and a deeper connection. Ineffective communication leads to mistrust, misguided expectations and missed opportunities.
Inherently, when we feel connected to those around us, we can see things from their point of view, which enables us to become better listeners, more compassionate colleagues and effective problem solvers.
Examples of Empathy in the Workplace to Create a More Understanding and Supportive Environment
In today’s world of hybrid and remote workplaces, our home and work lives cross over more than ever. We spend more time with co-workers and if this environment isn’t supportive, it can lead to unnecessary issues. By cultivating empathetic leadership at work, you can create an environment that improves everyone’s professional lives.
A few examples of ways to incorporate empathy into the workplace are:
- Make an effort to truly listen when someone speaks to you. That means putting your phone down, making eye contact and being present.
- Take time out to chat with employees. Ask about their hobbies, interests or families. It’s human nature to empathize with people you feel connected to, so by making an effort now, you are developing your empathy skills for the future.
- Everyone makes mistakes. If you don’t, it means you’re not trying. When a mistake happens, don’t nag or complain. Instead, guide your employees into learning from their mistakes through supportive and constructive feedback.
- As a leader, it is important to be aware of what is going on with your employees and your business. If you notice someone struggling at work, do whatever is within your power to help. After all, your team’s success is your success.
- Leading with empathy means not only listening to your employees but also trying to see their point of view. Before responding, take a moment to envision how you would react or feel in their situation.
By modeling empathetic leadership, you show employees that you place a high value on the importance of empathy in the workplace. Empathetic leadership also makes your team members feel important, that they are more than just a tool to increase your company’s bottom line.
3. Be Mindful of Your Own Emotions and Reactions
Have you ever watched a political debate where the first candidate gets fired up as they attempt to sway viewers to their side, while the second candidate remains calm and steadfast in their speech? If you didn’t know anything about their politics and had to vote based solely on how they presented themselves, there’s a strong likelihood you would select the second candidate.
A calm leader radiates strength and professionalism.
It can be difficult to see things from another person’s perspective, especially as an Extreme Leader with a strong sense of self and well-formed opinions, but it is a vital part of leading with empathy. Taking time to understand why someone acts the way they do, especially during conflict, is essential in maintaining professional relationships, preventing unnecessary drama and creating positive outcomes.
Empathy is oftentimes described as something we feel for others, but it truly begins with understanding our own emotions. When we understand what we are feeling and why, we can investigate how these emotions affect our thoughts, words and actions. Practicing self-awareness is a natural first step toward developing empathy skills.
You don’t have to agree with another person’s opinion, thoughts or feelings, but practicing empathy at work means you will be more likely to create solutions to conflicts, rather than compounding the issue through inflated egos.
4. Be an Approachable and Accessible Leader
As an Extreme Leader who is leading with empathy and love, it is critical that you actively work to create an open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive workplace environment. Give employees a safe space to share their thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment or retaliation.
It takes work, but it’s worth it.
Cultivating empathy in the workplace requires you to exhibit compassion through your approachable and accessible leadership style. You can do this in many ways, such as offering support on a challenging project or taking time to share a kind word acknowledging someone’s hard work. Small gestures go a long way toward cultivating empathy in the workplace.
And your employees will take notice. When empathy is ingrained into your leadership style, it is like dropping a pebble into a lake. The ripple effect starts small, but quickly gains momentum, creating waves of change that last far into the future.
5. Be Transparent and Fair by Leading with Empathy
You already know that Extreme Leaders model transparency, honesty and fairness. This leadership style includes building strong relationships and creating work environments where employees feel supported and understood. This is all tied together with empathetic leadership.
One of the most impactful ways to lead with empathy is to be completely transparent about your intentions and decisions. Be honest about the reasons behind certain decisions or actions and acknowledge not only your successes but also your failures. The burden rests on your shoulders and it is vital that your employees see you acknowledge this.
When you infuse transparency and fairness into everything you do and say, you will be creating a company culture where empathy thrives, collaboration is fostered and there is mutual trust and understanding among your team.
6. Socialize with Employees
You’ve all heard that friends are the family we choose, right? What about your employees? You also chose them for a reason. Show them that you continue to be proud of that decision by connecting with them. The best way to do that is through social interactions. That means getting away from your workplace setting and having conversations about anything and everything but work.
Socializing with employees fosters empathy that will make its way back into the workplace. Getting to know them also helps you learn about their backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. In essence, you get to find out what makes them tick.
Not only is this important for developing empathy skills, but it’s also enjoyable. Everyone is different when they take off their “work hat,” and you may be surprised by the interesting things you find out about your employees.
When socializing is over and everybody is back to work, you will all be better equipped to practice empathy in the workplace when challenges arise.
7. Learn How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace
Like change, conflict is inevitable. Don’t waste time trying to prevent it, instead focus on preparing yourself to handle it. Whether your team is facing internal conflicts or working together to satisfy difficult clients, practicing empathy will allow you to navigate the roughest waters successfully.
You are the captain of your ship, and your swift and empathetic handling of stressful situations will boost morale among your employees, help you understand their needs and concerns and allow for smooth sailing.
8. Establish Empathy as Company Culture
Although empathy is one of the most valuable skills that can be honed, it doesn’t happen overnight. Hiring a leadership speaker to support your efforts will help build positive relationships by creating opportunities for employees to learn how to see things from another person’s point of view. Employees who practice empathy are better equipped to deal with customers satisfactorily, which naturally leads to success for your business.
After all, happy employees are productive employees.
The road to happiness is paved with good intentions and informed actions. Encourage your employees to give and receive feedback. By communicating what is working and what isn’t, we can see how our actions impact others and grow from it.
Let’s Cultivate True Empathy Together
The phrase “alone, together” was born out of the separation we all felt during the pandemic, but those days are behind us. In this new world, we can find ways to come together in everything we do. Working with a leadership keynote speaker is a great place to start. When we couldn’t interact with each other, we craved connection and now that we have the opportunity, let’s make the best of it.
You can lead the charge, with love.
Take decisive steps like hiring a leadership speaker who will assist in fostering empathy at work, provide you with examples to cultivate empathy in the workplace and support you in elevating your empathetic leadership.