Leading Your Team and Your Organization with Empathy

Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, most problems in organizations are avoided, through blame. “Things only turned out this way because Department X messed up first.” “Department Y doesn’t train people well enough.” “HR should have hired more qualified people.” The “Who’s Fault Is It?” baton gets passed around and around and everyone has an argument as to why it isn’t their fault.  At the end of the day, one or more people are left feeling undermined, undervalued and unheard – resulting in low productivity, burnout, turnover and much more.

This has become the standard for most businesses. When this is the case, work just feels hard and it is easy to accept this fate as, business as usual.  With that said, as leaders, there is a simple way to break the cycle.  Lead with empathy.  When you do, you’ll be surprised by how many issues get resolved…and all because you showed a little bit of understanding and compassion.

What it Means to Lead with Empathy

Research demonstrates that empathy is important for everything; from innovation, to retention. Great leaders require a mix of all kinds of skills and competencies, to drive performance and engagement; and empathy tops the list of what leaders must get right. When implemented, empathy also helps to bond colleagues and forms the foundation of a resilient and inclusive workplace.

Empathy is the ability to connect with others, to identify and understand their thoughts, perspectives and emotions. It also means demonstrating understanding with intention, care and concern.

Leading with empathy means, seeking to understand life circumstances, instead of assigning meaning to other people’s actions or behaviors.  When you lead with empathy, it puts you in a position where you can be responsive to needs; facing others with curiosity and openness to understand, rather than with fear and distrust.  This helps to facilitate an environment of openness, where ideas can be shared and problems can be solved, in a real way.  It makes sense that, if people feel appreciated and valued, it becomes easier to take risks, innovate and resolve interpersonal conflicts.  Without trust…self-protection, defensiveness and blame, become the norm.

Why Empathy Matters

A part of my job is to teach people how to solve problems more effectively. Specifically, I help leaders and their teams learn how to listen to each other and work collaboratively to find solutions. Let’s look at retention, for example, and see how empathy can impact your turnover rate.

According to research, over 19 million people have quit their jobs, since April 2021. When employers were asked why people quit, their top three reasons were: compensation, work-life balance and poor physical or emotional health.  When employees were asked why they quit, they said it was because of their managers, they didn’t feel valued and they didn’t have a sense of belonging at work.

As we can see, employers and employees are not aligned on what the real problem is. Despite this, oftentimes, organizations will begin creating solutions for what they assume the problem to be.  They’ll increase pay or offer more job perks and benefits, in order to retain people.  When their initiatives don’t yield better results, they can’t understand why their solutions weren’t effective.  How can you create effective solutions, when you’re not addressing the right problem?

This is where empathy and being an empathetic leader comes in.

By leading with empathy, you seek to understand, which means you will have to start having conversations to discover what the problem really is or what an employee’s experience is actually like, instead of making assumptions. Not only will this approach help you find better solutions to everyday problems, it will also foster a healthier workplace environment, where people feel heard and understood. Ultimately, leading with empathy will help you shape your organization’s culture in a more positive, forward-thinking way. 

With 30+ years of experience, our team of experts is here to help you grow and develop as a leader.  If you’re interested in learning more about what we offer, CONNECT WITH THE UTECH TEAM TODAY!