Recently a client shared a story that most leaders can relate to, especially in a year where disruption is the norm. The client, “Bob,” described struggling with a 15-year, high-performing direct report, “Michelle.” For several months, Michelle had been experiencing family difficulties.
When I asked how he and other team members handled Michelle’s situation, Bob summed it up in two words: “Avoiding it.” Bob said Michelle always gives 150% and the team is like one big family. However, when Michelle shares the smallest bit of information about her situation, everyone “runs for cover” and has no idea what to say other than quickly changing the subject. Sound familiar?
Rather than avoidance, Michelle needs empathy during this challenging time of her life.
Empathy builds connections, fuels trust, and lays the foundation for success in your organization.
Empathy is very different than sympathy. It allows us to take the perspective of the other person and recognize the emotion he or she is experiencing. When we employ empathy, we do not pass judgment. We simply let the other person know that they are being heard.
What role does empathy play in the workplace, or in any relationship? Empathy builds connections and fuels trust. And trust is the foundation on which you build a shared vision of success for your organization.
Once Bob reached out to Michelle, she felt relieved. She knew that Bob understood what she was going through, and Bob felt that Michelle would return to 150% once her family situation was resolved. They began to trust each other again.
You can dive deeper into empathy in one of my Recommended Books for Leaders, The Empathy Edge by Brené Brown.
Today, more than ever, our world is desperate for empathetic leaders in ALL walks of life. Will you make the choice to lean in with empathy? What a great gift you can give to yourself and others.
Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success