So, we’ve all heard that empathy is important. But why? What difference does it make? And if it’s that important, how can we get better at it?
Empathy matters for a number of reasons that are clearly defined in much of the latest research, and it’s not that hard to practice with just a little mindfulness. Empathy is important because it fights stress, boosts engagement, and increases bottom-line results. Leaders can practice empathy by shifting the way they listen and respond to their teammates and by taking appropriate action.
Empathy Fights Stress
According to a study of more than 2000 employees around the world conducted by Qualtrics, 67% of people are experiencing increases in stress, while 57% have increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted. Empathy goes a long way in combatting these symptoms, according to a study of 889 employees by Catalyst. 86% reported they were able to navigate the demands of their work and life when they felt their leaders were more empathetic. Compare this with 60% of those who perceived less empathy.
Empathy Improves Engagement
Catalyst also found that 76% of people who felt their leaders were empathetic reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy. Closely related to engagement are retention and inclusivity, which are also benefited by empathy. Catalyst reported that 62% of women of color said they were not likely to consider leaving their companies when they felt their life circumstances were respected and valued by their employers. However, when they didn’t feel that same level of empathy, only 30% of women of color reported they were not likely to think of leaving.
Empathy Impacts the Bottom Line
The vast majority of CEOs (91%) now see a direct connection between empathy and their company’s financial performance, according to Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study. And let’s not forget that customer empathy is just as important as internal empathy. Customer empathy is extremely important because it puts your value in context from the customer’s perspective. Perhaps the reason you love the products you love is because someone carefully considered the needs of customers like you.
How to Lead with Empathy
To practice empathy at work, consider beginning with these four steps:
- Get in Their Shoes – Leading with empathy starts with personally considering others, and imagining their feelings and situation. What must it be like to be them? What are their concerns, challenges, values, and wants?
- Express and Ask – The next step is to express your concerns and directly inquire about challenges. One of the most helpful phrases I’ve found is “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.” Try following that with an invitation for the person to tell you what’s going on for them.
- Listen – After checking in and asking questions, the thing to do is shut up and listen!
- Take Action – After truly hearing what’s going on, consider what appropriate actions you can take. When there is alignment between what a leader says and does, team members will feel a greater sense of trust, commitment, and engagement.
To talk with us about experiential learning in the area of empathy, call us at 1-800-273-1465 or fill this form.