Unfortunately, many leaders lack one basic quality that holds them back in their business practices: EMPATHY.
For some people, they fail to see the good in the word, and simply relate it to being too “touchy-feely,” and as counterintuitive to the assumed masculine, ROI-centric world of business leadership.
However, more and more research is beginning to suggest that empathy is key to being a successful business leader.
The Harvard Business Review recently published a study that found a link between empathetic leaders and overall performance.
After analyzing research results from over 84 companies about their CEO’s character, which put compassion and forgiveness as key indicators, it was found that CEOs with strong characters outperformed their peers by a huge margin of 500%.
Other aspects of the study suggested that empathy also led to better manager performance, marketing, and product development.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand or share other people’s experiences and emotions.
To master this important ability, you have to constantly practice it. Recently, a study was done to help people better understand the process behind cultivating and developing empathy.
The study interviewed leaders within the MIT Leadership Center to ask how they built connections with not only customers, but also members of their teams.
Their answers reveal some excellent practices that can help you maintain empathy in your business practices, which will lead to high-value benefits.
You Must Make Time for Customers
Take a step back and determine how much of your day is devoted to accessing how customers experience your services and products.
If you are spending less than 25% of your day doing this important task, you will fail to keep customers in the same way more proactive companies do.
To develop truly innovative ideas and a great customer experience, that will set your company apart, understanding and analyzing customer ideas/opinions is essential.
Typically, the higher a manager gets on the food chain, the more disconnected they become from the consumer base.
Managers have to avoid becoming disconnected from their consumer base, or they risk becoming irrelevant.
Keep Asking Questions
Empathetic leaders are always asking questions.
Whether it be customers, peers, direct reports, or colleagues, asking questions that are catalytic is essential to growing a business’s effectiveness. Questions are the conduit through which empathy flows, and through which innovation is unlocked.
Asking questions to your team can allow you to gain valuable insight into how they work. With this information, you can improve team effectiveness and also find solutions to personal leadership challenges.
Constantly ask your team what’s working, why it’s working, and how you can make things better and more effective.
It is important to remember that no question is asinine. Even a question as simple as “what is your favorite part of the workday,” can lead to insights.
Once you start asking questions regularly, you will begin finding insights in the most unexpected corners of the workplace.
Invite Employees to Ask Questions
It’s not enough to ask your employees questions. To be a truly effective leader, you need to open yourself up to constant inquisitiveness.
Those in leadership positions will often find themselves wrapped in a false sense of security. People only tell them what they want to hear and this is often limited to things which are positive/comfortable. To avoid this, you need to invite employees to ask the tough questions, instead of fretting to question people in leadership positions.
By being open to questions and challenges, you can gain accurate perspectives of how your employees/teams/work practices are functioning on a day-to-day basis.
So set up a safe environment for employees to ask questions of people in leadership without any potential backlash.