It’s the evening for the presentation of your company’s newest and biggest project. You should be nervous, but you have a secret weapon: when the project first began, you put your best team-leader and employee on the job, Jen. She had received numerous assignments and projects before and completed them all with flying colors. She did all of this without any complaints and never seem frazzled by any high pressure task. So it only felt right that she be in charge of the next big gig. With such a veteran at the wheel of the organization’s most promising new project, you feel assured that it will be yet another success. Even if the job at hand did seem intimidating to most of your other employees, you are sure that Jen will be able to handle it, no issues. However come end of the presentation you find yourself stunned—it was a complete bomb and your company is out a high paying client. Still in shock, you go to Jen in hopes of finding answers. When inquiring with her what exactly went wrong you end up receiving an entire flurry of information regarding her family struggles the past few months, personal issues with one of her team members, and her overall lack of faith in her own abilities to get the project done effectively in the time provided. How could of you not seen this coming? Where did you go wrong and how could of you let down your company and your star employee Jen? The critical leadership component is a common mistake not recognized by most organizational leaders—that is, being empathetic in nature and checking in with the employees before setting them on their daily tasks.
Empathy can best be described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, or better yet to know what it feels like to be in another’s shoes. Empathy has been an overlooked and increasingly conflicted asset when it comes to the workplace or within one’s own organization. Many choose to believe that empathy has no place at work, as it could open the door for an environment with unwanted, a loss of discipline and emotional discharges disrupting work productivity; however, it is becoming extremely apparent that if empathy is utilized in an error-free and careful manner, it can be the game changer an executive or team-leader needs to get through their next project or fiscal term as efficiently and effectively as possible.
For organizational leaders, expanding their capacity for building and keeping relationships in the workplace should be just as important as maintaining a relationship with a highly profitable client. In order to get the full potential out of a workforce, it is important to know what goes on inside employees’ heads. This is where emotional intelligence becomes a powerful tool for the leader, manager and/or executive to identify, gain and sustain the health and productivity of their respective organizations. Furthermore, emotional intelligence provides a mechanism to forecast possible problems and correct them before they can affect a project or the organization. While empathy is a powerful tool in emotional intelligence, it can be misused intentionally or unintentionally without proper training or understanding of its capacity and capabilities. Organizational leaders need to develop behavior to be empathetic with their employees to identify issues that are restricting their work. Empathetic leaders are aware of how employees’ feelings can impact their work and comprehension; thus, are consciously alert to subtle changes in employee behaviors on an ongoing basis as well as are able to alter their approach to interpersonal relations in support of positive outcomes.
The ‘action’ an empathic leader may take can vary depending on the situation. For example, if a leader puts an employee onto a new, important project, it may come up as a priority to the executive to check in with the employee to see how he or she feels about the project and their ability. If the leader happens to learn that this employee is feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand and doesn’t have faith in their own ability to finish the project, he or she might decide to switch personnel on the assignment to assure the best results. In doing this the executive can avoid a possible conflict down the road because they were an empathetic leader, and knew what exactly was going on inside the employees head.
That’s not to say that there aren’t successful organizational leaders out there that run by a golden rule of “zero empathy,” but having the capability and capacity to know how employees feel about the way things work around an organization can not hurt someone in a leadership position. As a matter of fact, if an executive and/or the leadership of a business properly use and practice empathy, fellow coworkers will follow suit and can quite often use empathy to check in with friends or acquainted workers. If it’s easy to tell that a coworker may be distressed or is acting different from their usual routine, it could be a smart idea to inquire as to the “why.” This empathetic action can do wonders even if asking “what’s on your mind” may not result in direct answers. The simple act of asking will demonstrate compassion at their place of employment. If an individual knows that they are cared for in that workplace, they will eagerly wake up daily to take on a job where they may face stressful or complex obstacles, due to authentic gestures.
If empathy is used in the workplace correctly and people listen to one another, it is much easier for coworkers to understand one another and function proficiently as a team. Empathy is a very simple idea. It’s something that many people learn at a very young age, which is why it is peculiar that some businesses do not take the practice of empathy to heart. Empathy is very easy to practice in the workplace, much like one would practice empathy anywhere. Being able to sense or understand what someone is feeling and why they are feeling that way can help any business or organization to run efficiently on a day to day basis and should be practiced by anyone in the company, not just any leadership position.
So, how do you begin to practice you may wonder? What specific steps might you take? It’s easier than you may think. BlueEQ has spent the last five years developing a validated state-of-art assessment tool to bring about current state awareness of emotional intelligence for individuals. We then help individuals and organizations generate a focused improvement plan over a 90-day period to strategically home in on a choice of three of twenty-five dimensions making up the BlueEQ emotional intelligence spectrum across five skills. At the conclusion of the 90-day timeframe, each individual is provided a second assessment to validate sustainable behavioral changes in their EQ state.