Organizational psychologist, chairman at QuestionPro Workforceenabling employers to build Empathy at Scale in their organizations.
We are halfway through 2022 and the world is still anything but normal. While the notion of “normal” may be a fleeting concept, it has never been more important to do our best to understand current reality and how the people around us—those we lead and influence—they experienced.
But why would I call compassion a superpower? Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of time with my three-and-a-half-year-old son, who has a growing fascination with superheroes. Or maybe it’s because I believe compassion is so crucial that, if done right, it can have an infinitely positive impact on humanity.
Leaders have never played a more important role than they do today. Historically, much of what was expected of leadership was to achieve financial results. But the definition of a successful leader has changed and continues to evolve as we support the importance of a mix of life. And with that, business leaders have the opportunity to make a profound impact not only on one’s professional life, but also on their personal lives. What about that for huge privileges (and pressures)?
For good leaders, this realization will excite them – it’s an opportunity to make an even bigger impact. Smart leaders will ask how they can become even better at their role, what is changing, what others do differently in their role and what they can do differently themselves.
Based on our research, here are some key things to keep in mind.
Understanding your team’s experience, especially when it comes to career development.
In our study of more than 3,000 employees in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, we found some major differences in the way managers and individual employees experience career development in their organizations. Here are a few highlights.
• More managers (61%) are satisfied with where they are in their careers than individual employees (52%).
• Significantly more managers (62%) say their leaders care about their career development than individual employees (46%).
Perceived lack of career progression is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs. Since retention is a challenge for organizations around the world, this is an area where organizations will spend a significant amount of time. Understanding that as a leader you are likely to be more satisfied with your career, and the support you receive, should give you enough incentive to proactively and regularly check in with your team to see how they are doing and provide opportunities for growth and development.
When it comes to being compassionate, the first step is understanding what another is feeling (ie practicing empathy). When you really understand their experience, you can effectively help remove what challenges them.
Speaking of empathy, what’s the playbook?
in a recent article, Sherry Turkle gave sound advice on practical ways to show empathy. She spoke about embracing the ‘not knowing’. Leaders may feel like they’re expected to know everything, so being open to saying they don’t, especially when it comes to how each of their employees is feeling or what they’re going through is an important mind shift. and it is not easy .
This approach resonates well with Adam Grant’s concepts from the book Think again: the power of knowing what you don’t know† It’s not easy to think that there are things you don’t know or understand as well as you thought you did, but once you realize that there is much more to learn, the next phase of your life begins.
Nowadays, empathy as a concept is getting a lot of attention, which is great, because being empathetic is a precursor to compassion. What Hougaard, Carter and Afton recently emphasized in their Research is the crucial next step. They emphasize that “Compassion comes when we take a step away from empathy and ask ourselves what we can do to support the person who is suffering. In this way, compassion is an intention versus an emotion.” It is crucial to understand a person’s needs before acting on them, but the action after that has a lot of power.
With the best of intentions, how do you know if you are truly compassionate?
Practicing empathy and compassion is not easy; Connecting effectively with others can take different forms. Continuously check one-on-one with employees to see if your intentions and actions match. This is important because as leaders we can have blind spots and the unintended impact we can make threaten to wipe out all our positive efforts. This is one of the main reasons 360-degree feedback platforms exist so that those with whom leaders communicate regularly can securely share how effectively their intentions are becoming a reality.
The world will only become more complex and the needs of workers will continue to vary. Therefore, now is the time to help leaders gain the superpower of compassion. It will become an increasingly important skill in how effectively they can lead teams and grow businesses.
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