• Zachary Martin

Empathy Fuels Productivity

Failing team dynamics? Strained relationships? Busyness getting in the way of sustained productivity in work and life? Maybe your heart is in the wrong place.

by Zachary Martin | August 25, 2022

Empathy Opens the Doors

Many people believe that a manager, leader, parent, etc, have to be the loudest voice in the room, the one giving direction, swaying the balances of the scale to better the team, the household, the company, and/or the outside world.

Instead, the fastest, and more solidifying way of better outcomes is to put the person on the other end, first. Not just first in directives or compensation, but first to be listened to, understood and empowered. This comes by way of #empathy. Empathy truly opens the doors for better communication, better understanding, better relationships and a better future.

Defining Empathy

How Empathy Benefits Your Relationships

WARNING - Stay Mindful of YOU



Defining Empathy

The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Contemporary researchers often differentiate between two types of empathy:

  1. Affective Empathy

  2. Cognitive Empathy

“Affective empathy” refers to the sensations and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions; this can include mirroring what that person is feeling, or just feeling stressed when we detect another’s fear or anxiety. “Cognitive empathy,” sometimes called “perspective taking,” refers to our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.

- Greater Good Magazine

How Empathy Benefits Your Relationships

When practicing cognitive empathy, you are laying your perspective to the side and escorting another in. Providing this space of honesty, support and understanding gives the person on the other side a feeling that they rarely receive outside of their closest relationships (and many people will tell you that they don’t have that at all). This provides them a way to be themselves and be heard. When a person can be themselves and the leader empowers them in that right, they thrive 100x more than when they are fighting to be someone else.

My worst year of management was in my first Managing Consultant role. I was so focused on managing people and tasks the way the company wanted me to; by putting the client above the employees. The feelings and the needs of my team weren't important. I realized how horrible this made me feel as a manager and I began to struggle with my work as they struggled with theirs. What’s even worse is that I didn’t change my methods, I kept pushing forward. Doing what the systematic process has required.

Once I realized that this wasn’t just affecting my team, but also myself, on a business and personal level, I shifted my focus. I used what I learned in previous development courses and, more so, looked at who I am and the type of leader I wanted to be, to push me to be ME. I love people and I love perspective. So I sought understanding. I sought the person, not the employee.

The person is more important than your perspective. More important than the systematic process. More important than the business. More important than the numbers. If we learn to reach the person, they will be the best version of themselves and this will bring to whatever company, group or household, the very thing that is needed to help growth and productivity overall, with empathy.

WARNING - Stay Mindful of YOU

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Here are some starter tips to move towards being a successful, empathetic leader:

Belief: You must believe that empathy can be learned. It is not just something a person is born with. It is a skill that can be cultivated and must be nurtured. People who understand that empathy is changeable, even in the most challenging moments, they put more effort into being empathic.

Focus outward: Being mindfully aware of your surroundings, especially the behaviors and expressions of other people, is crucial for empathy. By practicing mindfulness, it helps us take the perspectives of other people, and not feel overwhelmed when we encounter their negative emotions.

Get out of your own head: Actively imagine what someone else might be experiencing. Literally put yourself in their shoes, in their circumstance. Stop thinking about the solution or the next meal and allow yourself to feel it.

Keep your feet on the ground by not jumping to conclusions: Your perspective is just a small sliver of the possibilities of truth. Listen and lay your opinions aside.

Meditate: Neuroscience research by Richard Davidson and his colleagues suggests that Loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on the well-being of others, may increase the capacity for empathy among meditators (short-term or long-term).

Pay attention to posture and faces: Just like when caring for a baby, we take our cues from expressions and movements. The unspoken words are some of the most important thoughts a person will never speak aloud. Therefore, we must take time to learn these different expressions.

Fight against inequity: Research has shown that as a person’s higher socioeconomic status increases, their level of empathy diminishes. Maybe it’s because people with a high socioeconomic status have less of a need to connect with, rely on or cooperate with others. This supports the idea that as the socioeconomic gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, there is concern that the empathy gap will widen as well. This means that as we grow in society, we should be very intentional in maintaining our empathy towards others.

Want to learn more about becoming an Empathetic Leader with 1-on1 coaching?

Want support on shifting your business culture with Empathetic Leadership training?

#empatheticleadership #leadership #meditation #mentalhealth #productivity #sustainability #balance #retention

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