This week I had the pleasure of working with a group of Emerging Leaders from a large company in the high-tech space. One of the many reasons why it was such a pleasure was how enthusiastic and thirsty for new leadership skills this group was during this business simulation-centric learning journey. The multi-day session – that includes pre- work and post-work reinforcement - focuses on fundamental business leadership skills including understanding personality styles, coaching and providing feedback, and emotional intelligence. One of the interesting conversations that came up as part of debriefing the interactive business leadership simulation workshop scenario was the topic of “empathy” in leadership.
One of the characters in the simulation, Ellen Astor, has a very strong, dominating, and focused personality style the drives toward the achievement of goals and objectives but doesn’t always take people’s feelings into consideration. One of her quotes was “If you are going to make omelets, you are going to have to break some eggs” and she has consistently showed a lack of empathy towards her co-workers.
As we diagnosed the situation and decoded it for learning and application purposes, one of the participants suggested that the primary issue was related to the inability for Ellen to utilize any empathy skills in a complex business environment that depends on great leadership skills. During our in-depth discussions, our group of emerging leaders concluded that empathy is still an important skill in 2017 and beyond and we worked together to develop on a simple framework to use as a takeaway tool back on the job. A lot of what we talked about and came up with was based on academic research, best practices coming from the consulting world, and the real-world experiences of the participants. Here are four practical tips for leadership development to build empathy toward others:
What does the other person think and feel?
The first step is taking the time to understand and recognize what the other person is thinking and feeling about the business. Do they have strategic concerns? Are there opportunities that aren’t being taken advantage of? Is the person feeling engaged? Great leaders ask great questions and find the clear answers to what’s going on in terms of thinking and feeling of others.
What is the other person hearing?
The second step is to recognize and understand what the other person is hearing. Use clarifying and questioning skills to make sure you are having the other person feedback to you what they are hearing. Once you have heard what they have heard, you can adjust your leadership strategy and coach them appropriately.
What is the other person seeing?
The next step is to recognize and understand what the other person is seeing. Use clarifying and questioning skills to make sure you are having the other person feedback to you what they are seeing. Once you have heard what they are seeing, you can then adjust your leadership strategy and coach them appropriately.
What is the other person saying and what is that other person actually doing? (Are they consistent?)
The final step in this process is understanding what the other person is saying but more importantly, what is the other person actually doing; in other words, are they doing what they are saying they are going to do? If they aren’t consistent, then you need to coach and provide the feedback needed to gain better consistency.