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How can I become more empathetic as a leader?

5 min read


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Q: What is one way I can practice becoming more empathetic as a leader?

1. Ask yourself how you would feel

Empathetic leaders do one thing really well: they see multiple perspectives with authenticity. One simple way to do this is to remember what things were like when you were an employee. How did you feel when management did to you the same things you might be considering doing to your employees? By always asking yourself this question without bias, you’ll become a more empathetic leader immediately. — Ross Resnick, Roaming Hunger

2. Think about the person, not the position

As a busy entrepreneur, it’s easy to think about people as roles they represent: employees, vendors, potential clients, etc. Instead, practice thinking of people beyond their interactions with you. Do they have children? A spouse? A current personal challenge, like an illness or divorce? These things all impact a person’s emotions and performance. Remind yourself there’s a world beyond 9-to-5. — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

3. Invest in a personal development team

The more you learn about yourself, the more you recognize your own humanity. The more you recognize your own humanity, the more you see and appreciate the humanity of others. Every leader has a responsibility to invest in their personal work. That means having a team in place to support your emotional, spiritual and physical health. Build a team that guides you so you can guide others. — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

4. Leverage your IQ to improve your EQ

I define compassion as empathy plus action. I found that setting regular reminders to show appreciation helped me jump start a more empathetic leadership role. It’s easy to keep your head down and not notice the struggles that those around you are facing and overcoming. Regular reminders to be thoughtful of these things was helpful. Just avoid being too scripted! — Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar

5. Constantly check in

We have recently started a weekly “Pley Pulse” survey in order to check in with everyone in the company. These surveys are completely anonymous, which guarantees honesty. As a toy rental service, we are constantly striving to make Pley a fun and positive work environment, and checking in with everyone really helps us do that, gauge happiness and be empathic to our employees when issues arise. — Ranan Lachman, Pley

6. Work the ground-floor job

Work behind the front desk. Do the baggage handling. Code overnight. Whatever your industry, there are all kinds of jobs that leaders feel they’ve outgrown. But to experience those jobs personally gives profound perspective, says a lot about you to your staff and is guaranteed to give you a list of ideas on how to make your business better. — Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

7. Put yourself in their shoes

There’s a great article in The New York Times that attributes empathy as the reason why some teams are smarter than others. First, becoming more empathetic as a leader shouldn’t be any different than becoming more empathetic as a human. Every time you think you need something, take a moment and ask yourself what the other person might need instead. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. — Joseph Walla, HelloSign

8. Work on listening

Try to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes. As a leader, it can be easy to focus too much on the big picture or desired results. It’s critical to listen to your employees, understand their challenges, then help them remove those barriers and unleash them to do their best work. — Brendon Schrader, Antenna

9. Defer judgement

When we receive news, it is natural for us to pass judgement on the news based on our existing knowledge. When we are naive to the fact that there is likely information that we don’t yet have, we forget to be empathetic. By enforcing a behavior of deferring judgement until all information is received, we inherently remind ourselves to be empathetic to the reporting person’s unique perspective. — Adam Roozen, Echidna, Inc.

10. Never forget your path

Regardless of your successes, always remember where you came from and the paths you traveled. At some point, you reported to a leader. How do you remember that leader? Whether good or bad, that leader helped shape your future decisions. How will the future leaders remember you? — Matt Telmanik, CCS Construction Staffing

11. Get to know your employees

Spend time with your employees outside of the office. Get to know them and their families. How old are their kids? Do they have pets? You should genuinely care about your employees. As you get to know them, their life stories will emerge, and you will grow more empathetic. — Kevin Castle, Technossus