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Tough. Love. Tough Love or Tough, Love.

Why leading with empathy is so important.

In Slade Group’s Core Strength research about most sought-after employee attributes through COVID-19, empathy took a back seat to ‘here and now survival’ skills.

Make no mistake, empathy has jumped back into the driver’s seat in 2021.

Daniel Goleman in his recent article, speaks to the importance of self-awareness. This includes a highly developed sense of empathy that allows you to see a situation from the other person’s point of view; this enables you to present your position in a way that makes a person feel heard, or that speaks to their own interests.

Post COVID in Australia, organisations need managers and leaders who can respond to the changed work environment with competencies beyond those traditionally sought. It is now recognised that one of those skills is empathy: successful leaders will have the ability to engage and work with people across a broad spectrum of skills, backgrounds and cultures.

It is important to recognise that there are three different kinds of empathy, and each resides in different parts of the brain.

  1. Cognitive: I know how you think
  2. Emotional: I know how you feel
  3. Concern: I care about you

There are managers who are very good at the first two, but not the third, without which they can be easily used to manipulate people. We see this in many overachieving bosses in command-and-control cultures who tend to be pacesetters – often promoted because they have very high personal standards of excellence. They are great at pushing people to make short-term targets; they communicate well because of the cognitive empathy and know their words will carry weight with their employees because of their emotional empathy. However, because they lack empathetic concern, they care little about the human costs of their actions. This can lead to staff suffering emotional exhaustion and burnout.

How can a manager demonstrate empathy in the workplace?

  1. In this post COVID environment, recognise signs of overwork before burnout becomes an issue; many people are finding it difficult to separate work from home life. Spend some time each week checking in.
  2. Take time to understand the needs and goals of staff, who are more likely to be more engaged if their manager is seen as taking a sincere interest in them.
  3. Keep open lines of communication, encourage transparency and demonstrate a willingness to help an employee with personal problems.
  4. Show compassion, genuine connections and friendships at work matter; act empathetically and let your people know they are supported.  

Fortunately, like all Emotional Intelligence competencies, empathy can be learned and managers can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching and training and by organisations encouraging a more empathetic workplace.

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Posted in Slade Executive, Technical & Operations, The world @work

3 ways poor parenting plays out for employers

Have you ever thought “I wonder who parented you!” when you think about some of the more ‘difficult’ colleagues at work? Given that EQ is often pretty well cooked by the age of seven, (just like the Jesuits said) how much easier might our working lives be if we didn’t have to spend time working around the EQ gaps of some colleagues.

It starts early, so here are three tips from the experts on how to build self-aware, confident, kind and resilient adults.  Today’s children are your future employees and colleagues!

  1. Constructive Feedback

A few years ago I gave some constructive performance feedback to a colleague in her mid 20s.  I’d prepared a pretty gentle approach because she was a pretty gentle kinda ‘gal, but I was taken aback when she burst into tears half way through the conversation. She caught her breath, wiped away the tears but the chat was over. The next day she asked to see me behind closed doors. She told me that she was deeply hurt by our conversation as it was the first time anyone had ever said anything negative about her performance. “What about when you were growing up?” I asked. She replied “No I’m an only child and my mother, father and I have always been best friends.  I’ve never been told off in my life.”

Ouch.

  1. Entitlement be damned

When my own children were growing up and the inevitable “It’s Not Fair, she’s got more strawberries than me’ was trotted out over dessert, or “He got more Christmas presents than me”, my stock standard reply was “Life’s not always fair, so get used to it”. Disappointment is a part of life, and managing early disappointments help build resilience. There will always be people smarter and dumber, greater haves and greater have-nots, healthier or sicker, etc etc. The more we allow children to think that life owes them something, the greater their disappointment in life will be, and the lower their self-agency becomes.

Fair is fair, but greed and entitlement are ugly.

  1. Do as you say

One of the perennial hallmarks of great employees is reliability. Such a boring word, but such a powerful performance indicator. Great employees Do As They Say They Will Do. These are habits and patterns built in childhood, and they relate to trust and integrity. If you say it, own it. What happens when a child makes, but doesn’t deliver on promises such as “I’ll put the bins out” or “I’ll empty the dishwasher”? Do we shake our heads and silently do the job instead? Or do we let them experience the consequence of having to do all the overflow dishes by hand, hose and clean out the smelly bins, or deduct something from their pocket money?

Actions and consequences are a great way to prepare for life as a trusted colleague.

A little bit of tough love in childhood goes a long way towards building a great employee.  So what do you see in your world @work or your world @home when it comes to the great and not so great colleagues?

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Posted in The world @work