Historically a leader brings to mind images of a brave, strong person who is seemingly impenetrable and able to stand firm. Our standard Hercules. But in reality, a leader is an encouraging force, motivator, and someone who helps others to rise. A leader cannot be great without a great team of empowered, understood and supported individuals. To create that team, a leader must be empathetic. Much like any romantic relationship, a professional relationship is built on empathy and communication and the ability to share successes and support through loss and failures. Cultivating such relationships leads to success for everyone involved.
Part of empathy is understanding people or employees at a more intimate level. Understanding their motivations or things that discourage them can be key for a leader. Beyond this, a good leader should not only be able to define these things, but also teach people to discover themselves and those around them this way. If you have a high-performing, driven, and motivated employee- find out why! Their “why” is their driving force, and this can be used to pick them up or help them one day when inevitably they have an off day. By having this information and understanding, you are holding them both accountable while having their back and being a support system.
The push to treat employees and customers as humans is a widely popular tactic and for good reason. As described on TheLadders.com, tax season giant H & R Block has incorporated empathy training to assist customers with unexpected financial burdens during tax time. By breaking down these barriers, they’re adding another level of customer service while opening up the relationship to new options and financial movements that H & R Block can profit from, simply by building the trust and intimacy that empathy creates.
Appealing to the human sense of belonging gives employees a new lease on their careers and passions while giving a safe space for interactions and communication. Teams built with these values have more support, higher achievers, more innovation and have less turnover and more opportunity for promotions within the company. When empathy becomes the culture from the top down, it creates a whole new work environment where employees and customers both may thrive and achieve more than ever before.