Emapthy: A Powerful Leadership Skill

As my mentor John Maxwell has stated many times, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” So true.

I have been a teacher for 23 years in a district that has been taken over by the state. What this means essentially is that leaders in our district have abused power creating financial insolvency for decades. It finally caught up with the district. Millions of dollars in the hole a representative from the state has come to clean up the mess, and the students suffer. Money is tight right now and seasoned teachers and great district professionals are losing their positions. This is why I’m writing this article.

My goal as a John Maxwell certified Leadership coach, author and presenter is to challenge, support and transform leadership skills, especially as it relates to people problems in the work culture.

Developing people and maintaining focus on the goals of the organization requires the leader to create the conditions through which positive and meaningful connecting with their staff occurs. Why is this important?

Well, the research tells us that basic conditions such as a positive, people-centered work environment, resources to successfully realize goals and opportunities to grow professionally supports brain function, enabling workers to approach work creatively, with high standards, and in a timely fashion.

One value to cultivate to promote brain function at the workplace is empathy.

One former colleague recently shared this with me. As she was teaching in her classroom, her principal burst in and in a shrilly voice announced to her and the students that she had to come to work the next day which was Saturday to translate for a parent’s meeting without pay. Needless to say, this one of many incidents of constant disregard for the staff that bathed the workplace in fear. Teachers were immobilized. Some loathed going to work. My friend was desperately submitting applications to get out. It was a stale, toxic work environment.

On the other hand, a participant in my leadership workshop sang praises for her boss. This lady had a horrible year– a divorce, health issues and a foreclosure. Yet another heart wrenching event occurred at lunchtime with a call from her friend’s spouse telling her that her friend, Wendell, had just died. Grief stricken, she staggered into her boss’ office to share the news. Her boss listened, hugged her, shared some of her struggles, and because they were both Christians prayed with her. She made herself available to my friend for the next few days to help emotionally support her which in turn strengthened my friend to do her job.

At which job site would you like to work?

3 Ways to Develop Empathy with your Workers

1. Show Concern 
As a leader, simply put yourself in their shoes. We have all had challenges to wade through. 
If you know a worker is having tough times, make yourself available to listen, mirror what they are saying (repeating what they are saying in your own words). And ask how you can help.

2. Provide Resources 
What resources can you provide a member of your staff who needs extra support? A workshop? A book? A referral to a support group?

3. Refrain from Fixing the Issue 
Oftentimes, the worker who is dealing with an issue simply wants to know you understand them. Unless, they are asking you for advice, refrain from giving any direction. You are best being a sounding board.

As you model empathy, watch the value permeate the organization. You are communicating: This is a safe place. We care. We are here to support you, as you go through this tough time. As you establish this in the culture, reap the harvest of loyalty towards you, extra effort focused on reaching the organization’s goals, and high morale.

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