Empathy As a Leader

About this episode
Last week, we talked about the merit of the pivot. This became important during the pandemic. This week, we talk about empathy. The pandemic demonstrated that we need to be human first and show empathy as leaders.

1. Amp Up Your Emotional Game. Basically all the virtual forms of communication lessen the emotions that come through to the receiving end.   Make it clear when you don’t know what you don’t know. Ask for help. When asking for more diversity and inclusion, It doesn’t have to be just the race consideration. A person who heads up diversity at a corporate is a champion of ‘diversity of thought’.’ How are you hiring different thinkers? I like to take quiet time every morning and journal. It helps to raise my own self awareness as a leader.

2.Cut Your Employees Some Slack. Meet people where they are. Your employees are deep in home schooling.  spending more time with their nuclear family than they perhaps have in a long time.  They may have lost someone close to them because of the virus.   They are down at the safety level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and that makes it hard to think about anything higher up on the pyramid. I was on a call last week, where the person’s dog barked the entire time we were on the call. She apologized profusely. I said, Its happening to everyone. We made the best of it.

3. Ask permission before offering advice. Creating a safe environment for giving and receiving feedback. I had an instance where we offered feedback as a group. My feedback didn’t land well on the recipient. It was a teaching moment for me as a leader. I believe in being a responsible leader, I asked another member, who is a leadership coach, how would you do it differently? She recommended asking “On a scale of 1-10, how open are you to feedback today?” If it’s anything below a 5, you don’t offer the feedback. Create a safe environment where people can give and receive feedback. Have each person in the group offer one positive and one thing the person can do to improve.

4. You Need to Make Your Intent Clear. Zoom and audio calls both bring with them little, barely noticeable, transmission delays.  Those delays can add up to a second or two of dead air after someone stops talking.  We humans tend to unconsciously assume that dead air means lack of enthusiasm at best, open hostility at worst.  In this unintentionally negative atmosphere, it’s easy for all the players to assume the worst.  So it’s up to you to be particularly clear about your intent on each call. Send an agenda before meetings to make sure all points are covered

5. Make time for Both Work and Human Connection.  Even for the more scheduled nature of a virtual day, do set aside time for catching up on the human side of the equation.  And don’t try to do it at the start of a Zoom call, say, because those usually begin with stress and awkwardness while people figure out how to make the tech work.  Wait until the middle or end of the call, then say, “Now let’s set aside some time to check in with everyone.  I want to know how you are all faring during this difficult time.”   

6. Address your ‘Why.’  A friend really pressed me on my ‘why’ this past Friday. I shared it. One of my members was present and expressed, I never knew your why. And I”m your biggest fan. This is the time to make the “why” of your organization clear to everyone you reach.  If you can’t articulate the company’s mission in a concise, compelling, and lucid way, don’t expect the Zoom calls to be productive machines.

Drink Like a Lady with Kathie De-Chirico Stuart & Joya Dass
Kathie is a brand strategist. Joya is a recovering journalist. Each week, on the Drink LIke a Lady Podcast, they share tactical advice to support women getting a seat at the bar —and the boardroom.