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Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

August 20, 2021

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But just like other so-called soft skills, empathy can be pretty hard to put into practice in real life. Especially when you’re feeling the pressure yourself.

But it’s more important than ever for leaders to be empathetic, as we face yet more change at work: supporting your team as workplaces open and the working landscape changes yet again is a priority.

Top of the list must be employee well-being and avoiding ‘reverse culture shock’. The reality is that very few organisations are planning a straightforward switch back to how things were before Covid.

It’s not that simple. Our working lives are more complex and nuanced than ever and that can leave people feeling uncertain and unsure: leaders and teams alike.

So, how can empathy help leaders navigate this period of change?

  • Be curious: ask powerful questions focusing on the ‘what, how and why’ and listen to the answers without judgement or preconceived ideas.
  • Don’t make assumptions: about your team and how they’re feeling about work and any impending changes.
  • Be vulnerable: it’s OK to show your team that you don’t have all the answers. Tell them that you want their ideas and opinions and that you’ll navigate this phase together.

Have you read our round-up of the latest leadership research? Click here to find out more.

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