Johannesburg, June 2023 – Empathy is important in our personal lives, but hasn’t prominently featured in our professional ones. Long considered a soft skill, empathy matters now more than ever and it’s shaping the workforce of the future. It’s also good for business.
As humans, we should at the very least expect those around and close to us to care about our wellbeing. And it should be no different in the office environment. Recognising and understanding a colleague’s feelings, thoughts and experiences creates a sense of belonging, shows respect and reinforces the certainty that you matter.
But, empathy doesn’t create itself, so what does this key element of emotional intelligence mean for today’s leaders and how does it fit into the competitive business landscape?
Leaders and senior managers in modern business environments need to be more than just authority figures. In the words of inspirational speaker Simon Sinek, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” An empathetic leader will recognise the value of employees and create higher-performing teams, which provides the opportunity for their company to thrive.
Empathy is a must-have business strategy that has numerous benefits:
Encouraging collaboration and engagement
When team members feel comfortable voicing their opinions and contributing different points of view, it promotes constructive discussions. With empathy, people feel more valued and will want to do more for their colleagues. This strengthens teamwork and ultimately aids in more engagement and healthier collaboration.
Promoting creativity and innovation
Providing a safe space where people’s perspectives are respected and where you feel comfortable taking sensible risks without fear of consequences, is a catalyst for new ideas and thinking. By reducing fear barriers and empowering individuals, you create an environment that encourages creative and innovative thinking. In addition, empathy aligns you with your customers’ wants and needs. By seeing things from their perspective, you deliver better products and services.
Improving morale and productivity
With a culture of empathy there’s a common and genuine understanding of emotions and motivations. Employees are also actively engaged, which increases collaboration and decreases conflict. These team members build stronger connections and are inspired to perform better – all of which builds a solid work culture and fuels productivity.
Driving business growth
Relationships built on mutual trust, where colleagues respect co-worker’s roles, responsibilities and wellbeing, will bring the best out of teams. Empathy drives motivation. So, where everyone feels like one team – that is inclusive, supported, heard and valued – morale and loyalty increase, which boosts productivity, earnings and growth.
Companies will often say that they care about their people or that their people are their greatest asset, but how much of this is company verbiage and how much is in their DNA? The world has changed and empathy has become a strategic business imperative, while the ability to see the world from the perspective of others is a necessary skill for effective leadership.
Under the guidance of empathetic leaders, care is authentic, interest is sincere and understanding is heartfelt. Empathy is the future of an effective workforce and it just makes good business sense.