At Braintrust, my colleague recently wrote a blog about a misunderstood skill that will help anyone master any conversation – that skill is empathy. Today, we are going to look at this skill through a different lens so as professional communicators we aren’t just speaking it but living it!
Over the last several months in several articles, I have read the following: The world is saying we are living through The Great Resignation.
This popularly coined phrase is backed by some sobering numbers. As published in a recent Harvard Business Review Article, 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As interesting as this insight is, it’s not even the one I found fascinating – we have been quitting our jobs by almost 10% points per year since 2009 – OUCH. The article goes on to discuss “the 5R’s” that are leading to this seismic long-term problem – retirement, relocation, reconsideration, reshuffling, & reluctance.
As I read this article, one of the five stood out to me – RECONSIDERATION. Here is what this means:
Reconsideration means that employees are reconsidering the role of work in their lives.
So, ask yourself, if your employees have this going through their minds, how are you connecting with each of them daily? Remember, if you aren’t, someone is and as leaders, we must eventually wake up to the fact that we need to do something different. It’s like the adage, “When should you tell your wife you love her…before someone else does.”
In a recent study by Catalyst, they surveyed nearly 900 US employees to understand the effects of empathic leadership on their experiences at work. Empathy is a skill, and it is possible to both cultivate and develop it. That is good news for all of us.
So, what is empathy?
- Connecting with others to identify and understand their thoughts, perspectives, and emotions.
- Demonstrating that understanding with intention, care, and concern.
When leaders are more empathetic, they are likely to report the following:
- Increased innovation – 61% vs. 13% with less empathetic leaders
- Increased engagement – 76% vs. 32% who experienced less empathy
- Increased retention – 57% of white women and 62% of women of color said they were unlikely to think of leaving their companies when they felt their circumstances were valued by their companies
- Increased inclusivity – 50% vs. 17% with less empathetic leaders
I’m fortunate in being able to train students and leaders around the world on how to have more impact in every conversation they have whether it is an external sales conversation or an internal coaching conversation. Did you know that every conversation you have modulates the neurochemistry of the person you are talking to – THAT IS A FACT!
From the water cooler to the board room, we must realize that our conversations matter and if we as communicators don’t change, we will not acquire, develop, or retain the best talent. So when you consider all this data, what can we put into action today?
As I work with leaders, I ask them a couple of questions:
- When you think about your current employees, what is something you can do right now to demonstrate empathy with each of your team members?
- If I were to have you line up your direct reports in front of you, could you list the top 3-5 values of each team member?
Here is what is scary, I have met very few sales professionals or leader-coaches that can identify more than 1-2 of these values. If we don’t know what people value, how can we best communicate with them AND demonstrate empathy? One way to activate behavioral empathy is to demonstrate a sense of care and connection for your employees.
If you desire to demonstrate a sense of empathy with employees, we recommend coordinating an exercise where each team member identifies their top five values. At Braintrust, we perform this exercise with each of our clients in both sales and coaching conversations. I will tell you that there is magic in the room when we go deeper with our employees and understand each other at a value level. We begin to demonstrate empathy because we know each other’s stories.
Here is how you do it:
- Provide a list of 50 values
- Identify the top 5
- Share the top five around the table
- Document to demonstrate you care [this should be done by the leader-coach]
- Inject this understanding into your 1:1 conversations
If you want to learn more about this and other ways to increase the impact of both internal and external conversations, connect with us at braintrustgrowth.com, we would love to talk to you.
When it comes to conversations of impact, we can’t wait any longer. The time is now.