It’s late in the day on a Thursday. You’re already running late for your umpteenth meeting of the day and your employee walks into your door with another problem. Great. Just what you need and don’t have time for. You try and brush your assistant off by telling him you have another meeting but he hesitates. So you ask “what is it?” He tells you he has a problem with the copy vendor. You say, “well, deal with it!” and storm out. As similar encounters happen, you continue to blow him off getting frustrated that he doesn’t know how to problem solve these issues. After a few months you notice his performance is slipping, and he’s reserved and hesitant around you. You get more frustrated wondering whether he’s going to get with it or if you’re going to have to let him go. Maybe. Or maybe what he needs is some empathic supervision. Here’s how to show empathy while still being the boss.
Make time for your employees.
We get it. Everybody is busy, especially those in management or leadership positions. However, part of what makes you a successful leader is making time for your team. Set aside at least 30 minutes every week for each employee, and stick to it! Even if you have to reschedule, make time for that half hour. They’re worth it. Even if you don’t have anything on the “agenda” invite them to join you on a walk and talk. You’d be surprised what they might say when they know you’re listening and invested in them.
Keep your perspective in check.
Your employees don’t see things from the same perspective as you. Their view of the company, its policies and operations will be different. Have patience and listen as if everyone has something to teach you, and think how you might do things differently from learning what they know. Remember those times you were in their shoes and how frustrated you were when your boss wouldn’t listen? This time around you have the opportunity to be the boss you wanted, instead of the one you had.
Listen to their ideas before you squash them.
Allow them the time to work through ideas before shutting them down. Even though you may know more about the company or have more experience, it’s all too easy to shut them down and tell them why their latest idea won’t work. However, if you allow them the opportunity to thoroughly present it, then ask questions rather than shut them down, they might come up with something you hadn’t thought of. You may learn something new from a fresh set of eyes on the issue. If you have concerns, then ask, “What will you do if … How will you handle when …” If they don’t have answers, tell them to do some more research and you’ll meet back later to discuss. When you say ‘no’ too quickly (even if you think the answer is still no), you shut down further innovation. Their next idea might be the ingenious game changer your company needs.
Teach them to problem solve, then trust them to do their job.
You do not need to be consulted regarding every decision. Empower your team to make decisions by leading them to their own conclusions. Instead of saying, “Do…” Try saying, “What do you think we should do?” “Why?” And help them problem solve their way to the answer. The solution doesn’t have to be perfect, and it certainly doesn’t have to be the way you would do something. By letting them come up with a solution, you’ve instilled confidence, and allowed them to work through the issues so that you don’t have to. After all, they’re there to help, and by teaching them ways to problem solve and trusting them to do the job you hired them to do, you can be the empathic leader they need.
“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” Stephen Covey
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment about what you believe makes someone an empathic leader.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.