Empathy is not what you think it is. Too often we describe empathy as being warm and fluffy. Empathy is incorrectly used interchangeably with care, sympathy and compassion. Empathy might share some traits, but it is an all together different and more powerful tool than these, especially in business. If you are in an industry that talks to, services or sells stuff to humans, you need empathy as a capability in your tool kit. Business strategist and empathy expert for Empathic Consulting, Daniel Murray shares 5 ways you can use it to build happier clients, employees and drive business success.
1. Empower your people to explore
Peter Drucker told us: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Having a collective group of supportive people, intrinsically motivated to serve the needs of customers, this is the holy grail of culture. So how can we do this? One great step forward is to build empathy as a capability within your business. Imagine if your people constantly looked to understand the needs of customers and peers with the same sense of purpose and performance focus as they take to other metrics. Embedding empathy empowers your people to look for solutions and reduces the reliance on leaders to have all the answers.
2. Embrace Emotions
Economics suggests that humans are rational creatures that make decisions to maximise our utility. We spend money on things that provide us with the best returns. We are rational, sensible beings. But this is totally wrong! If humans were rational, how many types of car would there be? Maybe a few different sizes. But certainly not the thousands of ever changing models we see today. One thing is for sure, Ferrari’s wouldn’t exist.
Humans are largely emotional beings. Emotions drive the show and three in particular call the shots: Hope, Love and Fear. In the past, a lack of imagined possibility and career options helped to dampen hope and managers used the dark shadow of fear to control the hearts of people. Today, the world is amazing and the possibilities almost limitless. Modern leaders can’t just threaten employees. True leaders are able to understand and embrace the positive emotions of their people, support them through the challenging times, and paint a future worth believing in. Modern leaders aren’t scared of emotions, they see emotions as key tools in their leadership toolkit.
3. Be a Curious leader
“No one cares what you have to say, until they know that you care.” It is a fantastic quote, often attributed to Teddy Roosevelt. While we don’t know exactly who penned it, we know it is so true. Yet, so many leaders struggle to understand what their people really care about. Being a Curious Leader means being willing to take the time to ask questions. Not the standard “how’s it going?” used as a segue to the thing you want to tell them. I mean asking about their feelings, what are their passions and why that drives them. It takes time, but having genuine interest, listening authentically and building understanding allows the Curious Leader to build deep trust and powerful engagement.
4. Truly Customer Centric
There is a lot of hype about the importance of being a customer centric business and for good reason. This shouldn’t be a trend, it should be how all businesses have always worked. Without customers, you aren’t in business. But the key to being customer centric is not to just meet their needs.
As a customer, needs are the minimum standard. While we like to be satisfied, what we really love is to be surprised and delighted! We want our needs to be met in a way that blows our socks off and makes us feel special. Meeting the unknown needs comes from deep empathic understanding, careful observation and constant learning. Empathic leaders have the advantage in customer centricity.
5. Harness the power of Communities
You either ride a motorbike or you ride a Harley. Harley Davidson was struggling until they took the time to truly understand the experiences people wanted. They didn’t want to ride a bike, they wanted to be part of a community. Humans are incredibly complex social animals, we want to feel special, unique and belong to likeminded groups all at the same time. So naturally, when we can be part of a community that reinforces our sense of self, we love it.
Empathy is a powerful tool when building communities. The ability to understand the deep drivers of a complex group of people, to navigate the turbulent system of emotions, egos, dreams, lies and deception is hard work. Leaders well versed in empathy have a better ability to absorb the curious nature of communities and position their organisation as a vehicle to support them with business solutions.
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