If you want to become a better manager, work on improving your empathy. Ask clarifying questions to understand your people’s situations better. Be sure to focus on emotional cues. Appreciate not only what others are saying, but also how and why they are saying it. Also listen for what’s not being said.
I can’t stress enough how much empathy plays into effective management and leadership. In the work I do coaching executives, the ones who have the most trouble are those who never learned to express care.
Empathetic managers are more likely to inspire others. They are generally well liked and command greater respect, which means their direct reports will be motivated to go the extra mile.
I’m reminded of stories from Bob Sutton’s book, Good Boss, Bad Boss. I hear about such “good bosses” from my coaching clients, but I also hear complaints about “bad bosses.” It doesn’t take much for a boss to get labeled as a jerk. More often than not, it’s because he or she hasn’t listened, hasn’t asked the right questions, and acts authoritatively without empathy.
Without empathy and focus, you won’t be able to communicate effectively and relate well to others. People who lack empathy are sure to face interpersonal difficulties that lead to inferior performance, negative outcomes, and poor relationships with coworkers and customers.
Empathy can be defined as the ability to see things from the other person’s point of view. Goleman defines it as the ability to read other people. Empathy means that you can recall the same feelings of others based on your own memories.
The business community has embraced the concept of emotional intelligence and its importance ever since Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998). But the challenge that lies ahead is to demonstrate that such competencies can be acquired, and that they significantly impact performance.