Why Is Empathy Critical for Success?
As a leader, you can set the tone for your entire team.
Why does a positive mindset matter?
There are many factors at play when determining if someone is a good leader. Experience, communication, and fairness all come to mind. However, starting with a positive mindset is critical. Someone with a positive mindset thinks optimistically and expects things to go well. This reflects in their attitude. That positive attitude shapes how they come off to others. For example, when you’re giving instructions to your employees, if you have a positive attitude your demeanor will be light and cheerful. If your attitude and mindset are in a negative space, those same instructions can come off as demanding and rude. Your attitude will rub off on others, so your mindset has a big impact on the attitude of your employees. Act and speak from a place of positivity, and the results will follow.
Leaders with positive mindsets are also enthusiastic. If you believe things are going to go your way, aren’t you so much more inspired? That spirit is magnetic - it will motivate and draw out the same from others. On top of that, having an optimistic outlook will make you a better problem solver. Consider this: when you run into an issue at work, a negative mindset will cause you to ruminate on it more, which ends up taking more time in the long run. If you approach it optimistically, knowing there’s a solution to be found, you’ll likely get there faster.
Why is empathy important?
Empathy is being aware of how others feel and being able to understand their needs. It is being able to connect with others and feel compassion. This skill is important in personal life, but it should also be part of your professional life as well. Being able to show empathy will improve your interactions with your employees because it leads to better communication. With better communication comes better outcomes. Empathy is an important part of emotional intelligence, which is key for effective leaders. Emotionally intelligent leaders are better able to fairly manage relationships with others and are more self-aware.
As Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, pointed out, empathy helps to breed innovation. In a study spanning 38 countries, studying data from 6,731 managers, the connection between empathy and performance was confirmed. Managers were rated for empathetic leadership by their direct reports. Those who were practicing empathetic leadership were also considered to be high-performing by their own managers.
Gaining a positive mindset and empathy at work
Not everyone has a sunny disposition - and that’s okay. There are several tactics to help get yourself into a positive headspace:
● Surround yourself with other positive folks
● Force yourself to list out the positives in a situation or about your day (especially when you find yourself swirling in negativity, this will break the thought cycle)
● List out things you’re grateful for
● Learn to laugh, even when things are tough - laughter relieves stress
● Speak to yourself positively
In the same way, it’s also possible to teach yourself to be more empathetic to your employees. Here’s how:
● When others share their needs, desires, and hopes, do your best to show sincere interest. Open yourself up to what they’re saying as if they’re a good friend.
● When others share their problems, offer assistance. Especially as a leader, your offer to help will go a long way and will open up more dialogue. If you can’t help, show compassion instead.
● Try to catch problems before they arise - for example, if you see an employee struggling with a project, step in to ask if they’d like guidance or assistance. If you notice someone is burnt out or overworked, offer a solution. Being able to come to the rescue before the issue is voiced will show that you’re tuned in.
Empathy at work and a positive mindset go hand-in-hand for effective leaders. When you show up and set the tone with a positive, enthusiastic attitude, it will rub off naturally on your employees. When they feel understood and heard, they’ll want to produce better results. It’s a win-win. So, how can you make your workplace a more positive and empathetic space to be in? Here’s a hint: it starts with you.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor