Strive To Be the Right Kind of “Extra”
Making Empathy A Top Priority
Below is an article originally written by Mark Mader, President and CEO of Smartsheet, a PowerToFly Partner. Go Smartsheet's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
"Empathy means being concerned about the human being and not just about their output." Simon Sinek
My teenage daughters tell me that being referred to as "extra" is decidedly not a good thing. In their world, it means showing off, or being a little too dramatic, or laughing a little too hard at someone's not-so-funny joke. However - especially in light of the current situation - I'm striving to be a different kind of "extra" in ways I believe will benefit my team and others around me.
Aside from trying to be extra available and extra connected as Smartsheet works to navigate through the challenges that nearly all businesses face today, as a leader of people and teams, I'm focusing much of my energy on being extra empathetic. Do I always get it right? Not by a long shot. But for something this important, I'm in search of progress, not perfection.
It goes without saying that none of us ever really knows what those around us are facing, even under the best of circumstances. But in this new world of at-home schooling, worry for loved ones, economic pressures, and the stream of fear and uncertainty in the media, empathy has risen to the top of my leadership priorities.
Now, I recognize that there's no shortage of academic research and other information available on the importance of empathy in leadership and in the workplace. My goal is not to rehash or summarize that. My goal IS to emphasize that empathy is not some esoteric concept. It is a leadership tool that, like a muscle, can be strengthened and put to use for the benefit of those around you.
Empathy Can be Strengthened
But it takes some work. It means becoming a more active, present listener; it means taking the time to be deeply connected to your team; it means demonstrating an active concern for the lives, feelings, and fears of others. There is no one "right" way to be empathetic, but I've found that taking just a few extra minutes with a person, and showing genuine concern about their situation, can be a great first step.
For leaders trained to manage mostly to bottom-lines, exhibiting true empathetic concern can be daunting. But, aside from simply being the right thing to do, empathetic leadership helps people feel secure in uncertain times; it motivates people to action when they may feel like holding back; and it helps your team acknowledge and address workplace stresses - all of which are critical to leading through a crisis. Your teams, in turn, will likely become more empathetic themselves and be more attuned to your customers' wants, create higher levels of customer satisfaction, and be more innovative.
This is a challenging time. There's no denying that. But I encourage you to find the energy, the focus, and the attention that's required and try to be "extra" empathetic in your own way. Your team, your family, and all those around you need it now, more than ever.