“Kay, you should fire your entire X team if you want us to be profitable…believe me you are risking your reputation to save unworthy people! I’m seeing you for last six months, I know you care, but that’s not going to make us money, rather you are risking your key performers for the weaker ones.”… Said my young, energetic and Gen Y top management boss during a product performance review and the reason he was giving for the downfalls was not lack of marketing but some issue with one of my five teams responsible for product development. This is pretty common in the testosterone driven corporate world where having emotions and feelings for your junior colleagues is considered as weakness.
When I moved to leadership profile for the first time in 2006 I did not have any idea what empathy is all about. All I knew was that my team have to deliver their best and nobody whether an internal stakeholder or an external client should be able to question my team’s efficiency or professionalism and being the leader its my job to understand my team’s strength and weaknesses. Understanding each team member and their problems became a part of my everyday activities and soon enough I could see the results of my efforts coming to effect. In a span of four months my team transformed from a non-performing low confidence team to a team of supreme confidence for getting things done on time and with quality. Being empathetic has won me many bad names like management-unfriendly, ill-communicative, too-much team friendly, over-protective manager, etc. but has also won me good names like good manager, top-notch leader, clinical performer, people-friendly, etc.
Empathy skills are core to women and it isn’t something soft or fluffy or a sign of weakness rather is a hard skill to harness and teach. Empathy in the workplace can revolutionize business if applied correctly but it can also spoil the party if manipulated incorrectly. Empathy isn’t about people pleasing rather it’s about understanding the impact of your behavior on others. Emotional intelligence and empathy always paid for me; I have built teams with empathy, I have developed world-class software applications with empathy, I have transformed non-performers to valued performers by empathy.
The evidence shows that emotional intelligence and empathy pays. Among the L’Oreal sales-force, the best empathizers sold nearly $100,000 more per year than their colleagues. Waiters who are better at showing empathy earn nearly 20% more in tips. Even debt collectors with empathy skills recovered twice as much debt.
Still most corporates and managers fail to understand the power of empathy and want to run businesses purely on excel-sheets and numbers and they simply pay no attention to people who work empathically and bring results. Good thing about empathy is, it can be taught and explained if one has interest, it is a skill that can be honed. It is time we start transforming the workplace around us purely by empathy skills and make sure that empathizers are valued.