Driving Empathy to Unlock the Leadership We Need
Coping with COVID-19 has been tough, but resilience has armed India from absolute doom even in the thick of the pandemic. That said, one cannot discount the adversity at hand, mainly because it is difficult to talk about resilience without talking about the hurdles that came with it uninvited.
Lives were endangered, livelihoods were impacted, and chants of “when this is over” faded away into nothingness. With 14 straight months of looming uncertainty, staying motivated has undoubtedly become an uphill battle, especially for those plagued with personal losses and bereavements.
But despite buckling hard, we experienced the bleakest of silver linings: the human aspect of our existence, otherwise lost in a fast-paced world, has reasserted its significance. Simply put, empathy is taking centerstage in healthy employer branding, recruiter sentiment, and job seeker perception in today’s shrinking marketplace of positivity and opportunity.
Fortunately for our staff and stakeholders at large, Current Global had cultivated a culture of ‘empathetic transparency’ long before the crisis unfurled. But the pandemic has made it clear that today more than ever, leaders must exercise this function with gusto. Altered work conditions, limited human interactions, rising health concerns – all stand as steep challenges for employees across the world. And the only real vaccine for a healthy and engaged workforce? Empathetic leadership.
First, Know Yourself
Monitor your response to various situations. Be it work pressure, family care, health emergencies, or simply being there for yourself. Addressing each of these circumstances patiently can help you gauge your reflex response to circumstances. Conquering this introspection can help you understand your staff better. But be warned – not everyone responds to circumstances in the same way. Emotions are complex after all; and this is where it gets tricky.
Be Perceptive, Not Assertive
Empathy goes beyond simply “letting them know” that you will “be there for them.” Solution? For starters, get rid of tactless references and harmless jokes because, pandemic or not, casual remarks can substantially derail a productive conversation. Take extra care to fully commit to a conversation. Doing so can earn you your coworkers’ trust, which goes a long way in alleviating long-term distress and misperception.
Step into Other’s Shoes
Unless you strip your outlook of your own bias and privilege, it is tough to commit to someone who needs you in the moment. If a coworker fails to deliver repeatedly, put yourself in their situation before questioning their capabilities. (Your ability to introspect should help you here.) And even when you question them, accept the fact that you might get more silence than answers, because today’s volatility can only be prevented with a healthy dose of patience and acceptance.
Finally, what do you do when none of this works? Simple. Make it YOUR responsibility to keep an eye out for signs of overwork or stress. It could seem unfair but understand that a lot of warmth was lost to the pandemic. So, while simple gestures like an unanticipated team call, or a surprise cupcake delivery can still bring back a few smiles, a lot more needs to be done. A lot more needs to be changed.
As leaders, let’s be that change.
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