Empathy: An Important Leadership & Coaching Skill

Empathy: An Important Leadership & Coaching Skill

Empathy: An Important Leadership & Coaching Skill

By Nancy J. Lewis

In a Forbes, Sept. 19, 2021 article, they cited empathy as the most important leadership skill according to the research they had done. Empathy is talked about more and more in leadership articles, discussion topics at leaders’ roundtables, and in general conversation. Empathy has always been an essential skill for leaders, but the last 18 months have caused empathy to take on new meaning and priority. The effective use of this skill can drive positive business success. As leaders and coaches, we know that demonstrating empathy is a powerful and beneficial when interacting with people. Research now also states that is important for everything from innovation to retention. Great leadership understands the need to mix a variety of skills to create conditions that foster engagement, happiness, performance, and empathy tops the list that leaders MUST get right.

Johnny C. Tayor, Jr. (SHRM’s CEO) defines empathy as the ability and willingness to open our minds to the perspectives of others and is more than a soft skill. It’s a business skill. I would add it is an essential skill. Empathetic workplace cultures retain the best people and enjoy higher productivity. Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feeling and emotions. It is essential to building good relationships, both at work and in your personal life. People who don’t show empathy are viewed as cold and self-absorbed. Research shows that empathy is partly innate and partly learned. Everyone can improve their empathy skills. They simply have to have a desire to do so and recognize the power of empathy as a leader.

Empathy is important now because people are experiencing multiple kinds of stress and data suggests it is affected by the pandemic and the ways our lives have been turned upside down. Empathetic leaders and coaches are those who care about people not just as workers, but as human beings and realize the seriousness of caring about them during times of challenge and change.

Consider some of the following strategies to help you strengthen your own empathy.

  1. Be willing to challenge yourself and your thinking and do things that will take you out of your comfort zone. Doing things that take you out of your comfort zone will humble you and humility is a key enabler of empathy.

  2. Change your routine and expand your worldview. Be willing to study and visit new places that will stretch you to learn new cultures and backgrounds. This will give you a greater appreciation for others and look at things from a different lens.

  3. Put yourself in others’ shoes. Take time to talk to people and their experiences, issues and concerns from their perspective. Ask questions and seek to understand and things from their vantage point. Listen with your heart.

  4. Cultivate curiosity. Be willing to learn from new and experienced colleagues that you might have overlooked in the past.

  5. Examine your blind spots and biases. Everyone has biases, is it important to learn how to manage them and this is especially crucial when we are talking about empathy.

  6. Ask open-ended questions. As you ask those who, what when, and how questions, you will gain greater insight and understanding what others are feeling.

  7. Listen with your heart not just your head.

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About The Author

Nancy J. Lewis is a member of The BlackWomen Coach™ Directory. She is an experienced Executive & Leadership Coach. You can learn more about work HERE.