A few years ago I completed a personality profile. Among other things, the profile measured empathy. When I received the results, I was very pleased. I scored very high on “sense of urgency,” “goal achievement,” “self-management,” and “analytical thinking,” and okay on empathy. I showed the results to my wife and she immediately (and emphatically) shouted, “I knew it! You lack empathy!” I had difficulty seeing the results the same way she did.
Empathy may not be the first trait that comes to mind when you think about effective leadership, but it is important. Seeing issues from another’s perspective enhances collaboration, communication, builds relationships and helps you be a more effective leader.
When it comes to building relationships, Gail Gross, Ph.D., has developed a five step empathy process leaders can use to improve relationships while working out differences:
- When attempting to work out differences, meet in a neutral location. Do not meet in the office of either person involved because that gives that person position power.
- Before you start talking, set the ground rules, prohibiting hurtful language and personal attacks.
- Divide the discussion time into thirds.
- During the first third of the time, one person talks while the other person actively listens. For the second third of the time, roles are reversed.
- During the last third of the time, both people work together to solve the problem. Agreement isn’t necessary, but collaboration for a mutually agreeable outcome that brings value to both parties is.
Utilizing this process with others will help them become more empathetic, and you just might learn something too. Effective leaders are empathetic, or, like me, are working on improving their empathy skills.