The fast track to influence
Without trust leaders intimidate others through fear.
On the other hand, trusted leaders influence followers through confidence and connection. Follower-confidence is rooted in a leader’s competence, consistency, clarity, and character.
The challenge – developing influence in a fast-paced world takes time. For example, demonstrating consistency takes more than an hour, a day, or a week.
The door to influence opens on hinges of empathy. The fastest, simplest, most effective way to build trusting connections with followers is letting them know you understand and care about their feelings.
Empathy quickly builds a positive orientation toward your leadership. However, empathy won’t sustain influence. Competence, consistency, clarity, and character sustain influence.
How can leaders show empathy? What are the dangers of showing empathy?
Rule of thumb for the Kindergarten is “Clear rules and individual attention”. What’s benificial at age three is also benificial years and years later. The individual attention part of the rule is connected to the empathy part. It’s about recognising and acknowledging the feelings of the other. This differs from sharing or even suffering with the other.
I might elaborate on the clear rules part some other time.
Great to see you again. Love how you explain that empathy doesn’t mean we actually feel another’s suffering.
I’ll watch for the “rules part.”
Best to you,
I looked up the roots of the word “empathy” when preparing my response, and ran across Dr. Tony Alessandra’s writing on empathy (http://www.alessandra.com/empathy.html). I especially agree that an empathic supervisor’s choices can create a “climate for agreement.”
Although I personally am on the “over empathic” side of the empathy continuum, I don’t think a supervisor needs to be “over the top” in his or her outward expressions of empathy to be effective. It is more the supervisor’s ability to see things from the employee’s standpoint, and therefore to understand the variety of things behind the employee’s stance, that helps the supervisor and the employee handle whatever situation has arisen from a “non reactive” place. I used the word “centered” in a previous reply and I think it is true here too.
It goes both ways, too. We as subordinates should apply a degree of empathic understanding to our interactions with our supervisors, too. They are often under external and internal pressures that we are not aware of and that impact their communications styles.
Great to hear from you. I’m glad you checked out the term empathy. Dr. Alessandra takes a pretty strong stance on the term. I didn’t use sympathy because sympathy has a sense of “feeling sorry for.”
Love the expression, “climate of agreement”
Paula’s blog: http://www.waytenmom.blogspot.com/
Someone once explained empathy with this illustration: Sympathy is when you just feel bad for a seasick somebody who is throwing up over the edge of the boat, empathy is when you go over there and throw up with them.
I guess that is not what you mean by empathy.
You comment along with others indicates that “empathy” may not be the best choice of terms.
Thanks and best to you,
Hi Dan, I think as a leader showing empathy is a 50-50 catch. However, I agree that confidefence should be born out of competence and influence. Your team members’ circumstances be they work related or personal somehow have a bearing on their performance. As a leader you are meant to maintain a professional relationship but because of our natural being, our feelings and emotions will want to reach for others in pain and cry with those crying. This is a good thing but the problem, I think comes when as leaders we become too empathetic, that we become too emotionally involved. This will indeed increase and improve your team members confidence in you maybe for the fact that you have been down there with them,not for your competence at times, but if care is not taken,this personal attachment will cloud our judgement. As a result instead of the team member see us as a person of influence,he/she will see us as a father/mother figure whom he/she can turn to whenever something is wrong such that it becomes difficult to make certain. Work related decisions that involve them because we don’t know how they are going to react or whether they are going to have 2nd thoughts about us.
Great ideas and justified concerns about going too far into sharing the feelings of followers. The term co-dependent comes to mind.
As always, I appreciate you stopping by,
Peter’s Website: http://pewatac.com/blog/
I think it goes well beyond just showing that you care about an employee’s feelings. You have to know their wants and desires even a bit about what else is going on in their lives and then communicate that all of that is going into the decisions and actions you’re taking with that employee.
When I was coaching high-school swimming, I made a point of making sure I knew where each and every athlete was in their life. I knew their goals for swimming as well as their goals at school. I knew when life was throwing them a curve-ball. I didn’t have to know every, single intimate detail in their life, but I did know enough to make well thought out and empathetic decisions. I also had an incredibly focused and engaged bunch of swimmers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
I’ve tried to bring that same outlook into my professional life. By showing that I care enough to know more than a name and a job title, I have been able to better influence all of those around me.
It is, by no means, an easy process. You have to get up, walk away from the computer (gasp!) and go talk to people. It’s truly amazing what a 5-minute conversation can build.
I practiced empathy for my employees in my business by not asking them to perform any job I myself hadn’t already done or would be willing to do. I believe it helped me to better understand the issues and struggles associated with working in their positions.
I believe that empathy is demonstrating your compassion for someone by your actions, not just kind words.
It seems that there’s some concern for the choice of the word empathy, possibly due to how we are often socially programmed to think of its meaning. With that in mind, certainly, there is valid cause for concern in being “too empathetic,” as clear boundaries are a must in any professional relationship. We learn in Psychology that “dual relationships” are unhealthy not only professionally, but psychologically. The parent/child relationship is healthiest with clear boundaries and roles. Being boss and best friend doesn’t usually work inside the same space and circumstance. A therapist should not hang out with their clients, etc.. Leadership roles are not to be taken lightly. So the alluded question is Could too much empathy lead to imbalance or even victimization?
This does not mean that empathy should be a stranger to the work (or leadership) environment though. I believe that empathy is something that is more powerful than just as a feeling or a kind ear, but as a conscious choice for viewpoint and choice of actions. It is one thing to know the pain or aspirations of another, but to me the perceptive and even professional look at this word goes beyond the “feeling” to the responsible choices and actions as a result of the knowing. It’s good leadership to preserve a relationship, a valuable employee, perhaps reduce stress or increase opportunities. Mercy, thoughtfulness and consideration are important and powerful tools in any relationship.
Be more than a title, be a Leader. Leaders show the way. Leaders set the pace. That includes how we treat each other. Leadership is not a title or end result, it is a way of Being. The Leader by choice or default will radiate effect into their environment. The question is what.
Enjoy your posts….
Empathy is being understanding in situations, to be able to feel and identify with another’s situations, rather than being apathetic (not feeling and understanding in another’s situations). This doesn’t mean as a leader one couldn’t be sympathetic or tyrannical in situations. It depends on the type of leader one chooses to be. One can also be empathic without being sympathetic (feeling sorry for) or tyrannical (oppressive and controlling).
Most people need to feel they are understood and heard. I am not implying that understanding is agreeing. One can have empathy for another with or without agreeing with them.
I would much rather have a leader that leads with empathy, I would much rather be a leader that has empathy.
This is a great post. I particularly liked the comment that consistency has to be shown and proven in more than an hour, a day, a week etc. Empathy is indeed very important but it will not be perceived as real unless there is a significant underlying trust in the individual based on rock hard credibility. One of the comments I always make to folks in leadership training is that “It takes 10 years to build trust and 10 seconds to lose it.”
Good post, Dan. I agree that it’s important to show others that you “understand and care about their feelings”, and I would add that it’s equally important that you do something wherever possible. That’s the empathy part. Empathy may not be the word you were searching for, but it certainly is vital in any relationship, including leader/follower. A danger? – When you cross over the fine line in a leader/follower relationship by being too empathetic. You’re a leader for a reason.
All your C-words are great. None should stand alone. They especially influence others when you reverse their order and start with character. Thanks for the good start to this day.