One Year Ago Today: The Path From Empathy to Accountability
This post was published one year ago today. (11-15-2019)
The ability to manage schedules, operate machines, or take someone’s temperature has nothing to do with leading.
The challenges of leadership are human, not technical.
Highly skilled people get promoted to leadership because we confuse leading with technical skill.
Leading is about connecting with people.
Connection requires empathy.
Empathy creates relationships that deliver results, if you move from empathy to accountability.
The path from empathy to accountability:
- Express empathy. (How to Express Empathy Like a Leader)
- Avoid advice-giving when emotion is hot. Advice-giving is the opposite of staying present.
- Seek confirmation. “Do you feel I’m understanding you?”
- Turn to the future AFTER people feel understood. “How might you move forward?” If someone feels angry, what would they like to do about it? (Generate three options.)
- What would you like to try? (Choose an option from step #4.)
- Be available. “How might I help?”
- Establish accountability. “Let’s touch base next week to see how things progress.”
4 empathy insights:
#1. The ability to express empathy begins when you stop evaluating the emotions of others.
Empathy describes emotion. It doesn’t judge it. Empathy says, “This must be frustrating. Am I on target with that?”
Empathy doesn’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
#2. Stop trampling people with advice.
Advising isn’t empathy. But empathy enables people to consider advice.
You devalue people when you rush to give advice. Your quick brain “knows” the answer before their first sentence ends.
“There is zero correlation between IQ and emotional empathy… They’re controlled by different parts of the brain.” Daniel Goleman
#3. Connection begins AS people feel understood.
People fight to feel understood.
Issues are resolved AFTER people feel understood.
You can’t bring out someone’s best until they feel understood.
#4. Explore values
Strong emotion reveals values.
Ask, “What’s important to you about this?”
Don’t ask, “Why do you care?” Why-questions carry a hint of judgement.
What are the potential pitfalls of expressing empathy?
How might leaders move from empathy to accountability?
You have hit the bull’s eye in a perfect way! Leading is about connecting with people and the path to connection requires empathy leading to accountability. A crux of winning the hearts of employees resulting in the desired productive results.
Successful leaders always go with a caring approach to make people committed towards a common goal and inspire them to achieve what is good for an organization. Accountability is the responsibility what team members carry individually and collectively with answerability for the likely output. ‘Caring and sharing’ approach definitely helps in motivating people to think and perform in a specific way in a given time schedule.
As regards the likely pitfalls of remaining too empathetic are the rising expectations and care-free approach of team members. To avoid these, a leader has to have good balance of having toughness which comes with bringing accountability factor and linking the rewards & recognition with the planned output.
Accountability has to be linked with a well defined job role, job responsibilities and the task specific planned efforts with time-bound results. Expressing empathy by way of work culture helps in keeping the team’s morale high and readiness to work with good satisfaction.
Thank you, Dan, for this excellent post which identifies two great leadership and organizational qualities: People connections and relationships. These qualities contribute not only to outcomes and success in the traditional sense, but also in a societal role–like workplace, public and school shootings too. You see, authorities have seeking the common denominator of shooters–like drugs, mental illness, guns, et al–but have not considered “unhealthy relationships” or persons who are not experiencing relationship wellness as key. Persons having difficulty getting along well with others express characteristics to control others–especially those closest to them–of criticizing, blaming, judging, complaining, nagging, threatening, and disbelieving, for example–until others don’t want to be around and they become more and more isolated. They fall through our social cracks and ultimately commit their desperate acts in their respective environments. The point is like you say–people connections and relationships.
Far too many technical geniuses become incompetent leaders. And set their team back years!
I loved this! It is by far one of the best pieces I’ve read on this site.
People are human beings first and employees second. No one came to this planet to be born and labeled an employee for most of their life. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. A workplace should not be ran like a slave plantation. There are great opportunities for development and growth within any organization. This includes spiritual growth. Whether we have an employer or we’re self-employed, we will spend the majority of our time at work. Spiritual growth is important within all aspects of our daily lives. I’m not knocking anyone’s religion, but I am referring to spiritualism in the sense one is connected to a Higher Form of Power, Higher Form of Intelligence. I have worked with people who could “sense” spirit and connection. I always found myself drawn to these people. Throughout the years I have emulated these employees, managers, leaders. They had a deeper insight about the inner workings of life. Almost seemed as though they had an “inner-standing and understanding” about matters. The Universal Consciousness. They were guided by Spirit and moved by Faith.
Leaders who are spiritual in nature will never see a person as an “employee.” A leader who is spiritual in nature realizes we’re already greatness. Each of us just needs to see our greatness for ourselves. Leadership and management should work with employees and bring out the best qualities for development and growth.
In the workplace, when my superior tells me to do something, I don’t worry about whether he respects me or is empathetic to my needs. This is the workplace: I do what he says, no questions or negotiations. If I have an issue overall with how I am being treated, I will address it with him in private. If his answer does not satisfy me, I have two choices: suck it up and keep my job, or find another one. This coddling of workers in the workplace has got to stop if we want to keep jobs from being farmed out to other countries. Work in China for a few months, see how they do things, then apply those methods here. It is the only way we will ever be competitive in an international workplace.
Not sure if this is a way that will result in connection, trust and desired work output.
How might leaders move from empathy to accountability?
By having empathy first? I see a LOT of what you say about empathy and IQ being totally detached. Most people who get to be technical experts get there precisely because they don’t have empathy. But let me tell you: most technical experts find the empathy/EQ leadership stuff to be weird, uncomfortable and cockeyed.
Even during our childhood years, we are fighting to be understood. As a toddler exclaiming that she wants the candy to her mother, so are we yearning to be understood. The toddler continues to beg, but only because she feels her mother is just not understanding what she wants, or worse her logic for wanting it. The toddler might say, “I want it.” To the toddler the mother just does not understand how her mother does not understand how important it is to her that she wants it. When we do not give into the demands of others, but at least acknowledge their needs and empathize with their situation they tend to feel a since of finality and even sometimes relief. Honestly, what is more frustrating than feeling like you are yelling at a brick wall? Sometimes the leader is misunderstood as he is trying to convey empathy, but it is being mistaken for judgement. In this post you supplied us with some effective tactics to use. The tactics listed are perfect for trying to move from empathy to accountability. It gets difficult to express to an adult that you understand their situation, but he or she is still being held accountable. How can one do that without sounding empty?
I unequivocally agree that the key to great relationships, connection, and trust with others is through empathy. Although most jobs are given based on technical skills, I believe the key to hiring an employee or leader for an organization/company is by evaluating their EQ skills or degree of empathy. So often the people with brilliant technical skills lack important social skills, which are key to being a great leader. I believe our education system should also help to develop these social skills and should evaluate students on soft skills rather than just their knowledge. I think most people in life strive to be understood and desire close connection. Furthermore, one particular point that really resonated with me was that rushing to give people advice does not count as empathy. Quite often, people think that they are being helpful by giving advice to someone enduring a problem. However, I have been on the receiving end of this and it feels awful when you want someone to listen rather than preach his or her advice. These people often come off as know-it-alls and lack the skills to forge a genuine a connection with someone who is undergoing an issue. Therefore, I truly agree that empathy is a crucial aspect of becoming a better leader and human being.
The point often overlooked is over-empathizing. At a point, people react to clear guidance, feedback and accountability. By failing to hold someone accountable to expectations and continuing to empathize, underperformance can become the norm and standard. I’m not saying empathy is bad by any means; I’m all for it. However, the benefit can be overplayed to a detriment if not careful or if one becomes solely reliant on the approach. There is absolutely a point of diminishing return when empathy is the considered! Accountability has to be found as a transition.
Thanks Travis. Empathy that creates helplessness isn’t helpful. The goal of helping – expressing empathy – is enabling.