With the world in a crisis state, more than ever a leader is the person that everyone looks to for support and guidance. As entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves in that leadership role. Research has shown that the best leaders are those with high emotional intelligence. Those who are able to inspire their team to succeed in the hardest times, not just when things are good. The most powerful way to do this is by practicing empathy.
When we talk about empathy, we use the word practice on purpose. Empathy isn’t something you just naturally have or don’t. It’s something you choose to engage in and improve by doing. Listening is the first step, and it’s no coincidence that this is also something you must practice.
When one of your people is telling you about an issue, forget about coming up with something to say. Start by making sure you’re fully taking in everything they have to say. Repeat it back to them. Ask for clarification. Don’t respond until you see it from every angle. In this way, they’ll understand that you are really engaging with their problem.
Great leaders don’t wait for their people to tell them that problems exist. They proactively go out into the company and ask their people for issues to deal with. People feel valued more when they feel that they don’t have to go out of their way to be listened to. Take some time to sit down with different people at your company and ask them to share any problems in a non-judgemental space.
Empathy is something that must be practiced regularly for the best results. Only once you learn to listen closely and correctly can you make decisions based on the right information. You can give clear and concise feedback because you’ll know exactly what the problem is.
Justin Cobb is an international entrepreneur, based in the US, with a network of companies spanning the globe.