Since becoming a certified coach, specializing in strengths, I’ve been really intrigued with the discussion and practise (yes, practise) of empathy.
Often when I’m coaching clients, if they have Empathy as one of their top 5, they often respond with a ‘Really? I was really thinking I would have Competition, or Command. Enter sad frustrated face.
Let me say this. I get so excited when I can coach an Empath. Why? As a leadership coach, I know for certain that empathy is required to truly lead.
There are a few reasons I get so pumped about Empathy as a strength, two of my favorite writers speak on this topic frequently.
Simon Sinek talks and writes a lot of Empathy. Brene Brown also writes and delivers keynotes about empathy. I believe the world is in desperate need of more empathy. Desperate need.
Here’s what Simon Sinek has to say about empathy.
“Empathy is being concerned about the human being, not just their output.”
Leading with empathy may look something like this; ‘Hey, I’ve noticed there has been some blips in your work lately. Talk to me about what is going on? Is everything in your world ok?
How can I support you to get back to where we all need you to be?’
As opposed to: ‘Hey, I noticed you are not hitting your mark at all. In fact, your numbers are way down, the vibe of your team is low. I’m not sure how long this is going to carry on for, but it’s not going to be good for the company, or you’.
Ouch! The second example creates fear. It’s threatening. It’s aggressive. It’s de-motivating. It sucks.
The first example is a tough conversation for sure, but those tough conversations are a lot easier to have if you are having daily interactions with your teams, with those you lead.
Coming away from the first example will leave that person empowered, cared for, and she knows she is valued by you, and the whole team.
Isn’t that what leadership is all about?
Looking at empathy through a relationship lens, Brene Brown has this to say; ‘Empathy is the thread that connects us to other humans. When empathy is used in everyday life, it makes us feel more connected to one another. And when we feel connected to those around us, we turn into better, more compassionate people’.
Brene and Simon are incredible authors, and I’ve learned so much from them. Their whole vibe is about loving others, adding value and treating people with incredible respect, regardless of race, colour, religion, gender etc.
I’m also a little ‘extra’ about empathy too, as both my adult children share Empathy as their top #1 Strength- which is very cool.
Both are as different as chalk and cheese, which makes this even more fascinating to me. They have different ideas about life, about money, careers, etc. But the one thing they both have in common is their incredible love for children and animals. My son could tame a wild horse, a rabid dog or a chipmunk (I’m being ridiculous, but you get me).
My daughter has the most incredible way with children, all children. She picks up on their emotions very quickly and draws them in with her smile and gentle touch. Watching them both in Africa and Guatemala has been one of my many joys in life. To watch children climb all over them, and squeezing them so tight, is an image I will carry forever in my heart and head.
This is how their empathy shows up.
I will never forget this funny little story. We were in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in 2010. We were shopping at a market and the kids had some allowance burning holes in their pockets. We also went equipped with extra ball caps, socks, flip flops and granola bars.
We were in a safe place and let the kids roam free to a certain degree. Within a very short time, Mikey came back with his sack of goodies empty. He had great intentions to bargain….but it didn’t happen. I think he paid more than asking price for his carvings, and also threw in socks. In fact, he gave the shirt of his back to a child.
Now, the little one (our daughter) was a master negotiator and was overheard saying ‘Come on, I’m a broke kid from Canada, I don’t even have a job, I need a better price’. You see! Different as chalk and cheese, and both equally amazing.
Their common thread is empathy, and their dad and I are beyond proud.
So, how do we get more empathy? How can we practice empathy in our leadership and in our relationships?
Here are a few tips:
Get outside of your own head
Practice gratitude daily
Stay away from the news
Find a child and an animal to love unconditionally, no strings attached.
Think of your legacy and step (or run!) right into your leadership with both feet.
Katy Loewen Co.
Leadership & Success Coach
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