How managers can practice empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand, or share in, the position of someone else. With management, empathy materializes as not only understanding someone’s position, but also weighing it when it comes to decision-making.
Speaker Simon Sinek writes about the importance of empathy to leadership in his book “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” In an interview with SUCCESS magazine, he points out that treating people with empathy can have a “compounding and reciprocal effect.” Science backs this up: A 2009 study found that even small acts of kindness trigger a release of oxytocin in the brain.
Some simple ways to demonstrate empathy include:

  • Ask how you can help. Drive home that you have your team’s back and you’re there for them. The simply act of saying, “Do you have what you need? How can I help?” demonstrates that you are aligned with your team and there to support.
  • Ask your team about their weekend plans, and demonstrate a genuine interest in their health and wellbeing outside of the office.
  • Get to know what employees are passionate about outside of the established parameters of their role. Infuse their personal passions into the role if and where it makes sense.
  • Surprising an employee who has been consistently logging extra hours with a personal gift, such as a pair of tickets to the next home game for their favorite team.
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