Ensuring business continuity starts with human connection.
Historically people have tended to evaluate leaders based on hard skills and qualifications. Softer skills like empathy haven’t always made the list. But, the global pandemic has changed virtually everything, including what we look for, and what we need from, our leaders.
We’re all going through this pandemic, but we’re not all in the same boat. This is impacting people in all different ways, and as leaders we can’t overlook that. We need to prioritize empathetic leadership: the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and use that as a jumping off point for leading, rallying and motivating those around you.
We are all leaders – be it at work, or in our families or in our communities – and how we lead in these challenging times will have a ripple effect. Here are some thoughts on how to approach empathetic leadership:
This may sound obvious, but being empathetic starts with being human. Take the time to check in with people – how are they handling their physical and mental health? How are their families, their parents, their friends? So often we rush through these questions as small talk at the beginning of a meeting, but make them meaningful. Start by sharing your own updates – the good, the bad, the vulnerable – to give others permission to share too.
Being human also means that you recognize team members as holistic individuals, not just as employees. Our colleagues are partners, parents, siblings, friends and neighbors, and we should embrace that instead of ignoring it.
For example, at this point, we’ve probably all been on a Zoom call where someone’s kid (or pet) interrupts. You don’t have to ignore that… I have a running “game” with a colleague’s son where he’ll pop into our calls, say hi, and we’ll send each other emojis back and forth. These little things help us connect as people, and not just as coworkers.
Lead with flexibility.