What they’ve learnt: attention and empathy

This week, we’re taking another look at the things our clients have learnt throughout the time we’ve been working together. This time, we’re focusing on how paying close attention to our team and exercising our empathy muscles can make us better leaders.

Glen Wade-Ferrell, Commercial Manager within the Department of Defence, found that his 360 review showed him just how important empathising with his team was so he made it his mission to really work on it and utilise empathy more with his team.

“My staff recognise I am very busy but we all are and I owe it to them to give them my undivided attention,” he said, reflecting on his use of empathy before working with People Make the Difference.

What is empathy and why does it matter at all for a leader?

Empathy is an important factor in all human relationships, regardless of whether they are personal or professional. Empathy is the ability to recognise and share other people’s feelings but it doesn’t just stop there. However, it’s not all about feeling; your feelings need to translate into real verbal or behavioural actions so that the people around you know and feel that they are being empathised with.

A study by the Center for Creative Leadership showed that there was a positive relationship between empathetic emotion and job performance all over the world and this relationship is the foundation for a strong, cohesive and high-performing team.

How can I empathise more as a leader?

Not everyone is born with empathetic tendencies but those muscles are something that can be exercised and built up over time. It’s worth spending the time building up those muscles – if you’re not listening to your team, you’ll find it hard to understand their side of the story.

One thing that Glen has found helpful is taking time each month to have one-on-one discussions with each of his staff:

“I can give undivided attention and my team feel more comfortable seeking advice and support in a more secure and less exposed environment. My team have become more accountable as it’s their responsibility to bring discussion topics to the sessions, not mine.”

Not only are one-on-one discussions helpful, it’s important to be an active listener at all times and it’s important to pay close attention to each of your team members to find out what really makes them tick.

“I have taken an active interest in understanding what is important to my staff, what drives them and what bothers them,” Glen added.

Although, like most people, he had a good base of emotional intelligence (EQ), Glen knew that he could push himself further to focus more on his EQ  to boost his leadership skills and help his team to grow.

“The main benefit about understanding your own EQ capability is spotting the EQ capability (or lack thereof) in others and, by seeing how others display self-awareness and self-monitor their emotional responses it improves my own EQ capabilities and makes me not only a better person but a better leader.”

So, what are you waiting for? Start paying attention and really listening to your team.

If you’re ready to start boosting your emotional intelligence, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.