It is said that “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”. Imagine what would happen when you are working your plan to hit your numbers, and a loved one suddenly becomes critically ill. Can you just cut off and soldier on? Most people will turn their attention to supporting their loved one. We are human after all, and part of being human is to love and care. But what happens to our performance at work? How likely are you to still hit your numbers? That’s right, not likely. You need help and support at this time.
What if that person is in your team, and you see their numbers dropping further and further behind target. Do you pull them them directly into a performance conversation? After all, this person is a ‘resource’ in a ‘role’, whose performance is measured by ‘KPI’s’. (This is language I still hear in my work as a coach). Or, do you think to yourself, “This person is normally a top performer, there must be something going on”. This is called empathy, the simple act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, which is at the heart of leadership.
Employees are more than ‘human doings’; they are human beings with lives that extend beyond their performance. How leaders engage with them affects their sense of psychological safety, their trust in the leader (and the organisation), and influences their engagement and the discretionary effort they bring to their role. As a leader, you choose how you engage. Do you go straight to the “Produce the numbers or else” conversation, or do you show empathy and say “Your numbers are down. Are you OK? I’m worried about you”. Simon Sinek beautifully demonstrates these two approaches.
As a leader, you might think “Of course I am empathetic”, but how do your team members feel? What are their perspectives? Could theirs be different to yours, and if so, why? Running a 360 can give you objective data on how you are ‘landing’ as a leader.
A resource I often share with clients is this thoughtful HBR article that asks, “Is it better to be loved, or feared?”, suggesting four styles of engagement (and their likely responses), through a combination of high and low strength (competence) and warmth.
As a leader, how clear are you on how empathetic you are, and whether your dominant engagement style is the most effective? If you are not as sure as you would like to be, let me help you. Together we can set up a 360, selecting a range of stakeholders that will give you the most objective feedback. We can work through the report, looking at what the gaps are, and why, and what you can do to change those perceptions. With all that discretionary effort on the table, which ultimately affects your performance KPI’s, why not?
Want to explore your level of empathy, and possibilities to increase your engagement – Book a No-Cost Introduction Call to discuss crafting a coaching programme just for you
Aa professionally qualified executive and leadership coach, I have worked with hundreds of leaders over the last 15 years, passionately supporting them to close gaps and identify opportunities in their leadership practice, turning awareness into the wisdom and action to become a radically human leader. Further information and testimonials on LinkedIn.