In the current business environment dominated by technology, social media and artificial Intelligence, companies must recognize the importance of being receptive to the needs of the stakeholders, while maintaining a focus on its people. Empathy is a critical leadership skill—one that helps you influence others in your organization, anticipate stakeholders’ concerns, respond to social media followers, run better change management process and of course to reach high results and performance. Many profitability companies mainly from the technological sector have understood this reality, the index of Empathy showed it.
Empathy is the capacity that is defined as the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. It is a critical driver of overall performance that in accordance with research from DDI (Development Dimensions International) boosts productivity improves cultural competence and leadership, elevates customer satisfaction and is ultimately a competitive advantage.
Empathetic leadership is the ability of leaders to understand, relate to and be sensitive to employees, colleagues, customers and communities. However, it is not a simple path, on the contrary this path is challenging as it forces one to change many paradigms but also as stated in Jeremy Rifkin’s book, the empathic civilization: The race to global consciousness in a world in crisis: “We are beginning to learn that an empathic moment requires both intimate engagement and a measure of detachment. If our feelings completely spill over into another’s feelings or their feelings overwhelm our psyche, we lose a sense of self and the ability to imagine the other as if they were us. Empathy is a difficult balancing act. One has to be open to experiencing another’s plight as if it were one’s own but not be engulfed by it, at the expense of drowning out the self’s ability to be a unique and separate being. Empathy requires a porous boundary between I and thou that allows the identity of two beings to mingle in a shared mental space.”
Simon Sinek, an expert in inspirational leadership, adds: “These little considerations for others have a building effect. The daily practice of putting the well-being of others first has a compounding and reciprocal effect in relationships.” At the same time, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said in an interview published in the German Focus Magazine on January 27th, 2018 that empathy is a crucial part of the Microsoft agenda and of course part of their success. Empathy is key even if it is associated with cheesy imagery.
This approach and understanding is being implemented by several notable companies. A few years ago, there was an index created which measures empathy in companies, that has continued to this date with an annual report. The Empathy Index seeks to answer the question: Which companies are successfully creating empathetic cultures? These are the companies that retain the best people, create environments where diverse teams thrive, and ultimately reap the greatest financial rewards. According to Belinda Parmar, CEO of The Empathy Business, “Enlightened individuals understand that empathy correlates with performance.” In her words, more empathetic companies make more money.
6 out of the 10 most empathetic companies in the global Empathy index 2016 belong to the technology, but why? In Parmar’s words “The tech industry is a lot younger and forward thinking than most industries. Silicon Valley is the global empathy hub, these high-performers are fresh, open and innovative brands”.
Moreover, the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings (defined by market capitalization). Without a doubt, these figures convey a powerful message that should be reinforced so that empathy is actively promoted in our circles of influence.
I know there are a lot of skeptical managers that challenge this result, but we should not overlook the fact that some of the most prominent business executives with profitable revenues in their companies deeply believe in empathy. As an example, Henry Ford one said “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
I hope this article raises awareness of the potential benefits of having empathy at the center of organizational culture to enhance relationships inside and outside the companies (customer- centric culture). It is important to realize the correlation between high empathy and high economics results, productivity and positive environments. At the end, how you react and connect with others impacts your ability to make a difference.
There are many tools to develop and help to display empathy but I would like to refer you to one that is very useful called the Empathy Map. It can help gain a deeper insight into their stakeholders. This is a powerful tool when you are working in designing new products, processes or simply working with a person, team or organization. In my next post I will elaborate further on this.
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