REAL STORIES: A LEADERSHIP SOLUTION THAT MAKES A REAL DIFFERENCE
Chief Executive Officer
Senior OD Catalyst & Marketing Specialist
In this issue, we interviewed a client who took deliberate steps to develop their leaders in Empathetic Leadership.
While doing a strategic review, the senior leaders of this organisation had realised that while they were at peak performance as an organisation, it was equally important to pay attention to people engagement dynamics. The workforce was changing and they had employees of different generations - the leaders could not continue what they were doing and hope to still engage employees. In addition, the people who were top performers were declining in their performance and feeling discouraged because of the lack of empathy from their leaders.
With that objective in mind, the leadership team took up ownership to look at their behaviours first, to create a tangible behavioural shift that would humanise the work environment more. They embarked on a leadership solution that involved equipping on empathy, the first milestone in their development journey.
The PACE team first did pre-work with this group of leaders to understand the context of this particular development need and why empathetic leadership became a priority. After the equipping session, we worked with the HR team to recommend and put in place robust sustenance efforts. Instead of solely relying on email reminders, weekly check-ins and recap of the workshop content helped to reinforce retention of learning according to social behavioural change theories. The leaders gave feedback and found these steps very helpful in their practice of empathy in the workplace.
Before the second module in this leadership solution, qualitative data collection was done through face to face and phone interviews, with the purpose of collecting tangible outcomes from the first module’s learning. In the upcoming weeks, there will also be email greetings from the PACE facilitators who have committed to walk with them. In addition, the CEO will be writing a personal email to encourage these leaders to continue to put into practice what they have learned.
The following responses reflect some of the collective insights that were gathered.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR PEOPLE AT YOUR ORGANISATION TO BE EMPATHETIC?
"It is a generational need of the new workforce. I can see the change - when I was just an engineer, we tend to take it whenever the boss was hard on us but it is different now.”
"I think that there is a need to show employees that the top management does care and wants to change to make things better. The principle is that when you engaged the heart, the rest follows - hence, empathy comes first."
"I think that is it very hard to strike a balance, even for myself. For example, when there is a reality of meeting deadlines and people miss it; how do we practice empathy in that instance? We are after all operating in a result-driven culture and economy."
"When you deal with people, they are emotional beings and hence, you need people skills - empathy is one of the critical people skills for one to be able to connect, engage and be relevant to people."
HOW DOES YOUR ORGANISATION REINFORCE THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY?
"There are observations that in meetings now, the people aspect and considerations about individuals come in stronger during decision making as compared to meetings of the past."
"Our primary focus was to create awareness of this need amongst the leadership team, and this is also why we are strongly driving the post-workshop learning component. We will also look at the next level down, at the people managers who are non-managers (supervisors). We recognise that this is only the first stage."
"After the workshop, we started to see changes in some of the leaders in embracing empathy. Role modelling from the top can help others to duplicate the same treatment to others. Before the workshop, no one talked about empathy."
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE THE TANGIBLE OUTCOMES OF AN EMPATHETIC WORK FORCE?
"When leaders encourage and practice empathy, staff will want to speak out more and will open up more with leaders. This is a pathway for engagement."
"Once relationships are strong, there will be better understanding amongst the team and leaders will also gain respect. People will also start to take on additional responsibilities as part of their discretionary efforts."
"When you take care of your staff, your staff will take care of your customers and that will take care of your business.” From these first-hand insights, it is evident that there is an organisation-wide culture of empathy that is being built steadily, starting from the top leaders walking the talk.
Tangible ROI from this solution have been observed even as all stakeholders recognise that this is a milestone in a journey that will continue to be cascaded within the organisation. There are already plans next year for the team leads and operation leads to also undergo this Empathetic Leadership solution.
Is your organisation desiring to create a culture of empathy? Find out more about how our solutions can help you at firstname.lastname@example.org.