So how good are you as a manager at showing your emotional intelligence to your team? A lot of us would say that we’re not very good at doing this, but then we’d follow this up by saying something like “I’m not that type of person.” It turns out that you’d be wrong. We can all show emotional intelligence to our team and all we have to do is learn how to go about doing it.
The Power Of Emotional Intelligence
The good news for us managers is that recent studies have shown that the ability to show both compassion and empathy is really only 10% based on our genetic makeup. What this means for managers is that most of it can be learned. This is good news for us because empathy is very, very powerful. It has an immeasurable depth and breadth of impact, even on the person who is showing it. It’s what makes it the greatest form of emotional intelligence.
So if it’s so important, just exactly what is empathy? Empathy is when we understand others’ thoughts and feelings to help us connect with them. What you need to do is to not spend time judging or labeling others, instead you work hard to see things through their eyes. We need to understand that empathy doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with another person’s point of view. Instead, it’s about trying to understand them. There are many different forms of empathy that we can use with our teams.
When you are practicing situational empathy you need to see situations through eyes other than your own and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Rather than getting frustrated with an employee who did a poor job of delivering a presentation, seek to understand why. Rather than assuming the worst about an employee who is chronically late, take the time to understand the reason behind the tardiness.
The more you practice situational empathy, the more it becomes your default approach for almost any situation. It’s the centerpiece of what is called others-oriented leadership.
Empathy The Impact Your Decisions Can Have
Managers have to make decisions in rapid-fire fashion, sometimes in a silo. We need to be aware of how our decisions affect “everyone else,” especially those most directly affected by the decision. To include others in your decision making, it can be as easy as asking others before you make a decision or at least communicating why you made the decision you did and showing your understanding for how that decision might have “side effects.”
Empathy For What Team Members Want
As a manager you need to believe that team members want to learn and grow, do meaningful work, be valued and respected, and have career opportunities. In order to be a successful manager you need to earn the trust and love of your team, and so you need to care about all of this. And be able to show it. An important way to view the world is to believe that the company exists first to serve its employees, not the other way around.
Empathy For Things That Have Happened In The Past
As managers, when we are offered a new role we like to come in and start to promise everyone that the future is going to be shiny and new. We want them to forget about the past when we were not there and instead focus on the great things that are going to be coming their way. However, when we do this, we forget that the people that we are talking to are a part of that past. The past is what made them who they are today and they may not all resent it.
What this means for us as managers is that when we are sliding into a new role, we need to do so carefully. We have to take the time to fully understand the people that we will now be leading. We need to carefully frame how we talk about the past. We need to be sure to craft our comments about the past with respect.
What a manager wants to do is to project empathy out to others. The way that we can make this happen is by showing care and concern for how our company is seen by employees and stakeholders. The companies that get voted “Best Places to Work” more often than not have a common thread of an intentional effort to engage employees in outreach efforts and to have a clear company purpose that’s about something bigger than the company. In other words, managers care about the perception and reality of how their company shows up to external stakeholders as well as its employees. Learning and showing empathy is an unmistakable sign of emotional intelligence. Face it – it’s also just plain intelligent.
What All Of This Means For You
As managers, in order to connect with our teams we need to be able to show them emotional intelligence. Although a lot of us would say that we are no good at showing this, it turns out that emotional intelligence is something that we can learn – we don’t have to be born with it.
Emotional intelligence is all about empathy. Empathy is when we understand others’ thoughts and feelings to help us connect with them. There are a lot of different types of empathy that we need to be able to master as managers. When you are practicing situational empathy you need to see situations through eyes other than your own and avoiding knee-jerk reactions. We need to have empathy to understand that the decisions that we make may have an impact, both good and bad, on our team. Managers need to be able to believe that their workers want to grow and become better. As we assume new roles in the company, we need to use our empathy to understand that what happened in the past may mean a great deal to our new team and we need to treat it with respect. In order to show emotional intelligence we need to show care and concern for how our company is seen by others.
In order to become a better manager, we need to learn how to show emotional intelligence. A key part of emotional intelligence is empathy and the good news about this is that it is something that we can learn. If we take the time to become more emotionally intelligent, then we’ll become better managers and everyone will benefit.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that it is ever possible for a manager to show too much empathy?
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
The goal of every manager is to become a respected manager. This is a fine goal to have, but just exactly how can we make this happen? It turns out that one important step in getting your team to respect you is for you to make the practice of transparency important. Why should you bother with this? Well, give some thought to doing the opposite thing. Think about the last time you caught someone in the act of not being transparent. Since then has your trust in that person ever fully recovered? Clearly transparency is something that we need to work on as managers. How can we do this?