Which professional characteristic do you think LinkedIn has identified as the number-one job skill for 2020?
It’s not a hard skill, like expertise in data analysis, programming, or technology – though these are very important. But the top trait you need to look for as you hire a leading staff is empathy.
Empathy makes any profession or specialty more effective. In addition, it enriches company culture and is a catalyst for employee creativity. Empathy leads people to be fairer, and it’s a critical leadership strength.
A Universal Team Value
The word “empathy” has its origins in psychology. German psychologist Theodore Lipps coined the term “einfuhlung,” which means “in-feeling,” to categorize the emotional appreciation of another person’s feelings. Empathy is also described as the ability to understand someone else’s experience from your own individual frame of reference.
- Empathy connects team members through bonds of mutual trust. It provides deep insight into people’s motivation and offers them tools to work more effectively together.
- As noted by Dev Patrick, author of Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, “The best organizations and the ones that survive economic tsunamis are those with empathetic cultures and managers who are able to step outside themselves and walk in someone else’s shoes.”
- And in the words of Gonzaga University researcher Dianne Crampton, “Empathy is a universal team value that promotes high commitment and cooperation in the workplace. Empathy is important to successful conflict resolution because understanding diverse perspectives allows collaborative solutions to rise from chaos.”
How to Build a Culture of Empathy
Here are some thoughts on building empathy into your company culture and making it a workplace way of life:
- Provide training. Teach active listening skills. In order to understand others, team members must be good listeners. Unless you have someone skilled in empathy training, you may want to turn to an outside expert to coach existing staff and modify your program for those who come onboard in the future.
- Be selective when hiring. Make your final hiring decisions based on candidates’ character, communication skills, and willingness to work in a collaborative team environment.
- Walk the talk. Practice empathy yourself by taking time to listen to the concerns of both your staff and your patients or customers. Lend a hand, and offer genuine praise. When someone is doing well, tell them. If possible, do this when others are present.
- Help employees to feel and express empathy. Do this by not interrupting; tuning in to people’s body language; smiling and being fully present when you are with people, and using their names. Practice the 93 Percent Rule. The things we say account for only seven percent of the total message that people receive. The other 93 percent is contained in our tone of voice and body language.
Do you need assistance in instilling empathy into your workplace environment and future hiring strategies?