Your team needs empathy in leadership to earn loyalty and inspire great ideas that can improve your business. This guide will help you determine where your company culture can incorporate more empathy.
Do your team members feel safe sharing feedback that is different from what others may think? Do they feel valued as individuals and appreciated for their contributions? Are they empowered or burdened by the workflow and feedback given by team leaders?
Let’s do a health check on how connected you or your leadership team is with your employees. Your connection with your team depends on three parts: understanding, listening, and communicating with your team.
How well do you understand individual team members?
Take the time to understand what motivates your employees and what goals they have. Some team members may want more time off for family, while others may want more responsibility to prove themselves for a promotion.
By understanding your team, you can align business and project goals with their needs when you get the chance. That way, your team will be more motivated to succeed.
Encourage team members to share how they are doing regularly
Especially now in the era of COVID-19, team members may be affected by friends or family who are more vulnerable to infection, or even financial troubles. Make sure your team knows they can share what’s going on with you privately.
Show by doing
Open up about aspects of your professional and personal life so your team members feel more comfortable sharing their own internal thoughts and feelings. Whether you are trying a new business strategy, or enjoying a new show, opening up communication to your team shows them it’s okay to as well.
Leaders can organise meaningful team sharing sessions on not only what tasks were done, but any feedback to workflow or insights on the process.
Take notes if you need to in order to remember the comments they share with you. Show them you value their opinion by mirroring their statements, and ask questions to learn more about their thought process.
Let team members know they can book time with you or their manager to talk about anything in their life that may affect their work. The more you try and understand your team’s perspective, the easier it will be for you to communicate with them in a way they can best understand.
Showing that you care and want to understand your team’s experiences will help you get feedback that can improve your workflow and business goals. What is a nuisance for your employees to do? What processes can be improved to avoid wasting time and energy? The answers to these questions can be unlocked through open communication and feedback sessions.
How well do your team leaders take feedback?
Times are changing even without a pandemic. Observing trends in your industry and being in touch with customer experiences is a must for your business to succeed. Oftentimes, team members on the ground may have insights on ideas for growth.
Your team leaders need to understand that and build a culture where looking for ways to improve is an expectation.
Make open feedback sessions routine
Building a culture with open communication strengthens the relationship between team members. Sharing both ideas and problems should be commonplace. You want a team that will be honest with you if an aspect of your business is not working, and feel safe sharing suggestions to improve.
Open up about your mistakes and what you’ve learned
Show your team by example that having humility about mistakes and taking steps to improve is expected. Encourage your team leaders to share things they’ve done wrong and learned from so the whole team can learn from the experience.
Company and project retros
After a project is finished, your team should get together to give feedback on what went well, what could be improved, and what they would want to do differently next time. This can also be done monthly or quarterly whether there are new projects or not.
During this session, everyone should be able to share their input on sticky notes or digital brainstorming platforms like Miro so that it is not the loudest or best speaker on the team who talks the longest.
Throw “this is how we’ve always done it” out the window
In order to adapt to change, your team needs to be on the lookout for ways to improve processes regardless of how something was done in the past. Just because a senior manager has spent a decade using excel sheets to schedule employees doesn’t mean your team should not investigate a better way.
Your team may know of better technology that will save you time and money. For example, Hyre is a free shift scheduling software that saves managers 10-20 hours a week on shift management and temp staff hiring.
When a team member is experiencing a blocker in project goals or workflow processes that are time-consuming and outdated, your team leaders should know it. Employee satisfaction surveys are one way to do it, but regular personal communication is important too.
When team leaders sees team members setting a good example, they should acknowledge it. Feedback is critical for curbing bad practices and encouraging good ones.
How can team leaders communicate feedback that empowers your team to succeed?
The way you and your team leaders communicate expectations and give feedback is critical. When new team members start, do they have a good idea of what their role is as well as what tasks they should prioritise? Do leaders follow up with their own responsibilities and lead by example?
Feedback must be given so your team is aligned with both business and culture goals.
Give continuous feedback on expectations
Culture isn’t only what we do, but what we don’t do. Good work needs to be appreciated, but it is as important to address problems if a team member is not pulling their weight.
Sometimes leaders want to be kind to team members that are not the right fit, but in doing so, they may be harming the rest of the team’s productivity and energy levels. Set your team for success by maintaining strong communication on the quality of work you expect.
Identify role models
Pay attention to those who give more time and energy, taking initiative, and more tasks. Team members who are willing to share ideas and do more should be appreciated for their contributions.
Encourage this behaviour by sharing specific things they did as an example to your team. Of course, you and your leaders should also be showing by example.
No one should have to babysit
If you have a team member who is constantly underperforming and putting their responsibilities on to others, have a conversation with them. It’s possible they are having trouble adjusting, but gently remind them what their responsibilities are and the level of initiative you expect.
If after a few weeks there is not a big enough change, you owe it to your other team members to take the weight off of them. Here is how to fire someone with empathy.
Leadership is everything
Your team leaders need to be exhibiting the attitude and values that you want for your business. They are in a leadership position, and they will affect the way the rest of the team responds.
Ensure they are communicative, take initiative, and are willing to understand their team. New team members should find mentorship in their leaders and get a clear idea of their expectations from them.
A key indicator of an employee’s happiness and success is the mentorship they receive from team leaders. A manager can make or break an employee’s experience. Do they make your employee’s lives easier or harder? Make sure the concept of empathy in leadership resonates with your team leaders. Otherwise, you alone will not be able to change the culture for the better.
Empathy in leadership means understanding your team, listening to their feedback, and communicating your own expectations regularly. This guideline is a reference to help you and your leaders reflect on the level of empathy in your company culture and act on gaps they see.
If you find your culture stronger in one aspect than the others, make sure to foster a balance between understanding, listening, and communicating.
About the Author
Jacqueline Lee is a freelance writer and content creator for Hyre, an all-in-one employee scheduling app. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her making comics about her cats and getting lost in a good book.