5 Ways to Be More Empathetic as a Leader

Leader shows empathy by taking the time to discuss project details with their team member and hear their feedback

As leaders, it can be easy to get caught up in the practical side of doing business. We become so focused on our visions, plans and balance sheets that we neglect the most important element of our organizations: our teams. We forget to consult them, ask for their feedback or consider their thoughts when making decisions — we start to lack empathy.

Being empathetic is crucial to building trust and creating a strong bond with your team. It involves staying aware of and being sensitive to the thoughts, feelings and emotions of your team. By being intentional about understanding those around you, you will be able to stay more in tune with your organization and be a better, more supportive leader. But how do you do that?

Regularly check in. 

In order to be aware of your team’s thoughts and feelings, you need to have consistent, open communication. Be intentional about checking in with your team members on a regular basis. Ask how their projects are going, how they’re feeling about the workload and what you can do to help. Doing so will allow you to be more in touch with your team and know how to best support and encourage them. 

Listen attentively. 

It’s important to be fully present when checking in with your team members. Give them your undivided attention, offer nonverbal feedback where applicable and thank them for sharing their thoughts with you. Then, be intentional about asking how you can help, following up later and making changes if needed. Giving your full attention and being intentional about hearing their thoughts will help you make stronger, more authentic connections with your team members.

Try to understand their perspective. 

When listening to your team members, you may find that you don’t agree with them or don’t understand why they are feeling the way they are. Practice setting aside your opinions and judgements. Instead, focus on listening to what they’re sharing with you and try putting yourself in their shoes. Remember instances when you felt the same way and try to relate to what they’re experiencing now. Doing so will allow you to better understand their feelings and allow you to see things from their point of view.

Appreciate individuality. 

Once you begin understanding your team’s unique viewpoints, take time to appreciate them. Each one of your team members brings a special set of abilities, strengths and perspectives to the team. Be intentional about recognizing and appreciating those strengths. Do what you can to encourage those unique abilities and allow your team to put them to good use. Doing so will let you appreciate each team member and value them as individuals, while enabling them to thrive and succeed. 

Prioritize others. 

When you make decisions or get ready to put plans into action, be careful to prioritize your team. Carefully consider how the changes will affect them and ask for their feedback on what can be improved. Then, be intentional about putting their thoughts into action. By keeping their thoughts and interests in mind, you’ll be able to see from a unique perspective, and make decisions that will benefit your team and your organization as a whole. 

Open communication is crucial to effective leadership. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your team members. Doing so will build trust, allow your team to relate to you and create space for sharing and receiving feedback. From there, you can begin showing empathy, staying attentive to your team’s thoughts and valuing their strengths — allowing you to connect with them in ways you never thought possible.

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