Empathy is something we associate more often with social interactions. It’s what some of you may feel when you see a sad movie, hear inspiring stories, or listen to someone talk about an experience they’ve had and it moves you or you can feel what they feel. It could relate to your own experiences or maybe you are just naturally more of an empathetic person. It’s not something that you think you should put on your resume or LinkedIn profile, so, how does empathy fit into the business equation? Let’s start with what it is…
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Clifton’s StrengthsFinder Definition: People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people’s feeling by imagining themselves in others’ lives or situations.
What better way to start a post about Empathy, than to read a line by a poet on the matter? Poetry enables us to feel a story rather than just read words strung together. This line, by Alexander Pope, happens to work for us on multiple levels; not only does it pull at our heartstrings a bit through his rhyme and language choice, but by the wisdom he shares on empathy, itself. Essentially, he is saying that we can learn a lot from putting ourselves in others’ shoes and seeing their situation for what it is rather than focusing on their faults, while also hoping others give us that same mercy.
How we use empathy in daily business
Empathy is a great characteristic to have in many types of businesses, especially where you an make a direct and important impact on someone. It can also be a good practice to have when you interact with your coworkers or employees. It’s easy to get caught up in where the bottom line is at and sticking to processes, but seeing your peers and coworkers for who they are what they feel can actually help in how you interact with them. It can even improve upon the less emotional things, like how much you sold last month or how many new customers you gained.
Video – Community leaders and business owners on Meador Staffing history and culture
We have a knack for hiring internal employees who listen well and understand our candidates’ and clients’ needs. Not just when filling a position or find a job, but in a way where we connect with them to understand what is important and what drives them in their own missions in life and careers. To some candidates or clients, it can be about success or reaching goals, to others it is about taking care of their family or something greater. Our team is exceptional at applying it with candidates, though. There are times where we have to let an applicant know that they didn’t get a position. Even in uncomfortable situations, they are treated no differently, and politely coached on how to avoid the issue in the future. It’s essential in our offices to treat everyone the same…as if we were in their shoes. We even try to match candidates according to the culture at client companies. This has to be a good match to bring to success to all involved. Listening to and knowing our clients pain points helps us create the best matches. This is our way of applying empathy.
Sharing employee strengths
We actually have about twelve internal employees with this theme, many in our corporate office and others in direct contact with our applicants. It really makes an impact on their experience with us. We do use the Clifton StrengthsFinder method mentioned earlier (if you haven’t heard about it, you should definitely take the time to read about it) as a way to learn more about what drives our employees and applicants. We focus on the top 5 strengths to see how they might fit in with the team and culture and what skills may complement those who already work with us. As a part of our hiring process, we can better understand them through this evaluation. Once they are hired, we display those five strengths on everyone’s desks. This helps each of us choose the best ways to interact, speak, engage, debate, discuss, email, and how to build a positive peer relationship in general. We can understand who they are.
You see, Empathy the definition and Empathy the Strength are two different things all together. Anyone can empathize with someone, but not everyone has the ability to sense emotion of those around them. Those with Empathy in their Top 5 can feel what others are feeling as if the emotions were their own. They intuitively see the world through others’ eyes and share their perspectives. They perceive people’s pain or joy – sometimes before it is even expressed. Their instinctive ability to understand is powerful. They can hear unvoiced questions and anticipate needs. Where others grapple for words, they seem to find the right things to say and strike the right tone. As a result, they help people express their feelings – to themselves as well as to others. They help people give voice to their emotional lives. (Gallup)
How leaders can use empathy
As a leader, you have plenty of chances to use empathy in your decision-making. An employee might be going through something and you need to counsel them or maybe you’ve found out that they need advice on how to handle a client or peer situation. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but if you understand that they have these feelings and maybe why they have them, you can more effectively communicate and advise them. Let’s dig deeper into it-
It’s easy for us to discard Empathy as a strength because we are often taught that emotion is a weakness. What does Empathy look like in the arsenal of a leader? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for your manager to be able to instinctively understand the unvoiced questions of your team? To anticipate the need? To have the right tone and say the right things when your team is under stress?
These are just a few of Empathy’s “Power” and “Edge” traits in the Clifton method. It’s not about feeling pity for the person’s predicament. That would be sympathy. It is to simply understand them. Along with the leader’s other talents in their Top 5, Empathy can be an incredible buffer for some of the more “unemotional” strength themes like Command, Analytical, or Focus.
Applying empathy in the real world
Empathy with Command sounds like this, “I can sense emotions that others may not notice. When I express a strong emotion, it is clear to everyone and delivered with everyone else’s in mind.” Empathy with Analytical says, “My approach to life involves both rational intelligence of my mind and the emotional intelligence of my heart.” Empathy and Focus sounds like, “My intentional concentration on achieving a specific goal never keeps me from being emotionally sensitive or expressive.”
As you can see, Empathy is an incredibly powerful strength theme in the Clifton StrengthFinder’s list of 34 themes. In a season where being thankful is at the forefront of our minds, lean on those with Empathy talents to help you define what thankfulness means. Through their talents, they will be able to help you put into perspective the things that are truly important, and that is the people around you.
To schedule a seminar with your employees at a Meador Staffing training room or in your own to learn how to apply the Clifton StrengthsFinder method, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about hiring employees recruited through our talented teams, click here.
Ryan Meador-Director of Development, Meador Staffing Services
Heather Wright-Director of Marketing, Meador Staffing Services