Joanne Trotta - Sep 24, 2019

The Real-World Benefits of Empathetic Leadership

Empathy is not just about feelings, emotions and connecting more effectively with others, although that would be reason enough to take it more seriously. Empathy delivers real-world benefits to organisations and is related directly to societal and organisational success in measurable ways.

Sadly, some of the meaning and value of empathy has declined over the last several decades. According to research, people are becoming less concerned about the lives of others and are challenged to understand perspectives that are different from their own.

Alongside the decline for empathy in our culture and in our workplaces, however, is a desire for change. People are waking up to the fact that compassion is fading as a cultural value, and there is a great craving for a more empathetic approach from people in leadership positions.

People feel it in their hearts. Their intuition tells them that understanding is what is needed to make their experiences more meaningful, yet making the changes that would bring increased empathy to our culture and workplaces is not easy.

I believe one of the ways to address this issue is to describe the positive benefits that organisations can experience by instituting more empathetic cultures. Compassion brings clear, distinct improvements for individuals and organisations. When you can begin to see the connections between empathy and organisational success, you can begin to implement them effectively in your world.

What are some of these real, measurable benefits? Let’s take a look!

Empathy Improves Productivity

Employees perform better when they can empathise with the people on the other end of their work. Humans beings have a tendency to work harder when they are made aware of the positive impact their labor has on others.

Studies have revealed this to be true in a number of cases. For example, when radiologists are presented with photos of their patients, they are much more likely to interpret test results with greater clarity and detail. Empathy researchers have also found that cooks are more likely to create tastier meals when they have seen the faces of their customers.

Connecting with other human beings brings out the best in everyone, so it should be no surprise that productivity improves when empathy becomes an essential part of organisational culture.

Empathy Boosts Organisational Growth

You and I know that business is all about people and relationships. Healthy organisations are those that are staffed with talented, hardworking, open-minded and positive individuals, and those people are not always easy to find.

When leaders create cultures of empathy, it makes organisations more attractive to the best prospects and the brightest minds. People want to work in places where they feel appreciated. A workplace culture built on compassion ensures that the finest employees are retained and that the best possible candidates for employment are interested in working there.

Leaders who institute this type of culture see the benefit in their engagement scores and in their bottom-line results. Great people do great work, and talented, driven people are attracted to organisations built on a foundation of empathy.

Empathy Makes Collaboration Easier

Project Aristotle” was Google’s endeavour to learn what makes great teams within organisations. What the project found was that successful teams are not necessarily made up of the smartest, most brilliant people. Instead, Google discovered that empathy makes teams more collaborative and successful.

When employees are skilled at reading nonverbal cues and detecting emotional states of others, they are more likely to address issues that may be impacting their teammates. This type of communication is rooted in empathy, and it has been shown to strengthen teamwork, morale and engagement.

Additionally, when people practice compassion through the act of listening – rather than feeling the need to speak more – the intelligence level of the whole group rises, aiding collaboration and boosting productivity.

Empathy Brings out the Best Within Diverse Workforces

One of the great aspects of modern organisations is the way workforces have become more diverse. When different perspectives are brought together under the same organisational roof, everyone benefits. Unfortunately, unproductive conflicts sometimes surface, making it difficult for members of diverse teams to work together.

Empathy is one of the keys to unlocking the power of diversity. Using tools like the Emergenetics® Profile and Meeting of the Minds workshop can make it easier for employees to understand the different ways their colleagues prefer to think and behave – and appreciate it!

When an organisational culture values compassion and understanding, employees are more likely to embrace one another in more meaningful ways. They are more willing to find common points of interest that bind them together as individuals who are striving to achieve the same end goal. They are also more willing to value their differences and see them as sources of strength.

Empathy Improves Reputations

How is your organisation’s reputation built? Most likely, it is constructed through human interactions. When your organisation's customer-facing personnel treat people with empathy, it has an amazingly positive effect on the public’s perception.

Take Ryanair, for example. In 2014, the airline instituted its “Always Getting Better” program, in which it strived to improve its public reputation. The company removed restrictions and made life easier for passengers. Essentially, they tuned in to the wants and needs of their customers on emotional, financial and practical levels. As a result, the company improved its reputation and also increased profits by more than 30 percent!

According to the candid words of Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, “If I’d only known being nice to customers was going to work so well, I’d have started many years ago.” The lesson? Don’t wait to make your organisation more empathetic!

You Can Be the Driving Force of Empathy Within Your Organisation

As you read through the above examples of how compassion benefits organisations, you probably began to wonder if you have what it takes to drive a rise in empathy within your professional world. Here’s the truth: you do have what it takes to be a more effective, empathetic leader and to build employees and teams that value understanding and compassion!

If you’re wondering how you can begin to create a more empathetic culture within your organisation, I would love to talk with you!

Fill out the form below to connect with the Emergenetics team about building a culture of empathy in your organisation.

This article was originally published in Emergenetics International Blog The Real-World Benefits of Empathetic Leadership". 

Written by Joanne Trotta