In these uncertain times, employees want managers who lead with confidence but not with an iron fist. Ideally, it’s a time for leaders and managers to show empathy, relatability, and understanding, with a healthy dose of authority. Since hitting the right balance in this regard isn’t easy or obvious, here are several tips that will help.
1. Be honest
First and foremost, if you want to be seen as an empathetic leader, you’ll have to be honest. Also, if you want honesty from your team, you need to be ready to offer it first. Even when it’s not comfortable to do so, being honest is always the right choice. Show the opposite and you shouldn’t be surprised if you’ll have to deal with dishonest team members. You get what you give.
2. Listen before speaking
Listening is a skill to be practiced often. You need to be able to hear your team in order to understand them, and understanding leads to empathy. So, when you communicate with your team, stop whatever you’re doing and focus with the intention of truly listening. Be open and receptive. Ask open-ended questions. Maybe even take notes. It’s important to take an active interest in your team’s ideas and goals. If your team is taking the time to give you ideas, chances are they care as much as you do about the company and its goals.
3. Get in the trenches
Be willing to join your team to do whatever needs to get done. Barking orders won’t get you anywhere. Your team should see that you’re capable of doing their job if they can’t. Be the pinch hitter that’s needed just in case. But know when to pull back—when things are going well and it’s time to allow normal activity to resume.
4. Delegate and trust
Doing everything yourself is counterproductive. Sharing is caring, but there’s a limit. Don’t be taken advantage of. You shouldn’t have to finish what your team started. A deadline is deadline is a deadline, no matter what. Teach your team and show them how to handle responsibilities you wish to pass on to them. Get busy discovering new ways to generate revenue if that’s in your job description. Make sure your skills are being used for their highest good.
5. Be fair
Fairness gets you everything. Never play favorites. Know your employees well enough to know what motivates them and also what discourages them. Know how to handle both ends of the spectrum. Also important is to know how to communicate with more introverted members of your team. Be patient. Again, listen, ask open-ended questions, and take an active interest in every member of your team.
6. Allow time for feedback
People learn and grow from feedback. If you’re unhappy with a team member’s performance, you need to meet with them and discuss the issue. If you say nothing, then most likely nothing will change. It's possible the employee doesn’t know about the issue or doesn’t care. A meeting will address either issue.
A final note
Studies show that empathy is important to being a strong manager. But it’s also important to remember that being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean being better liked. Your ultimate goal isn’t to be liked but to earn your team’s trust and respect.
Angela Civitella is founder of Intinde and a certified business leadership coach.
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