Simon Sinek puts it beautifully, as always – in this instance that ”empathy is about being concerned with the human being not just their output”. This is synonymous with the Legitimate Leadership argument that what people at work want, more than anything else, is to be convinced that the person they report to directly has a genuine and sincere interest in their wellbeing as a human being, not a human resource. Sinek also makes the point that the need to be cared for is true of everyone at work irrespective of their age. Legitimate Leadership goes further: we say that the need to be cared for is truly universal. An illiterate miner working 3.8km underground and the CEO of a global business are of like mind on this. Irrespective of nationality, industry, gender, background and age we all have the same expectations of those in authority – namely, that they care for us and enable us to grow.
OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: We do not practice empathy.
What doesn’t empathy look like?
You walk into somebody’s office and say, “Your numbers have been down for the third quarter in a row. You have to pick them up otherwise I cannot guarantee what the future will look like.”
How inspired you think that person is to come to work the next day?
Here’s what empathy looks like: You walk into somebody’s office and say, “Your numbers have been down for the third quarter in a row. Are you okay? I’m worried about you. What’s going on?”
We all have performance issues. Maybe someone’s child is sick; maybe they are having problems in their marriage. Maybe one of their parents is dying. We don’t know what is going on in their lives and of course it will affect performance in their work.
Empathy is about being concerned with the human being, not just his/her output.
Our work world has changed over the past 20-30 years. We are suffering the side-effects of business theories left over from the 1980s and 1990s. They are bad for people and they are bad for business.
You need to create an environment which is safe enough that someone can raise their hand and say “I don’t know what I’m doing, you’ve given me a job and I haven’t been trained to do it/I need help/I made a mistake/I screwed something up/I’m scared/I’m worried.”
All of these things, no one would ever admit to inside a company because it puts a target on your head in case there’s another round.
And how can a company ever do well if no one is ever willing to admit that they made a mistake/are scared/don’t know what they are doing.
So we’ve created a culture in which everyone comes to work and lies, hides and fakes. And we are asking our younger generation to work and succeed and find themselves, build their confidence, overcome their addiction to technology and build strong relationships at work.
We keep saying to them ‘but you are the future leaders’. But we are the leaders now! We are in control! What are we doing?
Empathy means if there is an entire generation struggling, maybe it’s not them. It’s like the only common thing in all my failed relationships is – me!
We say, “We just can’t get the right performance out of our people”. But maybe it’s you! Not them. They’re not difficult to understand. They are human beings like the rest of us, trying to find their way, trying to work in a place where they feel that someone cares about them as a human being.
And by the way, that’s what we all want – it’s not even generational.