Can empathy really hurt your career? Read this and let’s see what you think.
“Ken was a mid-level manager at a recruitment firm. Folks saw Ken as a “good guy.” He was well-liked by his employees and on good terms with upper-management. His team felt comfortable confiding in him; they often used his open-door policy to share their personal problems.
When Ken got word from upper-management that his team brought in the lowest numbers that quarter, he immediately knew the cause. Caitlin—previously the team’s top-earner—had been off her game for months. Her father’s poor health had caused her to miss work and diminished her productivity and focus in the office. Ansh’s work had also been suffering. Ken knew Ansh had been through a break-up recently and wasn’t taking it well.
In both instances, Ken hadn’t interfered. He knew the company’s bottom-line was being affected, but his empathy for Caitlin and Ansh kept him from giving them critical feedback, crucial for getting them back on track. Ken simply hoped their lackluster results would improve with time. They didn’t. And Ken’s reputation at the firm suffered.
We often talk about leaders who lack emotional intelligence, but a distortion in EI can also go too far in a leader. Empathy is a critical competency for understanding others’ points of view and finding common ground with people whose experiences differ greatly from our own. But great leaders also balance their empathy with strengths in other competencies.
Leaders who have a mindset that empathy does not allow needed feedback may have deficits in related EI competencies, such as conflict management. Ken’s empathy made him well-liked, but his misinterpretation of a leader’s role and what empathy means led him to avoid tough decision-making as well as not giving negative feedback.”
Coleman makes a good point, and opens a much bigger question he didn’t deal with.
If you have a culture of truth-telling, you would avoid the problem Goleman points out.
Actually, I think it’s more conflict avoidance, which is RAMPANT in corporate america.
Empathy isn’t about engaging or not engaging. It’s about understanding another’s viewpoint, being aware of your emotional landscape, mutual vulnerability and it can be used as an interruption of power.
Great leaders don’t avoid discomfort and they consistently engage in difficult conversations. They use empathy as part of their process to understand what’s going on and to get more accurate information.
There are a very small amount of companies who have a culture like this. And I’ve never seen a large organization prioritize enough to make it a reality. This conflict avoidance makes a huge negative impact on the bottom line and key metrics.
What should you be asking? You need to be truth-telling and being direct so you can get more accurate information and dispel stories that hurt your relationships, performance, leadership, and collaboration. Every manager should be asking their employees on a monthly basis,”Rate your work product (customize for your work function & challenge you are focusing on) on a scale 1-10, one being poor and Reb being extraordinary. Why do you give yourself that number (and what data supports that)? What do you need to do differently to move it closer to a 10? What’s preventing you from doing that?”
I had a fantastic time last week speaking on building the highest performing teams at the Logistical Labs Customer Event in Chicago. We also played my game, Cards Against Mundanity, a team build game where participants share their life experiences through questions and answers in small groups from 4 to 12 people. It’s similar to Cards Against Humanity, but more fun, more vulnerable, and more about your life. It’s amazing to see how animated people get, their voices getting louder, everyone leaning in, smiles on their faces, and it’s hard to get them stopping talking!
They were a great inquisitive group of managers and leaders from across the United States that cared deeply about serving their clients and organization.
Logistical Labs, makers of LoadDex, are the SaaS platform for collecting, analyzing, and acting on supply chain data. With their suite of analytics products, users can make better informed pricing and quoting decisions through data-driven insights and social collaboration. Open API access allows users to easily integrate products into their existing business applications for improved process efficiency. Logistical Labs was named a Top 100 Logistics IT Provider by Inbound Logistics in 2018.
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“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”
—George Burton Adams
Do you ever…
Feel awkward or fearful about approaching people to start conversations?
Not know what to say when you’re chatting with someone and think they will judge you if you say something wrong?
Not know how to break into group conversations?
Feel uncomfortable or have social anxiety when you are out among acquaintances or people you don’t know?
Struggle to build deep and meaningful relationships with others that leave you happy and truly fulfilled?
Feel like you have little or no understanding of how to successfully build your business network?
Not know how to advance your career or start your own business because you can’t meet the right people to help you (i.e., investors, board members, venture capitalists, mentors, or executives)?
Feel frustrated in your sales or business development efforts because you can’t seem to find the right customers or partners?
Struggle to influence others and build consensus within your company or business?
Feel like you struggle to create a successful romantic relationship or interactions with the opposite sex?
Feel overwhelmed and way too busy to find the time for meeting people and building relationships in any area of your life?
Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Building highly successful and effective relationships and collaborations with others is extremely hard to do. And it’s not an innate skill we are born with; relationship building requires learned behaviors, skills, and habits. That’s why you have to build a focused plan for your life for all your relationships and develop the specific behaviors, mindsets, and habits to get whatever you want in your life.