Empathy in Leadership Directions Coaching

Why does Empathy in Leadership Deliver Results?

“Why does Empathy in Leadership Deliver Results?” asked a new client of mine.

A client recently asked why does empathy delivery results? My first thought was that it doesn’t. And then after reflecting on the discussion I thought it would be good to share the rationale of why it doesn’t, on its own, and what does.

Meaning of Empathy

Empathy means the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position as defined by Wikipedia which I think is a very explanative definition.

Empathy is helpful in leadership, when building and interacting with others and is just one tiny part of Emotional Intelligence that will deliver business results. Empathy is great when a team member tells you their partner has cancer (we all know the feeling of fear and sadness of illness). Empathy is not helpful when you are making someone redundant, compassion and respect are better, so you keep your emotional stability as they will understandably feel sad and scared. My article on emotions at work explains more about this.

Empathy does build trust and helps leaders understand what others might be thinking and feeling. This helps a leader understand how someone might react in different situations, what their needs and motives might be. Empathy is the bridge between human interactions.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional Intelligence or EI is defined by the English Oxford Living Dictionary as: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. In leadership terms, it is the skill of building productive and fulfilling relationships authentically. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman¹.

EI also known as People Skills

Many organizations capture the concept of EI in performance reviews/appraisals as a person’s degree of self-awareness; or HOW they do their job (versus WHAT they do); or how they achieve the results they achieve through their interaction with others. This is often called people skills or soft skills – the way of influencing and working with others. When I first started my career at P&G the performance review was split 50% on the person’s achievements and 50% on how they grew the organization in terms of people (training, coaching, mentoring, enabling). Skilful emotional intelligence by a leader does deliver results.

Proof about Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

What’s the proof that good EI in leadership is necessary to achieve business outcomes? Here is the answer from business, academia, sociology, neurology and financially:

  1. The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence In Organizations (yes, there is such a body) highlights 19 studies over the last 3 decades from different companies and organizations (American Express and L’Oréal to name two) and 9 research and academic studies from the last 9 years all identifying how EI delivers results².
  2. Leadership is about relationships; it’s about unleashing the potential of your team by motivating and inspiring them to do the work to deliver the results. Leadership is also about removing barriers which often involves influencing others or resolving conflict. Relationships are about interacting with people, people are human beings not human doings so understanding and adeptness with regards to emotions is key. Additionally, most people leave a job because of their manager, not because of the organization³. That means the relationship (intellectually and emotionally) with the manager is pivotal.
  3. Brain evolution and structure dictates that all the information from our 5 senses enters our brain through the brain stem and hits the limbic part of our brain first which is the place of emotions and feelings before reaching the neocortex near our forehead which is the place of rational thought. The emotional part of our brain is stimulated first with any piece of information before the executive functioning or reasoning part of our brain! Hence, emotions are always ‘present’ first when we take in stimuli – often the stimuli at work isn’t overly provoking so we don’t notice the emotional part, or we suppress it, or we have high EI to manage our own emotions and influence others’ emotions much more consciously.
  4. Humans are herd animals or more politely, social creatures from a sociology point of view. We thrive in well-coordinated groups (hence some of the complication of working from home). Employees want to feel as if they belong to the work group. As such, skilful leadership fosters this feeling of belonging and inclusion.
  5. Company investment in measuring employee engagement is huge! This isn’t about employee happiness or satisfaction. Forbes describes employee engagement as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals⁴. An effective leader builds that emotional commitment through understanding and managing their own emotions and recognizing emotions in others and handing relationships and interactions with others, thereby, having employees bring their heads, hands and hearts to their work.
    There is a financial cost to poor people skills in terms of lost productivity. FACT. Imagine you have a manager who is in an open-plan office criticizing one of their team for a few minutes. How long do you think that employee is demotivated or unproductive? How long do you think the others in the office are unproductive (trying to console the berated employee or criticizing the manager’s actions)? Imagine the manager does this often. The cost is thousands of pounds over time. The incidences of berating managers are few for my clients. The incidences of empathetic and inspiring managers are few too. The big opportunity to positively increase productivity is the managers who simply do nothing about engaging or inspiring because they don’t know what to do.
  6. Although people skills don’t have a line on the P&L, they do impact each line – salespeople have to have good relationship-building skills to generate sustainable income, customer service needs good people skills to resolve issues and protect reputation, employees who feel valued and are engaged are less likely to quit, saving recruitment costs and less likely to demand extreme compensation (assuming their basic need is met), purchasers with high EI skills relative to their suppliers can result in discounts, advantageous payment terms, and quicker exposure to new initiatives.

Where could you benefit from more empathy and emotional intelligence?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could develop your emotional intelligence further to motivate and inspire your teams to achieve.

Endnotes:
1 Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (London: Bloomsbury Publishing 1996)
2 http://eiconsortium.org/
3 https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2015/08/04/people-leave-managers-not-companies/#12eaf30847a9
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/#794d90357f37

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Emotional Intelligence to Unlock Your Success in Leadership

Emotional intelligence is the necessary complement to intellect and experience to magnify your leadership impact and hence your success.  You’re successful.  You deliver results.  And more emotional intelligence can take you even further.  Good news, it can be learned.

What is Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or EI (sometimes called EQ to complement IQ) is defined by the English Oxford Living Dictionary as: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”.  In leadership terms, it is the skill of building productive and fulfilling relationships authentically.  The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman1.  Many organizations capture this concept in performance reviews as: a person’s degree of self-awareness; or HOW they do their job (versus WHAT they do); or their people skills or soft skills.

Emotional Intelligence Components

The four areas of EI are:

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Sustained, positive business results are delivered through EI.  An organization’s top-line or sales is often predicated on the skill of its sales people to interact with customers, build relationship, identify needs, and find mutually beneficial solutions.  This is all about self and social awareness and management.  Same is true for an organization’s customer service department – sensing and acknowledging emotions, managing one’s own emotion to mutually beneficial conclusion.  Same for purchasing – good relationships involving EI, often called partnerships, mean better pricing, access to innovations, and improved responsiveness.   Also, employees tend to leave organizations because of their bosses, not because of the work2.

We have all seen an example of the detrimental effect of emotional unintelligence – a manager who berates a staff member in an open-plan office.  The effect on productivity and morale for the targeted employee and all those in earshot is quantifiable – I’ve literally done the math for a store owner of the cost and it’s substantial.  Substantial enough to motivate him to have a conversation with that manager to address his people skills.  This is the cost of poor people skills or EI.  The benefit of good or great EI is harder to quantify and equally powerful, increased productivity, better ideas, more engagement.  The employee brings their head, hands and heart of the work.

Emotional Intelligence for Leadership

Leadership is about relationships.  The higher you advance in an organization the more your role becomes about cultivating relationships – inspiring and motivating your team, influencing others, navigating different opinions, removing barriers, enrolling others.

Emotions are present at work, whether we want to admit it or not.  Leaders appreciate when the “positive” emotions of ambition, loyalty, passion and trust are present at work.  It seems it’s the “negative or scarier” emotions like anger, frustration, sadness that aren’t welcome.  The fact emotions are present and good leaders want to cultivate a culture of passion, trust and ambition among others, means leadership is about EI.

What you say and how you say it will have an impact on people and the result you get. Be it when delegating a task to an individual or presenting to 100’s of staff.  What you say and how you say it are influenced by who you are, your personality and preferences, and how you feel. If you behave in a skilful way when interacting with others you will create the impact you want and improve the likelihood of getting the result you want.

Examples for Emotional Intelligence

I want to give a recent example of EI from a client to illustrate.  This is only a taster given books are written on this stuff.  Refer to the various resources I’ve suggest below for in-depth examples.

In a large meeting you learn a project will be delayed.  EI is pausing, recognizing you are angry and frustrated, breathing, managing your facial expressions, body language and voice (volume, tone, pace, language).  You sense the project manager is likely nervous and disappointed in himself with the situation.  You moderate yourself to ask the reasons for it, so you can get data to know if it will be beneficial to express your frustration (knowing your expression will be saying something like “I’m frustrated we are in this position”) or not (which might have you say “I sense your disappointed too.”).

Leaders with Emotional Intelligence

That’s a question I’d ask you to ponder.  Who do you know or have seen that you consider an emotionally intelligent leader?  What makes you say that?  Often the best examples are not at the top of organizations.  Two high-profile ones I think are:

Barak Obama’s response to the protests following the killing of George Floyd is a good example. He understood the emotions of the nation and named them.  He managed his own emotions to not make it about him in this instance (as I’m sure he had feelings).  He intentionally chose his language and focus to influence people towards real, actionable sustained change.

Jacinda Ardern’s (Prime Minister of New Zealand) coronavirus press conferences showed she anticipated questions before people asked them, she talked about feelings, named emotions, related to children with her message from the tooth fairy to support parents at a difficult time.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

  1. Know yourself – what are you bias, preferences, habits in thinking, communication and behaving relative to others? What feedback (positive & developmental) have you gotten about your impact on others?  What is your comfort level and understanding of your emotions?  Download the first chapter free of my book which contains this exercise at length.
  2. Learn how to identify and label emotions in yourself and others. This is a form of literacy that is not taught formally in most schools, unlike language and numerical literacy.  More about emotions can be found in my blog, Busting the Myth about Emotions at Work.
  3. Determine which of the 4 components of EI are your strengths and development areas. You can do this through self-reflection, reflection with a trusted ally, there are on-line questionnaires and the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, gives you access to their on-line questionnaire when you buy it.
  4. Manage your stress levels so you can manage your thoughts and actions. Research shows some intermittent stress is beneficial to performance and self-control.  If you have too much stress your brain is not able to manage, meaning you are not intentional with your thoughts and behaviours.
  5. Focus on the needs, motivations and goals of the other people. It’s hard to inspire or motivate someone if you don’t know what motivates them or inspires them.  Hint, it might not be the same things that motivate or inspire you.  How do you find out?  You observe.  You ask.  You propose an idea or direction and ask for their input and feedback.
  6. Coach people when warranted rather than telling them what to do. You learn a lot about someone when you ask open-ended questions and observe their thought processes.  Coaching can also enrol them more in the solution or idea as they come up with the ideas themselves.
  7. Tell stories. Stories allow for communication of both content and emotion.
  8. Experiment. Replicate role-models. Knowing on its own isn’t enough to have great emotional intelligence. You must risk putting it into practice daily to be great at it.

If you want to take your leadership to the next level book a complimentary coaching session with me here.  If not now, when?  Take this bold action, be courageous to become more emotionally intelligent.  Your leadership, organization, results, relationships and fulfilment will benefit.

Books About Emotional Intelligence

TedTalks on Emotional Intelligence

The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry (2017)

Brene Brown Tedtalks about vulnerability (2010) and shame (2012).  Vulnerability is a key aspect for great leadership.

Why we aren’t more compassionate by Daniel Goleman (2007)

https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-ted-talks/ (2020)

Articles on Emotional Intelligence

Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations (CREIO) http://www.eiconsortium.org/.

https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/13-things-emotionally-intelligent-people-do.html

Endnotes:

1 Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (London: Bloomsbury Publishing 1996)

2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2015/08/04/people-leave-managers-not-companies/#12eaf30847a9

How to Cope with the Weight of Responsibility in a Crisis

Some people are feeling a huge responsibility due to the virus, a weight unlike they’ve ever felt before despite being senior, experienced leaders. And I don’t mean weight gain from staying home, opening the fridge continually and comfort eating. I coach leaders in food manufacturing, retailing, media and IT. I have friends in healthcare. The pressure and responsibility they are feeling right now in this crisis is huge – it is about life and death.

Your Responsibility

What is your responsibility as a leader? This is a good clarifying question. What are you truly responsible for? Sometimes in times of heightened pressure and stress people start assuming they are responsible for more than they truly are. They also start becoming insular, which can cause them to think that they alone are responsible for everything. Be clear on what you’re responsible for – you solely. In many organizations there is a hierarchy of responsibility and for the big decisions there’s lots of input and discussion. I have coaching clients who are having to make decisions ahead of their company HQ and even in advance of their country. They decided on work-from-home before either their country or company decided. They are deciding about priorities

Tips to Cope with the Responsibility

  • Look after yourself – what is your support system to ensure you can carry the weight for the duration? This includes exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep, friends, talking, some form of mindfulness. These aren’t nice to-do’s, they are necessities for you to go the distance with this crisis.
  • Breathe – this is so important it’s a separate tip. Some deep inhalations, down to your belly will engage your parasympathetic nervous system to help calm you down. Regularly take deep breaths, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts and hold for 4 counts. Alternatively, inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6 counts. Both reduce stress.
  • Communicate – constantly, to superiors above, to your team members and sideways to your peers, customer, suppliers and colleagues. This can be written and verbal, direct and messages.
  • Be open to ideas and help – Schools are spontaneously creating PPE (personal protective equipment) on 3D printers and sending it to hospitals and care homes, without having been asked. You never know where ideas and solutions will materialize.

Support Systems You Should Tap Into

  • Share the burden – leaders have teams within organizations, lean into the skills and abilities of people on your team. Reach out beyond your team and potentially beyond your organization for specialist support – it’s incredible who is willing to help. The government is doing that by sourcing medical PPE from fashion houses and ventilators from car manufacturers.
  • Have a buddy – it can be a colleague in a different area in the same company or someone trusted in your external network. A buddy is someone walking along side you through some of these unchartered routes, so it’s a shared experience. These buddies can offer advice, be a sounding board, be encouraging, a devil’s advocate or just an ear to help you sort through your thinking.
  • Family and friends – what is your non-work support system? Some clients have no non-work time at this moment and they are trying to carve out some opportunities to be present for partners and/or children for connection and bonding (feel good hormones) and reaching out virtually to friends for levity. Figure out the best times in your schedule to make these connections.

It appears this will be a longer-term crisis then originally expected so ideally the goal is to thrive, not just to cope.

5 Soft Skills Tips to Help With Difficult Conversations

Test readers, or beta readers as my publisher called them, were instrumental to making my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS practical and grounded in the realities of the current workplace. These were people working in demanding jobs across multiple countries who read my book in the early stages and provided input and feedback.

One area where they inputted notably was the concept of putting a monetary value on soft skills.

Difficult Conversations

Managers are often hesitant to have what they call ‘difficult conversations.’ These are typically conversations with someone about something you don’t like, or they aren’t doing properly. These conversations are all about soft skills – knowing yourself and the other person and skilfully influencing them to a better outcome. These conversations have a cost, or more importantly not having these conversations has a cost – someone is doing something incorrectly. Said more positively, someone could be doing their work better, more efficiently, having a better outcome, being more effective, doing something more easily. When you think about this it is rather unkind to have someone perform poorly and not tell them, help them, encourage them, teach them.

How To Have Difficult Conversations – 5 Tips

  1. Stop thinking of them as difficult. Start thinking of them as helpful and constructive.
  2. Put yourself in their shoes. What might they be thinking or feeling in general? about this work? This is a bit part of emotional intelligence – awareness of other peoples’ emotions, thoughts, situation.
  3. Be of service to the other person. Make it less about what you want or need and more about what might help them, serve them best in their job or career.
  4. Listen and not just talk. A conversation is by definition an exchange of ideas between 2 or more people, don’t make it a monologue.
  5. Think of times someone has had a difficult conversation with you whether it was done well or not (if you haven’t had one think harder, both professionally and personally). Think of one you’ve seen on TV or in a movie. What did they do well? What was tone, vocabulary, pace, location, body language, mindset? If it wasn’t great, what wasn’t great about and how would you change it to make it better? Use these ideas to plan your conversation.

Read more about the cost of avoiding these conversations in my article Why Soft Skills Aren’t Fluffy? For TLNT.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually who are we not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

A Return to Love: Reflections on the
Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

How to Pick a Coach?

There is no one global governing body for coaching, yet!  And there are many people who call themselves coaches – it’s not a regulated designation.

  1. Education and Experience – what education have they had in the field of coaching? Was it with an accredited training facility? How long have they been coaching? What other training have then had both within the fields of personal development and outside of that field? What has been their work and life experience?
  2. Qualifications and Credentials – what qualifications or credentials do they have? Are they certified? If so, with what institution? Was the coach referred to you by someone you know?
  3. Beliefs and Approach – what is the coach’s approach to development? What models and tools do they use? What are their beliefs about human development and learning?
  4. Intuition or Gut-Feel – ensure your research satisfies your logical or analytical self (head) and also assess how you feel about the coach’s website, approach and initial contact with you (heart). If your head and heart agree then that’s a good sign about working with someone.
  5. Know your needs and gaps – if you need a coach to keep you accountable then pick one that emphasizes that in their materials or in the discussion with you. If you need someone attune to your feelings they choose accordingly.  The best coach for you might be someone very different from yourself or very similar to you.
  6. Continual Improvement – what training and development has the coach done since their certification or initial education? Do they have a coach themselves?  Have they had supervision?
  7. Previous Clients – what experience or success has the coach had with people like you or with coaching topics of interest to you?
  8. Success – how does the coach measure success? What are they willing to share with you in terms of an unsuccessful coaching experience?

How Coachable Are You?

This questionnaire assesses your readiness to coaching. It also gives a potential coachee/client an idea of the type of commitment involved as the success of the coaching is dependent on you.

Read through the statements below and rate how true that statement is for you at this point in time by circling the appropriate number.  Once you’ve rated yourself on all the statements, add up your individual scores to get the total. Compare your total to the scale at the bottom to see how coachable you are at this moment.

Microsoft Word - 4 Guide to Coaching Coachability.doc
Microsoft Word – 4 Guide to Coaching Coachability.doc

What is the Difference Between Coaching, Therapy and Consulting?

A good way to explain the difference between coaching and therapy is by using an example. If you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle how would each discipline approach it?

A Therapist:

If you wanted to learn how to ride and bicycle and went to a therapist or counsellor they would ask you to sit down and tell them all your experiences about bicycles. What did your parents think of bicycles? When did you first experience bicycles? How do your friends feel about bikes and cycling? What has stopped you from riding a bicycle up to now? The therapist would probe all your thoughts, past experiences and beliefs about cycling.

A Consultant:

A consultant would take the bicycle from you.  After a typically lengthy time the consultant would return with a 300 page report detailing with words, diagrams and pictures on how to ride a bicycle. They may even have a powerpoint presentation to share with you.

A Coach:

A coach would suggest you get on the bike and start pedaling. The coach would run alongside you encouraging you, identifying potential obstacles ahead, pointing out your actions and behaviours, support you and help you see your progress. Once you are cycling confidently for a period of time, the coach backs away and only returns when invited back, to maybe assist you in learning how to do wheelies.

In summary:

Therapy typically looks at the past, and a problem you are trying to overcome or fix and the therapist acts as an expert in assessing the patient’s issues.

Consulting typically looks at the theoretical aspect of a situation and advises on the best possible solution to a defined issue.

Coaching typically is future oriented where the coach and individual are equal partners in the relationship with the intention to change or create something new in one’s life.