How empathy and trust underpin leadership conversations.

How empathy and trust underpin leadership conversations.
April 14, 2021 Linda Murray

A strong and successful team needs effective leadership to guide it forwards. To be effective, a leader needs to be more than someone with the technical or job-oriented skill set. Leaders need a strong connection based on compassion, trust, and empathy.

Successful leadership is personal.

There is a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King that is even more applicable today as we adjust to our new world. “Reconsider your definitions. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind”.

The success of a true leader should be judged not only by the effectiveness of the team they lead but also the happiness of that team. A team that feels supported both professionally and personally is a team that works cohesively and achieves greater success in a shorter time and using fewer resources.  When their needs are met on a personal level, team members can work more effectively on a professional level.

Leadership conversations create connection.

Working in the post Covid-19 environment brings with it a new range of issues we need to deal with. An effective leader will be able to help people navigate their new world and understand that there is far more to the life than work.  Only when all facets of a person’s life are considered, can you truly see effective leadership taking place.

The only way to get under the skin of the real issues is through interpersonal connection, and that’s where leadership conversations really matter. Communication builds trust, and trust has the potential to decrease stress by 74%. Teams that trust their managers have a 76% higher level of employee engagement.

Empathy and trust are your tools.

So how do you become a more empathetic and trusted leader?

  1. You listen and you do it well! Listening without the need to intervene or add your own comments means you truly take the time to get to know someone and their needs. Listen for what isn’t being said. Often a person will have deeper needs than they reveal, and it is your job to listen effectively to determine how you can best help. This allows you to respond with empathy and compassion.

Here’s a simple example: A team member who needs to accommodate medical appointments for a sick relative may tell you how tired they are from juggling work and family demands. Simply acknowledging their situation is sometimes enough to show you care. Feeling heard and understood is the foundation of a good relationship. The result is a team member who is less stressed and therefore better able to focus on their work. Nothing will change if you don’t actively listen.

  1. Acknowledge that everyone is different. Each person comes with their own set of personal circumstances. What works for one may not work for another. A leader and a workplace which can accommodate these differences will be rewarded with employees who go above and beyond expectations. Not everyone is comfortable asking for what they need, so a leader that instigates a conversation around this will gain the respect and trust of their team.

Remember that we are all wired differently. Verbal communication is not everyone’s strength and for some it can be quite harrowing. Adjust your approach to consider the individual’s needs. Give them time and space to talk with you, and don’t expect just one conversation to solidify your relationship.

Ultimately, the need for compassion, empathy and trust is part of everyday work culture at every level. Most team members have untapped value because leaders don’t take the time to connect and build real relationships with them.

What will you do this week through your leadership conversations? How will you build stronger connections with your team?

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