Creating Empathetic Workplaces

Workingmums.co.uk hosted two employer workshops on how empathy can be used to create a more engaged, productive workforce in November led by Oliver Hansard and Joss Mathieson from Catalyst Thinking Partners.

Opening the first workshop, Hansard said that, in a world where we are in control of so little that is going on, empathy is a key skill. It is no use having technical ability without having the skills to unlock people’s potential, he stated. He argued that empathy is generative rather than passive, meaning that it guides people’s actions.

Mathieson said Covid has shown the importance of engagement and regular communication and added that empathy is crucial for dealing with a culture of change. If change is handled badly and with a lack of empathy, it can knock people sideways for months, he said. People’s attitude to change is deeply personal, he added, so we need to understand what it means to individuals to ensure people are able to deal with it effectively.

Hansard and Mathieson asked what people understood by the term empathy. Empathy is not only about understanding another person’s perspective, but it guides what actions should be taken and what support might be required. In volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times we also need VUCA leadership is required, said Hansard and Mathieson, that is, leadership focused on being Valiant, Understanding, Compassionate and Authentic:

Valiance is about not being afraid to show that you don’t know everything, to ask what others think and to do the right thing;
Understanding is about understanding how others feel;
Compassion is about being consistently thoughtful, even in challenging circumstances;
Authenticity is about being genuine and honest and not being afraid to show vulnerability, for instance, to talk about what it is really like living through this pandemic.

Hansard and Mathieson pointed out that there is often a discrepancy between how empathetic CEOs think they and their company are versus what employees perceive. A recent workplace empathy survey from Businesssolver showed, for instance, that 68% of CEOs think their companies are empathetic, compared to 48% of employees, and that 76% of employees think empathy leads to greater productivity compared to 52% of CEOs. Moreover, 70% of employees think greater empathy results in lower staff turnover, compared to just 40% of CEOs.  

In their Empathy Manifesto, Hansard and Mathieson have called for a cultural shift around empathy and referred to how Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, had put empathy at the core of innovation to understand the different needs of customers and appreciate different perspectives. Microsoft has shifted from a ‘know it all’ culture to ‘learn it all’ as a result.

Empathy Compass

As a framework, Hansard and Mathieson outlined their Empathy Compass which has empathy at the centre, surrounded by self, team, organisation and customer. They said empathy for yourself is your “North Star”. By understanding how you are feeling, you can be more empathetic to others and more resilient. They emphasised the importance of finding time for yourself amid family and work demands.  

In a team setting, empathy involves listening to others and being prepared to act on what they say, being honest rather than hiding bad news and taking the group with you. It can involve ensuring people take time out regularly to care for others in the team, testing things out and listening to feedback. 

When it comes to customers, empathy is about listening to their needs and adjusting products or services accordingly, whether they are internal or external clients. It is an opportunity to show you care and value customers and it drives loyalty. 

There are two dimensions to organisational empathy – top down empathy demonstrated by senior managers and bottom up empathy that builds from the sum of other acts of empathy – teams, customers and self. 

Hansard and Mathieson discussed how to attract and hire empathetic candidates and said it is about having the right behavioural frameworks and asking candidates at interview about what they think empathy is and requesting that they give examples of how they have demonstrated this. Also, they can be asked about their personal values and the employer can assess the cultural fit against their organisational values, if they have been clearly defined.

Participants then discussed examples of empathetic leadership in their own organisations, including weekly videos from CEOs about the need for everyone to take care of themselves; leaders who are mental health first aiders; role models and influencers who generate empathy; leader drop-in sessions; leaders who give people permission to take time out; a focus on domestic abuse; employee audits that ensure employers know about the different problems affecting different groups; treating employees like consumers; and a focus on adaptability to change and on how an empathetic culture supports this.

Mathieson said it is important to be aware that different cultural contexts need to be taken into account and that a different empathetic approach may be needed for different stages of the pandemic. Hansard said listening needs to become an organisational habit as does demonstrating that what is being said is being taken on board. Mathieson said employers need to listen more than they talk.

Listening hard

In the second workshop, participants explored empathetic listening or what one participant called “listening hard”. They focused on the reciprocal empathetic relationship between employer and employee and the importance of creating an environment of trust where employees feel they can be open and honest and that what they say will be acted upon. There was also a discussion on how an empathetic culture could boost understanding of customer needs and help deliver better services. Better listening can sometimes be enough to push things forward in itself if people feel they are being heard. 

Hansard said there are three types of empathy: cognitive empathy or empathy by thought – the ability to see another’s perspective; emotional empathy – the ability to feel another’s emotions; and generative empathy – which generates empathy in others and leads to action, if not by the listener then by others. Receiving and witnessing empathy has a profound impact and generates empathy for others.

They outlined their ACORN method of generative empathy which is based on:

Attention – listening with full attention and not imposing your own perspective; 

Curiosity – exploring what the other person is thinking or feeling and checking that you have heard and understood correctly;

Observation – noticing all signals, including body language and emotions

Reflection – being a mirror and testing what people are saying, for instance, stating: ‘I think what you are saying is…’ This can be helpful even if you get it wrong as it might make the person think about the issue in a different way if done well; and

Next steps – working together to identify action for you and for them.

Participants then took part in an empathy breakout session to try the ACORN method for themselves, working in trios where one person shared a challenge or problem, one person listened to another and another observed.

Reflecting afterwards, some participants described the difficulty of letting go of the feeling that they needed to find a solution to people’s problems rather than just reflect them back and find a supportive way forward. Mathieson said intentional listening has to be practised regularly and developed “as a muscle”. This is particularly important for building resilient organisations, promoting inclusion and helping people to navigate agility and change. 

Hansard and Mathieson have developed a six-month empathy training programme for leaders which shows significant boosts in leaders’ ability to listen and teams’ ability to behave empathetically as well as increased trust. The leaders who have taken part say it is transformative, helping teams feel more connected and able to be more honest and open.

By: Mandy Garner

If you would like to know more about the Empathy Manifesto and the work Hansard and Mathieson do, please contact them on oliver@hansardcoaching.com/ www.hansardcoaching.com and joss@changeoasis.com/www.changeoasis.com.

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This Vyond template video: https://vynd.ly/3kkeDLY features tips on how to meet challenges with a little proactive empathy. #nationalworkingparentsday#remoteteams#trainingvideo The new normal for today’s workplace is “no normal,” and every team member brings their own conditions with them, be it cooped-up kids, bottlenecked bandwidth, or a particularly disruptive dog. Effective remote collaboration depends on having explicit discussions about empathy and team norms. Start the conversation with your teammates with our new video template. Create your own animated video with Vyond. Start a 14-day free trial: https://vynd.ly/2JgHhB7 Check out our template library: https://vynd.ly/39vOoQP For more Vyond Studio tips and tricks, make sure to visit our Resource Center: https://vynd.ly/2Joci5W SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW VYOND: Facebook: https://vynd.ly/39mr4SH Twitter: https://vynd.ly/3csPnjS Instagram: https://vynd.ly/2ws2bWS Linkedin: https://vynd.ly/3cwKw18

Break The Psychological Barriers Holding Back Your Career

athlete running in red smoke

We tend to find reasons to blame others when our careers are not moving forward. Most of the time we don’t look critically at ourselves. It could be attributed to a bad boss, back-stabbing coworkers, bad luck or some sort of discrimination and prejudice.

These things, unfortunately, occur all too often in the workplace. Those are not the only reasons that hold you back. Sometimes you are your own worst enemy and do harm to your career development and advancement.

People have negative thoughts that play on endless loops. We experience feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Many of us have a fear of failure and are scared of the unknown. This prohibits us from taking action and moving forward in our careers.

To become successful, it’s important to counter these bad thoughts and feelings. You need to adopt a positive mindset which motivates you into action. Waiting, wanting and wishing for a miracle to happen is not a realistic plan. What’s required is a burning desire to achieve a desired goal, along with assertive actions.

We have all experienced difficult and and some traumatic events in our younger years. You may be thirty or fifty years old, but still view the world through the eyes of young, afraid kid who was bullied in school. These feelings are real, but you have to find a way to effectively deal with and rise above it. Incessantly reliving bad events from the past will inhibit you from living in the present. The constant negativity will eat-up your energy and restrain you from achieving great things.

To move forward with your career and succeed you must let go of the past. Stop reliving bad memories and quit being the victim. You can’t undo the past but you can build a bright new future. Forgive yourself and others so that you can move on with your life and career with a clean slate. Clear you mind to focus on the present moment and your goals for the future.

You may feel stuck in a rut but don’t know what to do next. Time goes by and you become increasingly frustrated. It’s easy to start getting resentful and angry at your situation. You will promise that a change will be made next week or after the New Year.

Stop saying it and start doing something positive. Take constructive steps to move forward. Keep in mind, an object in motion stays in motion. If you don’t move forward, you are falling behind. It’s too easy to become complacent and take the path of least resistance by staying in a bad situation.

It gets harder to change the longer you remain in a bad work relationship. Acknowledge your  feelings and start taking proactive steps. Devise a plan to change your circumstances. Write down the ideas to keep yourself honest, then take proactive measures every day. Push forward even if you’re tired and don’t want to do it. By cultivating these habits you will build mental and emotional muscle. You will become stronger, more confident and feel better about yourself as you take charge of your life.

We teach our children that if they try hard enough they can become anything they desire. Somehow as we get older, we’re not so sure about this. As grown working adults we doubt our abilities. After some setbacks, we believe that great success is solely for other people and not us. You need to heed your parent’s advice. Use the unique skills, attributes and gifts that you possess and relentlessly build upon them to achieve want you want in your career and life.

To succeed you need to let-go of the past, ignore the negative voices in your head, take bold initiatives and don’t give-in to excuses.

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I am a CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise, and have personally placed thousands of professionals with top-tier companies over the last 20-plus years. I am passionate about advocating for job seekers. In doing so, I have founded a start-up company, WeCruitr, where our mission is to make the job search more humane and enjoyable. As a proponent of career growth, I am excited to share my insider interviewing tips and career advancement secrets with you in an honest, straightforward, no-nonsense and entertaining manner. My career advice will cover everything you need to know, including helping you decide if you really should seek out a new opportunity, whether you are leaving for the wrong reasons, proven successful interviewing techniques, negotiating a salary and accepting an offer and a real-world understanding of how the hiring process actually works. My articles come from an experienced recruiter’s insider perspective.

Source: Break The Psychological Barriers Holding Back Your Career

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Move Over, Work-Life Balance. Hello, Work-Life ‘Integration’

As a busy executive, Margaret Keane has had to find creative ways to fit time with her family into her busy schedule, especially when her children were teenagers. One method that she found particularly effective was driving her kids to school every day. “That way, we had at least 20 minutes just for us,” she says.

As the CEO of Connecticut-based Synchrony Financial, a credit card provider and consumer financial services platform, Keane does her best to achieve work-life balance but doesn’t beat herself up when she’s not able to achieve perfection. “Those years taught me to take each work-life challenge day-by-day and put less pressure on myself to accomplish everything at once.”

And Keane is far from alone: Professionals in what’s been called the “always on” work culture—especially women—often find it difficult to achieve work-life equilibrium. But, unlike Keane, many of these working people are wracked with guilt for failing to achieve complete harmony.

Now the idea of “work-life integration” is gaining currency, as more and more people concede the ideal of “balance” may just be an unattainable goal.

“It’s liberating to give up finding ‘balance,’” says Elisa Steele, CEO of the New York-based human resources platform Namely. “In fact, when I was seeking balance all the time, I just felt like a constant failure. There is no perfect balance—it’s just life. It’s dynamic and demanding and fluid and forgiving.”

Establishing your own personal definition of what balance means is the first step toward making it a reality, says Jae Ellard, author of the 2014 book The Five Truths about Work-Life Balance. And even though the original work-life balance idea has since morphed into discussions of like work-life integration or work-life harmony, her advice remains relevant.

Once a definition is established,” Ellard says, the next step “becomes about creating awareness around behaviors that support or sabotage the desired outcome at both the individual and organizational level.” The process might entail having uncomfortable conversations both at home and at the office about boundaries and priorities.

Ellard observes that the work-life conversation has recently evolved into one about corporate culture, “which is a huge leap in working to address some of the drivers of imbalance.”

Companies have begun to understand their roles in creating environments conducive to work-life success. Mathilde Collin, CEO of the shared inbox Front App and Forbes 30 Under 30 alum, is helping to lead this charge. She recently challenged her employees to delete all nonessential apps from their phones, including social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as a way of keeping them more present both at home and at work.

Since work-life balance is no longer the only way to define the successfully management of professional and personal life, there now appears to be an opportunity for people to hone what works for them—without feeling as though they need to live up to a certain standard, set by someone else.

“I hold the belief that it doesn’t matter what you call it,” says Ellard, referring to the idea of “balance,” as opposed to “integration.” “What matters most is that people have a clear idea of what it is they are wanting to create.”

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I’m the assistant editor for ForbesWomen and Small Business, where I cover all things women and business. I’m originally from Long Island, N.Y., but I spent my undergrad years at Boston University, where I majored in Journalism and minored in Spanish, and I now live in Brooklyn. Beyond my primary passion for storytelling, I have a love for learning and writing about anything food- and drink-related, as well as cooking and eating. Prior to joining Forbes, I worked at Wine Spectator where I covered wine and food, and how they connect to pop culture.

Source: Move Over, Work-Life Balance. Hello, Work-Life ‘Integration’

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The idea of achieving work-life balance is a beautiful dream; it’s also quite impossible, as we should realise without bitterness or frustration. Please subscribe here: http://tinyurl.com/o28mut7 If you like our films take a look at our shop (we ship worldwide): http://www.theschooloflife.com/shop/all/ Brought to you by http://www.theschooloflife.com Produced in collaboration with Ana Stefaniak http://www.anastefaniak.co.uk #TheSchoolOfLife
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