Teach your leaders to be empathetic

Teach your leaders to be empathetic

In an ever-changing work dynamic for your team, the skill of empathy has become an important tool in caring for your people so they feel respected, valued; and stick around longer as a result. Rarely does a command to a leader to “be more empathic,” stick in a meaningful way. 

The term is dependent on the person’s experience and definition

People’s understanding and definition of the term empathy are really all over the place and are highly dependent on their personal journeys and experiences. Some people think of empathy as simply active listening. Others may classify it as transparency and fairness, while additional leaders may consider empathy as being inclusive and supporting mental health. 

With all the confusion on what empathy is, it can cause misalignment between you and others if you define the term and expectations differently. Take time to learn and understand what empathy means to the other person and have them share some examples if possible. If there are gaps, help the person see the opportunities so that you are starting from the same place and can align on the next steps and measure growth and success. 

Help them stay other-focused


Showing empathy is a great way to build social connections, trust, and rapport with another person. It’s important for your leader to have awareness and understand that as they feel empathy for another person, they understand that the feeling that they resonate with is the other person’s and not their own. There are strong examples of this in the healthcare and medicine fields. Connecting with a family member after someone passes away, or a vet who euthanizes a family pet are times when the person likely understands and can relate to the grief and pain – “I know how you feel” but they also understand that what they are connecting with someone else’s emotions and they are not their own. 

Help your leaders protect themselves from empathic distress


When the line of other-focused becomes blurred in empathy we take on the feeling and internalize it as our own pain and epatetic distress occurs. In the veterinarian example, if they can’t distinguish between the grief of the family and their own grief in a similar situation, the vet may rush the family through the process and pull themselves back and away immediately afterward as a result. 

The result is that the vet has negatively impacted the already sensitive situation and is now a burden that both parties will carry going forward. This will also likely impact the vet’s quality of work for the rest of the day if they continue to hold onto the emotion. 

Coach your leaders to make the connection, but to be aware and protect the boundary between other-focused and internalizing and taking on the emotions of others. 

Additional Resources


Here are some additional resources from the show and site to help you continue to explore the topic of empathy:

Empathy, Sympathy, and Pity (Show 261) We break down the difference between the three words and how and when you leverage them as you engage with others. 

Roadblocks to empathy (Show 247) We cover three common barriers to hold us back from being truly empathetic with others. 

Tips to grow your empathy (Show 246) Actionable and tangible tips to grow and strengthen your empathy with others. 

Understanding empathy (Show 245) Here we discuss what empathy is, what it isn’t, and the three different types of empathy. 

Remember that empathy is about connecting with others on an emotional level and demonstrating that you care about their well-being. It’s a skill that can be developed and improved over time with practice, and it’s essential for building more meaningful and supportive relationships. When you help your leaders become more empathetic in a healthy way, everyone wins. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Habits to improve your EQ

Habits to improve your EQ

Emotional intelligence is one of those universally needed skills that transcend industries, leadership levels, and educational backgrounds. Everyone benefits from having stronger EQ skills as they navigate relationships with others as well as how they manage much needed self-care. 

Today, we’ll cover some tips to help you dial in and strengthen your EQ skills in your day-to-day interactions with others. 

Learn to rehearse what you’ll say


We all have unique quirks that we are not aware of, especially when it comes to how we verbally communicate. Emotionally intelligent people have a good understanding of this and are mindful to understand what their quirks are and are intentionally building in new phrases as a habit to connect with and inspire emotions. 

A common phrase that people use as others share hardships or challenges that they are going through is “I know how you feel.” There may be positive intent in the statement, but the phrase doesn’t convey understanding like you may think that it does; it communicates completion. “I’ve heard and acknowledged you. Now let’s move on.”

To take the response to the next level you may say something like, “I hear you and I think what you are saying is …..” This shows that you are actively engaged with the person and gives them a chance to correct your understanding or continue the conversation. 

Positive intent is great, but without putting thought into how you communicate, you may never reach your goal of having a meaningful connection.

Learn to leverage the 5 whys technique on yourself


Self-awareness blind spots don’t conform to levels of leadership or personality profiles. Everyone has them in some form or another. Going back to your childhood, when you were wide-eyed and full of curiosity about the world around you, ask yourself the question “Why?” as you reflect on your motives, desires, needs, and actions. 

Sure, you could answer the first “Why?” fairly superficially, but that’s why you leverage the power of the 5 Whys Technique which says basically that you can get to the root of any problem or concern by asking the question “Why?” as a response to quickly get to the root of the matter. 

  1. Why do I want that new role?
  2. I want the title, extra benefits and pay that go with the role. (Ok, why is that?)
  3. The pay would help relieve the pressure at home and I really want to be a director. (Why is that?)
  4. It validates my hard work and who I am to others. (Why is that important?)
  5. I have a high desire for affirmation and recognition.

And there it is. In 5 whys we got down to the root of the personal situation and a view into our own self-awareness. If you use this technique on yourself and you can’t articulate a compelling answer then it is likely a sign you are misaligned with what you are trying to accomplish or it’s an unexplored area of self-awareness that you may need to take more time to reflect on. 

Stay mindful of your pace


As leaders, we are often action-oriented. Do the thing and do it now! I’m often the same way. I’d rather knock something out than need to go back later and follow up on additional items. While that action-orientated stance can be very beneficial in eliminating additional meetings as well as freeing up time for your future self, it often serves you well to pause and not immediately respond to external stimuli. 

Those that pause before responding to those external stimuli, think email, messages, complaints, or even good things like opportunities, will often come out with the upper hand. Emotionally intelligent leaders appreciate that slower reaction times give them space to be more strategic in their thoughts and protect them from emotional knee-jerk reactions. 

End connections with gratitude

The feeling and demeanor that you leave a conversation with is often what others hold on to. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence know this and often go out of their way to find something they can express gratitude for, toward the end of every conversation. Some examples may include:


Easy examples:
“I really enjoyed our time together today.”  “Thank you for taking the time to talk.” “I really appreciate your feedback and will use it to help influence how we move forward.”


Tough examples
: “Thanks for listening and understanding.” “Thank you for coming around to my way of thinking.” “I appreciate the compromise here.” These all build a bridge halfway to the other person but aren’t necessarily a feel-good moment that someone wants to build the other half back with you.

Take it to the next level: Learn to express thanks for something you know the other side will agree with, rather than something that might trigger an undesired emotional reaction. In tough conversations it may look like, “I know this wasn’t comfortable to talk about, but I really appreciate the opportunity for us to come together here. I’m going to take your feedback and get you the resources that you need by ( agreed upon date).”

If this isn’t a regular practice for you, be mindful to insert this sentiment as you close out the conversation. Those virtual meetings with a flurry of goodbyes at the end are a great place to begin to step into this behavior. Are you going to stand out with your gratitude as everyone else goodbye? Probably not, but you are putting it into practice, and that helps build repetition and behavior change. 

Growing your emotional intelligence is a process that is a journey as opposed to a course that you become certified in once you complete the training. Continue to work on practical ways to grow your EQ to make you a more impactful leader to those around you. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

I’ve had the honor to be a part of some really great life-changing projects, events, and situations in my career. When asked about my proudest moments as a leader the stories typically go down a road of inclusion and helping break barriers for others to succeed in new ways. I simply love helping others meet and exceed their own personal and professional expectations. 

Being inclusive not only accelerates your career, it also enhances your business and elevates others in the process.  Today, we’ll dive into a couple of different ways to think about inclusion, how to care for it, and some of the common traits that are found in these types of leaders. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of demographics


The initial place that many people go to when they think about diversity is demographics. This can be a great starting point for a larger journey for you, your team, and your organization. 

From a forward-facing perspective, your team should mirror the customers and community that you are serving. Reflect on those two groups. Does your team look similar or do you have some work to do? I once had a leader that recognized the gap on their team but didn’t know how to fill it. They weren’t getting a diverse group of people coming in on their application process. My advice to them was to connect with that community of people and meet them where they are instead of expecting them just to show up at your door. Mix up your recruiting efforts; how you publicize an opening and change your approach. 

From an inward-facing perspective, look at the make-up of the team or organization. are there more women at the bottom of the chain and more men at the top? At what point does the dynamic flip? Run the same exercise from a cultural perspective. It can be an extremely eye-opening exercise that brings some strong data points as you begin to tell the story of the journey that needs to be taken. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of inclusiveness


An inclusive leader knows that being fully inclusive is more than a photo-op, or just getting the right mix of people on board. It’s the power of diversity of thought that really pushes productivity, creativity, and retention rates forward. Companies that rate high in diversity of thought also lower their risk of turnover by 30% (Deloitte Study 2018).  

In order to foster, nurture, and grow an environment of inclusiveness, focus on these four things:

  1. Fairness and Respect: People need to know that they will be respected in their work and that their opinion matters. They also don’t want to see signs of favoritism in projects or teams. People want to feel like they have an equal chance to be wildly successful in their roles. 
  2. Feeling like they are valued and belong: Associates won’t stick around long if they don’t feel like they can be their true authentic self. It’s not good for them or for your team if they feel like they have to put on a face or hide who they are. They desire to showcase their unique self and feel a part of the larger team. 
  3. Safety: In order for your people to be their most innovative, vulnerable, and open they need to feel safe. They desire a sense that what they share will not be used against them, impact them in a negative way, and are supported to openly share. 
  4. Empowered to grow: Once they feel safe, and respected and they know that they are valued, helping them gain a true sense of empowerment and then supporting that empowerment into real action is the next step on the journey. 

Combining the sightline to demographics with the power of diversity of thought makes for a compelling team that will be highly effective and one that others will want to be a part of. 

Traits of an inclusive leader


All great inclusive leaders share some common traits among them. Here are some areas to think about as you work to become more inclusive. 

  • Curiosity: Curiosity in a leader is a great all-around trait to have because it ensures that they stay relevant as times change and have a personal and professional growth mindset. Curiosity leads an inclusive leader to seek out different ideas and experiences from others. 

  • Cultural Intelligence: This is an understanding that your worldview is not the same as others and the ability to seek other perspectives for a larger understanding. I recently saw this in action at a local government meeting where one group dismissed another’s concerns. They felt that since the subject at hand wasn’t offensive to them, then by default it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone else. It was an obvious show of a lack of cultural intelligence. 

  • Collaboration: This leader is aware of gaps in representation and is proactive to help fill those holes in meetings and projects. Are the right people at the table?

  • Commitment: Being an inclusive leader often requires a culture change, and that is something that takes time. These leaders are committed to a long-term vision, instead of seeing it as a check-the-box project that you move away from. 

  • Courage: Along with commitment comes courage. It will take courage to step in a call out a situation, the current landscape, or have a difficult conversation with a co-worker. 

  • Self-Awareness: We all have biases. Have the self-awareness to know what some of those are or where you have a tendency to let your guard down or go on auto-pilot is important to lower those blind spots. 

Self-evaluation time! On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank yourself in each one? (Some categories may be difficult to self-evaluate) Ask a close partner or advisor about how they would rank you in each category to get a good understanding of opportunities for your own personal growth. 

No matter where you are in your career or organization, you can become an inclusive leader and have a lasting impact on others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Self-Compassion in Leadership

Self-Compassion in Leadership

Leaders may be one of the groups in the workplace that need the most self-compassion. Think about our servant leadership model; it’s all about serving and putting others above yourself. (Ep 131, 132) By leading through your values and giving everything away to others, you fail to give yourself that same level of care that you afford others. 

Affording yourself self-compassion as a leader is essential for your personal and professional growth. Studies from around the world show self-compassion’s power to lower stress and anxiety while building resilience to successfully weather life’s challenges/.

Understanding your roadblocks to self-compassion


It’s important to have a good sense of what self-compassion is in order to get a firm understanding of how you can identify what’s holding you back. Self-compassion isn’t self-esteem. It’s not simply how you think about yourself, it’s really more about looking at yourself from the same perspective that you look at others. 

Here are some of the reasons and roadblocks that you may have in place that keep you from that perspective:

  • You may feel the need to be harder on yourself in order to lead at the highest level of valued-based leadership. 
  • You may feel like you don’t deserve the same break that you give others. 
  • You may not feel like you need the same compassion and care that you offer others. There may be a deep level of feeling like you are better than the other person without even knowing it. 
  • You may not see the disconnect because you don’t naturally reach out with care and compassion to others, so you don’t do so for yourself either. 

Mindfulness and Compassion together for success


Kristen Neff describes mindfulness and compassion as “two wings of a bird” working together to bring you to new heights. I love that visual and it really drives home the point that you can’t have one without the other. 

Mindfulness is the reflective focus that you have for yourself. You take in your thoughts and feelings without the extra baggage of judgment or condemnation. 

Without having a healthy mindfulness approach to yourself it’s hard to have self-compassion. Think about this; how can you be kind and show care to yourself if you constantly judging and putting yourself down?

Put it into action


Here are some ways that you can apply mindfulness and self-compassion in your life today. 

  • Be realistic with yourself. With all the competing priorities these days, you are going to fail and miss the mark. Understand that it’s ok. 
  • Be a friend to yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be a narcissist. Instead of going to the extreme of making yourself the main character in everyone’s story, be mindful to think about yourself as you would a friend. What advice or guidance would you give them if they were in the same situation?
  • Take a mindfulness break. My latest smartwatch came with a mindfulness reminder app. At first, I took it as a distraction, but now I do take advantage of those reminders when I can. It’s helpful to refocus during those tough times, and great to be reflective and thankful during the good times. 

Self-compassion in leadership is a journey


Early in my leadership, I was extremely hard on myself and how I led others. If my leader came in and gave me some needed criticism and feedback, it would wreck me. The feedback was the right thing, but I would not give myself the same opportunities to learn and grow through missed expectations that I allowed for others. I’m certainly much better about it today. Criticism doesn’t destroy my day like it used to. That doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out or have it totally under control. I still get frustrated with myself when I shouldn’t and I  push my body too far instead of giving it the rest it needs.

Nobody’s perfect. Know that your self-compassion is a journey and not a destination. You’ll have off moments and days just like the rest of us. Understand that it’s a part of your growth process and be intentional in mindfulness and self-kindness when you hit those challenging moments. 

Your people need and deserve your care and compassion.  Give yourself the same level of care that you do others so that you can be and more effective leader, friend, and family member. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

The power of vulnerability

The power of vulnerability

The strongest people in life are the ones that are comfortable saying ‘I don’t know.
-Patrick Lencioni

As a young boy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s there were plenty of heroes for kids to latch on to and look up to for leadership. While there were great leaders like Princess Leia, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, or even Optimus Prime, there was a lot of strength exhibited, but not too much vulnerability. 

Today, employees and customers are demanding transparency from organizations and leaders alike. Portraying an exaggerated level of strength and power will not connect in a lasting way. Leaders and companies can longer hide behind policies and procedures without relational consequences from others. 

So how should we leverage vulnerability in a way that feels real and authentic without giving everything away?

What is Vulnerability in leadership?


Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately lay all your transgressions, personal failings, and fears out there for all to see. It does mean that you should let others see those moments when appropriate. It’s letting people you see authentically navigate uncertainty. It’s exposing some emotion to let people see that you are real. It’s installing trust and taking a risk by sharing things about yourself and what you are going through. Vulnerability is about being true to yourself and allowing another person to see into your personal journey. 

How vulnerability impacts your life and those around you


Vulnerability is a sought out trait in personal and professional relationships. Here are some ways that it can impact you.

  • It can help lower turnover at work: People desire purpose and connectivity in the work that they do. (PTB 312: 4 ways to find purpose in work) The stronger the emotional tie that the employee has with their work, the less likely it is that they are going to go somewhere else. Leaning into your vulnerability furthers your connection with other employees in a meaningful way. Vulnerability makes it less about you and more about others, giving them a chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work. 

  • It paves the way for authentic relationships: Think about the relationships that you have that are deeper than a “How are you?” Most likely they are meaningful to you because they feel real. They are authentic. Vulnerability paves the way for those long-lasting authentic relationships. It’s really difficult for relationships to care deep meaning if there isn’t some layer of vulnerability being shown from both parties. 

  • It fast-tracks trust: Lots of companies exist with the sole purpose of providing teams and companies bonding experiences to build trust. A healthy level of vulnerability can fast-track trust just as quickly as a high ropes course or trust fall exercise. Being vulnerable with others shows them that there is a safe place to store their trust in you. 

  • It breaks down barriers to innovation and creativity: Both innovation and creativity can be a fickle and challenging thing to manifest in a team environment. You can make distractions and barriers smaller by being vulnerable and authentic with others. When you admit your mistakes and acknowledge that you don’t hold all the answers, it allows others to step in a new and exciting way. Leveraging vulnerability as a strength also helps you acknowledge others’ achievements and take your ego out of the equation. This of course only helps fuel more creativity. 

Tips to be more vulnerable with others


Being vulnerable to others can be difficult. Putting up a proverbial shield around yourself can make you feel protected. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. You may be unknowingly singling yourself out in a bad way from your peers and from the team that you serve. As competition heats up in business and in keeping great talent, it’s important to take small steps in order to be more vulnerable to others. 

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Whether you are stepping into a new role, or a new company it can be tempting to try to impress everyone. Drop the veil of perfection and let your guard down a little bit with others. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Have a great time while celebrating with others. 

  • Share your personal journey with others: Hopefully, you have a good sense of the personal areas that you need to work on to grow as a person and leader. If you don’t, ask your team, they certainly know what those areas are!  Even though they know your growth areas, it’s important for you to share those with others and tell them about your path to growth. It show’s your awareness of the topic and your willingness to discuss those with others will create a stronger personal bond. 

  • Admit your mistakes and check the ego: Easy to say and often harder to do, admitting to your mistakes with others is an important part of being vulnerable. It also helps keep your ego in check as well. If you struggle here, start small and keep yourself accountable as you grow to own up to larger mistakes. 

  • Continue to self-educate: A phrase my team uses often is “self-educate” This typically happens when one of us admits that we don’t know the answer yet to a challenge, but we commit to learning more and landing a positive outcome. I use this phrase just as much as everyone else! Acknowledge your knowledge limits and then be proactive in growing and learning. Something new and positive has always come out of the other end of one of these statements for us. 

Great leaders understand the power of vulnerability. That leverage that power, without manipulating it, to grow personal relationships, builds trust and long-term buy-in from their team, and helps themselves stand out from the competition. Be a servant leader that is vulnerable in your daily walk in order to lift others up. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH