INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Empathy is a misunderstood term. It’s the capacity to understand what others are feeling/thinking and relate. It’s making others feel seen and heard, so they know they’re not alone. Within this definition, you can divide empathy into two types – affective and cognitive. Affective empathy is the ability to sense other’s emotions and feel those emotions along with them. “I can see that you’re sad, I can’t help but feel sad too.” Cognitive empathy is the ability to put yourself in others shoes and truly understand what they’re feeling/thinking. “I see you’re sad, I understand why, and can relate.” Most of us have pretty good affective empathy. It’s cognitive empathy we struggle with. In fact, I believe we’re in the Great Cognitive Empathy crisis – it’s why we’re becoming more and more divisive, with less and less tolerance for one another’s viewpoints. Know that it’s not enough to just sense and feel emotions along with others. You have to put in the effort to understand the other person and expand your tolerance. Open up versus shut down. Learn more versus listen less. As a starting point, take this test designed by researchers at Berkeley to measure your level of affective and cognitive empathy.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake many make)
A key role of leaders is to share their time, their vision, their goals, and their resources. Often forgotten in the mix, though, is the need to share information – and to think of it as a strategy. It’s a strategy because it’s a choice; you can choose to invest the time and energy to share information consistently and efficiently, or not. You can choose to protect your power base and hoard information or see the wisdom in opening communication up. When you choose the latter, it reduces crippling uncertainty for employees, helps them understand the bigger picture, and better equips them to do their job. The act of sharing information itself can take place in town halls, staff meetings, 1 on 1’s, or via periodic emails or reports. More importantly, simply thinking of info sharing as a strategy to help make your team more engaged, effective, and connected (which is exactly what it is), makes you far more likely to commit to it.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
While you admirably give of yourself when people-pleasing, you’re giving away more than you realize. You sacrifice the power of sharing the authentic you. For example, you suppress your voice and what you’re really thinking in a meeting. You avoid confrontation, missing the opportunity to change a situation for the better. To please others, gain approval, and be liked, you say yes to yet another request when inside you’re screaming “No way!” You act like a robotic version of you, not the real version of you. To help overcome all this, repeat one sentence when you feel your people-pleasing habits surfacing:
“Think of the You-niverse, not the universe.”
It’s a self-reminder to stop trying to be everything for everybody in a bid for acceptance. Start with you, set healthy boundaries, and take care of your needs, first. That way, you stay balanced, energized, and better able to serve others in a more authentic way.