Communication can be the most important facet of how to practice empathy in your leadership style. Striving to become a world-class communicator will do amazing things to help you reach the heart of your employee. Particularly now, couldn’t we all use more supportive relationships, where there is an understanding of each other's challenges and situations?
Communication is always important, but during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more so. Good communication will calm anxiety and give way to an open, two-way conversation. In times of crisis, you really can’t communicate too much. Be clear and be concise, but communicate! Your team will appreciate being kept abreast of how things are going in the business. In general, people like to know what to expect, and if you’re transparent about what is going on, your communication will show empathy. As we talked about in an earlier series of posts, your goal is to inform and align.
When people feel that you’re being open and honest with them, your communications will help stop confusion and rumors within your company and minimize distractions and disruptions. In times of uncertainty, it is all too easy for misinformation and rumors to sweep through an organization, damaging morale. Being proactive and having a plan to communicate will help put a stop to a lot of that. Remember, it is important that your people get the facts directly from you. This will build trust and confidence that will pay dividends well into the future when the crisis has passed.
Listening is the other, and perhaps most important, half of how to use communication to practice empathy in your leadership style. The old saying seek first to understand then to be understood is the name of the game. Ask you team members open-ended questions, and then let them speak. Sometimes, there may be awkward silence while they think or process—that’s ok. People who are dealing with anxiety often have trouble putting into words what they are feeling or experiencing. The most important part of having honest conversations with the members of your team is that they feel that you’re right there in it with them. If done well, strong bonds will be formed between you and your team that may surprise you. When the crisis has passed, imagine where your team will go thanks to the strong bonds of trust and respect build right now.
The most important thing you can do to serve your team is to be present with them. Sit with them. Be seen. Be with them. Listen. Communicate to the very best of your ability. Even when you don’t know all the right things to say, know that you are building now the basis of trust that will carry you and your team through this and other troubling times. Your team will appreciate you for it, and their hearts will be touched.
I invite you to read an article I recently published that addresses leading during a crisis in Thrive Global. I’d love your feedback on this topic. Let me know what you think and certainly let me know how I can help you lead with empathy during this crisis. Until next time, know that I appreciate you and hope you are well. Take care!