Tag Archives: empathy

Engaging the Whole Person at Work

 

When we see ourselves and our co-workers only as tools to get the job done it is difficult to connect with one another as human beings. Connection is essential to building high performing and high functioning teams, not to mention to creating job fulfillment.

There is a story Max DePree shared in his book Leadership is An Art (1987), told by his father about visiting with the wife of the Millwright for the Herman Miller factory after her husband died. It was in the 1920’s and Max’s dad went to pay his respects to the Millwright’s wife. During his visit the Millwright’s wife asked his father if he’d mind if she read some poetry. He thought it would be appropriate and sat back to listen. As she read, the beauty of the poem resonated with him. He’d never heard this poetry before and asked who the poet was. She said it was her husband, the Millwright. The man who had been integral to the Herman Miller manufacturing processes, who provided the power for the machinery in his factory, dismantled machines and moved them around was a poet. This came as a surprise; he’d known the man but didn’t know he had this talent outside of work. It motivated him to see that leaders must, “endorse a concept of person”.

As I read this in the early ‘90’s I realized that this lesson is bigger than the “concept of person” in a tops down view. It is about connection, learning about the people who work with you and sharing yourself with them. When you connect with the people who work with you, you discover other interests, talents, loves, and they in turn learn something about you.

Why does this matter? What difference does it make if you know the Millwright is a poet, the Accountant is a photographer, the HR Manager’s child is seriously ill or the Customer Service Specialist has just loss her mother?

Business is structured as a well-defined hierarchy that defines us by our titles and the roles we play within business, and our interactions are determined by these roles. The playing field is tilted in favor of the leadership, but should it be? By coming to understand more about ourselves and the people we work with, we can see that occasional missteps at work often result from a much larger context; a problem at home, the death of a beloved pet or some other distraction. They aren’t necessarily about lack of competence or skill, sloppiness or a bad attitude.

Without making excuses we understand that we all have days that are a challenge. “Endorsing the concept of person” builds team and team makes it possible to confront unexpected challenges in the day-to-day life of business, whether it’s shaky sales, disruption of production, strained cash flow, the loss of a well-liked co-worker or the acquisition of a new customer with compassion and understanding. We have jobs and roles within a company, but when we can connect not only through job and role but as fellow humans, we create an authentic engagement that fosters an environment in which human creativity and satisfaction grow and thrive. We form a sense of equality in an otherwise hierarchical unequal environment. The consistency with which we can cultivate these fleeting opportunities, over time builds a level of trust essential to a high functioning team. The challenge is that many believe that when a leader opens up they will be seen as weak or vulnerable. The opposite is true.

Here’s how this played out in my leadership experience

I worked with a smart and capable Engineering Manager who had a reputation as a tremendous problem solver, but he had started to become impatient with process and prone to angry tirades. He seemed to be seething inside. Many of his attacks were directed at individuals. My boss at the time wanted me to “get rid of him.” His behavior was undermining his position with the company and his credibility; people were starting to avoid him. What he lacked was Emotional Self-Control.

Instead of turning my feelings off and seeing him as the “problem” and firing him I sat down with him to talk about anger. Not only his, but mine. I shared some of my frustrations and how important it was to see them and be with them, but not project them out onto others. As we discussed the situation he began to explain what was behind his anger. He kept pointing at the things other people were doing, and I’d share more about my own anger and how my frustration was often rooted in not really understanding how to move the needle and effect change.

Finally I looked at him and said, “You know the anger has to stop. It doesn’t matter what provokes you, you can’t act out and mistreat other people on the team, no matter how frustrated you are. There are positive and constructive ways to address the issues that are frustrating you. You need to find them or ask for help. Do you understand?” He replied that he understood. We talked about the possibility of anger management counseling. He didn’t think he needed it. I told him that I valued him as a co-worker and friend but that if he had another angry outburst, I’d have to let him go, no second chances. As we continued to talk, I asked, “Do you want to stay here?” He said, “Yes. I like it here, I want to stay.” I followed with,  “Do you think you can do this?’ His response,  “Yes, I know I can.”

The problem was now entirely within his control. I knew some of the difficulties he was dealing with outside of the workplace, and understood that having control would likely result in a better outcome. Through our connection and sharing, he knew that I’d had similar challenges in my work life, and others had as well. It wasn’t having the feelings that were the problem it was what he did with them. At this point, he began to problem-solve for himself. He identified his triggers and ways he could address them.  He looked at me and said, “Thanks, I think I need to apologize to a few folks.” He kept his job, and worked better with others from that point on.

By being authentic and curious about his issues, sharing my own, and not taking the easy route of simply replacing him, we built a connection together that made it possible to discuss the issue not just as a boss and employee, but as two human beings. By “endorsing the concept of person”, we created a moment of equality and authentic connection that helped him move from being a victim to understanding the impact his behavior was having on the organization and the need for him to take responsibility. This is leading with emotional intelligence.

Recommended Reading:

Emotional Self-Control: A Primer

Our new primer series is written by Daniel Goleman and fellow thought leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence and research. The following are available now:

Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, Adaptability,  Achievement Orientation, and Positive Outlook.

For more in-depth insights, see the Crucial Competence video series!

How to Develop Empathy When It Doesn’t Come Naturally

how-to-develop-empathy

How to Develop Empathy When it Doesn’t Come Naturally

By Richard Boyatzis

How well do you understand the people with whom you work? In every setting, you can be more effective if you have a clear perception of those around you. Empathy is key for understanding others and is the most fundamental of the social intelligence competencies.

Empathy is the ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, take an active interest in their concerns, and pick up cues to what is being felt and thought.

By “understand another person,” I don’t mean merely making believe that you’re interested in their lives, but actually caring about understanding them. Can you discern another person’s motivation? Such understanding is one of the building blocks for any healthy interpersonal interaction, both personal and professional. In fact, when it’s missing, it’s a building block for negative relationships.

Think about a time when you felt that someone was really tuning in to you. What did their behavior look like? Much of empathy comes down to listening. If you want to practice it, practice listening to other people. Very often it means asking them what they’re thinking about or how they’re feeling. You might start in a group meeting where you focus on one or two people during a half-hour meeting and ask yourself, “I wonder what she’s thinking right now? I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” As a way to check whether or not you’re even close to accurate, approach them after the meeting and say, “What were you thinking about during that meeting? What did you think of what happened?” It ends up being a very useful way to see if you can tune in to different people. Ask them an open question and listen closely to the answer. The more you practice that, the easier it’s going to get and the less artificial it will feel.

As a former engineer, a lot of us who were trained technically had trouble even making eye contact. That’s a precursor to listening, and to developing empathy. It’s hard to ask a person a question and to listen to them if you’re not looking in their eyes. There are a number of things that you might have to practice to get to a higher state of empathy, but you don’t have to get to the Spock mind meld, the technique of merging minds that we learned about in Star Trek. Empathy starts with a desire to understand others better.

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with Daniel Goleman for Crucial Competence, in which I elaborate on the foundations of emotional intelligence. You can access the full video series here.

Want to Inspire? First, Develop Trust

trust-emotional-intelligence

By George Kohlrieser

If you want to inspire a team or organization, first you must develop trust.

What leaders have inspired you? Who is the best boss you have ever had? Beneath the inspiration it is likely that there was a strong sense that you could trust that person and that they trusted you. Without having trust in an organization’s leaders, people will not be inspired to follow their direction.

Trust is a key aspect of secure base leadership. I have worked extensively with this concept, which came out of the work of John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory. A secure base is a person, a place, or a thing that creates a sense of comfort, gives energy, and inspires one to be curious, seek challenge and take risk. A secure base is someone who provides both safety and challenge. Secure bases can also be anything that inspires, like goals, symbols, places, memories. Secure base leadership is the ability to create a state of safety not for the sake of safety but to support someone in stepping outside their comfort zone where creativity, innovation, and exploration best takes place.

You can think of it like a child’s relationship to their parent, caretaker, grandparents, or teacher. They want to be close to them to feel safe, but they don’t want to stay there. They want to go out and explore. A leader has to create that same environment. They must create a trusting and safe environment, in which a person can explore possibilities and the potential of what she can do.

For any of you familiar with climbing, another way of thinking about it is like belaying. The belayer acts as a “secure base,” positioning himself or herself at the bottom of the ascent. The climber is attached to one end of the rope and the belayer, using a device clipped to his harness, holds the other end of the rope so that the climber has enough slack to move, but not enough to fall any great distance. As the climber advances upwards, the belayer remains at the bottom to secure the climber. The relationship is all about trust. The climber, like an employee, can take risks precisely because the secure base figure or leader below is supporting them.

Why Is Trust so Important?

Trust has an important effect on how our brain functions. The brain has one fundamental goal: to survive. And most people are living to survive. However, more than 80 percent of people are not really thriving, and are driven instead, by a fear of failure or anticipated loss. For success at life and work, the brain has to be rewired to focus on thriving, on opportunities and on looking for what is right and what is possible when something goes wrong. If there is trust, people can drop their programmed defensiveness and become more open to new ideas and solutions. Leaders who care about their teams are able to dare them to stretch (and to take risks).

There is a paradox here between caring and daring. A leader can show trust — and caring — and still hold people accountable. Caring is not rescuing. I ask leaders around the world, “How caring should a leader be?” It should be 100 percent. AND — How daring should a leader be? It’s 100 percent.

When a leader earns trust, it’s like they are putting her or his hand on your shoulder so that you are not afraid of failure. Great bosses trust others and don’t punish failure. Instead they give high quality feedback and ask you to change.

If we translate caring and daring to leadership styles using Dan Goleman’s model, the affiliative style is a good basis to work from as it is the personal part of leading. However the leader should never accept lower standards and that’s why the affiliative style has to be combined with the visionary style of leadership, which means that people will want to follow the leader to “dare” themselves and to be inspired. These leaders deliver “pain” (feedback) and people say ”thank you, give me more pain (feedback)!” Why? Because they see the benefit of the pain (feedback) to reach high performance.

Trust creates an environment that enables us to attach and to bond with others. It is the opposite of detachment, isolation, over-independence or self-reliance. In teams it creates a sense of belonging which is essential for collaboration in high performance.

What does an organization look like that is based on trusted and Secure Base Leadership?

It starts at the top. When you walk in, people feel welcomed. They feel a sense of calm rather than defensiveness. They don’t feel like they are going to be judged. You see people doing things spontaneously, being able to engage in proactive behavior and teamwork. Most importantly, you see the resolution of conflict. There is always going to be differences, and those differences can drive people apart, break the connections, and break bonds. You always find people are able to engage in good conflict management – a Crucial Competence – because the trust and the bond is maintained.

How can you Develop Trust within your teams?

Developing trust takes focus and commitment. How do you rate yourself on these nine areas that characterize a secure base leader?

  1. Staying calm under pressure
  2. Accepting the individual while encouraging change
  3. Seeing the potential in people
  4. Using listening and inquiry
  5. Delivering a powerful message
  6. Focusing on the positive
  7. Encouraging risk taking
  8. Inspiring through intrinsic motivation
  9. Signaling accessibility

Learn more about Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies in Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership or The Competent Leader with George Kohlrieser.

organizational awareness

Develop the Three Levels of Organizational Awareness

organizational awareness

Outstanding leaders have an acute organizational awareness.

Organizational Awareness: Inner, Outer and Other Focus

In this brief video clip from the Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel, Daniel Goleman discusses systems thinking, three levels of organizational awareness, and visionary leadership. He points out that outstanding leaders are aware of the many systems within organizations. Such leaders start with the level of self-awareness and self-regulation, move outward with empathy toward awareness of interpersonal relationships, and then further to awareness of the whole organization.

Dr. Goleman has written about this inner-other-outer “triple focus” in many contexts, including organizational leadership and education. In his article, “Why Leaders Need a Triple Focus,” adapted from his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Goleman said,

“When Accenture interviewed 100 CEOs about the skills they needed to run a company successfully, a set of 14 abilities emerged, from thinking globally and creating an inspiring shared vision, to embracing change and tech savvy. No one person could have them all. But there is one “meta” ability that emerges from research on leadership: self-awareness. Chief executives need self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own. This means inner focus.

Companies also need leaders who have an other-focus—who understand the motivations of their employees and want to help other people be successful, too. For instance, they realize that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can work to develop it.

Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms this means:

  • Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction—from the heart and to the heart—that energizes others even as it sets clear expectations.
  • Paying attention to people’s feelings and needs, and showing concern.
  • Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus.
  • Coaching, based on listening to what the person wants from their life, career, and current job….

Of course that doesn’t mean that leaders can ignore other concerns, like market trends or innovation, to meet changing demands. But the same attention skills that can help manage one’s own emotions and work relationships can help leaders stay more flexible and allow for better outer focus.”

organizational awareness

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership is a collection of streaming videos and audio downloads with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel.

Brainpower provides leaders, executive coaches, management consultants, and HR professionals with a science basis for their leadership development work.

Additional Resources to Develop Organizational Awareness

The Focused Leader

Attune: The Role of Focus in Authentic Leadership

The Competency Builder

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Only Compassionate Action Can Bridge the Empathy Gap

 

Source: snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com/pexels.com/CC0 license

Source: snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com/pexels.com/CC0 license

A portion of this article contains excerpts from Daniel Goleman’s book, A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World.

Annie came to America while she was pregnant to assure her abusive husband would never be able to reach their children, as being born on American soil would make them citizens. She has been waiting for her green card for seven years, terrified she’ll be deported and separated from her twin boys. They live in a small, two-bedroom apartment and her boys walk five miles to school through a questionable neighborhood to get to school every day while she works three jobs. She leaves before sunrise and gets home well after dark every day, and hasn’t had a day off in three years. Her only solace is their elderly neighbor, Rosa. She loves cooking dinner for the boys and helping them with their homework, as her own children are grown and gone.

Susan is a CEO at a major corporation, and can not only afford childcare, but to have live-in assistance around the house. She can stock her fridge with the best, organic food, and her children are able to take weekly horseback riding and water polo lessons. She lives in a gated community, drives an eco-friendly car, and is able to take time off at her leisure to spend with her children. She went to college for business so she could take over her father’s corporation when he retired, and her children will never have to worry about affording a higher education.

Annie and Susan are similar women who live in the same city. They’re both single working mothers. They love their two children, and work hard to provide them with the best lives possible. They are the same age, like the same music, and are both reading a Milan Kundera novel in their free time. Annie tries to order a coffee (the sole luxury she allows herself to splurge on) and is fumbling around for change at the bottom of her purse. She’s desperate to avoid the public embarrassment that comes with not being able to afford $3.92 for a drink. She apologizes profusely for holding up the line, and manages to leave a crumpled, well-intentioned dollar bill in the tip jar. Susan, behind her in line, taps her foot impatiently and audibly sighs, even though she could easily buy Annie twenty coffees without ever noticing a lack in funds. When it’s finally Susan’s turn, she doesn’t look up from her phone as she orders, and puts an X over the tip space on her credit card receipt.

Why wouldn’t Susan just help Annie, or the hard-working people at the coffee shop?

In Daniel Goleman’s recent book, A Force for Good, he interviewed Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Throughout his studies and a series of experiments, Dr. Keltner has concluded that in direct encounters, a person of higher status – or privilege – is significantly more prone to disregarding a person of lower status. On the contrary, a person of lower status is much more likely to pay attention and show compassion to other people, regardless of their status.

“Those with few resources and fragile circumstances – like a single mother working two jobs to pay her bills who needs a neighbor to look after her three-year-old – depend on having good relationships with those may one day turn to for help,” Goleman writes.

 

Wealthier individuals, in contrast, are able to afford help as needed – they don’t rely on the goodwill of the people surrounding them. Keltner suggests that because the rich can afford to tune out other people, they also learn to tune out the needs and suffering of others. In organizations and corporations, he observed that when high- and low- ranking people interact, the higher person avoids eye contact, interrupts, and steam rolls over the conversation.

John Ogbu, the late Nigerian anthropologist from UC Berkeley, noted that Berkely had a de facto caste system, much to Goleman’s surprise. Ethnic minorities and the while middle class were centralized in different, but defined, parts of town. The schools were in between them, separating the caste lines.

“The moment he pointed [the caste lines] out, I saw he was right. But until then that glaring fact had been under the social radar for me – while I was going to those very schools, I hadn’t given it a second thought,” Goleman reflects.

The Dalai Lama has a lot to say on this topic of socioeconomic divides, and added the aspect of faith to the conversation. Followers of certain religions believe social order determines their destiny. If someone is in a lower class, it is because they deserve to be there. If someone is in a higher class, it is because they have a greater destiny.

[Listen to The Empathy Gap, an excerpt from A Force for Good.]

The wealthy and elite have many reasons for justifying their choice to ignore the needs and suffering of those around them. They displace the blame to the elect, saying change is out of their control or this is the way it’s always been (a feeble guise for their willful ignorance). They may profess “God made them [the worse off] that way,” or believe a divine being decided these people should be below them. The Dalai Lama dismisses this as totally wrong, and nothing but flimsy excuses for callousness. He calls upon people with the privilege and ability to make change to do so.

“You can repeat ‘equality, equality’ a thousand times,” the Dalai Lama says, asking his followers to act, not just sympathize. “But in reality, other forces take over.” Awareness without action following means nothing.

There is little empathy in the business and political leaders of today, and little thought is given to how it will affect those without access to power when they make decisions. This callousness makes the gap between the classes, between the tops and bottom of organizations, between the castes invisible. This lack of compassion becomes the norm when it isn’t acknowledged, and isn’t just a problem in Berkeley, California. It’s prevalent everywhere, and can only be changed by action.

Like Gandhi once said, “Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use.”

Become a force for good

Join A Force for Good initiative here.

Audio excerpts

Listen to other excerpts from A Force for Good:

Wise Selfish

The Empathy Gap

A Boyhood Passion

Constructive Anger vs. Destructive Emotions

Partnering with Science

Doing Good While Doing Well

 

Ep 152: A Force for Good – The Empathy Gap

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

The Empathy Gap

Daniel Goleman shows us how compassion repairs social inequalities in the world. This is an excerpt from his audiobook—A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available from morethansound.net.

Each day this week (June 22 to 26), More Than Sound will release an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

Order the print book here.

Join the Force for Good initiative here.

Become a member of A Force for Good LinkedIn group here.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

  • Educate the heart by teaching ethics, conflict resolution, and compassionate values in schools.
  • Help people help themselves by empowering the world’s most vulnerable.
  • Rethink economics and make business meaningful, not just profitable.
  • Heal the Earth through a more precise analysis of how to lessen our impacts.
  • Be compassionate with others and yourself.
  • Be tough in applying transparency and accountability in the service of fairness.
  • Act now to help those in need in whatever ways you can.

Empathy In Leadership

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. In this episode, Daniel Goleman and Anthony Gell discuss challenges faced by empathetic leaders.

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Anthony Gell- Empathy, lets pick up on that for a second. Daniel, in your first book you mentioned about empathy and how important that is and obviously there’s different types of empathy. But talk about the spectrum, if you’ve got on one level of the spectrum you’ve got the sociopath and on the other one you’ve got somebody that’s just absolutely besotted by other people’s feelings, is it important to have a balance? Obviously you can be too far toward the sociopath spectrum, but can you be too far [the other] way?

Daniel Goleman- Yeah, you see that in people for example in the helping professions- nurses, say- who are taking care of people who are suffering, who are in pain, who are angry. Who pick up those emotions and can’t metabolize them. It changes their internal state instead of them changing the patients’ state, because of, you could say, this too empathic stance. What’s missing there is self-management, self-regulation as we say. That is to say, the people who are most effective don’t tune out in order to protect themselves, and turn off to other people. They stay open but they’re able to pass that through, to manage their own inner state at the same time as they’re being receptive. That’s the best.

AG- OK, that’s great. So you can be in an empathetic situation but not allow it to be to heavily on your shoulders, take it too personally.

DG- It’s more than that. It’s that you don’t let it change your state. You stay stable in the positive state you need.

AG- And therefore you wouldn’t be as stressed as you would be.

DG- Yeah, so it rolls off.