Being empathetic at work matters more than ever, so how do we create more empathy in our teams?


by Mimi Nicklin, author Softening the Edge and host of the breakfast show, Empathy for Breakfast

The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 means that our teams are continuing to look for more authentic and connected leadership within their organisations. With the great changes that we have seen in the months that have passed our thinking about the world of work continues to flex. All across the country we have proven that a new model for how we work is not just possible but necessary, and our approach to optimising our working environments is a moving mindset. Many of us have redefined what’s really important to us and we have reset our requirements for emotionally engaging and intelligent structures and leadership styles. Anything that resembles autocracy, mediocracy or toxicity in the workplace suddenly seems like a distant daily reality that, quite frankly, we are no longer willing to go back to. 

Lockdown created time in our days, and space in our minds, to reconsider what really counts. We realised that beyond the rewards, the promotions and the hours that make us our money, connectivity, cohesion and comradery matter. This has led to much discussion about the need for greater levels of emotional intelligence, humanity, and empathy as a new benchmark. The world has seen things in a new light, and many now realise that our connected humanity is more important than many of the rewards of old. The conversation about empathetic influence and conscientious leadership was relevant before the virus swept our planet, now it is critical. 

4 ways to create higher levels of empathy with your colleagues and teams:

Actively Listen: In meetings commit to making the people you speak to feel like they are the only person in the room (virtual or physical). Ensure that you are using active listening to provoke deeper understanding and use phrases like “what I’m hearing you say is…” to ensure the speaker feels heard and understood. 

Be Curious: It is through poignant question asking that we can deepen our understanding of each other and our outlook’s. In your next meeting focus on asking questions to better understand the speakers answers, versus simply reacting to the information you are given. Phrases like “can you tell me more?” work brilliantly at unlocking a more deeply insightful information set. As you build a more empathetic listening culture you will start to notice that your team is more deeply connected and sharing more poignant information amongst them.

Eye Contact so much of our connectivity is formed by our eyes and, as we move into an era where much of our face will be covered by masks, or seen over a screen, our eye contact is an ever more critical part of showing understanding. Without any words at all we can recognise fear, joy, pain or anxiety in another and that can be a deep connector and motivator. When you meet a colleague consciously take an extra few seconds to notice the colour of their eyes, the physical effort of doing so will ensure you connect more authentically.

Embrace Silence: for us to be able to fully communicate and express ourselves, we need time to think as well as speak. As a colleague or leader, don’t feel a need to jump into a silent moment and fill it, or to complete a sentence or thought for the other person. Allowing time for the speaker to gather their thoughts, and to round their opinion, is so often the source of a new or profound insight.

As 2021 begins and our working realities remain disrupted, the demand for continued conscientious and empathetic organisation thinking, and a far more balanced relationship between the members of an organisation, will continue to connected workforce will continue to increase. Ignore this at your peril, for those that do will find themselves growing more slowly and recovering with far less impact and pace.

About the Author:

Mimi Nicklin is the author of Softening The Edge and host of the weekly breakfast show, Empathy for Breakfast and Secrets of the Gap podcast. Find Mimi on Instagram @miminicklin and online

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