When it comes to workplace culture these days, flexibility gets all the attention. But empathy is a guiding principle that leaders need to give more focus. It shouldn’t take the Harvard Business Review to tell us that reading and understanding each other’s emotions, needs and thoughts is crucial to our ability to lead and inspire in a more meaningful way. Being empathetic at the top makes employees happier, more effective and more successful. At Ceisler Media, this capacity is a requirement in a client-focused business.
We spend most of our time with our co-workers. Possessing empathy doesn’t compel you to know their innermost secrets. Rather, it entails you value relationships with the same gusto as results. That may seem counterintuitive in a metric-crazed, dashboard-driven domain (I am personally a sucker for some granular data). The reality is that if you want to bring out the best from your team, it helps to have a relationship where you know what drives them -- and what distracts them.
Over the past couple of months, I have watched my co-workers go through a myriad of life events: The joys of adding new family members; the sadness of saying goodbye to loved ones they have lost. There are weddings on the horizon, the tribulations of twentysomething life; the toils of raising toddlers. The delights and displeasures of home ownership. It’s all relative, but it all matters.
Our work doesn’t stop. We still have heavy client loads, big wins, frustrating moments and long hours. Without practicing empathy and taking just a moment to watch or ask questions or offer support – well, some of our best employees could have easily cracked.
That is why we’ve made empathy central to the culture we have at Ceisler Media. Besides workplace flexibility we implemented, we are paying more attention to empathetic leadership from the top. That is where it starts. We may not be perfect all the time -- after all, as leaders we are human and fallible, too.
Hey, I am big Motown fan. Otis Redding is one of my favorites. To paraphrase one of his best songs:
But they’re waiting, it's all so easy. All you got to do is try, Try a little empathy.
Kate Wilhelm is a Director in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia office.