By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
If you’re looking for a critical skill to help you excel in business as a leader, you may want master the ability to be empathetic. Experts agree that empathy can boost your influence and impact as a professional, because understanding the emotions of your team members and the customers you serve allows you to become a better communicator and problem solver. In addition, you will build trust, rapport and relationships that can lead to greater success. Practice these simple steps to help hone this important leadership skill:
Be a good listener – It sounds so easy but many people don’t truly know how to listen. Avoid the tendency to glance at your watch or phone and really listen to a person’s words and tone of voice. You should also be aware of facial expressions, mannerisms and body language. This will help you understand the emotions behind the words. Give individuals your full attention, don’t interrupt and avoid distractions.
Ask questions – Do not assume you know what individuals want and need. Getting more information through questioning will help you better understand the goals, aspirations, fears and objectives of your co-workers and customers. Ask team members about their interests and concerns to foster a culture of open communication and trusting relationships. Ask consumers about their needs and frustrations around shopping and mealtime. The answers can help guide your direction for programming.
Put yourself into other’s shoes – Companies that don’t look at things from the perspective of their customers can put themselves right out of business. To really understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions you need to put yourself into their shoes. Showing shoppers that you have the desire to provide relevant solutions and services to meet them where they are can have a huge impact on whether that individual continues to be your customer or not. Inside your organization, putting yourself in a co-worker’s shoes can make it easier to understand another’s point of view and find a compromise when faced with tough issues.
Get training - Incorporating empathy into your daily work is a skill that can be learned just like any other. Practice the steps above and if needed, seek out expert advice from workshops or a class to build on your empathy skills. Our ability to create deeper connections with customers and our professional colleagues can differentiate us as not just a good worker, but a great leader.