05 October, 2014

Showing empathy in your leadership

By Dan McCarthy

Empathy among corporate managers is in short supply, according to a survey of more than 600 employees by talent mobility consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison. The survey found that 58% of managers fail to show the right level of understanding toward their employees.

“Empathy isn’t a weakness, but fundamental to good management,” said Kristen Leverone, senior vice president for Lee Hecht Harrison’s Global Talent Development Practice. “It means being able to understand and relate to others’ feelings. After all, if a supervisor or manager can’t tune into the feelings of employees, it’s going to be very difficult to motivate or engage them. The survey seems to have struck a chord, and the findings should raise concerns for management.”

What is empathy? It’s an understanding of someone else’s world, and showing the person that you understand.

Empathy is not agreement — and it’s not sympathy (“oh, you poor thing”) — it’s simply understanding something from the other person’s perspective.

So how can you be a more empathetic leader? Here are five ways:

1. Get to know your employees.
How well do you really know your employees? Try this test: take out a piece of paper, and for each employee, see if you can name their spouse or significant other, names of their kids, where they live, where they went to college and where their parents live.

If you came up with a lot of blanks, I’d recommend spending a little more time in your one-on-ones asking and sharing before you jump right into status reports. It’s how relationships and trust are built, and demonstrates that you are interested and care.

2. One-on-ones?
You are having regular one-one-ones with each of your employees, aren’t you? If you’re not, its kind and hard to be empathetic if you don’t have a clue what your employees are doing.

3. Show interest in your employee’s day-to-day work.
A lot of managers like to think of themselves as big-picture managers, with little interest in knowing the gory details of every aspect of their employee’s jobs. While no employee wants to be micro-managed, employees do appreciate it when their managers show an interest and appreciation for what they do. Who knows, you might even learn something.

4. Listen — and respond with empathy.
Responding with empathy means letting your employee know you heard and understood both what they said, as well as how they feel. It’s harder than it sounds, and will take some practice, but people will appreciate even the clumsiest of efforts.

Example: “So Jane, let me see if I understand — you’ve been frustrated at the lack of support that you are getting from IT? Is that is?”

Listening not only shows people you care, and that you “get it”, it also often allows people to solve their own problems, just from being able to talk it out with someone.

5. Lend a hand.
Lending a hand, removing roadblocks, providing support and/or resources — that’s what managers are supposed to do, right? When someone is having a problem, they are stuck, or just can’t figure it out on their own; “Figure it out, that’s what you’re paid to do” isn’t very empathetic. You may not come right and say that, but you may be coming across that way.

I had the opportunity to listen to a CEO talk about his company culture at a presentation lately. He took a lot of pride in making sure he knew every employee’s name (about 300 employees), and liked to wander around chatting with each of them, asking about their jobs, their families, etc.

During one of these chats, one of his plant managers let him know that his son had been recently arrested — he made a stupid mistake. Needless to say, this was weighing heavily on the manager’s mind. The CEO asked him if he had an attorney — and he didn’t. That day, the CEO found an attorney for him and paid for it. Turns out the CEO had a similar experience with his own son.

While this may be an extreme example of empathy and lending a hand, can you imagine the impact that gesture had on that plant manager’s commitment to his company and his motivation? Priceless.

About the author: Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBrief and a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board. E-mail McCarthy.

Source Courtesy: http://smartblogs.com/

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Ten silly management games

By Dan McCarthy 

Most managers are rationale, logical, practical problem solvers when they first get promoted. Then, through organizational conditioning, they learn to play silly games. They are like the frog in a pan of boiling water. The change is so gradual; these silly games eventually begin to feel like “real world management.”

How many of these silly management games do you play? More importantly, do you have the courage to speak up and stop the insanity?

We’ll start with some silly budgeting games:

1.      “Use it or lose it budgeting.” This is when you are getting close to the end of the year and your budget is running under your forecast. In previous years, when you under spent, your next year’s budget was set based on that year’s actual. So, in order not to have your budget cut again, you go on a shopping spree — buying stuff you really don’t need or stocking up just in case you might need it.
2.     “Lowballing your forecast.” This one is kind of the opposite of No. 1. In this game, the idea if to “sandbag,” or undercommit to what you think you can actually do. That way, then the powers above ask you to increase your goal, you know you can do it. Then, you look even better for exceeding your target.
3.     “The shell game.” This is when orders are given to cut expenses in one category, i.e., travel, so you increase spending in another catalog, i.e., conferences, and bury the costs. Or, management says to reduce money spent on postage, so you spend more money on bike couriers. There is a net gain of zero, perhaps even an increase in spending.

Human resources’ silly games (a category with infinite possibilities!):

4.     “Pass the trash.” This is when you “encourage” an underperforming employee to apply for other jobs within the company. When you are asked for a reference, you give glowing reviews, or use code word phrases like “Oh, Wally is a great guy! He just needs an opportunity to leverage his skills in a new environment more suited to his strengths.”
5.     “A warm body is better than no body.” Hiring freezes bring out a lot of silly management gamesmanship. This one is when you have an underperforming employee, but you won’t take action because you’re afraid you won’t be able to replace the headcount. So the rest of your employees get to suffer the consequences.
6.     “Gladiators.” This is when you ask two employees to work on the same problem. Let ‘em duke it out and let the best solution emerge!

Organizational silly games:

7.      Risk” (empire building). “Risk” is the game of conquest, where one army invades another country and captures the land in order to build up an empire. I’ve heard managers also call this game “a land grab.” The idea is to lobby to your boss and anyone that will listen that your department can do the other department’s job better than they can, so you should take it over.
8.     “Shaking the bird cage.” Some employees call frequent, questionable reorganizations “shaking up the bird cage.” You get a lot of noisy chaos and ruffled feathers flying, and at the end of the day, the same bunch are sitting on different perches, albeit a little dizzy from all of the cage-rattling. Nothing else seems to change.

Strategy silly games:

9.     “Trivial Pursuit.” This is when the company has no strategy, so the manager keeps everyone busy fighting day-today fires, jumping from one hot priority to the next.
10. “Clue.” This is when the company does have a strategy, but it’s such a secret or so high level and vague that the manager has to guess what it is or make up their own.

How about you? Any to add to the list?

Source Courtesy: http://smartblogs.com/

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