Why Every Business Owner Needs to Lead with Empathy

Being a business owner of any size company means you are responsible for making decisions, managing operations and creating the culture of the organization.  Leading with empathy is essential in today’s market.  You’re responsible for many moving parts including dealing with frustrating situations and making tough decisions every single day. Empathy helps you to be adaptable.

It’s ultimately up to you to maintain the company’s internal and external outlook and reputation.  There are a few key factors that will help you create a culture within your company that fosters innovation, creativity, loyalty and retention.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, if you want to grow, you can’t run your business by yourself.  You either have employees or you hire subcontractors and your team members will be one of the biggest variables in your organization.

To build and retain a caring and motivated team, it’s essential to lead with empathy.  You not only want to select your team for the right skills and drive, but you also want team members whose values are in alignment with the company’s values.  This helps to build team spirit and will make your job as a business owner much more manageable.  Empathy builds a productive and loyal culture.

3 steps that will help increase your empathy

Use Your Intuition: When you work with others, you must have people skills to connect and lead.  According to FastCompany.com, “progressive companies, almost without exception, are experts at intuiting customers discomfort and acting on it.”

Empathy goes beyond customer service though.  It must be carried throughout the company culture including to your team.  You might think that it’s enough to have credentials in communication or business, but it’s not.  Logic and analytics have a place in any decision-making process.  However, when you are dealing with people, using your gut feeling or intuition will allow you to connect at a deeper level. Having empathy does not mean you’re weak.  Rather, it means that you are a leader who cares about your team members and organization.

Be Practical: You can run a business that is complicated and inefficient, or you can simplify your operations and become functional, practical and workable.  When you run your business with a practical approach, your team will better understand the systems and processes that are essential in day-to-day operations.  Encourage ideas, creativity and open communication.  When you couple this with your empathetic leadership style, your team will likely be more enrolled in the overall vision for your company.

Empathy fosters innovation, creativity and healthy competition, all of which help create a thriving business environment.

Have Compassion: Being empathetic is different than being compassionate.  To be a more effective business owner in 2018, you must have both.  Understanding different perspectives is essential.  Social tensions are at an all-time high.  The growing tension is affecting work environments and the remedy is to create an environment that encourages open communication and feedback.

Simple acts such as listening, sharing stories, smiling, using people’s names, being interested in their ideas and beliefs will open lines of communication.  As the leader of your team, you must set the tone for the company culture.  This requires ongoing communication throughout the organization.

Being able to relate to others is a skill that can be continually honed.  Showing empathy to those you meet as a business owner will help grow your company vision and brand both internally and externally.  You strengthen relationships when you’re able to really connect to your customers, internal and external stakeholders and with your team.  When you lead with a focus on understanding others and empathizing with them, your company will be able to grow through the many ups and downs every business endures.

Develop a culture of caring.  A culture of caring must begin with the leader and continue through each new hire.  Build trust in your team.  Have empathy for each individual.  Lead with compassion and you will create motivated and loyal people who help to run your business successfully.

I’ve spent time as an employee in large organizations.  When those at the top had poor communication, the frustration, fear and rumors trickled down throughout the organization.  This created an environment of poor staff morale.  I could easily see how this could have been remedied through more effective and efficient means of communication plus empathy.

Now that I have my own business, I know the importance of treating my team members, my customers, vendors and other business relationships with empathy and open communication.  When you make people a priority, you will be a successful leader.


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