This past month has certainly been unusual. The advent of a worldwide pandemic has had businesses scrambling to figure out how work will continue, or even if it can continue. At the heart of all this confusion are people. Real people are struggling with real issues, many of them bigger than work.
This is tough. Managers are tasked with business continuity even as their reports are juggling work with kids home from school, spouses who are also trying to work in the same space, loneliness and a feeling of isolation from their teams, and, sadly for some, family members who are ill and can’t even be visited. There is a lot of stress out there right now, and managers are adding to it.
At a time when people really need EMPATHY from their bosses, are they getting it?
In my upcoming book, It’s Not Them, It’s You, I point out that Empathy is one of seven key leadership traits managers must possess. This is a soft skill which really isn’t soft at all. In fact, this is definitely a Power Skill. More than any other, at a time like this, empathy is something employees need so badly, and appreciate so much when its given. Here is an excerpt from the book which talks about the importance of empathy:
When you take the time to understand others, they will feel more inclined to share with you, and maybe even trust you. Certainly, they will feel more like they are partnering in the team’s success with you.
The demands to stay in place and practice social distancing mean that employees all over the world have had to figure out a new way to work. For some this has been easy. Their workplaces have allowed people to work remotely for some time. For many others, this involves a new approach and incorporates new technology. Leaders must understand their power as a role model for behaviour. Leaders guide others throughout organizations in how to think, feel, and act when something like this pandemic happens simply through how they behave. They need to be patient and provide support for their team members as they learn how to work in a new way.
As part of normal business practice, managers should be holding regular and consistent one on one conversations with their team members. This holds true, and may be even more important now, when people are working remotely. Connecting with team members on a regular cadence sends a message that their manager still considers them in planning and decision making. In other words, it sends a message to team members that they matter.
When managers take the time to develop a relationship, through one on one conversations with their team members, they are far more likely to feel empathy when something like this pandemic happens. After all, they know this person not just as a worker, but as a human. Further, if they’ve taken the time to learn what makes their team member tick—what drives them to do great work and spurs on their productivity—then it’ll be hard for them to imagine that same p