Developing Leaders: Why Empathy Matters and How to Teach It

​​Organizations today are adjusting to changes like distributed teams, remote meetings, and hybrid offices while trying to plan for an uncertain economic future. The one thing that won’t change? The need for strong leaders.

Strong leadership skills are essential if managers want to build and lead engaged, innovative teams that are prepared to handle today’s workplace challenges. 

In this webinar, Kristie DeLoreto, SVP, Project Management Office, and Laura Doerr, VP, Project Management Office at ELB Learning will dive into why empathy matters in leadership.

Empathy in leadership provides the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.

It’s important to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy, as Kristie points out. “It's really a very gray line, and I think you either kind of understand it, or you need to practice to get better at being more empathetic or knowing the difference between those two.”

During the second half of this webinar, Kristie and Laura lead the audience through some scenarios to analyze how to respond to various work situations requiring empathy.

Lack of Empathy vs Empathy

You may have worked in environments where the first second somebody has performance problems at work, the automatic response is to say “You're out.”

That is the lack of empathy. This is normal in our business world. Someone walks into your office and says, “Your numbers have been down for the third quarter in a row. You have to pick up your numbers, otherwise, I can't guarantee what the future will look like.”

How inspired do you think that person is to come to work the next day?

On the flip side, here’s the empathetic approach.

Someone walks into your office and says, “Your numbers are down for the third quarter in a row. Are you okay? I'm worried about you. What's going on?”

We all have performance issues. Maybe someone's kid is sick. Maybe they’re having problems in their marriage. Maybe one of their parents is dying. We don't know what's going on in their lives, which will affect their performance at work. 

Empathy is being concerned about the human being, not just their output.

So if you are in a leadership role, this is something that you definitely want to keep in mind. Most people really don't want to be bad performers. They really want to do a good job.

Building Teams

During the webinar, Kristie asked the audience to share why they think empathy is an important trait.

Many of the responses touched on building connection and vulnerability amongst the team, being human, and being authentic. Participants said empathy lays the groundwork for mature leadership and connecting with your workers as people.

Hiring Employees

Empathy is also important in the hiring process. It gives you insight into another person's motivations and helps you judge whether a candidate is right for a position.

“If you look at your candidate with empathy, you can really see the person and the human that they are. And if they're going to bring that to the table and bring those right skills and the right fit culturally, and all those other pieces just by thinking about that,” said Kristie.

Working With Clients

We’ve all worked with difficult clients. However, by employing empathy in your conversations with clients or subject matter experts, you can better understand their pain points and get on the same page.

By having that conversation where you both get aligned and get on the same page, you just have a better relationship. 

In addition, empathy allows you to understand how another person is likely to behave, which can be really powerful in negotiations.

Why Leadership Training Can Help

Kristie polled the audience, asking who had worked for a leader that lacked empathy at any point in their career. The response was a resounding 95% “YES.”

Pre-COVID, there was certainly less demand for training around empathy and more for training on concrete, measurable skills. However, at ELB Learning, we’re seeing more and more clients come to us for manager and leadership training.


Watch the Entire Webinar Recording Here

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