Empathy is defined as “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (@Dictionarycom) When we think of our workplace colleagues at crunch time when the deadlines are looming over our heads, empathy is probably not the first characteristic that comes to mind. However, studies show that soft skills are in fact a critical piece of the leadership puzzle. According to @Entrepreneur, empathy is especially important to an entrepreneur’s success in business. Peoplescape has had the honor of working with several start-ups and entrepreneurs across industry lines. The one thing these leaders have in common is a combination of intelligence and empathy, IQ and EQ. The balance between these two is sometimes hard to maintain, but displaying aptitude in both is clearly a benefit to today’s leaders.
According to the Development Dimensions International study in 2016, which focused on high-resolution leadership, a larger percentage of leadership failures can be attributed to insensitivity than stupidity. Leading teams and building networks, two skills necessary to be a great leader, requires a strong grasp of soft skills and empathy towards your employees, colleagues, clients, and other contacts. Of course, intelligence and brain power are also crucial for developing the business side of things, and making sure your business is something that can and will flourish.
Entrepreneur contributing writer @JoeyPomerenke points out that, “Entrepreneurs are surrounded by people who they need to understand, from shareholders to investors, to employees and customers. When an entrepreneur is in tune with the perspectives and needs of these parties, the business will be strengthened.” Here are a few easy ways for you to strengthen your soft skills in business, proving yourself to be a strong leader in more ways than one!
- Talk to your customers – show that you are invested in them and they are more likely to return the favor and support your business.
- Talk to your employees – understand their point of view, as they are in the front lines and can help provide a perspective you won’t find yourself.
- Investors and shareholders have vested interests in your business – you need to make sure that their needs are met as well. Do they have questions? Answer them. Do they have concerns? Put their minds at ease. Offer as much or as little information as each investor is comfortable with, cater to their specific needs and it will be met with a respect for your business and your leadership skills.
- Encourage leaders within your company to display both EQ (soft skills such as empathy) and IQ (brain power) in their daily dealings with employees and customers. Set an example and encourage your managers to follow suit.
- Utilize personality and job suitability assessment tools to determine a candidate’s aptitude for EQ and IQ in the selection process. The sooner you know who you are working with, the easier it will be to build a solid business relationship.
- Devote learning and practice opportunities for your leaders in soft skills. Provide online training and leadership development options as well as hands-on practice in their day-to-day duties.
- Have a vision for the future – businesses that look to the days ahead rather than only the bottom line profit of the present will have successful partnerships with those around them, and a stronger sense of who they are and where they want to be in the years to come.