Whether you are the head of an organisation or leading a small team of employees – you need to have a strong yet gentle approach; especially when it comes to dealing with different personalities and emotions. Long gone are the days when a manager would shout and expect to get the best out of people and yet many leaders are still worried they will appear “weak” if they try to adopt a softer approach.

True strength however does not come from riding roughshod over the feelings of others. The true super power is empathy – the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective and then use that insight to guide decisions on a “win win” basis.

Empathy is known as a soft skill but the value of its currency should not be underrated. Every communication is a “transaction” that will either add or subtract to the value of your workforce and ultimately company profit margins. The ability to listen, reflect and respond appropriately increases respect, motivation and productivity. Empathy rewards you with insight into the thoughts, feelings and reactions of those around you and is an incalculable asset for building trust and respect in both business and personal relationships.

So how does one become empathetic? The following tips will help you be a leader who leads by example:-

  1. Listen

Make sure you are truly listening. Speech is only a small part of communication – body language and tone of voice can say so much more so look beyond the surface to see if every signal you receive matches.

  • Listen more!

Don’t interrupt! It is all too easy to get distracted, impatient or frustrated but empathy means being able to absorb the information given to you without rushing people, cutting them off mid-sentence or jumping in with a band aid solution that won’t help anyone in the long run.

  • Stay in the moment

When you are truly connecting with someone you won’t be wondering what you’ll have for lunch or be tempted to check your phone. It is only good manners to listen and think of ways to support them.

  • Try not to judge

No one likes being judged and showing empathy means that you drop your personal filters and allow room for fresh perspectives. It is not a case of one of you being right or wrong but an opportunity to understand another’s frame of reference and what they are experiencing and expressing.

  • Watch the quiet ones

In meetings it is usual to find that one or two staff members tend to hold the floor leaving the quieter employees sat shyly in their seats. It is important to encourage everyone to have a say lest some solid ideas remain unspoken!

There is more to cultivating empathy than these 5 tips but they provide a solid framework from which to build this emotional thinking muscle that only works to strengthen your leadership and your team.