Empathy Builds Inclusive Teams
Real connection needs empathy, and when we can convey our feelings correctly, we can build connections easier.
Recently, I started watching Brené Brown’s series “Atlas of the Heart,” a show based on her bestselling book about how to find better connection with ourselves and each other. Brené believes that connection needs empathy, and when we can convey our feelings correctly, we can build connections easier. While this is important for our personal connections, we also need to build connections in our organizations, with our coworkers and our managers. These relationships need investment daily, not only for our work, but also for our quality of life. So how do we do this in an authentic way to help build resilient, high-performance teams?
Have you ever rushed to a meeting where the organizer didn’t waste any time getting right to the topic at hand? In your head you may be still reeling from the last meeting you were in, or even dealing with a personal matter that is taking up some of your bandwidth. No one in the room will know what your current situation is. They may just see a distracted attendee and tell themselves a story about why you look like you are not paying attention. To resolve this misunderstanding, you can open a meeting with a check-in and share where you are at that moment. Taking the time to ask how everyone is coming into the room, where their focus has been, and how they are doing personally, gives everyone in the space time to acclimate to the new setting and to get to know each other on a more personal level. This may seem simple, but by doing so you can create a sense of psychological safety, building interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.
Another way we can practice empathy is to look at things from someone else’s point of view. We can never truly walk in someone else’s shoes, but we can question ourselves and our actions from a different perspective. Brian Fretwell, founder of Finding Good, an organization built around helping people ask better questions, recently posted a video that struck a chord with me. He said that people are always asking these questions in their mind: Does the person trying to lead me actually care about me? Does this person understand and actually know me? Do they think I am good at what I do? Do they see my value? You don’t need to be in a leadership position to see how you can answer these questions for every team member. Show that you care by asking real questions about each other. Show up for each other in moments that matter. Give praise when you see someone doing something great. Pay attention to what they have to say and let others add value to important conversations. Little moments every day can help these questions get answered and create new ways to encourage, validate and support each other.
No employee is like the other, and although many can have similar interests or backgrounds, every person is unique. In high-performance teams, you will find an acceptance of that individuality. It has been proven that diverse teams perform better. According to Gartner, 75% of organizations with diverse frontline decision-making teams will exceed their financial targets. The key to an inclusive culture is empathy. It’s not just about listening, it’s about understanding. What’s even better is that empathy is something you can get training on. By taking an empathy test to see where you stand, you can then find resources to help build this part of your skill set. Some employers are already assessing empathy in job applicants, especially those whose roles are in management. A critical trait, empathy allows us to accept the individuality of others and create a sense of belonging.
Brené put it best when she said, “Empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn’t require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through.” None of us can claim to fully know what another person is experiencing, but through empathy we can make each other feel connected in an authentic way. That sense of belonging creates a resilient team that can conquer anything.
With a love for design and a passion for technology this mother of four has never shied away from a day of hard work in either. After working in the IT field as a marketing director, she now works in the marketing field as Manager of Technology & Business Services for Savage. Just don't be fooled by her sweet nature, underneath lies the heart of a gamer, and the competition better watch out.