Leading With Empathy In The Workplace
In the past, empathy was never seen as a necessity in business leadership. But now, it is becoming evident that empathy is a cornerstone of a successful enterprise.
Creating a workplace that encourages empathy starts at the top. The empathetic work culture we built at FedEx - conscious awareness of the feelings and thoughts of others and understanding their needs and motivations - has proven to be valuable to our organization throughout this crisis.
When the pandemic hit and strict quarantine regulations were imposed, FedEx immediately established a set of operating protocols to keep our team members safe. As an essential service provider, we remained operational and delivered essential shipments such as medicine, ventilators, and PPE. Today, strict health and safety protocols remain in place in all our facilities and non-essential team members continue to work from home.
What can you do – as a business owner and leader – for your employees, no matter what size of staff you are leading?
1. Invest in relationships
The more you interact and build camaraderie with your team, the easier it will be to keep them motivated and engaged. For instance, why not have your team calls on video? Check on people who may be ‘hiding out’ to see if they need help.
2. Practice active listening
If direct interaction with your team members isn’t always possible, it’s good to have a feedback system where they can call or leave a message any time. FedEx has an ‘open door’ policy where anyone can meet with management at any level with comments, suggestions or questions. As leaders we make ourselves available virtually on various platforms and invite our teams to reach out.
3. Challenge your biases
Colleagues who come from different generations might have different working styles or approaches to the same project or task. This could result in dismissing each other's opinions, conflict and possible alienation and tense mental atmosphere – which can be felt even in virtual audio and video calls! An open mind and awareness of such biases will allow teams to pivot and build better relationships.
As a global, multi-cultural company, FedEx makes conscious effort to ensure Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in our daily operations through policy, practices, services, and support programs. As a company, we strongly believe – and always have - that everyone deserves respect. Embracing diversity is part of who we are and what we do.
You can do it too. All it takes is a conscious effort from leadership to model the same level of respect for all employees regardless of gender, age, culture, interests or backgrounds.
4. Make room for failure
Failure is a necessary step towards growth and innovation. Making this work, however, requires a culture of trust and empowerment. Team members must be encouraged to be honest, open with their ideas, and creative without fear of being mocked. Those who feel supported in this way will more likely to come up with solutions that will lead to business success.
In the new normal, with drastically reduced in-person time with your teams, managing with empathy is critical. You need to take a look within and really approach work relationships as a human. Remember, positive mental health is a direct driver of productivity.
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