Developing empathy skills

While managers understand empathy, they are unsure how to use it as a managers tool.

How to build empathy:

  • Managers should engage in one-on-one conversations with their peers to diagnose current managerial challenges.
  • These conversations will offer a chance to engage in vulnerable discussions on how to support the well-being of their team.
  • Most importantly, these conversations offer managers the opportunity to make mistakes and learn to lead with empathy.
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Career

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The role of managers are changing

Gartner analysis shows that 46% of the workforce is projected to be working hybrid in the near future for midsize companies. Employees will have more choices about where, when, and how much they work.

In the past, managers used to be selected and promoted if they were able to manage and evaluate the performance of employees. Now managers are increasingly hired based on their ability to be great coaches and teachers.

Three trends challenge the traditional definitions of the manager role:

  1. The normalisation of remote work. Managers start to shift their focus more on the outputs of employees and less on the processes used to produce them.
  2. Acceleration in the use of new technology to manage employees is replacing the tasks historically done by managers, such as allocating work and nudging productivity.
  3. Employees' changing expectations. Knowledge workers expect their managers to be part of their support system to help them improve their life experience, not just their employee experience.

The most effective managers of the future will be able to lead with empathy, although the 2021 Garner survey shows that only 47% of managers are prepared for this future role.

Qualities of the empathic manager:

  • They can go beyond understanding the facts of work. They proactively seek information to put themselves in their employees' context.
  • They develop high levels of trust and care and a culture of acceptance within teams.

While the roles of managers have expanded, roles and teams are not structured to support well-being.

Managers are more motivated to be empathic when they have a support system. Goodway Groups, a fully remote company, acknowledges that distributed teams face greater challenges with communication and shared visibility. They created a team success partner whose duties include fostering trust and psychological safety and supporting team health. Managers work with the team success partners.

Managers are overburdened by the demands of the changing work environment. Actions that focus on empathy is time-consuming.

In recognising the pressure on managers to maintain team connectedness in a remote environment, leaders should rebalance their managers' workload. Managers should prioritise their workload to focus on fewer, higher-impact relationships with individuals and teams.

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