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76 STASHED IDEAS

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.
Rebecca L. (@rebbll82) - Profile Photo

@rebbll82

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Career

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Carlson did chemical experiments in his own home, to the frustration of his family and neighbours. He mad smelly compounds, melting sulfur over zinc plates in the kitchen smelling like rotten eggs, and once even starting a fire.

Carlson used Selényi’s ideas (more or less to use light to remove static charge, not create it) and his own. After many experiments, he had a breakthrough and created the first copy in 1938.

The Xerox 914 is a story we can learn from

The Xerox 914 copy machine of 1959 is a great breakthrough in office technology and product design. Its hallmark was simplicity: You simply paced your paper on glass and pressed a button.

How Chester Carlson invented it is a story of risk and persistence. As with most innovation, it took decades from having an idea to making it a real product in the marketplace.

Another decade of development produced the Xerox 914 - named because it could copy paper up to 9″ x 14″. This model was simple to use and didn't damage originals.

As with most new tech, it had some problems. It tended to overheat and often came with a fire extinguisher. The machines required a small team of people who maintained them. But relative to competitors, it was a breakthrough in many ways.

  • Carlson worked at Bell Labs in the 1930s in the patent department. He had multiple ideas for different inventions. However, he focused on copying because typing on two sheets of paper with a carbon paper in between was messy and frustrating.
  • Carlson was fired in 1933 during the Great Depression. By 1936 he had a new job and also went to night school to study law. To relax, he read books on science and learned about Pál Selényi’s work on electrostatic images.
  • Once patented, Carlson was turned down by 20 companies between 1939 and 1944, including IBM and the U.S. Navy.
  • Carlson continued to work in patents at the P.R. Mallory Company and demonstrated his work to an engineer from Battelle, who was there to testify for a patent case. Batelle was impressed and offered financial support.
  • In 1946 they signed a deal with Haloid (later renamed Xerox). In 1948 they released the Xerox Model A Copier that took 39 steps to make a single copy.

Leaders who are at the helm during pandemics, natural disasters, wars, economic crises are the ones which handled the turbulent waters with their grit and resilience.

An empathic leader who provides reassurance, comfort and security during times of uncertainty is the one to bank on.

Publilius Syrus

"Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm."

From a customer's standpoint, the reputation of a company is made or broken during the time there is a problem or a crisis.

If a faulty product or service results in endless customer care calls that lead nowhere or jumping legal loops, then the customers will take their business to some other company.

  • If your spouse stood by you during your jobless months, when there were uncertainty and stress all around, then the relationship is worth its salt. Anyone can stand beside a successful person during a good time.
  • How a partner is treated during a bitter argument is something that is remembered, not during a holiday at the beach.
  • Even the boss would remember how you toiled and ground yourself during a stressful project, not when all was smooth sailing.

Our worst day is a chance to show our best qualities, and to stand out.

What we do during the times of turmoil and crisis cannot be faked. It’s when the real ‘us’ is out there in the open, for all to witness. One cannot stall or cook up an excuse when the problem is up close and personal. Our plans, preparations and behaviours show how much we care for our loved ones, and the people who depend on us.

When Things Go Well

Just like a chain is only as good as its weakest link, a product or service is only as good as they are when they malfunction or break.

We all are programmed to focus on the winning streak, skyrocketing valuation, and great success. What is more instructive and enlightening is to observe what happens during the rough times.

  • Companies prove their real worth when they adapt themselves to changing market conditions during a financial crisis.
  • Companies which pivot themselves and take care of their employees, customers and stakeholders are the ones that thrive.
  • If they are raising CEO bonuses and firing their own employees when the chips are down, they are not to be trusted.
Curiosity

People with this trait are more creative and flexible and learn more easily. 

But, in excess, curiosity may lead to moving from project to project without completing any of them.

Ambiguity acceptance

People with a high tolerance for ambiguity can take in many viewpoints before coming to a decision. They find it easier to react to changes and to cope with complex problems.

People with a low ambiguity tolerance may be dictatorial, but this can be useful when a more ordered approach is needed.

Risk approach (or courage)

People with this trait prefer to avoid potentially unpleasant confrontations.

Dealing with difficult situations in the face of opposition is critical for management positions.

Conscientiousness

Conscientious people are committed to plans and ensure they carry them out accurately. They consider the wisdom of their decisions for the long-term.

They are essential for strategic planning but can be too rigid.

Competitiveness

Competitiveness can be a powerful motivation that leads you to go the extra mile.

At worst, it can lead to unhealthy jealousy of others. 

Workplace personality tests are used to sort people according to various thinking styles, such as into/extroversion and thinking/feeling.

Many psychologists feel that the theory behind the different categories fails to predict performance or to find high-performing candidates. Some critics even claim that it is a pseudoscience.

Adjustment

People with high adjustment can cope well with anxieties under pressure. Stress doesn't negatively influence their behavior and decision-making.

People with low scores on this scale can suffer from poor performance at work, but reframing a stressful situation as a potential for growth can help.

Recently, six traits were identified that are consistently linked to workplace success: Conscientiousness, adjustment, ambiguity acceptance, curiosity, courage, and competitiveness.

Each trait may have drawbacks at extremes. The relative importance of each trait will be determined by the job you are doing. Knowing the traits can also aid in personal development so that you can identify your own strengths and weaknesses and the ways you may account for them.

When it comes to decisions, organizations rely on gathering data and analyzing the decision. People believe that analysis reduces biases, but most business decisions made this way turned out to be poor decisions.

Research shows that good analysis from managers who have good judgment won't necessarily produce good decisions.

Analysis alone does not yield good decisions as the people who put it together have a subconscious bias and interest in a particular outcome.

Instead, a disciplined decision process involves guarding against decision-making biases by exploring and discussing major uncertainties or discussing contradictory viewpoints.

The quality of our decisions

We all make decisions. However, few of us realize that the process we use to make decisions is more important than the analysis we put into the decision.

A McKinsey Quarterly survey pointed out that 60 percent of executives thought that bad decisions were as frequent as good decisions.

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