What leaders should do to promote support and security
By LOUISA DEVADASON
Findings consistently show that a leader’s ability to empathise is positively correlated with subordinate job performance. Paternalistic behaviours are particularly powerful in promoting support and security that lead to higher job performance, especially in high-power distance cultures (such as Malaysia).
While empathy, or rather the display of empathy, is more natural to some – leaders can still cultivate this behaviour consciously. Researchers have repeatedly stated that empathy is in fact a learnt behaviour. Organisations can certainly encourage a more empathic workplace by first empowering their managers and heads of departments to heighten their empathic ability in a few simple ways:
1. Make empathy a talking point
Managers need to know empathy matters to you and why. Managers, naturally, are more task-oriented in their leadership because they need to assist in executing a top-down vision. While this is important, in an age of increasing freedom and equality, nurture and emotionality is just as important.
It’s important to educate managers as to how empathy in management can enhance performance and certainly makes you seen as more effective as well as easier to work alongside.
As previously stated, empathy is a learnt skill and some people may have come from backgrounds that left them unexposed to much empathy in practice. That’s why it is important to train managers and employees to learn things like active listening, feedback sandwich and i-messages, for example. They all make up practical and easy things people can learn to do to communicate and conduct themselves with an empathic mindset at work.
3. Pick the right people
When hiring, look for empathy in your candidates. Test their people skills. Some modern companies hire candidates for a one week paid test period where they’re given a project to complete with existing members of the company.
This gives the employers some insight into how the candidate they’re considering really works. It also opens more opportunities for feedback from existing employees – making the hiring process more collaborative.
These are simple ways leaders can be more proactive about creating an empathic workplace. It is essential for a future-minded leader to take these ideas on board and embrace the people around them.
We are heading to a more equal and collaborative work environment, and visionaries who get on board with that will see their companies become more innovative and resilient.