Empathy is a virtue that you can use proactively as a business owner.
To call yourself an empath smacks of new-age awareness and, perhaps, if you’re enough of a geek, a hint of Star Trek fandom. In fact, there was an episode of Star Trek called “The Empath” and in it a young female from another planet encounters Captain Kirk and company. When he is cut on the face by nasty aliens, she approaches and touches him, healing his pain by transferring his open wound to her own face. The story continues with greater examples of self-sacrifice in the name of empathy, but the nice thing about applying empathy in business is the fact that you can learn to identify and heal the pain of your employees and clients without sustaining any scars yourself. In fact, what you will be more likely to sustain will be a mark of virtue in the eyes of all the players that make your business day a reality, gaining trust and a reputation as a problem solver. People will be more likely to turn to you again for all manner of solutions to their pain.
The definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others” and there could be no better point of awareness from which to launch a business with the hopes of putting together…
- A group of employees who will become a team that will be living, working examples of the kind of people-centered culture you desire.
- A solid, growing, long-term client base so happy with your products and services that they become vocal advocates of your brand, helping to bring in new, initially curious but ultimately, satisfied customers
Begin by discovering how people might be looking at you right now:
It’s not an easy thing to identify exactly the ways in which we may be insensitive to the challenges of employees or clients, so an easy way to start is to simply welcome feedback. You may wind up with more insight not only about how others see you as a leader, but about the function of your business as a whole.
1. Welcome suggestions: It might sound simple…and it is, but that’s why it works. Put a suggestion box on your front counter and print up neat little cards that allow space for anonymous feedback and ideas. Pair this with a “feedback welcome” section on your website and you are in for some revelations that can only help you adapt your skills as a manager.
2. Get a fresh perspective: If you are an independent business owner, an outside consultant may be able to come in and talk to customers and employees as part of an observation of your day-to-day functionality. This may provide a fresh perspective that you can use to get a real sense of how people feel their challenges are being addressed and how you can help them feel better.
3. Special bonus perspective for franchise owners: If you are a franchise owner, you have a keen advantage in your regional support personnel. They are well-versed in the tone and feeling of your local business, experts in developing a healthy business culture and typically have long-term relationships with vendors. They are also familiar with clients and employees on a level an outside consultant is not. In this way, your franchisor can help you get a unique understanding of the experience these critical players have in their dealings with you.
Entrepreneurial empaths may be naturally born, but they can also be made
To tap into your inner-empath so you can most effectively understand and share the feelings of others in order to help your business grow requires more than acknowledging the challenges of others (that’s is sympathy, not empathy…and sympathy is too passive). You must take a moment to borrow from a common saying and put yourself in the shoes of your employees, vendors and clients. Imagine the effects of dealing with you in a variety of scenarios and how your action (or lack thereof) are perceived.
There are a greater number of employees in the world than entrepreneurs for a number of reasons and some of them involve intensity and grit that allow you, as a boss to take on the unknown, facing chaos, strife, curve balls in day-to-day business and difficult people with vigor and ultimately, victory. Most people are not maintaining this level of intensity and observing you in action as you bend and weave, changing your mind sometimes based on instinct or new data, can be seen as unpredictable. Also, if you are intensely focused from one thing to the next and not cued-in to when your people need you, it’s easy to be judged as insensitive or dismissive.
Awareness of others’ perceptions is the beginning of empathy and engaging people from that awareness is everything. Here are a few points how to begin to gain the empathy edge:
- Acknowledge your “quirks” and your intensity as well as their impact on your team. Everyone has idiosyncrasies, so directly address your employees in team meetings. Allow time during those meetings to lay out your humanity for all to see. Instead of becoming distant if something happens in your personal life that alters your energy in the workplace, fess up. It will alleviate your stress to come clean with challenges and in no way make you appear weak. Quite the contrary. It will earn respect.
- If you tend to be short-tempered when you are dealing with numbers or hyper-focused with blinders on when you are excited about a new project, a little “mea culpa” can go a long way towards easing their feeling that approaching you is difficult. It also makes it far easier to share their own quirks, which opens healthy dialogue as a manager in terms of improving the daily function of your workdays, but also the entire culture of your business.
- Since your business is “your baby”, you are all in, ready to make sacrifices of extra time and energy in order to generate sweet financial gains, to be straightforward. However, other folks may be passionate about their jobs, but will not operate with the same self-sacrifice, nor should they be expected to do so. They also may fear appearing unmotivated if they do not match your pace. Feel this for them and put it to rest by giving them praise for jobs well done and respect when it’s time to go home.
- The same basic awareness of time and energy respect will go a long way with vendors and clients. Throw in some branded gifts for good measure when you complete a transaction.
- One-size fits all marketing is a dead-end street when it comes to being empathetic to your clients’ individual needs. Any business that clings to generic email ads, neglects print marketing channels and fails to follow-up will either fail to thrive or close entirely. Be empathetic to people who truly desire personal connection in today’s climate, one that is jammed with endless digital ads and poorly designed campaigns. It is best to entrust your efforts with a marketing specialist.
Empathy is a virtue that can only strengthen your reputation as an authentic partner to your clients and as a true, respected leader by your team. Entrepreneurs with empathy have an immediate edge with employees, vendors and clients with their ability to put themselves in the proverbial shoes of others. From that place, problem solving becomes a joint venture and a stronger culture with more genuine relationships can be fostered. From within your business as well as out into your local community, making the challenges and successes of others your own is as good for your spirit as it is lucrative for your bottom line.
To learn more about joining the #1 rated Minuteman Press franchise family, call us at 1-800-645-3006 or simply fill out the contact form on this page.