Lots of articles in the business press about how important empathy – the ability to deeply feel / understand another’s PoV (Point of view) – is to business. Well, yes and no: not enough empathy and you will crush your senior management team; too much and you may drift from the goals you have mutually set and get stuck in personal dramas. Many leaders have gotten to where they are specifically because they are not particularly empathetic; you may be in this category. So the first step is to be aware of your own wiring.
Some level of narcissism is healthy – we all have to have sufficient self regard and self love to manage confidently and move ahead in uncertain times. Too much though – and this is sadly common with business leaders- can destroy a team and negate the power one gets from leveraging individual skills collectively. If you’re a business leader, it is especially important that you identify your own narcissism and manage it appropriately. The stronger a leader’s narcissism is, the more it needs to be managed, but the less likely she will recognize it. Sad but true.
I am amazed how slow I am to learn to listen, and I’ve been at the process for a few years now, and my family would say I still have a long way to go. Leaders often have this challenge; they’ve gotten to where they are because they think fast, can draw conclusions quickly and act on what they’ve concluded. To focus on the speaker, then hear what they are saying, then process their thoughts without judgement or interruption are both difficult and essential. Good listening is built on empathy, which I talk about in another post.
It can be a challenge to take the time to develop and execute on a plan to help your team members to grow as managers, to work on areas where they need to get stronger. This takes some of the skills we’ve discussed here – the ability to listen and to be empathetic. It can be done; you can jointly identify a few simple areas that each team member wants to / needs to work on and lay out a plan to help them do so.
As you take on more senior roles and manage larger groups of people, thinking about how and what you communicate becomes very important; this may be a new skill to work on. Think through what matters to the audience and map both the content of your communication and its context to this. Face to face meetings carry more non verbal, contextual information but limit the amount of information shared. Email communications can be particularly fraught: the meaning read into a turn of phrase or the “tone” communicated in a phrase can be subtle and unintentionally devastating. Whatever channel you use to communicate, your message short and clear – folks do not have the time or focus to churn through large amounts of content and will lose the core of what you are trying to say.