Why empathy is important in business15 May 2018
When businesses ruthlessly pursue profits and success, they can sometimes forget about the human elements of business. This is a mistake. While their bottom line might be bolstered in the short term, in the long run they risk alienating both customers and employees alike.
Prioritising traits like empathy in yourself and your employees is one way to keep the humanity running strong in your business. Empathy is a primary part of strong leadership skills: It should not only be a part of your own actions, but a foundation for the way your team functions. Here are three reasons why empathy is good for business.
1) Empathy forces you to be present
How many times have you caught yourself only half-listening to someone, your mind instead preoccupied with thinking about what you’re going to say once they finish speaking? If you find yourself doing this too much, it won’t be long before people catch on. When you’re not present in a conversation, it shows disrespect to the person you’re talking to and can foment distrust in your team. Why should they go to the effort of explaining themselves if you don’t have the empathy and respect to hear out their position?
Cultivating empathy will help you be present in the moment more often.
Being present will also help you think deeper about the problems you’re currently trying to solve. When your mind is wandering and thinking about other things instead of the job at hand, you’re at greater risk of making mistakes.
2) Empathy helps forge stronger relationships
Business relationships are often stereotyped as cold and impersonal, but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, embracing warmth and treating stakeholders with empathy can make your business relationships stand out, as well as improve your product offerings.
Think, for example, about the relationship you have with your customers. Having empathy for their problems will help you develop better products. If you’re indifferent to customer needs, you’re not going to be able to understand the problem they have that your product can solve. It’ll also help you deal better with any complaints they have, something that can turn someone from a never-again user to someone willing to give your business another shot.
3) Empathy has you consider the wider impact of your actions
When you take an empathetic perspective in your business, you’re forced to consider the wider implications of your actions. This can help dramatically in reducing the myopia that can come with the daily grind of business. When you’re working, working, working, the direct results you get can become the only thing you have time to think about.
In the short term this can be okay. However, in the long term, thinking only about you and your business is unlikely to pay off. For one, as demonstrated in “Built to Last”, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ book on what makes businesses successful long term. That is, companies that have a purpose beyond simply making money make six times as much for their shareholders as did rivals focused exclusively on profit.
Empathy can also make you consider the very broad impact of your business practices. For example, if your product comes with a lot of unrecyclable plastic waste, an empathetic perspective would see this as a problem for future generations and would do something to fix it.
When it’s allowed to influence your practices in an intelligent way, empathy has the power to transform many aspects of your business. For more information on our courses that develop leadership and communication skills, get in touch with ICML today.