How to Be an Empathetic Leader

Negotiations are a large part of any collections business, and empathy is at the heart of every negotiation. Empathy means being able to see and understand someone else’s point of view and needs. So, while I may want to collect as much of the money owed to my client as possible, I also need to understand that the debtor wants to keep his business open. If I keep pushing for what I need without listening and responding to the other person’s needs, neither side will win.  As a business owner, I also need empathy when dealing with my employees, especially now.

Empathy gives you insight into what others are feeling and thinking. Empathy allows you to create and maintain trust with your employees, even when they aren’t in the office. Everyone is worried and stressed right now, but we aren’t all worried and stressed about the same things. I may be worried about the health of my business. An employee married to a healthcare work might be worried about their spouse’s health. An employee with small children might be frustrated by their inability to work normal hours. The frustrations and stress these employees are feeling doesn’t mean they are suddenly less valuable employees. Instead, it means that I, as a boss, need to be empathetic and understanding. By sharpening your understanding of others, you will make better decisions for your business.

How can you become more empathetic? Empathy is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the more empathetic you will become. These exercises will help strengthen your empathy muscle.

Be curious about others

Employers often avoid getting too involved in their staff’s personal lives. On one level that makes sense, but it’s hard to really know where people are coming from if you don’t know a lot about them. Right now, the more you know about an employee’s personal life, the better idea you have of whether or not they can continue providing high quality work at home. Try to get to know your staff, ask them questions about their lives and their interests. Usually, the better you know someone, the easier it is to like them and be empathetic to their situation.

Really listening means paying attention not just to what’s being said, but how it’s being said. It’s hard to see body language over a video call, but you can and should pay attention to the tone of voice and the emotions behind what’s being said. To really listen, you can’t interrupt, no matter how busy you are. If you are only partially listening and thinking about what you’ll say in response, it will show. Body language is important, even on a conference call.

Be present

Right now, when we’re all meeting on our desktops, the distractions are incredible. It’s so easy to check that email, look at your phone, or even pet your dog while having a conversation. But to truly understand and be empathetic, you need to avoid distraction. Practice being present in the moment so that you can really hear what is being said.

If you, as a boss, lack empathy, then your staff will wind up feeling isolated and as though they should only care about their own interests. However, if you’re an empathetic leader your staff will know that they can be upfront and honest with you without fear of being judged or ignored. We won’t always be isolated from our employees, but being able to talk to, and understand, your employees will always be a useful skill.

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