Here are some steps to take to begin improving empathy as an effective management tool. Like all the emotional competencies, it is better to practice with an experienced coach who can monitor and give effective feedback. Reading a book and taking a class can both help to gain a greater cognitive understanding of what is involved. However, empathy skills must be learned experientially, that is, practiced in the field in real-time.
1. Keep a log of situations in which you felt you were able to demonstrate empathy and a log in which you felt you did not. Make a note of missed opportunities to respond with empathy.The Business Case for EI
2. Become aware of incidents where there may be some underlying concerns that are not explicitly expressed by others.
3. Make a note of possible emotions or feelings that the other person may be experiencing. Keep an open mind and never assume, merely explore the possibilities.
4. Develop a list of questions to ask at your next encounter with that person. Try to make the questions open-ended, that is, questions that can’t be answered by yes or no.
5. Practice listening without interrupting. Wait until the other person is complete with their point of view before offering yours.
6. Avoid being defensive in order to create an open dialogue where possibilities can be explored freely.
7. Allow creative time for people to express opinions and ideas without judgment.
8. Practice active listening: always check out the meaning of what was said with the person speaking but AFTER they truly have finished. Paraphrasing what was said helps to clear up misconceptions and to deepen understanding.
9. Always bring focus back into the conversation. Remember that optimal effectiveness is achieved by a combination of focus and empathy. Work on achieving an effective balance of focus, goal orientation and empathic listening.
The following examples of research build a case for how emotional intelligence contributes to the bottom line in any business organization. They offer a bottom-line rationale for attention to emotional competencies, in hiring, selecting, and retaining personnel, in developing performance measurements, and in managing customer relationships.
After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems on their own, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996).
In another manufacturing plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17 percent. There was no such increase in production for a group of matched supervisors who were not trained (Porras & Anderson, 1981).
The US Air Force used the EQ-I (Emotional Quotient Inventory, Multi-Health Systems, Toronto) to select recruiters and found that the most successful recruiters scored significantly higher in the emotional competencies of assertiveness, empathy, happiness and emotional self-awareness. They found that by using EI to select recruiters, they increased their ability to predict successful recruiters by nearly three-fold. The immediate gain was a saving of $3 million annually.
An analysis of more than 300 top level executives from fifteen global companies showed that six emotional competencies distinguished star performers from average: influence, team leadership, organizational awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership (Spencer, 1997)
Financial advisors at American Express whose managers completed the Emotional Competence training program were compared to an equal numbers whose managers had not. During the year following training, the advisors of trained managers grew their businesses by 18.1% compared to 16.2% of those whose managers were untrained.
In a large beverage firm, using standard methods to hire division presidents, 50% left within two years, mostly because of poor performance. When they started selecting based on emotional competencies such as initiative, self-confidence, and leadership, only 6% left in two years. The executives selected based on EI were far more likely to perform in the top third: 87% were in the top third. Division leaders with these competencies outperformed their targets by 15 to 20 percent. Those who lacked them under-performed by almost 20% (McClelland, 1999).
This is the final part of the article by Jim Harden of Greystone Consulting, begun a few days ago.