Empathy you might be aware of – as a personal skill in dealing with people and understanding what’s really going on for them. But, what does that mean in the context of an organisation? And how do you create an empathetic organisation?
An empathetic organisation is based on transparency. Transparent values, strategy, goals and objectives; transparent roles, hierarchies and matrices; transparent lines of responsibility and performance management; transparent communication at and with all levels; transparent governance; I could go on…
How does that create empathy within the organisation? It creates openness – and openness creates security/safety, which creates comfort to think creatively and innovatively, as well as to give and receive feedback. Affirmative and corrective feedback creates more comfort, which increases confidence within the teams and individuals about their contribution and its value, which impacts productivity…I think you can see the virtuous circle forming?
Interesting, isn’t it, how something as ‘vague’ as empathy can become a critical success factor for long-term competitive edge? It is a vital component of achieving internal alignment which is a vital component of a healthy organisation able to outrun its competition again and again.
How do you know how whether you have an empathetic organisation already?
Well, I’m pretty certain you will have a gut feel just reading through this. However, you might say – and I would agree – that a gut feel is a good place to start, but not a robust analysis tool.
When have you last asked your staff – ALL your staff – what they think the company values are? What they understand your strategic goals to be? How those impact on their objectives? Whether their current objectives are suitable to achieve your strategic goals? How aware they are about how the organisation functions? What they think are the important governance issues that you and your senior team are currently facing? How they could contribute to dealing with those issues effectively?
Yes, the analysis is all about communication and listening to your staff – which will then tell you which steps you need to take to get you towards an empathetic organisation.