Sep 27 / Jackie Kennedy

Leading with Empathy

"We can’t understand each other if we don’t understand ourselves.” This was one of the sentiments I shared recently at the CHRO Solutions Summit, as a featured speaker on The Empathy Equation and Emotional Intelligence panel. 

Why are we discussing empathy in the workplace? Besides the fact that we are human beings and should care about gaining understanding and perspectives outside of our own, empathy also impacts the bottom line of business. When we have empathy, we build trust. With trust, we cultivate strong relationships, robust conversations, and healthy communication. And only with this foundation laid, can we get great performance.

The beginning of self-awareness is unearthing our beliefs and values.
 We need to go deeper to uncover the reasons for our behaviour by examining our lived experiences and unpacking our beliefs and unconscious biases that came from them. This understanding of self is key to working effectively with others.

The iceberg model is a simple diagram, but a useful starting point for understanding our and others' behaviour. Above the water are our behaviour and results that are visible to ourselves and others. Everything below the waterline is invisible, but shapes the way we think, feel and behave. 
Our thoughts and feelings move between the conscious and subconscious mind and we can work at more than one level of the iceberg simultaneously. Because we do know that a change in behaviour can also change one's thoughts and feelings, it's important to highlight that this is just one lens. While the arrows point in one direction, it doesn’t mean that the process is just as linear. 

What's driving your behaviour? If you lack self awareness, then you will just see what's going on above the line (what is observable). You may notice your behaviour, but don't stop to ask why you behaved that way or why something triggers you. Self awareness work is about figuring out why you do what you do. This is a continuous process and may be hard at times as you discover parts about yourself that have been hidden below the water.

Five reflection questions for you to think about:

1. What steps can you and your team take to create a culture that values and encourages self-awareness in the workplace?

2. How can you actively promote empathy in the way you communicate?

3. Are there any current workplace challenges you’re facing now that would benefit from everyone being more empathetic? 

4. How can the concept of the iceberg model be applied practically in leadership, such as when addressing team dynamics or conflicts?

5. Think of a personal experience where self-awareness led to a positive change in your behavior or communication. How can you replicate this?
LeadMe Academy is a comprehensive leadership development programme that helps leaders at all levels enhance their emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-awareness. Through customised coaching, on-the-job activities, and accountability feedback, LeadMe empowers leaders to navigate complex workplace challenges, build trust, and foster healthier communication.

To take the next step in transforming your leadership approach, I encourage you to email me at 
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