Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, aim to understand their feelings and perspectives and use that understanding to guide our actions.
Since leadership centers on delivering and creating movement, it stands to reason that driving our actions as leaders through a filter of empathy is the right way to treat our salespeople and a more effective form of leadership when coaching for sales performance.
Sadly, our culture doesn’t often pair the words “empathic” and “leader” together. We usually expect leaders to issue directives that will accomplish the company’s desired results as quickly as possible and with “failure is not an option” bravado!
Knowing this, the mere suggestion of embracing empathic leadership might sound like a pitch for a weaker form of management–but not so!
Research suggests that people who feel understood and appreciated by their managers become more successful and productive. So why not give empathic leadership a shot?
Here are three critical areas for practicing your empathic leadership skills.
Create Time for Focused Curiosity
Every salesperson is unique, and each has a distinctive mental pattern that drives their decisions and behaviors.
Empathy begins with understanding. The best way to deepen your knowledge of your salespeople is to develop a genuine interest in their priorities and goals.
Consider taking individual time with each of your salespeople (heck, take them to breakfast or lunch!) and asking them the following questions:
- “What is most important to you in your personal life outside of work?”
- “How do you define success right now? How would you like to define success in the future?”
- “What are your financial priorities today? What about the next 3 – 5 years?”
- “Where would you like to grow, or what would you like to accomplish in the next 12 months?”
- “What motivates you? What excites you? What do you dream about?”
Right now, can you honestly say that you fully understand each of your salesperson’s missions? Can you summarize why this person gets up and comes to work daily?
Yes? Good for you! No? Time to get curious!
Encourage Time Away from Work
Empathic leadership demands a dual focus – it requires an approach that considers not only the health and well-being of the company but also the health and well-being of the sales professionals that generate revenue for the company.
Time on the job is essential, but so is rejuvenation time away from the office.
Do you encourage your salespeople to take a much-needed break and take care of their personal life? You might be shocked at the ROI of this simple approach to empathic leadership.
Treat Failure as a Growth Opportunity
Failure provides a unique opportunity for empathy. Old school leadership responds to failure with disdain, reprimands, disciplinary action, and threats leading to employment termination.
Consider a new paradigm. Use failure as an opportunity for growth, a chance to connect with your salesperson, assess the behaviors and attitudes that lead to the failure and ask how they genuinely feel about the shortcoming.
Share your stories about times when you failed and how that made you feel. Empathy builds on empathy. Perhaps when your salespeople fall short of a goal, they need compassion and understanding so that they can dust themselves off and get back to work with a positive outlook.
So what is your empathic leadership potential? Are you truly connecting in a meaningful way with your salespeople? Empathy is a skill you can cultivate and a habit you can foster.
Change your paradigm and change your world!