Empathy’s Impact on the Bottom Line

A Wall Street Journal piece recently emphasized the positive impact empathy can have on individuals, especially in terms of improving relationships (see May 3rd, 2016 for the article It’s Worth Learning to Be More Empathetic).  And while few would disagree with a professor like Susan Kuczmarski from the executive education program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, there are still many in companies around the globe who wonder how empathy could possibly impact the bottom line when it comes to everyday business.

At LEADon, we strongly believe that all twenty-five characteristics of Emotional Intelligence are essential to improving professional and personal success and satisfaction.  Empathy (sensing other’s feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns) is one of the twenty-five EQ (Emotional Quotient) skills that can be improved upon over time—especially when given intentional effort.  We’ve seen positive results, including improved productivity and profitability, within the Corporate Family® when individuals and teams work on EQ strengths and weaknesses.

Our findings have been supported by other leadership experts, and a Forbes Magazine article entitled Empathy in Business: Indulgence or Invaluable?  (March 22nd, 2013) highlighted what we’ve been discussing.  This article detailed the increasing evidence that companies “that have happy employees, strong organizational health, empathetic leaders, and maybe even a social mission, outperform their peers.”

If this is true, how can an essential EQ characteristic like empathy be improved upon?  Here are a few tips to get you and your team started:

  1. Learning to be empathetic doesn’t happen in isolation, therefore being intentional about getting team members together—regularly and consistently—is vital to building relational understanding.
  2. Active listening skills must be utilized in all conversations. When something isn’t clear, ask clarifying questions like, “I think I heard you say ________________.  Is that correct?”  Allow plenty of time for these types of clarifying conversations during meetings.
  3. If your team isn’t involved in a community service outreach, then get one started. Ask team members for ideas about needs in and around your Corporate Family.  Provide a day off per calendar year for any/all who want to donate time to this community endeavor.
  4. If your team members haven’t done so yet, take LEADon’s DECQ® (Developing Emotional Competency Questionnaire) where each of you can discover your personal strengths and weaknesses in the twenty-five characteristics of EQ. Follow this up by working through the “Developing Your Emotional Competence to Improve your EQ” module (see leadonuniversity.com).

Empathy, like other EQ characteristics, is far from being a “soft skill.”  Indeed, in one study of over 600 companies, those who placed the organizational health of employees among their highest priorities were reported to have two times higher financial performance (see Beyond Performance:  How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Completive Advantage, 2011 by Keller and Price). Now that’s great bottom line impact!