6 Ways To Create A Kinder Business
Showing empathy comes more naturally to some people than others, which usually depends on their family background. I come from a rather emotionally dysfunctional family and I have had to build my empathy through various experiences of adversity. Empathy is something I have to work on and I’m always looking for how to grow into more.
It’s become harder to demonstrate empathy and compassion in the workplace, especially as more meetings are being held online. Typically men will struggle with these traits more, so they often have to work harder to develop these characteristics.
The word ‘empathy’ comes from the Greek ‘empatheia’–‘em’ (into) and ‘pathos’ (feeling), suggesting a movement towards and into someone else’s emotions, moving from one place, ourselves, to another place – the other’s space, feelings, and pain. If we have an emotional response when remembering great leaders who have guided us in the past, they were likely leaders with high empathy and that’s the reason why we felt a connection with them. If we aspire to be inspirational leaders, then we also need to develop empathy or to put it more accurately, nurture the empathy within us.
Those leaders who can embrace empathy will not only be the more successful leaders but also those who ‘can change the world’.
There are a few steps you can take to make your business more kind and empathetic:
1. Company purpose
A workplace needs to have a purpose aside from making money for its owners or shareholders. If you have an organisation that’s always looking outwards to benefit the world in some way, it will inevitably also be full of people who are also looking out for their colleagues internally. Giving your business a purpose to make the world a better place will mean kinder and more inspired staff.
Call out and reward collaborative behaviour when you see it and reward it. This helps to set the tone that kind and altruistic behaviour is what is expected in business. When running meetings, I try to ensure that each meeting has a people and planet element before any profits or financial matters are discussed. As well as being kind to one another in the business, we also need to make sure we are being kind to the planet.
One important way to help build kindness and empathy is to become involved with those in society that are less fortunate than ourselves. We started a compulsory volunteering scheme where each staff member must do 12 hours of volunteering, with the hope that they will positively impact other people’s lives. This will not only benefit the people you help through volunteering, but also the lives of your people.
4. Lead by example
The culture of a workplace is set by the leaders of the organisation and the business. Are you the sort of leader who puts others before yourself? Do you create a safe atmosphere where people have the freedom to take risks and make mistakes? Are you the kind of leader that will empower other people? Displaying kindness and empathy in your leadership strategy will encourage the same in your team.
5. Notice your reactions
How do you react when things go wrong? When anything bad happens in business it’s common for the first thoughts to be on the goal that was missed, rather than the people involved. If something doesn’t go to plan, try to ask your staff how they feel about the mistake or failure.
Take the time to really listen to others in your team. And I mean really listen, by putting your phone away. It’s important to turn your ear and listen for the meaning behind people’s words, who might have a less direct way of expressing how they feel. Reflecting and meditating on what they have said will help your workers feel more respected and listened to.
The great thing is as a CEO or Director creating a kinder workplace means that you too will be happier and more fulfilled. What’s not to like?
About the author: Paul Hargreaves is a speaker, a B-Corp Ambassador, and the author of The Fourth Bottom Line: Flourishing in the new era of compassionate leadership.