How to create loyalty through curiosity and empathy

Imagine how delighted I was to receive a recent message from a colleague checking in and letting me know, “I’m here if you need.” We had a Zoom call, and she asked me about my concern for my elderly mother in aged care, a sector that has been hard hit by the renewed wave of COVID-19 in Victoria. She explained the phrase “I’m here if you need” comes from netball. When a player is taking the ball down the court, her team members run beside her calling out, “I’m here if you need.” It is fine if they are going well on their own, but her teammates are letting her know they are available.

It was an inspiring demonstration of the leadership that we need when times are challenging. People are dealing with all manner of challenges, so there is all the more reason for leaders to understand their team members’ concerns. That does not mean jumping straight in with solutions. My colleague started our call by asking me how I was travelling. In a similar vein, Peter Bregman writing in HBR suggests that empathy starts with curiosity. He says,      “…before demonstrating my understanding, I have to develop it. I need to ask questions and be open and listen and learn. Which takes humility. Humility is not knowing. And that, eventually and almost always, leads to empathy which leads to compassion.”

Research supports the view that empathy in fact delivers better results. Employees value empathy from leaders and repay it with loyalty.

A study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University shows that, ”…the more employees look up to their leaders and are moved by their compassion or kindness (a state he terms elevation), the more loyal they become to him or her. So if you are more compassionate to your employee, not only will he or she be more loyal to you, but anyone else who has witnessed your behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted to you.”

🙋 I’m here if you need. 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian