Mastering this skill can fuel collaboration by fostering better working relationships. The result? Increased productivity.
Given the uncertainty of today’s business environment, there’s a growing trend towards teamwork—promoting partnership in order to cut through the ambiguity and get things done. But developing genuine and productive relationships isn’t easy. How can you do this when everyone’s looking out for number one, or to get ahead?
The answer is empathy—being able to put yourself in others’ shoes, learning to see through their eyes. Yet this, too, can be challenging. The key is simply to get as close as you can toward understanding their perspective. Doing so takes time. It also takes each team member beyond their own desires or opinions—helping them to work together by approaching tasks or challenges from a new, often fresh, viewpoint.
Developing the Skill
The good news is that empathy doesn’t come naturally. It’s a learned skill. Therefore, there are ways to intentionally build this muscle:
1. Assume the Best. By looking beyond outcomes—particularly when errors or poor decisions have been made—and assuming best intentions, you can consider employees’ motivations or desires, or possible limitations, which drove them to a particular decision or course of action. You can then address the cause—redirecting them toward better choices going forward.
2. Look to Profiles. Analytic profiles such as Myers-Briggs, Strengthsfinders, or DISC can be useful tools for understanding fellow employees, particularly if you walk through results together—affirming what’s accurate and identifying ways to better work as a team in light of that.
3. Take a Test Run. Try the other’s task or role—to see what it’s actually like and experience what they experience. This can both foster relationship and provide insights into potential solutions or improvements.