Leadership = Awareness + Empathy

 

 

A true leader goes beyond the daily routine and takes a step back thinking about the consequences of every human interaction.

When you share ideas, proposals, or concerns, are you aware of their emotional impact on your team?

If you keep your thoughts to yourself, do you realize that they can take a toll on your own emotional balance?

Leaders want to be heard and valued, want to promote an atmosphere of positivity and productivity. This can be achieved more easily through self-awareness and empathy.

Leaders who are empathetic earn the trust of employees, who in turn are more productive. The right approach to empathy can go a very long way in promoting positivity at work.

 

What is empathy?

According to Gustavo Razzetti, author of Stretch for Change, there are two kinds of empathy: Emotional and Cognitive.

  1. Emotional Empathy is activated by mirror neurons, which allow us to feel another person’s feelings in a passive manner.
  1. Cognitive Empathy is also known as ‘perspective taking,’ when we are aware of your own insights and make an effort to understand others.

 

In the early 1990s, neuroscientists discovered that we have specific brain cells that become active when someone else is suffering. In essence, we can feel someone’s pain and move toward a closer understanding of them.

Of course, as a leader, it’s imperative that you understand where an employee is coming from on a topic without being triggered into an emotional response or unhelpful decision. Maintaining a clear, yet compassionate approach can be better achieved with Cognitive Empathy.

 

How can empathy help you be a more effective leader?

A skill that can be worked on and finely tuned with practice, Cognitive Empathy is invaluable for organizations because it:

Builds Team Culture. Making an effort to understand how someone thinks, behaves, and feels can offer you essential insights and allow your co-workers or employees to feel valued.

 

Diversifies Thinking. Not only does empathy create a feeling of connection among peers, but taking the time to understand someone else’s perspective increases diversity and convergence of ideas, explains Razzetti.

 

Impacts Communication. In her recent article, Prudy Gourguechon, Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, explains that empathy allows you to understand if you have fully reached and connected with those around you.

 

Inspires Loyalty. With empathy as a regularly used tool in your leadership belt, you can build your team, inspire followers, nurture leadership in others, and elicit loyalty, notes Gourguechon

 

What if you’re not naturally empathetic? 

Empathy is an innate trait that’s in all of us; however, like anything else, it runs on a spectrum of weak to strong.

If you’re not naturally inclined to empathy, you can still harness its power through a few simple tactics:

 

Think before you act. For instance, if an employee needs time off during a busy peak, before you say ‘no,’ take a moment to consider what your decision will mean to the person.

You don’t need to say ‘yes’ if the answer should be ‘no.’ But showing you understand where the person is coming from goes a long way in keeping up morale.

 

Practice mindfulness or seek advice. If you’re not strong in the empathy department, you don’t need to change who you are. First of all, being aware of it allows you to fill in the gap with someone who compliments your weakness, notes Gourguechon.

 

Can you be too empathetic?

Imagine spending your whole day feeling the ups and downs of everyone around you. Sound fun? Not at all.

Being highly empathetic is a superpower in so many ways, but it can also hinder your ability to function as a leader if you’re pulled in too many directions.

Perhaps you’re managing a small team of recruiters who often have disputes with one another. As the team leader, you want to keep your eye on the goals, so that you can make deadlines and expand your recruitment services.

If you spend every afternoon feeling emotionally charged thoughts unrelated to the big picture goals, then your vision and effectiveness as a leader become muddied. Of course, it’s imperative to explore workplace disputes and aim to resolve them, but it’s also your job to keep a compassionate, yet targeted eye on the prize.

 

With the right amount of awareness and insight, you can feel out another’s perspective and understand the social and emotional landscape of your work environment. Use empathy to create well-informed decisions, to inspire loyalty, and to communicate as clearly as possible.

 

Integrating, instead of balancing, your work and life

You hear it all the time – to be happier and more productive you should balance your work and life. But in practical terms, what does this mean?

Take a moment to picture an average day in your work and personal life. Let’s imagine you are a parent who works from 9-5 and still manages to find time for healthy meals and downtime with your children. Work and life seem to be clearly separated by the time allocated to each activity. Right?

Wrong. Interconnectivity and the way our brains are wired make this separation impossible. This parent cannot simply forget the kids from 9-5 or ignore work responsibilities after 5.

 

 

For many, a thriving career serves as a powerful motivating force that provides life’s meaning through goals and satisfaction. For others, work provides the means to pursue personal goals.

There is a middle ground. Rather than striving to separate work and life, an effort that can lead to anxiety and stress, why not weaving them together? Follow these 3 rules for a seamless work-life integration.

 

Reconsider your occupation

It’s a given that no matter what’s your profession, there will be always be pros and cons for your chosen career, ups and downs in your workplace.

Wouldn’t be amazing if most people could enjoy the profession they chose and their current workplace? Moreover, wouldn’t it be nice to feel a natural inclination or urge to complete the tasks at hand – instead of dreading every assignment.

Start by taking a look at your profession and career path to see if it feeds and nourishes your passion for excelling and expanding. Let’s imagine you work in a publishing house as a staff writer, if you love your work you may be naturally inclined to wake up and write.

On the other hand, you may hate sitting in front of a white screen ready to write a new piece. This doesn’t mean you need to start thinking about a career change, just take some time to evaluate what your honest heart’s desires and potentially refocus towards a new path.

With renewed motivation, you can certainly begin writing and publishing daily. Small steps everyday go a long way when changing the course of your career’s direction.

When you are satisfied with what you do, it’s a joyful process to incorporate work into your life with ease.

 

Realize that it’s okay to love what you do

At times, we feel an urge to work in an exciting project in our personal time, even sacrificing a well-deserved weekend or vacation time. We need breaks, but we also need to feed our desires to excel and achieve. Sometimes you will feel a strong momentum and sense a powerful life force that requires our full attention and effort. Go for it!

There are also times when our personal life should be a priority. For instance when a family member needs support or we need to take care of our health.

Integration means not feeling guilty when answering emails late at night and tying up loose ends from work after spending a time with your family or unwinding. These few minutes will make your next day more streamlined and efficient. It’s okay to work your job into your home life and to consider personal matters while at work.

 

Modulate your energy  

It takes a lot of effort and stress trying to draw a distinct line in the sand between work and life. The two mingle together often, so rather than creating unrealistic expectations, why not finding ways to recharge your energy throughout your day?

Every single one of us has energy spikes, dips, and times when we coast. It’s entirely fine to feel down and without motivation. It will pass.

Being aware of our energetic mood helps us to realize where we are at emotionally, physically and mentally.

In an article from McKinsey & Co, Gila Vadnai-Tolub explains that we have different energy modes: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Each type of energy offers us a unique form of fulfillment, but we can’t expect to be highly functioning for all of them every moment.

It’s okay to realize that during work, you might need a moment to watch a fun YouTube video so your brain relaxes. And at home, your may want to spend time thinking on a new project from work.

Being aware of what we need in each moment to achieve emotional and energetic satisfaction helps us to meld both work and life together.

Vadnai-Tolub suggest 3 approaches to leverage our energy levels:

  1. Allow yourself the time and space to not always be in high energy mode. It’s okay and desirable to find time to slow down and relax. Be lazy some times!

 

  1. Choose to see the good. Remain attentive toward what is going right in your life and work. We all have room for improvement. Take it with a grain of salt, improve when you can, and keep moving toward goals with optimism.

 

  1. Boost your energy. If you work at a desk all day, maybe you can go outside during lunch hour and appreciate the fresh air, even dedicating some time to thinking or resolving personal matters. Also, you can find moments of inspiration by letting your mind wander towards what you appreciate and love in life.

 

Life doesn’t have to be cut and dry. Our modern lives call for modern solutions. This may mean that it’s time to stop trying to draw lines and create compartments in our lives. Let’s discover what we love to do… and do it!

6 Essential Hacks of the Creative and Productive Leader

Do you feel as though life moves too fast? If you sense your to-do list nipping at your heels, you’re not alone.

It can be all too easy to be swept into the momentum of day-to-day affairs and no longer feel in charge. But there is hope. Let’s discover the 6 essential drivers behind the mindset of the leaders in creativity and productivity.

Be Aware

Countless peer-reviewed studies, notable authors and teachings of ancient cultures show that being mindful and aware of stressful thoughts and situations is a key element of a creative and productive life.

In 2017, the American Psychological Association, conducted a stress survey and found that the most common stressors for Americans were politics, money, and work. Identifying the internal and external drivers of your stress is essential to achieve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Mindfulness may not be a magic pill that will optimize your life in one go, but with time and a self-reflecting and mindful lifestyle, you can alter essential traits of your personality.

 

Be Contextual

Life is complicated. We live in an interconnected and rapid changing world. When assessing any thought or experience, we ought to take into account the social, cultural and political context. Context means to take a step back and observe ourselves and our surroundings within our environment, such as our mood swings, workplace or family dynamics.

Not an easy proposition, but seeing things in perspective is an indisputably vital way to tame our thoughts and inspire calmness. Our modern era calls for a different mindset not necessarily relevant just a few decades ago.

To gain this situational perspective, we require a mental framework that we can carry with us at all times – a practical way to see ourselves in third person. One approach is mindful framing, where you visualize being the director, producer and screenwriter of your own life. Rather than be pulled waist deep into the mud of anxiety, you can use your mind’s eye to see yourself in a movie set, in the context of your own thoughts and environment.

 

Be Here for Yourself

Whether you choose to day dream, be creative, be mindful, socialize, work or relax, one thing remains the same: You.

Ensure in every moment that You are in charge, not a marionette or mindless robot. You should invest quality time in self-reflection. Find solitude by skipping passive activities, such as watching shows, scrolling news feeds, and overindulging in social media.

Spend time with yourself, in silence, doing ‘nothing.’ Be careful though, your mind will try to take over and lead you into stressful thoughts, avoid them by being aware and assessing the context of the moment. Over time your mind will start delivering creative ideas and a sense of calmness essential to cope with every day’s life challenges.

 

Be There for Others

Often, we believe the more we do for others, the better. We may even connect what we do to our inherent social value. Sadly, the endless strive towards mastering superficial engagements creates frustration and confusion.

Just being there, open and available to others provides immense support. People notice within seconds our social status and essential cues about our attitude. Let’s just be authentic, be in the moment and show empathy.

Take a new job, for instance. At the beginning of your new role, you will inevitably struggle to keep up with all the different tasks. You could spend all day answering every email that enters your inbox, or you could spend time learning about the company’s culture. Identify how individuals and teams, their personalities and networks are driving work streams.

Instead of barely skimming through a ton of superficial engagements, you can be more effective by focusing on a few in-depth interactions.

 

Be in a Flow State

Given a choice, would you prefer to receive electric shock therapy, or be alone with your thoughts?

It might sound like a silly question. But a study conducted at the University of Virginia discovered that participants would rather subject themselves to electric shocks than dealing with their minds.

When we eliminate distractions and allocate time to a focused task, either work or leisure, time passes much faster and we are much more productive. We are in a flow state.

In his best-selling book Flow, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observed that to achieve a flow state requires the five C’s of the flow mindset:

  • Clear goals
  • Centered on the task at hand
  • Choosing the right opportunities
  • Commitment
  • Challenging yourself

 

Be Stress Free

It might seem natural to avoid stress by distracting ourselves with work, leisure and digital or social engagements than face our thoughts. And in some ways, it’s not our fault. There tends to be a culture of productivity and hyperactivity that tells us to avoid boredom at all costs.

We may even feel that doing nothing is lazy and unproductive. But nothing is further from the truth.

Ever notice how you feel more clear headed after a vacation? Well, our brains need vacations daily, not just a few weeks out of the year. Manfred Kets De Vries, an INSEAD Professor of Leadership, explains that allowing the brain ‘downtime,’ enables us to improve our mental health, incubate new ideas and reduce stress.

Our world moves at lightning speed, and in some ways, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fast-paced drive. But having a mindset able to allocate downtime throughout the day while keeping productive bursts of energy generates better results than steady pressure at work.

 

By learning and practicing how to deploy these 6 mindset drivers you train your mind to relax and clarify your thought processes. You are entering a new mental space; you are becoming the fearless leader of your mind.