As a manager, leader or employee, you have decisions to make, and how you dice it, will influence outcomes.
Obama’s speech at the White House Correspondent’s dinner calls for less cynicism and reminds us that we can all do better. We can all, always, do better in the industries we serve in – be it in education, entertainment, banks, customer service, civil service, non-profits or for-profits enterprises.
As a person of influence, how can you do better?
1. Listen and be connected
When Obama visited Kenya, as a strong, easygoing communicator, the locals were touched by how he was able to identify himself with them.
A local said:
It was so touching. That he showed himself to be that loving that he can meet with everybody. If the whole world can be like, maybe some, all, leaders can be like Obama, that everybody can be (friendly with people) like that. That is a very good thing. A very good sign.
I think people feel neglected, and people feel like nobody’s listening to them, and people feel like that those in power don’t care. That’s not just in Kenya. That’s in the States. Maybe part of the reason people are reacting is because they do not feel connected enough with the big decisions that have impact on their lives so when I show up, they see me as a possible connection, as somebody who is, on television or in the newspapers, but he is here now, maybe he is listening to me.
2. Actively take chances on others
Recently, DJ Patil shared in his commencement speech on how he was always getting into trouble and was not progressing at school. But one high school administrator, took a chance on Patil, handpicking him to be a part of a select top performers group he mentored. That changed Patil and set off a chain reaction of positive and lifechanging events for him.
Patil shared from his experience, that we all should actively seek out the goodness in people and actively take chances on them:
The gratitude you receive in return, will be a gateway drug to a lifestyle of supporting and encouraging people, rather than tearing them down. And right now, we have a world where we could use much more of the former.
3. Lead with empathy
We bring our whole selves to work. Our personal experiences will collectively impact the decisions in our workplace. And workplaces being where we spend most of our days and our work making us a part of who we are, we also bring these experiences back to our family at home, no matter how hard we try to divide our ‘whole’.
So at workplaces, as bosses or managers we should recognize this fact and treat our employees well. Our employees will bring their sense of worth and humanity back to their families.
Recently, a video filmed by an intern of his supervisor repeatedly slapping his colleague sparked an outcry and debate about workplace bullying in Singapore.
As Dr Mark Goulston says,
“the truth of how good a boss you are is how well you treat your employees and how your employees talk about your company after they leave.”
Dr Mark Goulston, a business therapist to CEOs and bestselling author of the book ‘Just Listen’ and ‘Real Influence‘ says that time is running out, there has to be a better way. We need a new kind of world, and workplaces. Dr Goulston speaks of a different, heightened way of communicating – the ‘listening’ way, built on empathy.
Dr Goulston says we need an empathy jolt. Empathy can help to resolve conflicts, “you can’t be curious and on the attack at the same moment.”
We need more empathy in this world. It starts from the top-down…the leaders in governmental offices, or at corporations.
In L.A. recently, a bus passed by with the usual colorful, striking ad. However, on that day, amongst the clutter of images, these words stood out: ‘Empathy can change the world’.
Empathy can indeed, change the world.
Are you doing the best you can?
Vanessa Ching (@vanessaching) is a senior broadcast technology executive in Singapore and co-founder of Usable Insight Tools for Leaders and Life blog (also on Twitter: @UsableInsight), with Dr Mark Goulston based in California.