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Five ways to empathise with your team

It’s completely rational to feel dismayed, exhausted and fearful at the moment, particularly if, like many, you’re facing difficulties with employment or your business is struggling given the ongoing COVID-19 crises.

Times like these expose the true leaders, and if you’re one of them, you should be doing everything in your power to keep people together and help them work through stressful thoughts and feelings.

If you’re managing a team that may be facing an uncertain future, there are a few things that you could do to empathise with your team and ready them for the challenges that may arise post-COVID-19.

What is empathetic management?

The contemporary employee doesn’t just welcome the odd word of encouragement and understanding when it’s necessary—they demand it.

Empathy is a strong starting point, but a leader in the midst of crises—such as the pandemic, or anything else we may face in the future—must take this idea of empathy and back it up with forward-thinking action.

This is precisely what empathetic management seeks to achieve—to place oneself in the shoes of another, offer a shoulder to cry on and then implement positive steps to understand why someone is feeling the way they are and offer a solution.

Although we’re talking about the pandemic in this piece, these tips can apply to any crises facing an organisation. So, with that in mind, in this article, I’ve outlined six of the things that you can do to empathise with your team during hard times.

1. Put yourself first

This may sound slightly counter-intuitive, given the title of this article, but you’ll be in a far better position to support the needs of your team from an emotional standpoint if you’re willing to manage your own feelings of anxiety and stress first and foremost.

Start by trying to label what you’re feeling and why. After you’ve been able to process these feelings and thoughts, only then will you be ready to present yourself as a figure of emotional-intelligence, strength and resilience.

2. Appreciate the gravity of uncertainty

Girl standing a a field holding umbrella over younger girl.
Photo by J W on Unsplash

If times are tough within your organisation, your team are bound to be concerned for their financial security and the wellbeing of their family, should they lose their job or someone close to them contracts COVID-19. When this is the case, it’s vital that you don’t carry on as if everything is right as rain.

During company instability, the prospect of job losses is genuine, and it’s crucial that this isn’t ignored or repressed, even if it is your intention to keep people focused on the task at hand.

Keeping things to yourself and not addressing your team with the facts is when rumour and misinformation begins to spread.

Own the uncertainty; yes, things are difficult at this moment in time, but support and togetherness are crucial when things need to be turned around for the better.

3. Self-compassion

Close-up of woman holding her hands to her chest.
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Some members of your team may be looking around at their colleagues and wondering how they’re coping so well, given that they are sick with worry and fear over the future.

In this instance, it’s essential to inspire the team to do exactly what you did in step one; encourage them to decompress and methodically work through their thoughts and feelings. Stress and anxiety are perfectly natural physiological reactions when one is feeling threatened or faced with the unknown.

As a leader, it’s crucial that you’re on hand to help your staff realise that further stress is the catalyst that pushes the mind and body into panic. There’s no harm in admitting that you’ve been where they are—after all, the team needs each other more than ever at the moment and they need a strong voice to hold everything together.

4. Take control of what is within your reach

Cockpit view of pilot flying plane during the day.
Photo by Laurent Perren on Unsplash

You could sit and dwell on the why’s and wherefores for hours and hours, but the fact remains: there’s only so much you can do.

With this in mind, it’s important to take stock and focus solely on what is in your control rather than what clearly isn’t.

Perhaps it’s just something as simple as a member of your team needing to change their working schedule to fit around childcare arrangements, or maybe the needs of your customer base changed during the course of the pandemic, so your working habits must evolve too.

Even when there are so many things that aren’t within your grasp at the moment, it’s important that you take hold of what you can and make the best of it.

By doing this, you’ll be in a better place to serve your team and your customers, and your business will be all the better for it.

5. Keep talking

Four people sitting on a concrete step, talking among each other.
Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash

Every organisation, from small startups to large multi-national corporations, will be feeling the pinch somewhere along the line at the moment, and without critical communication, this temporary slump can lead to something far more significant.

In times of difficulty, humans are hard-wired to look for direction—it’s up to you to be that rudder for your team. No organisation can work to its fullest potential without a transparent plan that keeps everyone abreast of the latest goings on.

Clearly and concisely explain to everyone exactly where the company is, where you expect it go, how you plan to get there, and what you need from those around you to achieve those goals.

For example, perhaps different areas of the business have undergone a restructure and specific job roles have had to be reorganised. If this is the case, it’s important to be honest about why these steps have been taken. As I’ve already mentioned, inaction leads to conjecture and hearsay, which can cripple a business.

Once your team are caught up on what’s going on, you’re removing an element of unnecessary distraction, which keeps everyone on task.

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Show notes: (2:11) Intro to article ‘10 insights and trends for business leadership in 2021’ (2:43) There are no perfect leaders (4:27) A leader must demonstrate what it means to be a good follower (5:01) Manage expectations around risk and innovations (6:11) Understanding different motivations (7:42) Good leaders should be present (8:59) Change management (9:57) … Continued