The importance of communication in the workplace

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Communication plays an integral part in the success of an organisation. Employees receive, send and process large amounts of news and information on a daily basis. Communication in the workplace ensures that operations run smoothly, and the quality of communication can significantly affect the results of the work being done. Good communication is an essential tool in achieving productivity and maintaining strong working relationships at all levels of an organisation. Employees who take the time and who are willing to put in the energy to deliver clear lines of communication will rapidly build trust among employees, which can lead to increased productivity, output and morale in general.

Quality communication in the workplace can eliminate unnecessary problems and promote better performance. To be able to increase overall productivity in an organisation, employees need to have the ability to communicate effectively. Good communication is also integral to sales, client relationships, team development, company culture, employee engagement and buy-in, and innovative thoughts.

According to Patrick Bosworth there are 4 powerful benefits of workplace communication:

  1. Good communication mitigates conflict. Conflict is typically caused by:

Misunderstanding/feeling misunderstood – Understanding each other’s communication patterns will help to avoid misunderstandings when communicating. Various communication tools can be used, such as identifying communication patterns and making small communication adjustments. When these communication tools are used, new information can be dispensed in a way that is easy and clear to understand, and the listener can better communicate their understanding.

Not understanding how others communicate – The speaker defaults to his/her own communication patterns instead of considering the communication pattern of the receiver.

Someone feeling that their emotional needs are not being met or being disregarded – This happens when an employee feels disrespected, taken advantage of, or disregarded, and it leads to tension or conflict.

  • Good communication increases employee engagement

Communication is about connecting with other people. Engaged employees is one of the most powerful benefits of better communication. When a culture of good communication is established in the workplace, employees are then more engaged in their work and can align with company objectives and goals.

Good communication can improve employee engagement in the following ways:

  • Good communication creates better client relationships

Client interactions are usually the difference between a satisfied customer and a disgruntled customer. When employees learn how to communicate more effectively and to connect with others they can better:

  • Good communication results in a more productive and talented workforce

Besides contributing to increased employee engagement, communication skills can also help foster a more productive and talented workforce in many other ways:

  • Understanding team talents and skills: When a leader masters the identification of communication patterns it empowers them to better understand the talents and skills of their team members.
  • Achieving more buy-in: A leader can influence buy-in from their team members with the right communication tools.
  • It allows for innovation: Employees who have the opportunity to express their ideas openly, are more likely to present their ideas without fear of ridicule or retaliation.
  • It allows for growth: Each growth project is based on solid communication and the fact that all internal and external stakeholders are on the same page.
  • It builds teams: Communication and mutual cooperation helps to build effective teams. Leaders will be effective in building effective teams when they implement effective strategies.
  • Giving a voice to everyone: Employees appear to be more satisfied at work when they feel that they have a voice and are listened to. Consolidated communication lines should enable everyone to communicate freely with their colleagues, peers and superiors at all levels. 

Poor communication in the work can inevitably lead to unmotivated employees that may begin to question their own confidence in their abilities an inevitably in the organisation.

There are various affects that poor communication has on the workplace. The following are examples of what poor communication can cause in the workplace:

  1. Stress in the workplace: High-stress levels in the workplace can be a sign that there are communication problems. Poor communication can contribute to the feeling that everything on your to-do list is urgent, causing you and your colleagues to rush, feel tense, feel overworked and have little-to-no sense of humour. Employees who are stressed take their stress home and feel worn out, and it has various impacts on their families. These employees might begin to feel guilty or even experience conflict at home because of their stress levels being too high. These stress levels don’t disappear overnight and will go to work with them making it hard, if not impossible, to get ahead of their workload.
  2. Unmet needs and expectations: If leaders communicate poorly what they expect from their team members, it then leads to unmet needs and expectations. Teams will then miss deadlines, miss appointments with their clients, and they might not know what their roles are when working on a project. When employees do not know what their true priorities are, they often choose the wrong thing and end up disappointing their leaders.
  3. Arguments and other relational breakdowns: When leaders send emails or communicate in a demanding and accusatory tone with their team members, the team members might experience a sense of frustration, anger, hurt, fear and helplessness. The previously positive relationship the leader had with their team members, might become strained due to the tone of the communication used. Team members might feel a sense of uncertainty about resolving the conflict and might feel that their job security is at stake. This can lead employees to feel a sense of insecurity and a lack of fulfilment in completing their daily tasks, and these emotions slow down productivity in the workplace.
  4. Low morale and high turnover: Emotional management becomes something employees spend most of their time on when they are dealing with intense emotions because of work situations. Their productivity goes down, and their morale is replaced by a sense of relief of making it through the day. Workplace survival mode should be viewed as a real problem amongst employees. When workplace relationships are wounded and cannot be repaired, trust goes out the window, making it difficult to work together.
  5. Physical and mental health issues: When you experience stress, face problems at home and at work, it is not unusual to experience consequences to mental and physical health. Chronic health problems and mental health concerns are more likely to develop during stressful times, especially when an employee has no outlet for their stress, does not have the energy for self-care, or lacks emotional management skills. When these problems occur, leaders should encourage proper professional care and use it as an opportunity to turn around the situation.
  6. Dissatisfied clients: If a client is dissatisfied, it can be a sign of poor communication. Clients also get frustrated when deadlines or appointments are not met. If you do not keep to your arrangements with your clients, then your client might lose money and disappoint their clients. Creating a written list of priorities to manage time, will allow you to directly address workplace concerns and allow you to brainstorm solutions and keep your clients satisfied.

The above indicates what poor communication can cause in the workplace, then just think about what good communication can cause in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 4

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Building your emotional intelligence: Four key skills to increase your EQ

The skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any time. There is however a difference in simply learning about emotional intelligence and applying that knowledge to one’s life. In order for one to be able to permanently change one’s behaviour in ways that stand up under pressure, one needs to learn how to overcome stress in the moment, and in one’s relationships, in order to remain emotionally aware.  

Key skills (domains) to building your emotional intelligence

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Self-awareness

The emotion wheel is a tool that enables people to describe and verbalise their emotions, as well as understand the relationship between and the intensity of their feelings. The ability to articulate and identify emotions is an important component of emotional intelligence.

The emotion wheel can help you identify your feelings and emotions and become more aware them.

Being able to manage your stress is only the first step to building emotional intelligence. Your current emotional experience is likely a reflection of your early life experiences. The ability you have to manage core feelings such as anger, sadness, fear and joy often depend on the quality and consistency of your early life emotional experiences. If your primary attachment figures in childhood understood and valued your emotions, then it’s likely your emotions have become valuable assets in your adult life. If your emotional experiences as an infant were confusing, threatening or painful, it’s likely you’ve tried to distance yourself from your emotions.

If this is the case, then you have to start learning to connect to your emotions – having a moment-to-moment connection with your changing emotional experience – to be able to understand how your emotions influence your thoughts and actions.

Self-management

In order for you to engage your emotional intelligence, you must be able to use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behaviour. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately. Your ability to think clearly and accurately assess your and other people’s emotions, become compromised. When you have the ability to manage your stress and stay emotionally present, you will be able to learn to receive upsetting information without letting it override your thoughts, feelings and self-control. You will then be able to make choices that will allow you to control your impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.

Social awareness

Social awareness enables you to recognise and interpret the mainly non-verbal cues others are constantly using to communicate with you. These cues help you to understand how others are feeling, how their emotional state is changing from moment-to-moment, and what’s truly important to them. When groups of people send out similar non-verbal cues, then you are able to read and understand the power dynamics and shared emotional experiences of the group.

To be able to build social awareness, you will need to be able to recognise the importance of mindfulness and social process. Social awareness requires your presence in the moment. Do not multitask when you are communicating with someone else, as you will miss the subtle emotional shifts taking place in other people that help you fully understand them.

Relationship management

Being able to work well with other people is a process that begins with emotional awareness and your ability to recognise and understand what other people are experiencing. Once your emotional awareness is in play, you can effectively develop additional social/emotional skills that will make your relationships more effective, fruitful and fulfilling. To me able to manage relationships you should focus on the following:

  • Become aware of how effectively you use your non-verbal communication
  • Use humour and play to relieve stress
  • Learn to see conflict as an opportunity to grow closer to others

According to Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, nested in each key domain are twelve emotional intelligent competencies. These twelve emotionally intelligent competencies are learnable capabilities that allow outstanding performance at work or as a leader.

Emotional intelligence domains and competencies

How can you tell where your EI needs improvement?

You can simply review the 12 competencies in your mind which can give you a sense of where you might need some development. There are a number of formal models of EI, and many of them come with their own assessment tools. When choosing a tool to use, consider how well it predicts leadership outcomes. Some assess how you see yourself; these correlate highly with personality tests. Other assessments define EI as an ability.

Goleman recommends a comprehensive 360-degree assessment, which collects both self-rating and the view of others who know you well. This external feedback is particularly helpful for evaluation all areas of emotional intelligence, including your self-awareness. You can get a rough gauge of where your strengths and weaknesses lie by asking those who work with you to give you feedback. The more people you ask, the better a picture you get.

To be able to excel as a leader, one needs to develop a balance of strengths across suites of EI competencies. When this is done, excellent business results should follow.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 3

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

According to Daniel Goleman, there are 5 key elements of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Self-Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is about being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviours and feelings. It is the process in which you become the focus of your attention. Being self-aware means that you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and actions can impact those around you. When you are a leader, self-awareness means that you have a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and you behave with humility. To be able to improve your self-awareness, you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions and feelings.

According to Tasha Eurich there are two broad categories of self-awareness:

  1. Internal self-awareness: This represents how clearly you see your values, passions, aspirations, fit with the environment, reactions (thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and the impact you have on others. Internal self-awareness can be associated with higher job and relationships satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness.
  2. External self-awareness: This means understanding how other people view you. If you understand how other people view you, then you will be able to show empathy better and understand their perspectives. As a leader, if you see yourself as your team members see you, then your team members will tend to have a better relationship with you as their leader, they will feel more satisfied with you and view you as more effective in general.

Eurich then went further to identify four leadership archetypes of self-awareness:

This indicates that leaders should focus on improving both internal and external self-awareness to be able to be the best leader they can possibly be.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect impulses and moods. It is the ability that you have to monitor and manage your energy, emotions, thoughts and behaviours. This is important as it will help you to create positive and loving relationships, improve your overall well-being and it helps you to deal with stressors in your life.

The ability you have to self-regulate as an adult has roots in your development during childhood. It is an important skill to learn how to self-regulate, and children learn it for emotional maturity and later social connections. Emotional maturity reflects the ability you have to face emotional, social and cognitive threats in the environment you are in with patience and thoughtfulness. Mindfulness relates to the ability to self-regulate.

Practicing self-regulation involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action. You need to take the time to think things through, make a plan, and wait patiently before you act. If you have poor self-regulation skills then you might lack self-confidence, self-esteem and struggle to deal with stress and frustrations. Self-regulation helps you to act in accordance with your deeply held values and express yourself appropriately.

Leaders who exhibit good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and responses to situations and other people. These leaders do not have angry outbursts or make snap judgements. They are honest, and their actions are in line with their values. They are adaptable, and capable of working with different people in different situations. Leaders who can self-regulate are able to look at the whole picture reasonably and put the situation in perspective.

Self-Motivation

Motivation is the action that pushes you to want to achieve your goals, feel more fulfilled and want to improve your overall quality of life. Motivation is the “why” behind everything you do, and the reason you might take up a cause, commit to an action, or work toward a goal. Everything you do is motivated by some combination of conscious and unconscious need or desire. Self-motivation requires you to believe in yourself, stay inspired, and keep going despite setbacks.

Self-motivation for leaders is vital as leaders should be self-motivated before they can try to motivate their team members. Self-motivated leaders work consistently towards their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work. Self-motivation is one trait that virtually all effective leaders have. They are driven to achieve beyond expectations, their own and everyone else’s. Plenty of people are motivated by external factors, such as a big salary or the status that comes from having an impressive title or being part of a prestigious company. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, emotionally understand what other people are feeling, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place.

It is critical for leaders to have empathy as this will help them to manage a successful team or organisation. Leaders who have empathy are able to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help to develop their team members, challenge those who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback and listen to those who need it.

For more information on how to be an empathetic leader, please read our previous blogs:

How to be an empathetic leader – part 1

How to be an empathetic leader – part 2

Social skills

Social skills are the skills people use to communicate and interact with other people. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication, gestures, body language and their personal appearance. Social skills are important to have as they help to build personal and professional relationships. Demonstrating strong interpersonal skills can help you to accomplish your career goals, contribute to the organisation’s achievements, perform well during the hiring process and expand your professional network. Social skills can help you to communicate more effectively and efficiently with others, and as a result, help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike. It is important that you improve and maintain these skills no matter what your position is, industry you are working in or your experience level.

Social skill is the outcome of the other dimensions of emotional intelligence, and is recognisable on the job in many different ways. Socially skilled people, for instance, are skilled at managing teams—that’s their empathy at work. Likewise, they are expert persuaders—a manifestation of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy combined. Given those skills, good persuaders know when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when an appeal to reason will work better. And motivation, when publicly visible, makes such people excellent collaborators; their passion for the work spreads to others, and they are driven to find solutions.

Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. Socially skilled leaders are just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they are experts at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project. Socially skilled leaders are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. These leaders are rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are and they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: they set an example with their behaviour. Social skill is considered a key leadership capability. People seem to know intuitively that leaders need to manage relationships effectively; no leader is an island. After all, the leader’s task is to get work done through other people, and social skill makes that possible. A leader who cannot express their empathy may as well not have it at all. And a leader’s motivation will be useless if he cannot communicate his passion to the organisation. Social skill allows leaders to put their emotional intelligence to work.

Can emotional intelligence (EQ) be learnt?

Yes, it can be learnt. Some people appear to have EQ as a natural talent, and for others it does not come naturally, but they can learn EQ skills. People can learn how to interact more effectively at work and increase their emotional intelligence. To be able to make this happen, you have to be personally motivated to want to improve your emotional intelligence. You first need to have a handle of where you are starting from by completing an emotional intelligence assessment, and then understand which of the five key elements as described by Daniel Goleman need the greatest attention.

Part 4 will look at four skills a leader can focus on to increase his/her emotional intelligence and the twelve emotional intelligence competencies that are embedded in the 4 skills.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 2

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Leadership skills are in many contexts fairly recognisable. People who take initiative, who have a vision and who accomplish goals are considered to be good leaders. These leaders display their various skills when they are working with their team members. To be a great leader, you have to also focus on improving your skills that contribute to your ability to work well with others and to lead your team to success. This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Emotional intelligence is undoubtedly the core skill you should continuously work on to be a great leader.

Emotional intelligence as a core leadership skill allows your team members to feel comfortable enough with you to come to you with questions, concerns, and their needs. To be able to keep a positive dynamic between you as a leader and your team you need to have a positive perspective, validate each other’s positions despite disagreement, and always be intentionally respectful towards each other. This is a dynamic that works, and it helps everyone involved to feel supported and valued. A leader who lacks emotional intelligence is not able to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of their team members. Leaders who react from their emotions without filtering them can create mistrust amongst their team members and can seriously jeopardize their working relationships. A leader who reacts with erratic emotions can be detrimental to the overall culture, attitudes and positive feelings of the team members and the overall mission of the organisation. Good leaders must be self-aware and understand how their verbal and non-verbal communication can affect the team.

To be a truly effective leader, you need to know and understand how emotional intelligence affects your work, your physical health, your mental health, your relationships, and your social intelligence.

Emotional intelligence affects:

When it comes to the workplace, the bottom line of the organisation is crucial. Leaders, managers and executives are often held responsible for the organisation’s successes or failures. There are 6 key traits that most successful leaders possess that help them to succeed:

Based on a study done by Sunnie Giles she found the top 10 leadership competencies each effective leader should have. She then grouped the top 10 into five major themes that suggest a set of priorities that leaders should focus on to develop themselves.

  1. Strong ethics and safety: These attributes are about creating a safe and trusting environment. A leader who possesses high ethical standards conveys a commitment of fairness, instilling confidence that both they and their employees will honour the rules of the game. When a leader clearly communicates their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Self-organising: These are leaders who provide clear direction while allowing employees to organise their own time and work. It is critical for a leader to distribute power throughout the organisation and to rely on decision-making from those who are closest to the action.
  3. Efficient learning: To encourage learning among employees, leaders must first ensure that they are open to learning and changing course themselves. Leaders should try to approach problem-solving discussions without a specific agenda or outcome. A leader should withhold judgement until everyone has spoken, and let people know that all ideas will be considered.
  4. Nurtures growth: When a leader shows commitment to the growth of their employees, then employees are motivated to respond, expressing their gratitude and loyalty by going the extra mile. If leaders want to inspire the best from their teams,  they should advocate for them, support their training and promotion, and go to bat to sponsor their important projects.
  5. Connection and belonging: Leaders who communicate often and openly, and who create a feeling of succeeding and failing together as a pack, build a strong foundation for connection. A sense of connection could also impact productivity and emotional well-being in the team. Creating connections with team members is a leader’s second most important job. Once team members feel safe and cared for, they experience a sense of belonging. A leader can promote a sense of belonging amongst his/her team members, by smiling at them, calling them by name, remembering their interests and paying attention when speaking to them.

The above five areas as well as the 6 key traits of effective leaders are all linked to emotional intelligence. If leaders improve their emotional intelligence, they can create deeper levels of self-reflection and a shift in their perspective. If your team members are not satisfied with your performance as a leader then they will experience low levels of engagement, poor job satisfaction and won’t feel psychologically safe in the workplace.

Part 3 will look at the 5 key elements of emotional intelligence as identified by Daniel Goleman. Part 4 will look at four skills a leader can focus on to increase his/her emotional intelligence and the twelve emotional intelligence competencies that are embedded in the 4 skills.

How to be an empathetic leader: Part 2

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Some leaders are naturally more empathetic than others and will have an advantage over leaders who have difficulty expressing empathy. Most leaders fall in the middle and are seen to be sometimes or somewhat empathetic.

Here are a few strategies to practice becoming more empathetic:

  1. Become more personable and accessible

It is important for the leaders to first understand and get in touch with their own feelings and how to express them, before they can attune themselves to the feelings of team members. Leaders should take time to recognise and learn how to express their own emotions to be able to recognise the fears and emotions of their team members.

  • Listen and respond honestly and optimistically

Leaders should always listen without judgement; this will allow team members to be vulnerable during difficult times. When a leader leads with empathy it often involves saying nothing at all and sometimes agreeing that you are sad, confused or angry, as well. Leaders have to make sure that they and their team members do not wallow to long in negative emotions, and instead focus on honest discussions and then pivot the conversations toward positive solutions.

  • Become an emotion-seeking detective

Leaders should ask their team members “What keeps you up at night?”. This will help team members to realise the leader’s true interest in their lives and what they are going through. This will allow a leader to get to know team members on a deeper level and helps the leader notice when they are not on their A-game. A leader should always be willing to help a team member out who is struggling. A leader should provide emotional guidance and encouragement that will help team members develop personally and professionally.

Why is empathy often difficult for you as a leader?

To be an empathetic leader, you need to understand your own pain and that in knowing your own pain, you are able to connect with the pain of others. Some leaders might have a biased understanding of the requisite traits for leaders and view being empathetic as a weakness. Leaders should allow themselves to experience the full range of healthy human emotions which includes being sad, which is viewed as the doorway to empathy.

Empathy is also difficult for many leaders because they have not developed empathy themselves when they were young. Most of us learn empathy first and foremost by experiencing it with our primary attachment figures in childhood. A lack of secure attachments in early childhood can stunt the development of empathy. Empathy is a more caught than taught trait and can be hard to improve on later in life.

Empathy is not a fixed trait; it is something that can be learned even though it may be difficult for some to learn. A leader should allow enough time and find the right support, such as a coach, to get help to develop and enhance their empathy skills. Organisations can contribute to this by encouraging a more empathetic workplace and help leaders improve their empathy skills.

Below are ways in which organisations can encourage empathy in the workplace

How to be an empathetic leader: Part 1

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

During these ever-changing times we are in, team members deserve to be led by an empathetic leader who deeply understands what they are going through. It is challenging during this time for a leader to make the right managerial and executive decisions and even more challenging to understand what his/her team members are going through. Working from home or struggling to have human connections at work due to social distancing, is making it even more important for a leader to have empathy. Teams led by leaders who possess high emotional intelligence tend to work harder and persevere through rough patches. These types of teams develop deeper bonds of trust, which are essential when job security seems all too fragile.

Teams, and especially virtual teams, who are guided by an empathetic leader will likely have a less difficult time working through their stresses, while others who are not led by an empathetic leader are likely to become disengaged and even resentful.

When a leader cultivates empathy as one of his/her leadership skills it allows him/her to create bonds of trust between them and their team members. It helps the leader to gain insight into what other people are feeling and thinking, and it helps the leader to understand the reactions of others. At its foundation, empathy informs a person’s decision-making ability by sharpening a person’s perception and intuition.

The core of leadership consists of ‘the skill of others’. This means that the leader should inspire other people to take action beyond their capabilities, lead them in a direction that is compelling and inspiring. Empathy is seen as the foundation of these actions.

Empathy enables the leader to know if the person they are trying to reach was actually reached. It allows the leader to predict the effect his/her decision and actions will have on team members. Without empathy, a leader cannot build a team or nurture new generations of leaders.

Leaders who take the time to understand the needs of their team members are able to provide them with the support they require to press ahead; to deal with the challenges or issues that might hold them back from achieving their goals.

 Instilling a sense of empathy in how you lead your team members offers a number of advantages:

According to Lolly Daskal there are six simple ways that empathy can help a leader become the best leader possible:

  1. Empathy creates bonds: Creating bonds with your team members through one-on-one conversations or socialising, provides ways for you to better connect and understand their interests and perspectives.
  2. Empathy gives insight: When you as the leader listen intently to your team members you then truly begin to understand them as people, and you are then able to learn from them. This helps you to gain insight into who they truly are. Having empathy allows you to think before you judge and make assumptions of others.
  3. Empathy teaches presence: When you have empathy, you learn to listen attentively to what the other person is saying and placing your complete focus on the person talking without becoming distracted. As a leader you should focus on listening, understanding, assisting and supporting your team members. You should not just focus on giving advice or try to fix a problem but focus on simply just being. Simply being means allowing the other person to have their moment, and it helps you as a leader to learn to be patience. Put your team members ahead of yourself.
  4. Empathy guides understanding: With empathy in your leadership toolkit, it helps you to not only focus on trying to understand why some people feel or think the way they do. It also helps you to focus on listening and not responding, and not to just reply, but to understand. Empathy allows you to understand others without passing judgement or making assumptions.
  5. Empathy sharpens people skills: Empathy is a skill that takes time and effort to learn to be able to show awareness and understanding. A leader has to take interest in people to be able to build a strong and trusting team. A leader must ask questions about a team member’s challenges, their achievements, their families and what they aspire towards. This helps to build empathy in a leader.
  6. Empathy cultivates better communicators: When you have empathy, you listen in a way that makes other people want to speak to you and communicate in a way that makes people feel safe to talk to you. For a leader to effectively communicate with team members, the leader has to realise and acknowledge the differences in the choices team members make and in the way they perceive the world. The leader must then use this understanding to guide communication with others.

Lead From Within: What’s empathy have to do with leadership? Everything! Because leadership is about having the ability to relate, connect, listen and bond with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.

Why empathy in the workplace matters

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Organisations should focus more on hiring and developing effective managers and leaders who are capable of moving organisations forward during good and challenging times. Organisations should start looking beyond the traditional strategies for management development and start cultivating skills that are important for success. One of these skills is empathy.

Empathy is a leadership competency that is essential when it comes to leadership. It is a core skill, if not the most important one, of emotional intelligence. Empathy is seen as a valued currency in leaders even if some people consider it as a touchy-feely discipline. Empathy can be difficult to master and it can be demanding to maintain, but it can be done. It is important for leaders to get out of their own shoes and put themselves in the shoes of their team members to be able to truly understand what it is that they are going through. Empathy has a major impact on leadership effectiveness.

Having the ability to be compassionate and to be able to connect with others is a critical part of our lives, both personally and professionally. Demonstrating empathy improves human interactions in general and lead to more effective communication and positive outcomes, both in work and in home settings.

Empathy in the workplace is the ability to perceive and relate to the thoughts, emotions and experiences of others. When a person has high levels of empathy, they are skilled at understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and reacting with compassion. This means that if a leader shows empathy towards team members and vice versa, then the leader and team members are able to establish true, empathetic connections with one another that help enhance their relationships and performance.

Empathy acts as a glue between leader and team member relationships. A leader shares a very strong bond with team members, and like in any other relationship, it also requires empathy. Empathy between leaders and team members boost the character of both leader and team member. There has been a lot of research on the role of empathy in business as well. Empathy can help humanize marketing efforts and drive sales.

As a leader, if you do not have empathy, you will not be able to get the desired results from your team members. The following are a few tips to get you started with develop empathy:

Empathy is the doorway into deeper, safer, more vulnerable relationships, which are rewarding and form the basis on which organisations can achieve optimal results. Relationships and empathetic communication are the wheels on which an organisation moves. The health of the organisation depends on the level of empathy in the leadership.

How to be a great ‘virtual’ leader – Part 2

By Carli Uys (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

As a ‘virtual’ leader, you should focus on finding ways to translate your in-person leadership skills into virtual tactics to continuously focus on human connections.

As a ‘virtual’ leader, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I communicating enough with my team members?
  • Am I checking in with my team members enough to find out if they are coping?
  • Are my team members able to use their skills in the best way possible? If not, what can I do to help them?
  • What social activities can I do virtually to help get my team members to be more engaged?
  • What support can I offer my team members to help them be more engaged and not feel like they are disconnected from their work?
  • What other tools can I possibly use to get my team members to be more connected?
  • Are my one-on-one sessions with my team members making a positive impact?

By asking yourself these questions, you will focus on the importance of building connections with your team members and let them know that you are there for them no matter what.

Virtual leadership should focus on boosting collaboration through regular communication, transparency and accountability. According to Kaleigh Moore, an effective virtual leader should:

  • Make use of tools that will help to maintain an open line of communication between team members and to share everything from status updates to digital assets with the team members. Work Operating System (Work OS) is a great tool to use for this.
  • Be more transparent about the desired outcomes of the organisation as well as the organisation’s goals. This will help boost engagement from each team member and help them take ownership of the work they are producing.
  • Hold each team member accountable for their work that they must deliver and give team members more autonomy.

Arial group indicated that there are 5 key skills all virtual leaders need and how they can develop them.

How to be a great ‘virtual’ leader – Part 1

By Carli Uys (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Some leaders might assume that being a leader in the office is easier than being a leader virtually. In the office a leader can see team members, observe their behaviours and struggles, build stronger relationships with them, give guidance where needed and motivate team members to help them achieve their goals.

When people work virtually, they have the opportunity (if they so choose) to show their leaders only what they want them to see. Leaders only get small glimpses of insight into their team members’ lives through a virtual call, instant messages and emails. The leader will not have a full picture of what is truly going on at home. They will try to hide that the atmosphere at home is tense, or that one of the kids just had an accident.

In the now virtual working world, each employee is facing different challenges while working from home, such as unique stressors, relationship challenges and domestic circumstances. Employees do not have tech support and have to become their own tech support ‘manager’, they are also battling with bandwidth and other obstacles.

Leaders will have to take a different management approach when leading and managing their virtual teams. Leading teams virtually requires of the leader to improve on communications skills, through having great writing skills that translates the message correctly as well as translating important things like empathy and understanding through written words.

The virtual world is putting the leader’s leadership skills to the test. Research showed that leaders now have to continuously be on their ‘A-game’ to have teams and communities deliver excellent performance while working virtually.

So, what makes a great ‘virtual’ leader?

The answer is, being a transformational leader. A transformational leader focuses on empowering people and tapping into deeper needs and motivations. Research has found that ‘virtual’ employees respond well to transformational leadership because the change in approach fits the new dynamics at play.

The research findings indicate that leaders should apply the following to manage virtual teams better:

Most organisations are settling into the fact that home-working is the foreseeable future of work. The best leaders will have to learn quickly to find new ways to motivate and engage their team members.