Empathetic Leadership in the Digital Age

Empathetic Leadership

Navigating the complexities of digital team management demands more than just technical expertise; it requires a leader’s empathy and understanding. In a world where screens often replace face-to-face interactions, how can leaders ensure a genuine connection with their team or with customer interactions?

Real-World Success Through Empathy

My journey in the unexpected field of property sales taught me the power of the empathetic nature of design thinking. By deeply understanding our customer’s needs and pains, our team who had no experience in property sales were able to craft a digital marketing campaign that not only sold a challenging property but exceeded the last valuation by 50%. This success wasn’t just about knowing the market; it was about understanding people through empathy.

House Sale

Overcoming Digital Communication Barriers

The digital realm can often feel cold and impersonal. I’ve learned the importance of clear communication and ensuring team members feel heard. Regular check-ins and open channels for feedback help bridge the emotional gap that technology can create. Even when people are working remotely, you need to ensure that it is not endless, potentially emotionless, video conferencing calls with large groups of people. Take time to touch base with people on a 1-2-1.

Adapting to Change with Empathy

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a swift transition from in-person to online interactions, particularly in education. When we launched the Academy of Purpose, which began in February 2020, in a classroom environment, we were left with a scenario where we needed to pivot fast. This shift highlighted the necessity for empathy in digital environments. We had to listen, adapt, and modify our approach to maintain engagement in a completely virtual setting. It was a fantastic learning for us going forward, whilst maybe not quite achieving what we initially aimed for with this group. Learn to be flexible.

Empathy in Distributed Team Dynamics

In my experiences with various teams, including Mind Over Matter, OpenFM, and Lucca Leadership, I observed a drop in productivity and engagement in remote settings. Addressing this required transparent leadership, regular communication, and a reinforcement of our shared vision. Personal coaching and providing valuable feedback were key to maintaining team cohesion. The common denominator on all of these also was working with a voluntary team, therefore the importance of value is even higher. People will ‘turn up’ when they are paid to.

Balancing Tech with Human Connection

I advocate for creating spaces where technology is set aside. Simple, fun group activities can reignite the value of human connection, reminding us that technology needs to complement, not replace, those valuable personal interactions. For someone that is as tech as you get, which I do love passionately, I also enjoy passionately meeting people and being in the midst of nature. It’s valuable to instill the importance of disconnecting to reconnect, as an organisational goal.

Ensuring Each Voice is Heard

Regular, open communication is vital. I often hold one-on-one coaching sessions to understand individual needs and challenges. It’s about making each team member feel they are a valuable part of the organisation. Another goal is holding a super fast beginning and end of week check in. It doesn’t have to go on for long, although it can be a nice way of showing people they are valued. When you have larger team of course this needs to be managed with different silos.

Integrating Wellbeing into Organisational Goals

I’ve worked with organisations to weave mental health and wellbeing philosophies into their fabric. This holistic approach ensures that the team’s wellbeing is as much a priority as business objectives. The more we rely on technology and work infront of screens, the more neccesary it is to be conscious of your teams wellbeing. Also, as a leader, lead the way by example.

Empathy as a Core Organisational Value

Empathy isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a core value in Lyons Club. It guides our decisions, interactions, and business strategy, ensuring that we remain connected and responsive to the needs of our team and clients. We live in a digital world with amazing tools that are used by humans. Lets keep those authentic connections alive.

Final Thoughts

Developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence is crucial for leaders in the digital world. It’s about finding the right balance between digital efficiency and the warmth of personal interactions. In many scenarios the opportunity for the face-to-face is not available, so what can you do bridge that gap?
A 2018 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that companies with leaders who scored high on EQ had 25% higher employee engagement and 21% lower turnover rates.

Empathetic leadership in the digital age is about more than just managing a team; it’s about connecting with them on a deeper level. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to cultivate empathy in our leadership style, ensuring that our teams not only succeed but also feel valued and understood.

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Samuel Lyons, The Tara Building, 12 Tara Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. D02 RY83

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