Empathy may be a more important skill to develop than confidence or even passion. There are a couple of reasons why.
For starters, everyone wants to feel like they’re being heard. In this day and age, it’s easy to assume that managers, bosses, and anyone in a leadership position first and foremost need to exude confidence. While being assertive and determined are examples of strong leadership skills, treating your team with kindness and empathy are just as important (if not more so).
What is empathy?
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy is classified as a “soft skill”, meaning it’s seen as a personal attribute that enables someone to communicate effectively and harmoniously with other people. “Hard skills” are classified as measurable abilities such as reading, math, or efficiency with computer programs.
While many companies and team leaders rely heavily on hard skills to get the work done, working to develop soft skills is a quality that can make a world of difference. In this article, we’ll talk about how leading with empathy and kindness can benefit you and your team as well as hear how Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan scaled his company with happiness.
The importance of empathy in leadership
Kindness lives at the core of great leadership and empathy is the fuel that keeps the relationships between managers and employees intact.
There are a plethora of reasons why you should practice empathy at work every day. Empathy helps to create strong bonds of trust with your employees. It gives crucial insight into how they may be feeling and why they react to a situation in one way or another. Leading a team with empathy and compassion is the best way to give back to the people who do so much for you.
3 reasons to lead with empathy
Although there are dozens of reasons why using empathy daily is a great way to see your team succeed, we’ll highlight a core three.
1. Employees will be more engaged
Have you ever had a bad day? The answer is yes, we all have them. But if you’ve ever been in a bad mood and had someone tell you how much they appreciate you or a task you completed for them, you’ve probably also experienced how great it feels to be told how well you’re doing. Additionally, you’re hit with the urge to continue helping them. This is the power of empathy.
Translating this into leadership, giving your employees feedback and keeping open leadership communication with them will increase their willingness to work harder. It’s easy for large companies and corporations to miss this tactic so it’s a great way to get a leg up. Great leaders are constantly looking for constructive ways to compliment and encourage their team.
Tip: Thousands of companies worldwide use employee engagement software to hear feedback from their team, recognize achievements, and promote positive activity. Browse the best employee engagement software on G2 and start using one to begin fostering strong internal communication.
2. Employees will feel cared about and stick around longer
People being managed by someone who checks in on them regularly will feel more comfortable at work and ultimately, know that someone cares about them. One of the biggest problems companies face today is a quick employee turnover rate. Businesssolver reported that 92% of employees said that would be more likely to stay in their job if their bosses would show more empathy.
Upper management showing kindness and empathy means more to employees than we think. Showing empathy increases trust and no matter if we’re at home, out with friends, or at work, we’re more likely to stay if we feel like we’re appreciated and understood.
3. Employees will be happier and more creative
Employees that have supportive and understanding management are automatically going to like coming into work, bring a good attitude with them, and take fewer days off.
It goes without saying that when a team is happy, they’re more motivated to work together and get the job done. On top of that, they may feel like they have the leeway to be more creative in their work. Employees that feel heard will feel confident that they can find additional ways to bring value to the company. They’ll come up with new ideas and better ways to optimize the workflow, and ultimately, make the entire team’s job easier.
How Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan built his company on happiness
At G2 Reach in Chicago, Eric Yuan spoke about how he uses empathy and openness every day and how it helped him to blitz scale Zoom. He approaches life every day simply, reflecting on how he’s feeling.
“Delivering happiness is about company culture. I ask myself ‘What kind of company do I want to work for for the next 20 years?’ and create that culture.”
Eric Yuan Founder, Zoom
5 ways Eric Yuan uses empathy to lead
During his session at G2 Reach, Eric highlighted five ways he implements empathy as a CEO.
1. Focus on employee happiness
Eric said he often asks his employees if they’re happy. If so, he encourages coming into the office. If not, he sees no need for them to come in. He’d rather them stay home and work on their own happiness.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the employee’s happiness. Your business can't go to the next level unless all employees can get there. We all have to get better every day to succeed.”
Eric Yuan Founder, Zoom.
2. Keep communication open and transparent
When asked how he brings happiness to his customers, Eric noted that to truly win the customers' heart, you have to start with trust. Zoom aims to keep everything open and transparent between them and their customers. Yuan added that he wants to treat every Zoom user as an extended family member of the company. Focusing on them is they key to great communication.
3. Pay attention to your flaws
The customers are the center focus for the Zoom team. The Zoom team will look at the negative reviews more than positive ones to make sure they understand the problem and how they can best address it. Eric stressed the importance of customer feedback:
“We share the bad reviews with all the employees to let them know what’s going on. We really want to see the negative reviews so we can improve going forward.”
Eric Yuan Founder, Zoom
Eric also said he likes to respond to negative feedback on Twitter and communicate directly with the customer. He said he’s open to criticism and is always looking to improve the relationship between himself and his customers.
4. Work smarter not harder
Eric said it himself. Zoom has made his life infinitely better. He rarely travels and has more time to spend working on his happiness, keeping true to his work smarter not harder attitude. Yuan says he only travels for business twice a year. Zoom has teams in China, Japan, Kansas City, Austria, and Europe making it super easy and efficient to hold video meetings with international teams instead of having to travel.
5. Choose people who care
When asked about keeping his board and fellow executives focused on people when most of them are focused on numbers, Eric stated that it’s his job to choose the investors and executives that care about the people.
“Keeping everything open and transparent is how we do it. Choosing the right people who actually care is at the core of our culture. First and foremost, investors need to be aligned with your employees and your customers.”
Eric Yuan Founder, Zoom
Eric and his team believe in a healthy work-life balance. While they stress checking in on themselves every day, they still believe in working hard. The Zoom formula reflects how they approach their work:
The Zoom Formula
Create a great culture. Work hard. Stay humble.
Happiness is the answer
The moral of the story is to check-in, work with compassion, and strive for happiness. Work shouldn’t be a place of hostility. You shouldn’t dread coming in every day. If you go forward with empathy and follow Eric’s five rules, you won’t only become more confident at work, but in yourself.
Did you miss all the amazing sessions at G2 REACH 2019? Don’t worry. We’re going bigger next year. Sign up for G2 Reach 2020 now to reserve your spot and get ready for an amazing lineup of speakers.
Alexa is a former Content Marketing Associate at G2. Born and raised in Chicago, she went to Columbia College Chicago and entered the world of all things event marketing and social media. In her free time, she likes being outside with her dog, creating playlists, and dabbling in Illustrator. (she/her/hers)