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5 Ways to Use Empathy in Leadership From Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan

Alexa Drake
Alexa Drake  |  September 25, 2019

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).

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.

hard vs soft skills
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.

Jump ahead if you feel like it:
3 reasons why leading with empathy can benefit your team
How Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan built his company on 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 why leading with empathy can benefit your team

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.

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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.

This is part of Reach: In Retrospect.
See more highlights from Reach 2019 →

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 quote

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.

“We still pay them. At the end of the day, it’s about the employee’s happiness. Ultimately your business cannot go to the next level unless all the employees can go to the next level. All of us have to get better every day and every year to succeed.”

2. Keep communication open and transparent

When asked how he brings happiness to his customers, Eric said:

Trust is everything. To win the customers, you have to start with trust. We aim to keep everything open and transparent. We want to treat our customers as an extended family member of our company. You have to make the decision from the customer decision, what will the customer get? Every time you make a decision, always ask yourself that. Will this decision deliver happiness? Will it solve the problem? That’s what it comes down to.”

3. Pay attention to your flaws

Eric stressed the importance of customer feedback:

We do love going to G2 and reading the reviews people leave.”

eric yuan reach 2019

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.

“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 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.

“I only travel for business twice a year. We have teams in China, Japan, Kansas City, Austria, Europe and we can video conference with them instead of having to travel. It’s very efficient.”
how zoom was built on happiness

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 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.
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Alexa Drake
Author

Alexa Drake

Alexa is a 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 taking her dog on walks, creating playlists for every mood, and finding the best vegetarian food in the city. (she/her/hers)