The need for change conveys urgency, but preparing for it takes time. The ground must be tilled before the seeds can be sowed.
It takes time to build the trust, to develop the relationships, and to foster the shared interest of the stakeholders involved. This is the work of leadership and it relies on empathy.
Empathy is not a tactic; it’s a core principle of leadership. To lead is to make a genuine emotional connection with those we lead – to discover their needs, what they care about, what concerns them and why. That begins with listening and engaging with them, honestly and openly, while sharing our own lessons learned, revealing our vulnerability and authenticity. It’s a dialogue of assurance, not authority.
And it’s a prerequisite for building the trust and relationships that transform individual needs into the shared team commitment and accountability that enable leaders to drive change. Trust grows when, having listened and learned, leaders act to keep their promises, lead from the front and walk the talk. When we leverage what’s been learned to help our team members feel respected and appreciated, and help them realize that a change initiative is an invitation to make a difference doing meaningful work, the change risk is mitigated and trust is strengthened. Empathy nurtures relationships.
Leadership is a journey that’s measured in milestones as well as time; achieving each milestone is an opportunity to celebrate as a team, to appreciate the relationships that enabled the accomplishment. Encourage a sense of fun – sharing the fun, after overcoming the challenges, bonds a team. When we’re happy, we’re motivated; and motivated people consistently outperform.
Creating the environment for change begins with empathy, and the simple act of people sharing what’s important to them and why it’s important. This enables them to ask what’s possible, not what’s wrong. There is power, and sustainable success, in a team that discovers what it cares about.
How are you preparing your team for change?