That rather beautiful but overused expression ’Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’ seems to be a mantra for today. Some days to read the papers and talk with colleagues it seems the only way is up. It is perhaps dawning that we’re in this for the long haul. Last night after a challenging day, I attended a zoom seminar and was informed that stardust is unequivocally in our DNA. I’ll admit I was a little sceptical but secretly hoped it was true – if ever we all need to access our inner superpower, it’s now.
This week has been one of extremes, from discussions with a client about moon shots in technology (an audacious ambition deemed to be impossible and focused on the future of what could be rather than what is), to empathetic leadership. As we head towards the end of the summer, extremes and uncertainty have become the norm along with hardship and difficulty for many. A lot of us have been forced rather unceremoniously to face ourselves, whether we want to or not. There are of course also positives and success stories, businesses that have accelerated innovation; what they had planned to take 5 years, occurred just about in 5 weeks. Others have used the catalyst to fuel unimaginable changes, both personally and professionally.
In a workshop earlier this week, a conversation ensued about the power of empathy, a sometimes overlooked yet powerful leadership (and life) skill. As Mohsin Hamid eruditely put it, ‘empathy is finding echoes of another person in yourself’. Empathy is one of those things which takes practice, it’s not a quick learn but when done well, the ensuing results are immense. From accurately reading emotional undercurrents and dynamics in your organisation or team, to truly understanding what’s going on internally and externally, it gives you a heads up to strategically decide how to proceed.
It starts with listening i.e. seeking to understand how it feels to be in someone else’s situation before seeking to be understood. Empathy increases trust, connection and commitment; a sense that employees are valued and cared about. A study recently revealed that 90% of employees are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. Enlightened CEOs know that empathy is linked to financial performance too. Whether in our personal relationships or part of an organization, we will be more likely to stay when we feel like we are heard, appreciated, and cared about.
I have not had access to many military forces training manuals but one I was party to viewing, had a vast section on empathy, a major criteria for good leadership. Fortunately, empathy is not a fixed trait and can be learned.
The soft skills are the hardest and often the most impactful, and as for the stardust – we absolutely are! It turns out all the elements in the human body were made in a star, everything we are and everything in the universe originated from stardust. Joni Mitchell singing ‘we are stardust, we are golden’ was onto something.
In spite of the uncertainty, remember the words of Christopher Robin, ‘you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think’. And as it turns out full of stardust too.
Keep listening, practice empathy and what it feels like to be in another’s shoes, there’s always a murmur of something interesting, magical or even transformational if we choose to hear it.
Keep well and see you soon virtually, and hopefully in the real in the not too distant. If you would like to talk to us about empathetic leadership or active listening, do get in touch.