We’re in the midst of the busy holiday season, with a lot of activity, excitement, stress and a sense that there’s not enough time for everything. As we experience more people out shopping at the same time in search of the perfect gift at the best price, patience, compassion, and empathy are often a part of this shopping experience.
I was one of the many who chose to shop on Black Friday, even though I really didn’t need anything. This, however, did offer me the opportunity to observe more and to simply be present. Two stores that I visited stood out above the rest in how effortlessly they appeared to handle their customers with calm kind-heartedness and the chaos of the day.
I observed the managers in each of these stores praising their teams for how well they were doing, championing their efforts with customers and cheering them on to finish strong. I acknowledged one sales person’s positive, patient and emphatic way of being and he cheerfully responded, telling me that he worked with the best team, that they had each other’s back and he enjoyed the culture.
Who each of us is and how we show up matters! Who are you in the midst of traffic and checkout lines this holiday season?
This is part 5 in this 5-part series on A New Era of Relationships by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.Team interaction is so powerful that any increase improves group performance. Click To Tweet
Mirror neurons in the brain help us detect another person’s state. They are the physiological basis for experiencing what someone else is feeling. But that’s only half of the empathy experience. As leaders, you must also choose effective and appropriate responses.
As you can imagine, in any organization, employing highly empathic workers has numerous advantages, including better customer relations, team cohesiveness, and a more positive working environment. Research confirms:
- Empathic salespeople and negotiators are more successful.
- Waiters who display empathy earn nearly 20 percent more in tips.
- Debt collectors with empathy skills recover twice as much money.
- Empathic doctors make more accurate diagnoses and fewer errors, incur lower costs and are sued less.
Can you Measure Sociability in Teams?
To have empathy experiences at work, however, people must have occasions to interact with each other casually or socially. Casual social interactions greatly increase your effectiveness in being more relational with your people.
Team interaction is so powerful that any increase improves group performance. Colvin offers a telling case study in Humans Are Underrated:
In a Bank of America call center of 3,000 employees, productivity vastly improved simply by changing the schedule of break times so that workers on the same teams spent more time together in casual social interactions. When the bank aligned team breaks, productivity rose, and turnover fell. Performance improved as workers had more time to interact with each other. The bank estimated a savings of $15 million a year.
Scientists are using new technologies to measure social interaction in organizations. Professor Alex Pentland’s Human Dynamics Lab at MIT invented a sociometric badge, worn on people’s clothing, that measures tone of voice, whether people face one another while talking, gesture frequency, and the ratio of talking/listening/interrupting. A sociometer does not record the words people say, as they are irrelevant measures of social signals and interactions.
Organizations that use sociometers assert that social sensitivity in the workplace outweighs all other factors contributing to team effectiveness.
Your extraordinary ability to sense others’ feelings and thoughts rely on seeing faces, reading body language and assessing vocal tone. None of these abilities can be employed when you are texting or using social media. There is some evidence that shows the next generation, known for its unprecedented dependence on technology, is showing lower empathy skills.
Each of us can learn to recognize the social signals we produce and perceive. We have innate empathic skills, but they weaken if we don’t use them.
CEOs often seem overly concerned with performance and bottom-line results in a rapidly changing, uncertain and disruptive marketplace. Long-term viability will require us all to value empathy and human interactions. Your people cannot perform well without developing rapport and trust, talking about fears and emotions, and confronting colleagues without destroying partnerships.
“Relationship-focused success expands capacity and potential, and empathy is a business skill that actually grows when practiced and shared,” notes Cleary University President Jayson M. Boyers in a 2013 Forbes article. “Although it may be unlike any practice you have ever used within your business, empathy in the workplace creates and encourages sharing ideas free from the fear of ridicule. If we are to keep our businesses relevant and our consumers happy, we must embrace empathy and let it be the force that drives us forward.”
In my work, I hear stories about money and energy devoted to team-building exercises and other off-site events, but little attention is paid to day-to-day interactions. Simply arranging lunch tables so that more people can eat together, or aligning team breaks so people can socialize together, can enhance your team’s natural human tendency to socialize, empathize and work well together on a daily basis.
I am curious to know what mindful activities either you or your organization do to enhance social interaction within teams? What has worked? What has not worked? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.