All people long to be valued and understood. As a leader, it really is your job to care and create that connection with the people with whom you work. Connecting with people unlocks their contribution and paves the way for great work to be done in a vital and engaged community.

In order to understand and value another person, a leader must have some respect for what it must be like to be in other peoples’ positions. “Can I put myself in their shoes and see the world the way they see the world?” asks Robin Anselmi, Client Solutions Lead at Conversant. “If I want to connect with you, and if I have any hope there’s going to be some leadership involved, I have to know what matters most to you; and I think empathy is the doorway into that.”

To practice empathy, leaders need to ask these key questions:

  • What is your purpose?: What do you value? What are you for?
  • What are your concerns?: What are you worried about? What are you against?
  • What are your circumstances? What challenges do those circumstances represent for you?

Leaders who are genuinely interested in other people create more opportunities for building trust and engaging relationships. “In organizational life, we don’t often get the opportunity to get to know somebody. Why are you here, choosing to do what you do? What are your motivators? If you can create that dialogue between people it avoids a lot of misunderstandings,” says Geraldine Haley, Global Head of Executive Talent and Management Team Support at Standard Chartered Bank.

By getting curious about what others have to offer, you can create work environments that actually leverage those gifts, skills and talents. When people feel they are valued for their ability to contribute, you cultivate a workforce that’s more engaged and better able to produce surprising and valuable results.

If you’d like to learn more about practicing presence as an important part of leadership communication, please check out The Vitality Imperative and our empathy practices.

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