Can an empathy coach help build successful business leaders?
A study by research firm DDI found that empathy is one of the most important drivers of overall performance amongst managers. Yet only 40% of business leaders exhibit proficient or strong empathy skills.
Another study by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCI) found that managers who show higher levels of empathy toward their team are viewed as better performers by their bosses.
As an empathy coach, I am sure you already know about the huge skills gap that hinders effective leadership.
The truth is that empathy coaches help people both in their personal and professional lives. In fact this HBR article says that the secret to leading organizational change is empathy.
In this blog today, I will discuss all you need to know as an empathy coach.
Why Hire an Empathy Coach?
Empathy is a key leadership skill. Without this, leaders find themselves unable to run efficient organizations. How does an empathy coach help build strong leaders?
In general, empathy improves relations as it establishes a connection or bond between an employee and the leader. How does this happen specifically?
Well, leaders who are able to demonstrate empathy help employees:
- Feel heard about their misgivings or opinions
- Feel acknowledged and validated about their experiences or feelings
- Mend any broken trust issues with the brand/leader
So how can you, as an empathy coach, help leaders or bosses become more empathetic?
What Does An Empathy Coach Do?
You are already aware of what empathy is. It is the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes. Often it is confused with sympathy. However, empathy does not need you to feel sorry for the other person. Empathy enables humans to vicariously live through the other person’s feelings and experiences.
Different Types of Empathy
There are three different types of empathy. Anyone can experience more than one type at a time. The three types of empathy include:
This is when one feels something because someone else does. An easily relatable example is watching a sad movie. The audience is driven to tears while watching a sad movie despite knowing that it is make-believe.
This involves thinking more than feeling. Cognitive empathy means imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. Cognitive empathy is best displayed by close friends who help by providing a listening ear. They often leave the emotional person feeling understood because of this listening skill.
This can include any kind of empathy that leads to action. A good example of compassionate empathy is when you see someone in need and offer help. This may be in the form of food or money. Compassionate empathy is often associated with one of the main causes for happiness and “the joy of giving”.
Can Empathy be Learned?
Is empathy learned or is it genetic?
Well here is some good news for your clients!
According to this Cambridge study, genes play a role in empathy. The new study has three important results.
- First, it found that how empathetic we are is partly due to genetics. Indeed, a tenth of this variation is due to genetic factors. This confirms previous research examining empathy in identical versus non-identical twins.
- Second, the new study confirmed that women are on average more empathetic than men. However, this difference is not due to our DNA as there were no differences in the genes that contribute to empathy in men and women. This implies that the sex difference in empathy is the result of other non-genetic biological factors, such as prenatal hormone influences, or non-biological factors such as socialization, both of which also differ between the sexes.
- Finally, the new study found that genetic variants associated with lower empathy are also associated with higher risk for autism.
Isn’t that great news? Use this data in your elevator pitch as an empathy coach.
Who Needs an Empathy Coach?
In other words, what does the target audience of an empathy coach look like?
So who is your target audience? How do you advertise your services to your target audience?
Let us look at some examples of who may need empathy coaching. The following are all hypothetical scenarios meant to show you different types of audience who you may need to coach.
Can an empathy coach bring in streamlined results in a multi-cultural organization?
Yes, she can!
Can an empathy coach be hired along with the regular staff in a sports or management coaching institute? Would she be able to meet needs of multiple students? The answer to both these questions is also a resounding yes!
Will an empathy coach be hired to conduct empathy mapping across their multi-layered customer market? An empathy coach can do much more than change mindsets across companies. And the end result is always a higher profit margin for the company!
That is reason enough for companies to invest in empathy coaches, right?
Empathy Coaching: One-on-One
As an empathy coach, how do you train your clients to be empathetic leaders?
Here are some pointers that you can share with your clients on how to become more empathetic in their professional lives.
Qualities for Empathetic Leadership
- Become an active listener. This is a key coaching trait too, isn’t it? What better way to teach your clients about active listening than modelling the same? The rules are the same. Non-judgmental listening is key for any successful communication. Coach your clients to observe body language and tone of voice. Also focus on mannerisms as part of non-verbal communication. Active listening skills help leaders build bonds with their employees. The employees feel valued for their opinions. They are then more willing to donate time and energy towards the success of the organization.
- Know your employees. Corporate houses often focus too much on making profits and not often on employee relations. Incorporate “know your employees” kind of exercises. Such an exercise may involve asking C-level executives to spend a day in the shoes of a front-line employee. Add a layer by asking the top executives to identify challenges, pain points and motivation factors for the junior level employee. This will enable the top leaders to ask questions, listen and shake them out of their comfort zone. The common misconception is that a practice such as “Know your employee” works best in smaller organizations. While this seems like a logistical convenience, some version of this may be implemented across larger organizations too. Plan mentoring sessions within departments. Weave in programs that encourage curiosity about emotions and the lives about employees across different departments.
- Monitor emotion graphs within your team members. A good leader will always have his finger on the pulse of the employees’ emotions. What motivates them? What are the things that most employees are passionate about? But sometimes a change of job status can throw things out of perspective. This is where you can have a role to play as an empathy coach. Teach your clients to try and see things from the employees’ point of view. Was there a change of leadership? Were there lay-offs and restructuring exercises? It is important to reassure employees after such exercises when anxiety levels run high. Bonding exercises will provide some valuable emotional insight into the mindset of the team.
Communication Skills of Empathetic Leaders
As an empathy coach, what are some of the key communication methods you teach clients?
Here are some examples of empathetic statements that you can share with your client. Remember it is always better to model empathy in your own conversations with your client. Use these tactics and statements during your coaching engagements regularly. This will help the client understand how empathy can support, mend broken relations and impact customer relations.
Some examples mentioned in this article for customer service clients are mentioned below:
- “If I understand correctly…” This kind of sentence allows the speaker to show interest in understanding the problem. Then, it enables a recap of what the major pain points are. Once these main issues have been identified, it is easy to take the next course of action by seeking a remedy. Showing empathy in customer service is particularly important. It helps to increase customer satisfaction, even after a negative experience.
- “I would feel X too in that situation”. This is a classic modelling of putting oneself in the other person’s shoes. ‘X’ can reflect the feelings of frustration, confusion, surprise or sadness that the client expresses. This statement assures clients that their feelings are valid. In customer service, this sort of messaging often breaks the ice with the customer.
- “You are right”. This is a classic case, isn’t it? After all, the mantra in customer service is that the customer is always right. This statement validates a customer’s point of view. Validating a customer’s feelings about a situation can be as simple as confirming that they are right about there being a problem. Do you notice how easily this builds a level of trust between a business and the customer? It establishes that you (the speaker) are on the “customer’s side.”
- “I’m sorry you’ve had to experience this…” Saying you’re sorry isn’t the same as admitting you’re wrong. It is just another way to mend a relationship with an offended client. But for effective empathy statements, the next step counts. You need to make an effort to prove it to the customer.
- “I’ve experienced this issue recently too”. Empathy is about (figuratively) walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Empathy statements that demonstrate similar experience help create a stronger connection with the customer. You’re explicitly telling them that you’ve walked that mile and understand the frustration/anger. You make a stronger connection because of this messaging.
- “Thank you for getting in touch about this”. What a classic way of building trust between the brand and the customer! It shows appreciation for the customer’s contact. Your customer has made an effort to speak to you and work out their issues. When you thank your customer for getting in touch, you are recognizing the effort they have made. You respect their time.
- “I appreciate X…” Saying thank you for reaching out is always positive. But you can also use appreciative empathy statements across the rest of your support interaction, too. Perhaps the customer has been patient with you. Or he has given you useful feedback. Perhaps he has been empathetic to your position. Either way, a simple gesture of appreciation always builds trust. It leaves the customer feeling valued.
These are some of the pointers noted in the article, specifically for clients in the customer service industry. However, these are good for your clients in any industry. As the writer notes, in order to be effective, tick off the “four cornerstones of empathy in a chat session: clarification, validation, reassurance and appreciation.” Follow it through with authenticity.
On a related note, here is a list compiled by Inc.com that your clients will appreciate. The article is 12 Must-Read Books That Will Raise Your Emotional Intelligence.
Empathy Coach Helps Leaders
Here is a ready list I saw online on this great marketing article that lists some thought-provoking questions for leaders. These are great for you to train your clients.
Get your clients to start wondering:
- What do the employees in your organization think and feel? Why?
- What do they hear? Why?
- What do they see? Why?
- What do they say and do? Why?
- What obstacles, fears, frustrations and pressure points keep them from meeting their goals (known as pains)?
- What are their goals, desires, needs and wants? What gets them up each morning? What gives them daily happiness (known as gains)?
- How would you feel in a situation/challenge that your employees face regularly? What would you do? What would you want or expect from your manager?
Build Your Brand as an Empathy Coach
Is marketing going to help you as an empathy coach? I have answered this in my blog Is Marketing Crucial to My Coaching Business. I have written several other marketing related blogs. Some are here and here. These will help you understand how you can market your brand and stand out from the crowd as an empathy coach. Pro-tip: Brush up on your online marketing skills. They will certainly come in handy!
As an empathy coach, you are already working with a very specific niche.
Do you often wonder how to get your brand name noticed? The coaching market is constantly growing. But this means the competition is also getting tougher. You may want to refer to my blog How to promote your life coaching business? for tips.
But all good coaches, irrespective of their niche, share some common traits. I have written about these in detail in a few blogs. In my previous blog Top 10 Coaching Skills You Must Have as a Life Coach, I have mentioned several qualities that are not just limited to life coaches. These qualities are common for coaches across all coaching models.
Resources for an Empathy Coach
How can you better yourself as an empathy coach?
Well you can take a related training to understand and better your coaching skills. I have provided a list of coaching institutes in my earlier blog. It is called How to Select the Best Coaching Training Program in 2020.
Apart from this, use technology to keep yourself updated. Read research papers, opinion pieces and related books. These can be coaching books or general self-help books related to your niche and area of expertise.
A simple Google search will show you several books and podcasts online. As an empathy coach, you may want to look up some of these.
Books to Read as an Empathy Coach
There are some books for you to explore as an empathy coach.
- Coaching with Empathy (Coaching in Practice) by Anne Brockbank, Ian McGill
- Developing Coaching With Compassion And Empathy With Sensitivity And Thoughtfulness. Supporting And Leading To Encourage Breakthrough Discoveries. By Salvatore R. Ingoglia Sr.
Here is a list of self help books that help develop more empathy in general. Why should you be interested in a generalised list? Well, let me tell you.
Your clientele is already reading these books, leading to high sales figures of these books. Knowing what your target audience wants will keep you a step ahead in the game.