This book is written for business, government, and non-profit executives and managers who wish to drive the performance, profitability, and productivity of their organizations and teams by leading with empathy, courage, and confidence -- serving as a steadying and guiding force in our age of global economic disruption.
Structured as series of 47 practical lessons from the author’s career advising executives, Empathetic Leadership provides immediately implementable ideas and techniques in easy-to-digest format and a conversational, down-to-earth style.
The 47 "tips" are organized under the six major people-related responsibilities of managers:
Building your team (hiring)
Managing your team (day to day leadership)
Developing your culture (based on company mission and values)
Leading by example (personal leadership)
Coaching and mentoring (developing teams and individuals)
Managing your career (charting a path forward)
Each of the tips is based on situations in everyday business and includes a reflection on how we can effectively lead with empathy in these situations, for the benefit of all.
Focus on these tips today and see your leadership impact grow tomorrow!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thank you so much for visiting this site today. I appreciate your interest in Empathetic Leadership. To share with you a little about myself . . .
I am an HR executive with a passion for helping fast-growing companies thrive. I have had the pleasure of serving in HR leadership roles in multiple industries (from Fortune-500 corporations, to entrepreneurial start-ups, to non-profit organizations) across a 25-year career.
Along the way, I've advised CEO’s and leadership teams at all levels on organizational development, performance management, employee engagement, and other strategic topics; managed more than 30 acquisitions; and supported managers and employees nationwide.
I hold an MBA from Loyola University Chicago, a BS in Management from Bucknell University, senior HR certification from SHRM and HRCI, and have published two previous HR management books.
In my work, I strive to live up to JFK's maxim that "Happiness is the full use of one's talents along lines of excellence." Thank you for joining me in this journey as we aim to bring happiness and excellence through empathy to all those that we meet in our organizations and in our lives.
“Michael has brought nostalgic notions into sharp focus for today’s leader. His analysis is thorough, the stories engaging and the gentle reminder that we can all improve our own Empathetic Leadership. This was profoundly demonstrated in Tip #25: Fierce Conversations, underscoring how kindness and honesty are vastly different than a cruel tweet or anonymous comment that we see on social media. Vintage is hip. Upcycling and reusing the old is good for our environment, our teams and even our hearts!”
Personal Development Trainer, Founder, GwenTaylor.com
There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.
Did you ever meet someone who was doing exactly what they were meant to do? I once heard priest relate a story from the pulpit about how he knew he wanted to be a priest from the age of 6. Most of us are don’t know from quite such a young age what we want to be when we grow up. When we finally find our one true thing, though, it makes all the difference in the world.
Empathetic leaders are always seeking to add people of passion and character to their teams – the type of people who wake up every day and want to rush into work to get started on doing what they love to do – because they know the effect these people have on customers, peers, and the organization as a whole. And they don’t give up until they find them (even if the process is wearying and they’re otherwise tempted to give up and settle for “good enough”).
“I Love This Job”
A scene I’ll never forget: Cold, dark February morning. Sophomore year in an all-boys, Catholic high school. “Modular” (trailer-like) classroom. Western Civ, second period. Thirty 15-year olds fidgeting, bored, or bundled up against the cold.
Teacher walks into the room — and slams his grade book on the desk. He had our attention! We all sit up, expecting angry words about poor grades on an exam, or poorly-written papers, or something like that.
Instead, he loudly, boldly exclaims: “I love this job!”
A Tale of the “Right Fit”
Mr. Hainey. 24 years old. Skinny. Passionate. Utterly sincere. Being paid probably a dollar above the minimum required by law. And he had just declared to a roomful of adolescent boys that he loved his job. To say that we had never seen anyone do that before would be an understatement.
For the next few minutes, he explained whatever it was that had him so excited. I forget the exact situation that stirred his passion that morning, but his point was essentially this: It was the “the mission,” not “the money.” He knew he could be earning more money teaching elsewhere (i.e., public school) — and, being a bright and capable guy, he certainly knew he could be earning substantially more in an entirely different occupation (sales, management, or even probably waiting tables).
Yes, he was single and still living with his parents, so he could “afford” to choose mission over money. But the point is, he felt so aligned with the mission of his employer, and he felt so aligned with its culture and values, that he just had to tell someone about it … and on that particular winter morning, the “someone” was a roomful of 10th grade boys.
Now, all in all, the school was a very positive, mission-driven place. (We were told that we were “the school with a difference,” and while that was never quite explained in any detail, we all came to see and feel its truth through people such as Mr. Hainey). Yet, even for our school, this was a pretty startling exclamation — and one that has stuck with me almost four decades later.
He was exactly right, of course. Seeing things from his perspective:
He had a job that he was very good at. (This was in the days before the internet, social media, and rating your teachers on-line – but if any of those existed, he certainly would have been rated highly by his young charges).
He cared deeply about his subject (his “job duties”) and his students (his “customers”) – and he wanted us to be just as excited by the material as he was.
He believed in the mission of the organization (school), and he clearly saw his role contributing to the success and sustenance of the organization.
And he had enough variety in his job (refereeing intramurals, leading government club trips, etc.) that it sustained him through the inevitable dry spots in any role.
Mr. Hainey was the “perfect fit” with his job – and it with him. When you find a candidate like this … hire them immediately!
As hiring managers, we all want to hire – and retain – candidates like Mr. Hainey. I find, though, that sometimes managers weary of the process before discovering the right-fit candidate. The extreme example of this was the hiring manager who I was working with told me after interviewing the very first candidate, to hire her. I asked if she wanted to interview more of the small pool of candidates I had developed. She said it wouldn’t be necessary.
I said, “Wow – this candidate must have really blown you away. She must be amazing!” The manager replied, “She’s ok – nothing extraordinary.”
Confused, I asked why she wanted to hire her, then, without seeing others as a point of comparison. “It’s just not worth the bother,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter. She’ll be good enough. We don’t need anything more.”
I went home dejected and deflated that day, for sure. “Not worth the bother? It doesn’t matter?” You couldn’t get further from the hiring goals of an empathetic leader, of course – someone who keeps going until they find their perfect fit.
AN EMPATHETIC APPROACH
Any of us with any responsibility for recruitment processes strive to put the most highly-qualified, “best-fit” candidate in place in every position in our organizations. With the hundreds (and sometimes even thousands) of resumes flooding across our desks for every opening these days, this is often a daunting task. I have seen even the best of managers get tired, and frustrated, and want to short-circuit the hiring process with a “good enough” candidate. It is difficult not to lose heart. To give up. To say, “It doesn’t matter.”
Given the vagaries of human behavior, emotion, and motivation, it is often just short of impossible to look into someone’s mind (much less their heart) with any amount of precision and know for certain whether they’ll perform well in a role, much less whether they will thrive. We all know this, of course — but we have to keep heart. For, when we get it right, it can affect the lives of the people involved (employees, co-workers, managers, customers) in a deep and meaningful way … even 40 years later.
Keep Interviewing Until You Have the Perfect Fit
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