Empathy during disruption

It’s been an emotional week. In the midst of all that, you want to lead. You have vision to move things forward in your organization, family, or circle of influence. You want the world to be better.

That change is disruptive. Any vision is disruptive. The trouble is, the world was already disruptive enough.

Change adds disruptive to an already disruptive world. And yet, we need change. We need vision.

Anything that changes the status quo can create unease and discomfort in the people around us. When they feel that discomfort, leaders are often tempted to:

  • Pull away (they are afraid to be a reminder of the change, or uncomfortable being with people who are uncomfortable).
  • Double down on being right .
  • Dismiss emotion as weak (or pretend it’s not there).
  • Surround themselves only with their supporters.

As you might imagine, these approaches don’t build trust or help people move forward.

Leaders should come alongside people during change to be with them, not just to talk at them. They make sure that people know, it’s not me verses you.

During change, mature leaders understand we don’t have to agree to be on the same side.”

Change usually disrupts what used to be. And more than likely, some of the folks following you were influential in making that used to be. They wrote it, started it, organized it, and funded it.

Empathetic leaders come alongside and communicate, it’s not me verses the way things used to be.

It’s you and them together against a problem worth solving. And that problem worth solving requires change. It requires vision. And it requires leaders who lead with empathy.

Empathy in Action
In seasons of disruption, lead with empathy. Here are four ways you can start.

  1. Double your face time. Be around more than usual. Show up in the break room. Linger after meetings. Set up check-in meetings and phone calls with staff (not just an email or text).
  2. Name what was lost. Invite people to name what this has and will cost them. How do they feel about it? What is causing them worry about it? If you don’t hear them out, it will come out somewhere else.
  3. Go first with empathy and last with opinions. Believe it or not, you don’t have to take a stand about what happened. You don’t have to be right to be worth following. You might make a bigger difference (and a better connection) if you hold your tongue.
  4. Build trust. Ask the people around you what you’re doing that builds trust and what you are doing that makes it difficult to choose trust. Let them be honest. Decide that high trust is up to you.

Remember, if emotion comes out during change, you can be with it without having to fix it. Although it may make you uncomfortable or feel guilty, it’s better to be the kind of leader who can handle it than one who ignores it. It will build trust, and lead to faster change.

It’s been an emotional week. You’ll help make the world better if you show up to it healthy and connected. Take time this weekend to replenish, rest, and connect with people you love. If you want to talk about it, text me at 970.222.3331.

I wrote above about a problem worth solving. Next week I’ll talk about how to find one. Subscribe here and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.

One thought on “Empathy during disruption

Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: