As history shows, ruling by fear might work in the short term, but it’s not a wise strategy in the long run. People might obey dictators, but tyrants can forget about earning their constituents’ respect or trust.
This lesson isn’t just applicable to politics — it also has bearing for leaders in the business world. Managers who use scare tactics to keep their employees in line find themselves with open reqs more often than not.
But what does it matter as long as your direct reports do what you say? Well, they might execute your bidding, but without their own motivation driving their actions, they won’t execute very well.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Enlightened companies are increasingly aware that delivering empathy for their customers, employees, and the public is a powerful tool for improving profits.”
This sounds nice, but does it really mean anything in terms of hard results? New data lends credibility to corporate empathy’s financial worth. It’s no mistake that the top 10 most empathetic UK-based companies listed in by HBR (compiled by Lady Geek) are also some of the world’s most successful — including LinkedIn, Sony, Google, and Nike.
In addition, when Telefonica Germany launched an empathy training initiative, the program “led to an increase in customer satisfaction of 6% within 6 weeks,” according to HBR. So corporate empathy causes a sort of chain reaction that leads to better results.
Compassion From the Top Down
For example, companies that include empathy as one of their core organizational values might naturally or deliberately seek to hire managers, leaders, and employees who demonstrate high emotional intelligence (of which empathy is a key factor). And when employees feel that their managers and coworkers understand them and empathize with their problems, they are more likely to be engaged at work. Finally, as research by Gallup and others has shown, higher employee engagement = better company results. It’s as simple as that.
In addition, Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek, argues that the benefits of organizational empathy also extend to customers and the public at large. Think about it. Would you rather do business with a brand that sympathized with your challenges and met you on your emotional level, or one that totally ignored your feelings? It’s a no-brainer.
Although putting empathy at the center of your organizational values can seem soft or even silly, keep in mind that empathy has hard business value. As Parmar tells us, “Empathy pays, and it pays best when it comes from the top."