Jennifer Howell speaking to a crowd about empathy in the workplace

How to Introduce Empathy Into Your Workplace

Jennifer Howell, CEO of Spark EQ and leadership consultant, shares how leaders can introduce empathy into their workplaces through modeling, and advises how to keep your empathy from being perceived as a weakness by those around you.

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We as leaders really have to model it. It sounds kind of basic, but it’s one of the easiest ways to bring it to your workplace. Before you begin a meeting, try asking those you’re meeting with to tell you something they’re excited about or want to celebrate. Usually, those types of questions will really lift a lot of folks up, and they get to tell you great things. When I do this, it’s amazing what people respond with!

In addition to modeling empathy, you can also model being a strong active listener. When your team is missing expectations, it usually comes down to three possible issues: lack of clarity, not knowing how to do something and they’re afraid to tell you, or they just don’t want to work on this task or project. As a leader, using emotion and active listening are a big part of drawing that information out of your team so then you can help that person or team solve the issue.

Someone who can be overly empathetic might find that their empathy becomes a detriment when it begins to cloud decision-making. For example, an high-empath leader might have so much empathy for an employee or team that instead of holding them accountable for given tasks or projects, that leader shies away from holding that person accountable or digging into what the problem is. That empathy can be perceived by other people on the team or by other peers and leaders as not effective leadership or a weakness.

Dr. Henry Cloud, a famous psychologist and Christian leader, co-authored a book on boundaries with John Townsend. One of Dr. Cloud’s famous phrases that I have had to take to heart and learn is that I’m responsible to my people, but I’m not responsible for my people and their wellbeing or happiness. As a leader, I have to show up with kindness, respect, clarity, and active listening in order to fulfill my responsibility of leading my team.

It’s vital. When I was learning about emotional intelligence from a professional perspective, I had a new awareness on the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and control or emotional awareness/ regulation. Empathy is a gateway to all of those fruits. When I have empathy for someone else, I love them more, be more kind, and be more patient. And in return, I can have more joy for myself as a leader.

Jennifer Howell headshot in a black top

Jennifer Howell, leadership consultant, speaker and executive coach, equips executives, leaders and teams to improve their performance, achieve their goals and strengthen emotional intelligence. Spark EQ provides executive and leadership coaching, team development, and workshop facilitation.

Jennifer partners with courageous leaders to help them not only succeed, but thrive at work. Spark EQ’s clients have experienced dramatic business growth, elevated team performance, career promotions and leadership readiness. Jennifer integrates proven business strategies with first-hand expertise that she developed over 25 years working for and with early-stage, growth and Fortune 500 companies, including Accenture, State Street Corporation, Bank of America and the American Heart

Association. Jennifer built masterminds for Fortune 500 executives, facilitated an award-winning mentor program for 180 professionals and raised millions for charitable causes.

Influence Digest named Jennifer a Top 20 Executive Coach in Dallas, TX and a Top 15 Coach in Dallas, TX. Her thought leadership has been profiled in Forbes, Fortune’s Broadsheet, Everyday Health, and two books for professional women, to name a few.