Each week presents a set of issues, challenges, tasks, and responsibilities for us to address. Some are anticipated and scheduled. Others will emerge as the week unfolds. Sometimes we will be expected to anticipate what is coming. Other situations will require us to react. Some things we will be able to manage. Others will be beyond our control.
Yet, regardless of what the upcoming week may present, there are three behaviors that we can practice in nearly any situation that will improve the outcome, empower those we lead, and increase the impact of our leadership. Equally important, these leadership behaviors can reduce our stress and strengthen our relationships with others.
At first, these behaviors may seem obvious. We may even take them for granted. Yet, in our hurried, harried week we can forget their importance and neglect to prioritize their practice. When we do, we risk compromising the impact of our leadership and missing opportunities to help those around us. Let’s examine these behaviors and why making them a priority this week and every week is so important.
The first behavior is listening. The practice of close listening can generate multiple benefits and advantages. Listening can give us access to important information, multiple perspectives, crucial insights, and an array of options to consider. Meanwhile, listening is a demonstration of engagement and caring. Listening conveys our respect and demonstrates our valuing of others. Further, just listening to someone “talk out” an issue can result in their discovering new insights and solutions beyond what we might have offered. Committing to listen may seem simple, but really listening to understand words and their meaning can make an important difference.
A second leadership behavior to prioritize this week is empathizing. Empathy focuses on understanding the stresses, concerns, worries, and reactions of others from their perspective. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy focuses on sharing feelings, while empathy focuses on understanding feelings. The difference is important in that we may not have shared the experience of the other person, but we can seek to understand and appreciate what they are feeling and how they are perceiving a situation. By seeking to understand we can validate the perspective and feelings of the other person, while remaining positioned to help and support them. Practicing empathy can lead us to ask questions, clarify emotions, and sort responses in ways that are empowering. Empathy does not mean taking on the emotions of the other person, but it can lead to discovering actions and solutions that will make a difference.
The third leadership behavior, encouraging, builds on the first two behaviors. Listening and empathizing can surface valuable information and insights to guide choices and other actions. However, people often need a nudge to take a risk or reassurance that they can succeed with the challenge they face. Our belief in their skills and commitment can be what it takes to move someone to action. Our confidence can lead others to persist until they prevail. Our encouragement may not seem like much to us, but it may be just enough to “tip the scales” in favor of taking on a new challenge, confronting a long-standing problem, or committing to a new idea or project.
Of course, we may assume that listening, empathizing, and encouraging are naturally present in our daily and weekly routines. However, giving these behaviors renewed attention and committing to practice them regularly can strengthen our leadership impact, increase our work satisfaction, and improve the work and life experience of those around us.