I had a very interesting meeting today with the 367 Project which is a new organization looking to develop ethical leadership. I will be doing one of the modules on communication in March.
I sat in on one of the first modules of the year on empathy, which was led by the sociology professor Sam Richards, who gave a fascinating TED talk at Penn State. The conversation with the undergraduate members of Project 367 ranged from being empathetic with people from other countries and cultures (Sam has a fascinating way of connecting Penn State students with students from the middle east countries) to how empathy can impact the students of daily lives.
This made me think about empathy within management and why it is important. I spend a lot of time in “expert organizations” where people are promoted because of their expertise. This happens a lot in consulting firms, law firms even IT groups. The challenge for the new manager is that they need to oversee people in their department who are technically not as good as they are. Often this leads to a lack of empathy for the team member as the new manager does not understand why the team member cannot do what the manager can do.
Fundamentally new managers need to follow the platinum rule when thinking about their team. The golden rule is often seen as a key to inter-personal relationships – “treat others how you would want to be treated.” However this lacks empathy. The platinum rule states “treat others how they would want to be treated” and is the key for a new manager to help their team maximize their potential.