Empathy Lesson: Empathy, Capitalist Tool

Empathy, Capitalist Tool: In this video (two parts) – Lou Agosta is interviewed by Brandon Hamilton about business and empathy on the Russ Meeks Speaks show (Channel 21, Chicago (RCN)) on October 20, 2017 / November 04, 2017. This is part one of the on-the-air conversation. [Patience please – the video takes about 20 seconds to start, apparently due to lead time on the TV show.]

And next up is part two of the video:

Business practices that make a person good at business do not necessarily expand the person’s empathy. Management’s efforts get drawn toward responding to competitive pressure, compliance issues, legal challenges, and solving technological problems.

The interest in empathy often starts in sales. The buyer who senses a salesperson’s empathy will provide that person with valuable feedback, which will in turn facilitate doing business together. But wherever it starts, empathy is one of the emerging critical success factors in executive leadership.

Empathy is an emotional quotient (EQ) “anchor skill,” providing the foundation for such related interpersonal skills as developing subordinates, building consensus for action, encouraging engagement, supporting self-esteem, and taking responsibility on the part of individual contributors to the entire team.

In the study from Data Dimensions, Intl (DDI), listening and responding with empathy was demonstrated by 40% of executives profiled (as opposed to 71% who demonstrated taking responsibility or 54% who demonstrated building agreement on actions to take). The majority of leaders assessed have room for improvement.

Another challenge for business people is that economic man is different than man as such. The economic man (person) – homo economicus – who conducts transactions in the market as defined in business schools, is significantly different than man, the human being ,as such. The person in economic theory is rational, selfish, and her or his tastes do not change. Most people in business do not know anyone like that; yet much of business training and practice assumes the business is engaging with customers, employees, and leaders who fit precisely such a narrow model and paradigm.

Empathy is required to engage people as they really are. The market research that assigns an empathy index or quotient to corporations has not yet distinguished empathy from social responsibility, ethics, carbon footprint, niceness, generosity, compassion, education of girls (and boys), and a host of prosocial properties. Lots of things correlate with empathy. Lots of things are inversely correlated with empathy.

Breakdowns in empathy are big news. The success of empathy in everyday encounters comes on silent wings. We look at the numbers. While acknowledging the empathic work being done by Belinda Parmar, I propose to elaborate an alternative point of view.

In this alternative perspective, a corporation positions itself on the continuum between abundant and lacking empathy by doing four things: (1) listening (2) relating as a possibility (3) walking in the other’s shoes (4) demonstrating (1) through (3) by responding empathically. The corporation is empathic if the firm’s leadership and employees perform these four functions empathically in relating to customers, employees, and stake-holders.

In summary, listen, create possibility, based on multiple perspectives, and respond empathically. “Empathically” means respond in such a way that agreements with the other party are kept, boundaries between parties are respectfully crossed, the other party is treated with dignity, the other party’s point of view acknowledged, and the other party is responded to in such a way that the other party would agree, even if grudgingly, that its perspective had been “gotten.”

(c) Lou Agosta, PhD and the Chicago Empathy Project 

Written By Lou Agosta

Empathy Lesson: Empathy, Capitalist Tool was originally published @ Listening With Empathy and has been syndicated with permission.


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