Empathy, according to Websters Dictionary is:
the capacity of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
Empathy is critical in a startup and even more important for founders and leaders to demonstrate in these fast-paced, often high-stress environments. It’s not a skill or mindset that happens naturally. I’ll admit that at times I have struggled with it in various startups that I have either co-founded or joined at certain points in my career. We wanted to share a few methods we have used to help empathize with the people around you.
Experience Their Role
This is especially key for founders and startup leaders. One of the best ways to empathize with your team members, marketing, sales, product, etc. If you ever notice a member of your team seeming frustrated, struggling with their work, or distracted, go through their day-to-day. Look to see if something in their process makes you feel the same way, distracted, frustrated, or you start to struggle.
Seeing this first-hand yourself will help you empathize with the struggles and frustrations they feel, and with a full understanding of their day-to-day process, you can work with them to help fix the issues that are causing these issues.
Thank Those Outside Your Organization
FedEx Drivers, cleaning crews, and other service professionals provide support to your business in an indirect way. That FedEx driver doesn’t have to bring you packages with office supplies. As a leader, when you thank the individuals it set a precedent for your entire organization of how you will treat and value the people that support your startup, directly or indirectly.
Get To Really Know People
Single, married, kids, pets, etc. We are all different, getting to know people helps you understand things that they may be going through in their personal life. Maybe an employee has kids, and so coming in early so they can leave early to pick them up at school helped them better manage their work-life balance, then work with them on their schedule. They will thank you and at scale, this will improve the quality of life for your entire team.