Building a great team requires a great leader and team members who would work together harmoniously and as one. Even though they have their individual strengths at the end of the day they are a team. Aside from the technical skills each one possesses, one of the most important attributes they should have, especially leaders, are empathy and the ability to listen.
Imagine having a leader who shows zero empathy, doesn’t listen, and only cares about their own interest. That definitely won’t work long-term, it might be for a short time but it will surely lead to misunderstanding and disarray among team members. But if the goal is to screw up a team, considering the aforementioned is the way to go. And who would want that? Obviously, no one!
Empathy in terms of company culture is not simply about understanding and sharing the feelings of one another, it is more than that. It is the ability to collaborate, show support, and listen actively to each team member. Once this is achieved or practiced, the results would be tremendous, it will not only increase productivity but it will create a working environment where everyone is comfortable- be it in communicating their concerns or bringing new ideas to the table.
Consequently, listening is a big part of cultural empathy, without it the other would cease to exist. Listening to what your team members have to say is the best way to encourage them; This would help them to go out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves even more.
The absence of empathy is never beneficial for the team and the whole company. One way or another, there will come a time when discord will be all that there is and the harmony that once was there (or if it even existed in the first place) would crumble, and re-building it is not as easy as building it in the beginning.
Take for example the story of a senior executive in a Fortune 50 MNC. During his performance review, his boss asked him what his plans are for the next year, and while he shared his future plans, his boss did absolutely nothing to help him. The reason behind it? His boss needs him too much and cannot take the short-term pain of losing him from his team.
It might be that his boss was solving the immediate problem of losing him without thinking of the longer consequence- which sets an example to the rest of the team that he doesn’t listen, that he doesn’t care to develop them, and only cares about his interest. The exact same thing that one would do if they want to screw up a team. From that standpoint, the team would start to get disengaged and for some of them, the better ones will leave first.
Lesson from this story: Making haste decisions to keep a team member, will later, if not sooner have a domino effect on the whole team. Once the beginning of the domino tumbles, everything goes with it, except maybe if there is something to intercept the fall. Remember that simply hearing what your team members have to say will not suffice to what you can offer if you actually listen to them. Assess the situation, talk to them, and find a middle ground.
Leaders will always fear the loss of a team member, but being able to help them achieve their goals and see them get the promotion they deserve is more than fulfilling. And that right there is one difference between a boss and a leader.