Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference

In our last post we looked at the concept of empathy and why it is important for leaders. In part 2 of our empathy series, we will share the first of 2 ways to structure empathy into your interactions.

The Ladder of Inference is a useful tool for practicing empathy and inviting the other person to be empathetic. How does it work? Start at the bottom of the ladder with data. Get all the facts out on the table. As you proceed up the ladder, follow the script as you share your perspectives and feelings. Encourage the other person to do the same. As the conversation emerges and you reach agreement after each step, both of you will understand each other’s perspective. Before taking action, set aside time to deconstruct the conversation.

If you invite empathy into your interactions, then you and the other person will understand where each other is coming from.

Follow the script in the Infographic to build empathy into your conversations:

BF_LadderofInference_Empathy

Questions to Deepen Thinking

What will making a conscious effort to understand another person’s perspective get you?
How is ensuring the other person knows your perspectives working for you?
What would happen if you set aside time for you and the other person to “think about it” before taking action?

Credits:

Argyris, C. (1982). Reasoning, Learning, and Action: Individual and Organizational (1st ed. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Pub.
Senge, P. Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Smith, B. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. Strategies and Tools For Building a Learning Organization. NY: Doubleday.

 

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Build Empathy into Your Interactions: Part 1 (of 3)

The concept of Empathy is one of the basic components of emotional and social intelligence. It is a critical part of self-awareness, relationships with others, and is key to successful leadership. Empathy is an attribute that consists of three interrelated parts:

  1. understanding another person’s perspective,
  2. considering how that person feels, and
  3. telling the other person you are aware of 1 & 2.

Even for those who excel at this attribute, it is easy to lose sight of empathy in daily interactions. Leaders swim amid a sea of data and emotions, sorting through it all with their own filters and biases. When they are not mindful of empathy, opportunities to build relationships are lost and relationships may even be damaged.

If you build empathy into your interactions, then you will establish trusting relationships.

We have found 2 techniques helpful with empathy:  The Ladder of Inference and Deconstructing Conversations.

(Read how to practice empathy using the Ladder of Inference and Deconstructing Conversations in our April 2015 posts.)

If you build empathy into your interactions, then you will establish trusting relationships.Questions to Deepen Thinking

What will practicing empathy get you?
How are your professional relationships working for you?
What would happen if you built deeper trust into your relationships?

Credit

Goleman, D. (2013, December). The Focused Leader: How Effective Executives Direct their Own – and their Organization’s – Attention. Harvard Business Review.

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6 Steps to Build Engagement & Development into your Meetings: STRUCTURED GROUP REFLECTION

Many meetings are geared towards getting quick answers. At best, these meeting create singular solutions. With structured group reflection there is an opportunity to use meetings for more than just solving problems, sharing information, and reporting progress.

If you lead meetings using structured group reflection, then you will deepen thinking, encourage learning, and uncover new perspectives.

In the following infographic you can see that Structured Group Reflection consists of: sharing an idea, case, or problem; clarifying details; appreciating actions; reflecting; and insightful discussion. In addition to the primary benefits of using this process, you will acquire skills to use in other situations. Benefits include:

  • clarifying & appreciation –  cultivates empathy
  • reflective questions – encourages deeper thinking, new perspectives
  • alternative thinking –  fosters innovation
  • co-creating solutions – promotes engagement

 

GroupStructuredReflectionInfographic

Dedicate time to try this process and use it for some or part of your regular meetings. Although the steps may seem unconventional and awkward, they are easy to learn. Add structured group reflection to your meetings and declare an end to boring single-solution meetings!

Questions to Deepen Thinking

How are your staff meetings currently working? What do you walk away with?
Can you change your meeting structure to something different?
If you successfully use structured reflection in your meetings, what might that get you?

Credits

The SoL Global Coaching Community, (2012). Structured Case Review Process. Retrieved from Systems Perspectives LLC.com: https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.solonline.org/resource/resmgr/SoL_Global_Coaching_Community/Structured_Case_Review_Proce.pdf
Koffman, F. (n.d.). Advocacy and inquiry: Combining the basic steps of the dance of communication. Retrieved from Conscious Business Blog: http://www.axialent.com/uploads/paper/archivo/Advocacy_and_Inquiry_by_Fred_Kofman.pdf

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Accountability Leads to Innovation: 5 Requirements for Setting Clear Expectations

It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but a culture of accountability can lead to a culture of innovation. Our research has shown that successful leaders make their expectations very clear, hold themselves accountable for follow-up, and recognize others for their accomplishments.

If leaders make their expectations clear and describe the desired outcome, then others feel pride in achievement.

When others see how the request fits into the big picture, it inspires them to want to get it done and do more. More than just engagement, clear expectations and accountability generate employee commitment.

Masterpiece Exemplar

Everyone knows that we provide them with the details of what they have to do and if they do those things, they will be successful. There are no gray areas. But this isn’t just about being nice to their employees – leaders make their expectations very clear and hold their staff accountable for this high level of performance. They give them a way to do their job that happens beautifully and naturally. They have confidence in their employee’s abilities and because of that, set high expectations for them. This makes it possible for the environmental services department at Fairview Hospital to achieve even greater goals than the staff had ever dreamed was possible. They are proud of their efforts and success, and it shows.

Excerpt from: Masterpieces in Leadership: Cases & Analysis for Best Practice

If you make your expectations clear, others will take pride in achievement and be inspired to do more.

Unclear Expectations

When others do not follow through with what is expected of them, leaders should resist the urge to question, “Why did that happen?” Asking ‘why’ only leads to blame. A culture of accountability is not about blame and it is not about getting angry. It is about getting people committed to do what you have asked them to do. If they are not following through, it means the expectation is not clear.

Instead of asking why, leaders should stop, slow down, and ask, “How did I let that happen?”
  • What did I ask the other person to do?
  • Was I clear?
  • Why was it important?
  • Was it a reasonable request?
  • Did the other person understand the “what,” “why,” and “how?”

Clear Expectations

There is a distinction between having an expectation and setting a clear expectation. Setting clear expectations leaves no uncertainty around results. As leaders become clear with their expectations and others follow suit, a culture of accountability will emerge. Consider the following 5 factors to be clear about your expectations:

Is the expectation:
  1. Relevant? Is it consistent with the big picture?
  2. Reasonable? Is it realistic with current resources & capacity?
  3. Straightforward? Is it simple & clear enough to understand?
  4. Measurable/Observable? Will progress be visible?
  5. Scheduled for inspection? Is there a date/plan for reviewing progress?

Questions to Deepen Thinking

How is holding others accountable working for you?
What are the consequences of not following up about expectations?
What would happen if you started recognizing others for meeting expectations using ongoing regard?

Credit

Connors, R. & Smith, T. (2009). How did that happen? Holding people accountable for results the positive, principled way. New York: The Penguin Group.
Kegan, R. &. Lahey, L. (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pelote,V. & Route, L. (2007). Masterpieces in leadership: Cases & analysis for best practice. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

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Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of your Thank You

Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You

We cannot underestimate the ‘value of being valued.’  Saying thank you strengthens the bonds between people and re-emphasizes the personal relationship. But a thank you can be even more powerful if it contains the language of ongoing regard. Whether written or spoken it can be transformative for both the sender and receiver. Not only does ongoing regard make both parties feel good, it provides a deeper understanding of the behavior or action being recognized. That recognition is apt to inspire more of that same behavior in the future.

If you make another person feel valued, then they are more likely to support you and your work.

Be Direct.  Deliver your message directly to the recipient. Use the words thank you instead of I’d like to thank…
Be Specific. Describe the precise action you are thanking them for and not personal attributes like generous, helpful, and hard-working.
Reveal Impact. Describe the impact the action had on you, for example: it helped, added, enabled, made better. Avoid using feel-good phrases like, “always there when I need you” or “you did a great job.”

Boast the power of your thank you by describing the impact of the other person's action.

In preparation for delivering your powerful message, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to thank this person?
  • What service/skill/behavior did they exhibit?
  • Why is it valuable?
  • How did their action impact my goals and commitments?

 Use the following 5 steps as a script to keep your thank you short and powerful.

  1. Greet. Spell or say his or her name correctly.
  2. Express gratitude. Start with the words, “Thank you for…” naming  the action/behavior you are thanking them for.
  3. Discuss impact. Describe a positive impact their action/behavior had.
  4. Make reference. What did their action/behavior mean to you? How did it make you feel?
  5. Give regards. Write or say, “Thank You” again in closing.
Things to Avoid

To ensure sincerity, stay away from the following:

  • Don’t use general phrases like, “Nice Job!” or “Thank you for all you did.”
  • Avoid the just writing trap. You are not “just writing to say”– that’s stating the obvious.
  • Don’t share unrelated news. This isn’t the time. This is exclusively about thanking someone for their actions or recognizing their behaviors.

 Questions to Deepen Thinking

  • How is ‘making your employees feel valued’ working for you?
  • What might happen if you start giving unexpected ongoing regard messages?
  • How might people feel if you regularly tell them the positive impact of their actions?

 References

Kegan, R., & Lahey, L.  (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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