In our last 2 posts we explored the concept of empathy, why it is important for leaders, and how to invite empathy into your interactions. In part 3 of our empathy series, we will describe how to practice empathy on the back end of interactions by deconstructing your conversations.
Even if you are intentional about building empathy into your interactions, it may not truly blossom in the moment. Critical conversations need to be deconstructed. Once you step aside and ask yourself deconstructive questions, you may uncover more feelings and perspectives from the other person that need to be acknowledged. Deconstructing goes beyond ‘reflecting on’ or ‘evaluating’ a conversation: it provides you with rich data and direction on how to proceed in your follow-up conversation. For example, you can say, “I heard where you are coming from… I appreciate… I see an opportunity to…”
If you deconstruct your conversations, then you will deepen your relationships.
Use the following deconstructive questions to ask yourself, “Did I practice empathy? Did others understand me?”
Did I set the stage for the person to reflect?
Did we schedule a follow-up conversation?
Did I seek to understand the other person’s perspective?
Did I understand what the other person was feeling?
Did the other person understand my perspective and feelings?
What opportunities became apparent?
Write your answers to each of the deconstructive questions. Have new perspectives or insights emerged? Share a summary of your answers with the other person then inquire about their thoughts:
“How do you feel about the previous conversation?”
“Do you have a different view than before?”
“What is your conclusion?”
Questions to Deepen Thinking
What would listening deeply to others get you?
How is sharing your perspective with others working for you?
What could happen if you don’t deconstruct your conversations?
Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kofman, F. (2010). Advocacy and Inquiry: Combining the basic steps of the dance of communication. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from Axialent.com.
Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 1
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:
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?
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.
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
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?
The DOs & DON’Ts of Curious Listening: Tell Me More
Mutual Inquiry: 8 Steps to Deepen & Shift Thinking
Thinking Partners: A Concept and a Compact
Posted in Leadership
Tagged development, empathy, engagement, group reflection, Innovation, leader reflection, leadership, Listening, posing questions, reflective questions, team building
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.
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
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?”
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:
- Relevant? Is it consistent with the big picture?
- Reasonable? Is it realistic with current resources & capacity?
- Straightforward? Is it simple & clear enough to understand?
- Measurable/Observable? Will progress be visible?
- 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?
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.
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of your Thank You