HomeVolume 7December 2022 Leading with empathy

BALAJI IYER shares 4 ideas for building a high-performance team, and why these ideas make a difference. This is based on his professional experience over three decades of improving employee experience and engagement. He facilitates workshops on leadership and meditation for Fortune 500 companies.

One of the most significant issues faced by organizations is employee engagement. According to a 2022 McKinsey research report, 55% of employee engagement is driven by non-financial recognition, and the majority cite “not having caring leaders” as a key reason for leaving their team. Research at www.catalyst.org shows a 48% increase in innovation, a 44% increase in engagement, and increased retention when employees feel their leaders are empathic.

So, here are 4 key ideas for building a high-performing team:

Idea #1
Self-awareness is the basis of empathy

Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation create space between our thoughts, enabling us to be reflective. In a recent leadership workshop I facilitated, participants appreciated the full-body awareness and tuning in to the heart. It provided a break from the constant stress that fills up every working day. Taking time during the day to pause and reflect, by meditating, improves our responses to events. Leaders become better listeners, resulting in an opportunity to provide a compassionate response to employees’ situations.

Idea #2
Deep work creates long-term happiness, starting with individuals and affecting the entire team

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” recommends a balance between skills and challenges to be able to remain in the flow state. It is important to allow space for quiet time, one to four hours every day, for ourselves and our teams to dive deep. When employees can focus on their work without interruption for multiple hours in a day, it provides them an opportunity to master their skills. It results in an increase in their productivity along with their happiness.

Idea #3
Debate, discuss, and decide

A strong culture of open constructive debate builds solid teams and products. The diversity of the team and their thought processes provide the best possible chance at success, especially if we allow them to share their ideas and debate the merits of each. In contrast, a command and control style produces an “Emperor has no clothes” situation.

In any organization, we need every team member’s hearts and minds to be successful. We can then focus on the data behind every view point and decide the best way forward in alignment with the organization’s mission. Positional power need only be used as a last resort, to break a deadlock.

Idea #4
Inclusiveness is key to engagement

Leaders will benefit by spending time understanding their employees and their aspirations. They will then be able to work toward their best interests, whether within the current organization or outside. Such an attitude will earn the trust of the employees. Leaders have a duty to focus on employee growth, and include them in the organization’s vision and goals. In a corporate setting, managers can also align the individual goals of employees with the organizational vision.

When employees feel valued by their leaders, and they see their efforts are resulting in meaningful accomplishments for the organization, they feel included and engaged.


Balaji Iyer

Balaji Iyer

Balaji is a technology executive with Amazon. His professional experience spans three decades and he is passionate about improving employee experience and engagement at the workplace. He has facilitated several workshops on leadership and m... Read More