This is the 2nd newsletter in a series exploring the 6 fundamentals of Meaningful Engagement.

If you missed the first one, check it out HERE

Communication is one of the top 3 leadership skills that you draw on every single day, and when it comes to change, of any sort (organisation wide, department or team, or simply relevant to an individual), it is our job as leaders to communicate it in a way that helps our people understand it, connect to it and engage with it.

 

This newsletter series is exploring the 6 fundamentals of Meaning-full engagement, and providing you with some tools to help along the way, fresh from my ‘Get Better Buy-in’ engagement program for leaders. Being more deliberate and intentional about how you engage your teams, your customers, your stakeholders, is one of the most effective ways to not only get people on board with change, but to embrace and champion it.

 

So - here we go with part 2 of Fundamental #1: Know Your Audience...

 

At the heart of meaningful engagement is empathy.

A lot has been written about Empathy, and it is now considered the number one leadership skill that employees benefit the most from when it’s present. Empathy is also a central element of Emotional Intelligence (EQ - the link between self and others). It’s about awareness of other peoples feelings and emotions, from their point of view - not yours, and it is at the heart of meaningful engagement.


Empathy is a skill that 99% of us use every single day, some of us without even realizing it. Whenever you need to recognise and understand other peoples emotions, you are drawing on your empathy muscle. For example, when you walk into your Managers office and she looks worried - your empathy muscle is what helps you notice and recognise she’s ‘worried’ and then think about what might be causing this and seek to understand.
As leaders we spend a large amount of our time needing to recognise and understand other peoples emotions, so it makes sense that we put some time and energy into building this skill.

 

The 3 dimensions of empathy are:
Cognitive Empathy, Emotional Empathy and Compassionate Empathy or Head, Heart and Hands, as I like to remember them by.

 

Cognitive empathy is the Head.
It’s the thinking part. It helps you consider someone else’s thoughts. It sounds like “If I were in his/her position, what would I be thinking right now?”
Emotional empathy is the Heart.

It’s the feelings part. It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It sounds like “Being in their position would make me feel ___”.

Compassionate empathy is the Hands.
It’s the doing part. It’s taking action to help the person. It’s the “What can I do or say that would help this person?”


(That's the super fast intro of empathy dimensions for the purpose of this context....)

 

So - staying on the topic from last week of Fundamental #1; Know your Audience, one of the other tools that is useful, as well as the 8P's, is Empathy Mapping. It's a great place to start when you want to get inside the head, heart and hands of others, and to practice and flex your empathy muscle.

 

Empathy Mapping
If you’re playing along, like we did last week, grab a piece of paper and divide it into 4 quadrants. Write the 4 areas (below) in the 4 quadrants - one per quadrant.
Then, think about the message that you are needing to communicate, and pick a person from your team that will be impacted by this message. Put their name in the middle, then..

 

Put yourself in their shoes, and work through the following 4 areas from their perspective:
1. Thinking and Feeling: What will they be thinking and feeling about this change? What might be going on in their head and heart? Fears, hopes, motivations, dreams, what matters to them, etc
2. Seeing: What do they see in relation to this when they look around? Are they seeing it impact everyone, only some, just them - are they seeing positive/negative impacts?
3. Hearing: What are they hearing about this? from others, from customers, trusted advisors, colleagues, rumors, self talk, etc
4. Saying & Doing: What are they saying and doing that relate to this change/message? Verbatim quotes, actions, behaviours, etc.
Lastly, flip the paper over and create two columns, Write 'Pains' on the left, and 'Gains' on the right and list in each:
What might be painful for them when it comes to this change?
What do they have to gain from this change - what’s in it for them?

 

(If you want my empathy template to add to your Pip Loader resources, simply reply to this email with ‘Empathy template please Pip’ in the subject line and I will send it on through). #yourewelcome

 

By spending time thinking about what the impact of this change might mean for individuals and our audience, it helps us further and more deeply understand what it is that we need to communicate to make it meaningful to them. By doing so, when they are listening to you they think “wow, they have really thought about how this might impact me and my role. I feel like they are talking specifically to me”.

 

By thinking about these questions, at an individual and team level, and noticing the common themes, it gives you insight and greater awareness of where you need to focus.

It is one of the steps in the right direction for creating more meaningful messages that really speak to people, and shows that you understand what this change means for them, and the impact it is likely to have on their role and the team.

 

This empathy framework can be applied in a lot of situations and is one that I use frequently when trying to get deep into the hearts and heads of people. Once you have got a little empathy practice under your belt, it becomes a mental checklist that you can run through, when you need to have a conversation with someone and your not sure how to approach it, a quick little “If this is the convo I need to have with them, what might they be thinking, feeling, saying, doing that I might need to be aware of and factor in to my conversation?”


One important point to note about empathy. Empathy is not endorsement, it’s understanding.
It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing with a persons point of view. It’s about listening, recognizing and seeking to understand the other persons world.

 

Building Empathy is a key skill in creating meaningful engagement, and empathy mapping is another tool, along with the 8P’s to help you with Fundamental #1 : Know your Audience.

 

Next time we will look at Fundamental #2: Intention & Purpose

 

In the meantime, find an opportunity to give this a go - next time you have a message of change to communicate to your team, or to an individual, spend a little bit of time getting inside their world and building and flexing your empathy muscle.