Empathy is a force that can move businesses forward

Will the world ever get back to the “normal” we once knew, or have we entered an era of ever evolving change that will never stop churning out new challenges to keep leaders on their toes?

As we came out of 2020 and into 2021, there was much talk of a “new normal” for business, which was based on post-pandemic approaches to our working world. As we enter Q2 of 2022 however, it seems that this “new normal” is an ever-evolving reality and the Covid 19 virus has become only one small part of this evolution.

As our world faces turmoil, war, and political crises in nearly every market, our leaders today face an ongoing cycle of unexpected challenges to their daily business routine. If we thought working was home was a tough shift, try facing working from home, without WIFI, power or fuel in markets like Sri Lanka. Or working from home with your female Muslim daughters who have been banned from going to school in India. Our working world and our social worlds are an ever-intersecting conflict within every hybrid meeting we complete.

The optimistic reality of this ‘new’ world of business, however, is that we, as a collective group of leaders across industries, will now be the ones to put into place the decision-making and the new cultural values that will form the future of how we work. It will be our approach to regenerating our workplaces and teams with empathy, and connectivity at the core, that will form the resilience and tenacity that we need to build an approach that allows our ‘normal’ working methodologies to hold flexibility and nimble-ness at their core.

To do this, however, we need our teams on our side, and inside, for each of these decisions. We cannot separate our working ‘employees’ from the ‘humans’ they are in their whole being, or disengage them in the decisions that will impact their future. It is impossible today to see work as a siloed part of our lives or to ask our staff to focus on their 9-5 independently from the world their business reality is occurring within. As leaders it will be our ability to recognise, empathise and systemize the context our teams’ work within, in order to maintain the motivation, organisation and processes that our people need to thrive.

Today’s leaders face the critical need to understand, and relate to, the changing realities of their workforce – whether that is social, political, or emotional – beyond the walls of their office (or home office!) As we plan for the second half of 2022 and look to the culture and skill sets we will need to embed to continue to foster competitive teams in our marketplaces, our leadership teams will be driven by the need for direction that goes beyond the rational, and connects with people on a far more authentic and motivating level—a level that recognises the context beyond the corporate content.

As the gap between ‘the top’ and ‘the base’ organisationally becomes ever tighter, there is a need for leaders to truly understand their teams beyond the output that they create, to empathise with who they are and where they are going.  Shifting the ‘E’ in CEO to ‘empathy’ may just be the shift that makes or breaks the organisations of the future.

The Chief Empathy Officer (CEO) is a role that has not been designed for the faint-hearted. It is always-on, it can be costly in terms of time, and it needs training. But when all is said and done, it is a choice we need more leaders to commit to, for the individuals they influence and the teams of millennials and Gen Zs they employ. Regenerative Leadership, led by these open minded and future facing CEOs, sits at the very core of what the organisations of today, and tomorrow, will need to rely on to thrive. It may not have been the ‘norm’ previously, but it is the ‘new normal’ we face today.

About Mimi Nicklin

Mimi Nicklin is the internationally bestselling author of the leadership book ‘Softening The Edge,’ the Founder of the world’s first organisational empathy platform, Empathy Everywhere, and the host of the top 5 ranked podcast ‘The Empathy for Breakfast Show’. She is an experienced creative strategist and the CEO of global ad agency, Freedm, headquartered in Dubai.  She is a well-known organisational consultant, and a keynote speaker, contributor and advocate for the global movement to balance humanism and capitalism in our workplaces and societies.