Experience your people’s workaday

One of the most important elements of leadership is empathy. If you sincerely try to see things from another person’s point of view, you are rewarded by them handsomely. As Dr. Stephen Covey says, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

It’s hard, though. You really don’t know how your sales person feels. You probably have no idea how harried your office manager is, and how frustrated he feels over it. You can try to imagine, but it’s just not the same thing as “knowing.”

Effective leaders roll their sleeves up and invest some time in trying on their people’s roles, even if for a day. From that comes great insight, changes and a more loyal following.

The following is an excerpt from The Likeability Factor that demonstrates this:
Once you’ve decided that other people are friendly and relevant, you begin to wonder, consciously or unconsciously, if they understand you. Can they see things from your point of view? Can they feel what you feel?
When I was growing up, I worked as a cook at a hotdog stand called (believe it or not) Der Wienerschnitzel. There the owner had a strict policy that if employees made mistakes, whether it was blowing an order, botching up paperwork, or just reporting late for work, they had to wear a paper hat with the word “Stupid” spelled out in big red letters on its rim.
Whenever I wore the hat (which happened much more often than I wanted), customers made fun of me and I’d feel terrible. But no matter how many times we protested, the owner wouldn’t reverse his policy. “Stupid people deserve to be known as stupid,” he’d mutter.
One day the owner sold the place and a new boss, Jed, appeared on the scene. Guess what I wanted Jed to know right away?
Jed turned out to be highly empathetic. He not only listened to complaints about the hat, he spent an entire shift working next to me and the other employees. He even wore the Stupid hat so he could get a sense of what life was like for those forced to sport it.
Needless to say, he soon eliminated the stupid rule.