Leading with empathy changes everything
Updated: Feb 25
I spent a few days as a solo parent for my four-year-old daughter this week. And we did well together, except for one epic hangry tantrum. Hers, not mine.
I was tempted to throw in the towel and throw an epic tantrum myself. But I get hangry too. And in the nick of time, I remembered what it feels like to be hurt, angry, hungry, and tired. I got some perspective on the situation and brought empathy back into the floor kicking and tearful moment.
Empathy did not fix the situation, but it slowed my reactivity and helped me to stay calm until she got herself under control.
During a recent meeting with a clinician group, I heard blaming language, “they don’t care about us,” “they’re just bean counters,” and “they don’t care about patient outcomes.”
But over the course of the conversation, the language shifted, “they’re burned out too,” “this has been tough for all of us,” and “they’re struggling to fix the problem as much as we are.”
The clinicians in the room took a step back and considered their executive leaders from a new perspective.
They took ownership of the situation, and they stopped using dehumanizing names like “bean counter.” They began to think about creative ways to re-engage with their leadership and return to long-stalled conversations.
It was a stunning shift.
What changed? Empathy.
Empathy is a bridge to seeing people we struggle with as fully human. And it unlocks creative problem-solving because it helps us let go of our angry focus on being right.
What is one challenging situation where you can reach for empathy this week?
What’s new on Menders?
Season 3: Women in leadership
This week, we’re deep diving into Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). So if you’ve been wondering how to put your core values into practice and take practical actions to align your healthcare system with your values for DEIB, you’ll love Sarah Bettman. Sarah challenged me to understand why it’s not enough to show up in pro-diversity spaces, like your town’s PRIDE parade. You also must be willing to learn from and be changed by these spaces.
Bio: Sarah Bettman is the principal consultant at Bettman Consulting Group. She works with leaders to develop workplace cultures deeply rooted in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that don't have a "check the box" vibe.