Where Will You Be Found?

Where Will You Be Found?Recently I was at a woman’s memorial service in which the son read a poem he had written about his mother.  In the poem he spoke to sifting through all her things – her jewelry, her mementos from countless wonderful foreign trips, her photos, her clothing, to try to ‘find’ her, and each time he noted, “and you were not there”.  But finally, he said, he found her in the indomitable spirit of her children, in the devotion of a young man from another country she had relentlessly befriended, in the warmth in the eyes of the caretakers from her final days who rapidly adopted her as family. Continue reading

A Spoonful of Empathy

A Spoonful of EmpathyWe’re in a world right now of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’, of super-charged words like ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry’ and ‘distrust’ and ‘fake’.  Of people calling each other out instead of bringing each other in.  Of pointing fingers in lieu of pointing the way.

We tend to put this negativity in a corner as a political phenomenon that can somehow be walled off from our workplaces.  But take a look around you and ask yourselves some simple questions. Continue reading

The Gift of Uncommon Caring

The Gift of Uncommon CaringThe final implementation date for the customer software was just a few weeks away.  The problems were mounting and everyone on the team was putting in long hours.  The stress level was high.  Maria kept a careful eye on her team members.  She began to be concerned about signs she saw in Elizabeth, who was short with her colleagues and was making some errors. Continue reading

Are You Caring or Care-Taking?

Man pointing out an error to his colleagueOne of the subtle undercurrents of an increased emphasis on caring work environments is boundary confusion about caring.  If we’re supposed to be more empathetic leaders focused on developing others, where is the dividing line between guiding and parenting our employees; between helping and ‘fixing’; between supporting a colleague and taking on his problems? Continue reading

Back to the Playground: Building Your Social Skills

Kids having fun“For all the jobs that machines can now do — whether performing surgery, driving cars or serving food — they still lack one distinctly human trait. They have no social skills.  Yet skills like cooperation, empathy and flexibility have become increasingly vital in modern-day work. Occupations that require strong social skills have grown much more than others since 1980, according to new research. And the only occupations that have shown consistent wage growth since 2000 require both cognitive and social skills.” Continue reading

The Gift of Respite: Creating a Culture With Breathing Space

culture of respiteCarl called his two primary clients recently to tell them his wife needed serious surgery in a couple days, and he asked them to give him a few extra days to complete reports, promising to attend to the work in between periods of helping his wife through post-operative recovery.

The first client, Brigid, expressed empathy and wished his wife well, and then asked a number of questions about when she could get the delayed preliminary findings and what would be the latest he might finish the report. Carl was reassuring, but he ended the phone call feeling stress about how he’d manage everything. Continue reading

Empathy as a Verb – Moving In With Your Associates

empathy at work“I really understand,” said Marcia to her key manager, Tracy.  “I had to deal with my mom’s illness a few years ago and it was stressful.  Please do what you believe is best for your mother.”

Marcia indeed understood Tracy’s plight, remembering how difficult it had been for her to balance work and care for her mother, to navigate medical professionals and insurance claims, and to deal with her mother’s fears.  Her empathy was real, and she had expressed it sincerely.  But she went home that evening feeling unsatisfied. Continue reading