Empathy is wonderful, yet hard to scale. It is hard to scale out from the CEO, to senior leadership, down to Corporate Communications, to Customer Relations, to the Sales and Marketing and Billing and Support and HR managers, and from there down to the rank-and-file (Yes, in 2017, every CEO still views anyone not at their level as “down” from them. Just list the times you have sat at their lunch table, or played a game, or had a chat with them, free of fear. Case closed. DOWN – just as ‘down there’ are you today as on the Capetian feudal lands in 11th century France: King, Lords, knights, serfs.
How do great companies break out of the ancient feudal domaine royal mindset and set a new tone, an empathetic tone that every level in the organization gets, and everyone at all levels is measured by? Last time we wrote about the added complication about AI Artificial Intelligence Requires IT Leadership to Use Genuine Empathy. But don’t blame AI – it is not some shade rising in a dream, but more like spun sugar that blows up into cotton candy – someone created it.
Here is the secret of great companies: Empowerment has to be at all levels in the organization, and the business rules need to be reviewed for empathy. Even defining what empathy means to the business is tough. At its root, it is creating and maintaining a sense of fairness. In a Capitalist system, fairness is value exchange: one party parts with money in exchange for receiving something perceived of equal or greater value. That perception is impacted by emotional factors – how was I treated in the exchange; by cognitive factors – was the service or product the same or better than the marketing promise; and social – we are social animals, and to develop trust there needs to be a sense that the enterprise sympathizes with my needs and rights.
Without empathy, a business will be hard pressed to create Trust, that big, modern, enterprise goal. And empathy is so easy to get right. We recognize you for who you are. We are right, or you are right, or we are both a bit right and a bit wrong – but be clear. And connect the dots from the C-Suite down to the line employee on how to get to positive outcomes. And be consistent from department to department, and from communication channel to communication channel. And don’t isolate Marketing from the day-to-day business processes, or they end up looking dumb, and marketers may be very creative, but dumb: rarely. And make it personal. Individual is an individual is an individual. Do they feel it?
Don’t judge any other company for a lack of empathy – we all fail sometimes. Most often it is because the customer-facing employee does not have the right business rule in front of them, nor have they received the right training, the right compensation for the job, the proper measurements, nor the authority to make the right decision even if they wanted to.
Final thought: whose job is this ’empathy thing’ in the enterprise. The enterprise, unless you are government or not-for-profit, are in the business of making money for shareholders. Fortunately, there is a good correlation between empathy and profit. But, again: who owns the incorporation of empathy in YOUR organization? Before you shake your head at the misstep of another, maybe take a close look at your own practices.
What do you discover?
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