Listening with empathy leadership

As the summer comes to an end, it’s the start of a new organizational year for many. For others, it’s the final push to move the needle financially, as co-workers return from long-postponed vacations. 

This year, however, things aren’t going to be the same. 

With all of last year’s changes, you can bet people at all organizational levels have been reflecting on new, different things. For many, it will have been a long-awaited chance for some professional introspection.

They’ll have been thinking about where they stand, where they want to be, and for some – even whether they want to be here.

It’s why a counterintuitive leadership style is called for – because we’re not ‘back to business as usual’ yet.

What’s Different About This Summer?

Due to the pandemic, this summer will be the first vacation many have had in over a year. Quite understandably, many organizations will be keener than ever to ‘dive in’ at top speed with operations to make up for lost time. 

All organizations are human systems, however, and we find ourselves at a unique crossroads organizationally in 2021. It’s why we need to resist that urge – to stop and think before putting the pedal to the metal. 

This summer is unique because of the questions that co-workers (and many leaders, too) will have had time to ask themselves. Questions like:

  • Is my organization going remote? Hybrid? Or do I need to go into the office?
  • Where do I stand personally on getting COVID-vaccinated, and 
  • How does that align with my organization’s policies? 

With many sectors experiencing severe labor shortages, ample career opportunities now present themselves to co-workers who have been reflecting on their professional direction. For these colleagues, importantly, this summer is a perfect time for them to reconsider their futures. 

There’s no doubt that many organizations will be at a unique point, and there are no right answers to any one question. Put them all together, and it presents quite a dilemma for leaders. 

What Can You Do?

The overwhelming drive for many leaders, as we’ve seen, will be to step right back into ‘task mode’ – to make up for lost time, seize new opportunities offered by our changed business context. From an organizational development perspective – this is the pitfall to avoid.

The pandemic has raised new issues that still have not been solved, and this particular dilemma is a prime example. 

As a leader, the best way to respond is by resisting the urge to return to “business as usual.” 

Rather, keep your eyes peeled and your ears open – pay attention to where your people are as people and create space for them

Be aware that your co-workers probably think, and feel plenty about coming back, and it’s up to you to listen. It’s time to be mindful, to weigh, probe, feel, and understand while still moving your organization forward. 

In a nutshell, don’t fall into the trap of trying to fix things for others. Acknowledge the unique ambiguity that all our organizations are navigating right now, and be there instead. 

For a useful tool that can help you navigate, try our Time To Grow Global Mindful Listening exercise.