When a Company or Organization Lacks Empathy

Some business executives dismiss the need for empathy, favoring the more concrete and defensible virtues of rational analysis. They have a point. So did Blockbuster executives when faced with Netflix’s debut.

Blockbuster witnessed Netflix’s dramatic growth in the very early 2000s and chose to do nothing. Company leaders saw the world from a solitary vantage point: atop a $6 billion business with 60% margins, tens of thousands of employees and a thriving nationwide retail chain.

Blockbuster’s management team certainly didn’t view the world from its customers’ perspective: late fees that drove renters up the wall, a limited range of movies that eschewed anything that wasn’t a new release.

Netflix’s ultimate market domination is a cautionary tale for other complacent companies. The Blockbusters of the world go belly up because they sell what they want to sell—not what their customers want to buy.

Empathy helps companies stay grounded. Face-to-face encounters with the people you serve provide context for market research and other data.

Things are no Longer The Way Things Used to Be

Overly simplified, abstract information often carries authority inside organizations. Knowing and understanding your customers is the antidote.

“The problem with business today isn’t a lack of innovation; it’s a lack of empathy,” writes Professor Dev Patnaik in Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy.

Empathy is the ability to step outside yourself and see the world as other people do. For some companies, it’s also a rarely discussed engine for growth.

Harley-Davidson gets it right. The company hires fans and publicizes its connection with consumers. Leaders work hard to stay in touch with consumers’ changing needs.

This is the way business used to be conducted two centuries ago. For thousands of years, craftsmen made things for people they knew. Tailors, cobblers and other tradesmen understood what their customers wanted.

This approach ended with the Industrial Revolution. As more goods were mass-produced in factories, suppliers and consumers experienced a growing rift—one that we’ve been struggling to repair ever since. It’s much harder to succeed when you create products for people you don’t know—individuals whose lives seem alien to yours or who are halfway around the world.

In the work you do at your company, in what ways do you see a lack of understanding of customer’s complaints? Where do you see a need to shift attention and empathy? I’d love to hear from you.

In Another’s Shoes

What’s the best way to keep an eye on what your customers need and want? I’ve been reading about empathy in Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, by Dev Pataik and Peter Mortensen. The authors make a case for better customer contact in business strategy planning.

Modern technological improvements in data-mining provide strategic plans, sales forecasts and manufacturing reports. Organizations become so dependent on these models that they can lose touch with reality.

Firms use all of this information to create maps—market segmentations, research reports—of how customers use their products. But these maps are poor substitutes for actual human contact. Many managers make critical decisions based on numbers, without any personal feeling for the people they serve. They fail to spot new opportunities and innovative solutions for customers.

Nike has built an entire culture that celebrates the potential for athletic greatness in each of us. The company’s headquarters resemble an athletic center; its employees take breaks for running, basketball and soccer games. The people who develop running shoes are usually runners themselves. They possess a basic intuition that cannot be captured in any market report.

Other major companies have learned the value of empathy:

  • IBM helps customers keep their information technology up and running by staying as close to them as possible.
  • Microsoft succeeded with the Xbox because it was designed for gamers by developers who love games.
  • Apple makes computers, iPhones, iPads and iPods for people who covet cool, easy-to-use products. The company’s organizational culture reflects its customers’ lifestyles.

Business happens on the street, in stores and in homes. When companies have a real connection with end users, they come up with better product designs. Harnessing the power of empathy closes the gap between abstract data and reality.

Consumers don’t buy goods based on demographics. Nobody, for example, opens his wallet because he’s a 25- to 30-year-old white male with a college degree. As people go about their daily lives, problems arise that beg for solutions. Consumers are willing to spend money on solutions that will get the job done. Your ability to empathize with them and anticipate their needs determines whether your product or service will sink or swim in the marketplace.

It’s worth noting that Sony cofounder Akio Morita and Apple’s Steve Jobs were famous for never commissioning market research. Instead, they’d just walk around the world watching what people did. They put themselves in their future customers’ shoes.

Think about it. What would be some ways you could observe actual clients using your company’s products or services? How could you walk in their shoes? I’d love to hear from you.

Creating What You Dream About for Your Life (Part 2)

Clarity
Before getting what we dream about we must first know what that is. This may seem obvious but it trips up even the most intelligent people right out of the gate. Take out a blank sheet of paper and write “My Dream Life” at the top. List everything you want to have, do, be and share. From this list generate goals to help set you back on course.

Avoid the “Shiny New Object Syndrome”
It’s easy to lose momentum by getting distracted with new, exciting opportunities. Having clarity makes it easier to distinguish those opportunities that help move us forward from the ones that distract us from the ‘work’ of creating the life we want..

The next time a new opportunity arises ask yourself, “How will this help me achieve my dream of “x”? If it doesn’t, you probably want to dismiss the opportunity and move on.

Redefine Failure
People who focus on the destination as opposed to the journey also tend to be more critical of their failures. When you enjoy the process along the way, it’s easier to appreciate the end result — whether you consider it a “success” or “failure.”

The next time you do experience failure, however, reframe it. Consider that you have just learned how not to do something, and then acknowledge yourself for what you’ve learned.

Give in to Your Primal Instincts
Craving new challenges is hard-wired into our DNA. If it weren’t, we never would have left the cave, invented the wheel or flown to outer space. Ignoring this primal code over the long term can lead to complacency. So how do you happily succumb to this urge? With more clarity and structure.

Create a list of things you haven’t done yet, but want to do. Be specific and remember the three, guaranteed “no fail” rules when it comes to goal setting:

1. Write it down. 2. Write it down. 3. Write it down.

Putting your list in writing transforms it from a desire into a personal contract with yourself.

Go Guilt-Free
Taking time to care for ourselves, guilt-free, is difficult for many people. Sometimes it feels as though things will fall off the rails if we “let go.” But when we do let go, taking time to reflect and dream something amazing happens: the earth still spins — people find a way to manage without us. Taking time off leaves us feeling refreshed and makes us better workers, parents, spouses and citizens.

Plus, going guilt-free can be contagious.

As with anything worthwhile, there is no quick fix when it comes to designing and building the dream life you want. However, these steps can help guide you along your path to living the life you want…and loving the life you live.

 

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence, IQ, Personality and Income

Emotional intelligence taps into a fundamental element of human behavior that is distinct from your intellect. There is no connection between IQ and emotional intelligence. Intelligence is your ability to learn, as well as retrieve and apply knowledge.

Emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. While some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, you can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it.

Personality is the stable “style” that defines each of us. It’s the result of hard-wired preferences, such as the inclination toward introversion or extroversion. IQ, emotional intelligence and personality each cover unique ground and help explain what makes us tick.

When we feel good, we work better. Feeling good lubricates mental efficiency, facilitating comprehension and complex decision-making. Upbeat moods help us feel more optimistic about our ability to achieve a goal, enhance creativity and predispose us to being more helpful.

Does emotional intelligence contribute to professional success? The higher you climb the corporate ladder and the more people you supervise, the more your EI skills come into play.

TalentSmart tested EI alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found it to be the strongest predictor of performance, responsible for 58% of success across all job types.

Likewise, more than 90% of top performers in leadership positions possessed a high degree of EI. On the flip side, just 20% of poor performers demonstrated high EI.

Your emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills, and it impacts most everything you say and do each day. It strongly drives leadership and personal excellence.

You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but it’s rare. People with a high degree of EI make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than those with low EI.

The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so well founded that every point increase in EI adds $1,300 to one’s annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

What do you think about this? I’d love to hear from you.