The Business Case for Empathy

The more an organization can understand and empathize with the key motivators of their employees and customers, the more likely that organization will have sustainable success. ~ Chip Conley, author of Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow

In an uncertain economy, empathy may seem like a soft business skill. It can, however, serve as a catalyst for new growth, innovation and employee engagement, all of which drive profits and long-term results.

I’ve seen this happen within some of the companies I consult for through leadership coaching. The more an organization demonstrates care for its customers and employees, the greater the potential for uninterrupted growth, higher profits, improved products and happier employees. Empathy may, in fact, be the most under-appreciated and overlooked strategic business tactic.

Empathy is a powerful social force. Physiologically, each of us is hard-wired to care. Specific brain cells known as “mirror neurons” enable us to experience other people’s emotions. This capacity contributes to our levels of intuition, thoughtfulness and insight.

But what I’m finding with some of the clients I work with, like in hospital coaching, is that as we try to cope with the daily challenges of an increasingly fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose the skills of empathy. We need to reclaim our basic empathy abilities, which get lost in the shuffle of stultifying business routines. Organizations as well can learn to become empathic to forge connections with customers and employees.

“Companies prosper when they tap into a power that every one of us already has – the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people,” writes Stanford University Adjunct Professor Dev Patnaik in Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy.

We can become so focused on “getting things done,” that we forget to connect with others, our co-workers and customers on a basic human level. And organizations lose touch with their customers, which is why they’re in business in the first place.

What do you think? Does this ring true for you? I’d love to hear from you.