Monthly Archives: October 2014

LEADERSHIP & INNOVATION

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PETER COBBE COACHING

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Leadership and Innovation / Change: Breaking the Rules

A point of view   by  Karim Jaude 

We often think of innovation as creativity, but as Harvard professor Theodore Levitt points out, the difference between innovation and creativity is the difference between thinking about getting things done in the world, and getting things done. Creativity thinks up new things, innovation does new things.

Innovation drives the heart of every exceptional business.

Innovation continually poses the question, What stands in the way of my customer getting what he wants from my business?

For the innovation to be meaningful, it must always take the customers point of view. At the same time, innovation focuses your business on its critical essentials. It should make things easier in the operation of your business; otherwise, it is not innovation, but complication. Innovation helps your business identify itself and establish its individuality. This skill, developed within your business and your people, constantly asks, How can we do this better/best?

In that regard, I think of innovation as the best way skill. It produces a high level of energy in every organization within which it is nurtured, fed and stimulated. This energy in turn feeds everyone the organization touches: its employees, customers, suppliers, lenders, and investors. In an innovative organization, everyone grows.

Peter Drucker defines innovation as change that creates a new dimension of performance. Leaders can create environments, give people the tools, and set the expectations to make innovation part of daily work. They should take the time to explain to their teams that they must abandon practices that no longer work.

While great leaders in the world might seem to have little in common, they all excel at turning every team members talent into palpable performance and they do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom.

Leaders know that the business climate is in permanent flux and that different approaches to lead people are necessary. They must be open to new opportunities, find ways to be innovative, and be willing to change..

As leaders release the power of innovation, they must also be constantly adapting policies, procedures, and even processes to make room for these dynamic changes. Here are seven ideas to consider when implementing innovation and change in your organization:

1. Vision and Goals The best way to predict the future is to create it. Do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. Develop goals and measurements that reinforce innovation and change.

2. Old vs. New Rules Eliminate rules and policies that hinder the change and create new ones that reinforce the desired way of operating. The old principle that states, if it is not broken, do not fix it, has never been effective. A visionary leader will break it and fix it by creating a new and better way to do it.

3. Training A great leader excels at turning each team members talent into performance. Replace training that reinforces the old way of doing things with new training.

4. Rewards and Recognition Find the right fit for each person, so that rewards and recognition are based on performance. Make rewards specific to the change goals that have been set. Recognize individual and team
contributions to making the changes work.

5. Communications Deliver communications in new ways to show commitment to innovation and change. Use multiple channels to deliver consistent messages to everyone in the organization, at all stages during the transition: before, during and after.

6. Environment Make sure the environment reflects the change. Create an atmosphere that fosters innovation and change. Leaders should allow the team to make lots of tries and consequently suffer some failure or the
organization won’t learn.

7. Organizational structure The structure should reinforce the operational changes. Define the right outcomes, rather than the right steps. Combine overlapping divisions, eliminate duplication, re-organize around customers
as opposed to functions.

Article Source: http://www.leadershiparticles.net

USEFUL RELATED LINKS :

EXCELLENT TED VIDEO TALK ON How Great Leaders Inspire Action  Simon Sinek

21 LAWS OF LEADERSHIP

GREAT LEADERSHIP BOOKS

MORE LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS:

Leadership Style

Putting “Development “back in Leadership Development

Improved business writing and report skills

Personal Brand insights

How to Really Understand Others

Think Trust

Team Curiosity

Seven elements of Leadership

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BRAINSTORMING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

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BRAINSTEERING

One aspect of change management involves the use of brainstorming .

In Kevin and Shawn Coyne’s book : BRAINSTEERING: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas  some new ideas are provided for more effective brainstorming  based on the proposition that many attempts at brainstorming are doomed . The flow of ideas may be fast and furious with traditional brainstorming but they can be ultimately shallow

The authors propose seven main principles that  inform a ” brainsteering” approach . A more structured but not constraining approach.

  1. Know your organisations decision making criteria : this considers the  company will use to make decisions about any ideas generated. There is a need to understand existing strategic and tactical aims.For example ideas used may need to be practical, affordable and profitable within a year .

2, Ask the right questions : Academic research implies that  loosely structured sessions are inferior to approaches that use structure as the best way is to use questions as the platform for ideas generation. /for example the authors suggest that 15 -20 questions are appropriate for a workshop attended by about 20 people.Typical questions might be around trying to understand the customer experience , how to reduce complexity, what existing policies and procedures should be challenged.

  1. Choose the right people :  Pick the people who can answer the questions you are posing and have regard for their special knowledge.
  2. Divide and Conquer : Don’t hold on rambling discussion – break into sub groups of 3-5 people ( no fewer and no more based on the idea that the social norm is to  speak up in smaller rather than larger groups) and let them focus on one question for 30 minutes . So overall take the 15 -20 questions and split them between the subgroups ( about 5 questions each) .Furthermore where possible assign questions to groups that are best able to handle them.
  3. On your marks ,get set,go ! : Orient the full group by clarifying expectations . Prepare participants for the possibility that they might only generate 2-3 worthy ideas and that this is balanced by the fact that by the need of the day all of the sub groups will have generated a wealth of ideas.

6.Wrap it up : By the end of a typical day each subgroup tends to produce about 15 interesting ideas for further exploration so there could be 60 ideas generated by a 20 person team . Have each subgroup narrow its list of ideas to a top few and then share all of the top ideas with the whole group to motivate and inspire all participants. the group should not pick winners or a winner. Close the day on a high note and describe exactly what steps will be taken to choose winning ideas and how they will learn about final decisions.

  1. Follow up quickly : Decisions and other follow up activities should be rapid, well managed and thorough. Concrete action generated from brainstorm sessions can decline quickly as time passes and the momentum is lost. This part of the process must be clearly in place and agreed before any brainsteering session. There should be excellent communication to all participants covering all of the ideas and the rationale for selection and rejection at this stage.

The overall thinking behind this approach is that whilst traditional brainstorming is fast and furious it can be ultimately shallow. By using a more focused,question based approach their is an opportunity to capture better ideas from participants

The Six Change Approaches of Kotter and Schlesinger considers ways to minimise resistance to change in organisations

According to Kotter and Schlesinger there are four major reasons why people resist change:

  1. Parochial self-interest  where people are concerned with the impact change for themselves and how it may affect  their own interests
  2. Misunderstanding  including communication problems and  inadequate information
  3. Low tolerance to change  where some  people are concerned about security and stability in their work
  4.  Different assessments of the situation  where some people may disagree on the reasons for change and on the advantages and disadvantages of the change process

Kotter and Schlesinger set out six change approaches to deal with resistance to change:

  1. Education and Communication – Where there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis. One of the best ways to overcome resistance to change is to educate people about the change effort beforehand. Quality communication and education helps people understand the logic of the change effort  and minimises  rumours
  2. Participation and Involvement – When people are involved in the change effort they are more likely to buy into change rather than resist it. This approach is likely to lower resistance and prevent passive acquiescence to change.
  3. Facilitation and Support –Leadership support helps people deal with fear and anxiety during a transition period. This approach is concerned with provision of special training, counselling, outlets for concerns
  4. Negotiation and Agreement – Where someone or some group may lose out in a change and where that individual or group has considerable power to resist. Managers can combat resistance by offering incentives to employees not to resist change. This can be done by allowing change resistors to veto elements of change that are threatening, or change resistors can be offered incentives to leave the company through early buyouts or retirements in order to avoid having to experience the change effort. This approach will be appropriate where those resisting change are in a position of power.
  5. Manipulation and Co-option – Where other tactics will not work or are too expensive. Kotter and Schlesinger suggest that an effective manipulation technique is to co-opt with resisters. Co-option may involve selecting leaders of the resisters to participate in the change effort. These leaders can be given a symbolic role in decision making without threatening the change effort.
  6. Explicit and Implicit Coercion – Where speed is essential and only to be used only as last resort. Managers can explicitly or implicitly force people into accepting change by making clear that resisting change can lead to negative outcomes such as job loss, firing, transferring or lack of promotion prospects.

See more on change management in Coaching Cosmos Newsletters

The Burke Litwin Model

Elements to include in a change campaign

Conversations enable change not edicts

Appreciative inquiry for change leaders

An approach to stakeholder engagement

Business Case Development Insights

The Kotter 8 step change process

The Link between change management and leadership

The Transformation Story

A new look at Brainstorming ( Brainsteering)  & Dealing with Resistance to Change

The ADKAR model of Change

The Futures Wheel

Four Principles for Staying in Control

Change Management Phases

Measuring the impact of change – KPIs

Resistance to Change by Rick Maurer

Time management and better use of resources

Insights on establishing credibility

Elements to include in a change campaign

Report Writing skills

Underpinning Successful Change

Road Test your Business Case

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Blake Mouton Leadership Model

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Some leaders are very task-oriented; they simply want to get things done.

Others are very people-oriented; they want people to be happy.

And others are a combination of the two.

If you prefer to lead by setting and enforcing tight schedules, you tend to be more production-oriented (or task-oriented). If you make people your priority and try to accommodate employee needs, then you’re more people-oriented.

Neither preference is right or wrong, just as no one type of leadership style is best for all situations. However, it’s useful to understand what your natural leadership tendencies are, so that you can then working on developing skills that you may be missing.

 

A popular framework for thinking about a leader’s ‘task versus person’ orientation was developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in the early 1960s. Called the Managerial Grid, or Leadership Grid, it plots the degree of task-centeredness versus person-centeredness and identifies five combinations as distinct leadership styles.

Understanding the Model The Managerial Grid is based on two behavioral dimensions:

* Concern for People This is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task

* Concern for Production – This is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task.

Using the axis to plot leadership ‘concerns for production’ versus ‘concerns for people’, Blake and Mouton defined the following five leadership styles:

Country Club Leadership – High People/Low Production This style of leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These people operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. What tends to result is a work environment that is very relaxed and fun but where production suffers due to lack of direction and control.

Produce or Perish Leadership – High Production/Low People Also known as Authoritarian or Compliance Leaders, people in this category believe that employees are simply a means to an end. Employee needs are always secondary to the need for efficient and productive workplaces. This type of leader is very autocratic, has strict work rules, policies, and procedures, and views punishment as the most effective means to motivate employees.

Impoverished Leadership – Low Production/Low People This leader is mostly ineffective. He/she has neither a high regard for creating systems for getting the job done, nor for creating a work environment that is satisfying and motivating. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.

Middle-of-the-Road Leadership – Medium Production/Medium People This style seems to be a balance of the two competing concerns. It may at first appear to be an ideal compromise. Therein lies the problem, though: When you compromise, you necessarily give away a bit of each concern so that neither production nor people needs are fully met. Leaders who use this style settle for average results and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect.

Team Leadership – High Production/High People According to the Blake Mouton model, this is the pinnacle of managerial style. These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly. The premise here is that employees are involved in understanding organizational purpose and determining production needs. When employees are committed to, and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and production needs coincide.

This creates a team environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, high production.

Applying the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid Being aware of the various approaches is the first step in understanding and improving how well you perform as a manager. It is important to understand how you currently operate, so that you can then identify ways of becoming competent in both realms.

Step One: Identify your leadership style.

* Think of some recent situations where you were the leader.

* For each of these situations, place yourself in the grid according to where you believe you fit.

Step Two: Identify areas of improvement and develop your leadership skills

* Look at your current leadership method and critically analyze its effectiveness.

* Look at ways you can improve. Are you settling for ‘middle of the road’ because it is easier than reaching for more?

* Identify ways to get the skills you need to reach the Team Leadership position. These may include involving others in problem solving or improving how you communicate with them, if you feel you are too task-oriented. Or it may mean becoming clearer about scheduling or monitoring project progress if you tend to focus too much on people.

* Continually monitor the way you work and watch for situations when you slip back into unhelpful habits. Step Three: Put the Grid in Context It is important to recognize that the Team Leadership style isn’t always the most effective approach in every situation. While the benefits of democratic and participative management are universally accepted, there are times that call for more attention in one area than another.

If your company is in the midst of a merger or some other significant change, it is often acceptable to place a higher emphasis on people than on production. Likewise, when faced with an economic hardship or physical risk, people concerns may be placed on the back burner, for the short-term at least, to achieve high productivity and efficiency.

Note: Theories of leadership have moved on a certain amount since the Blake Mouton Grid was originally proposed. In particular, the context in which leadership occurs is seen as an important driver of the leadership style used. And in many situations, the “Team Leader” as an ideal has moved to the ideal of the “Transformational Leader”:

Someone who, according to leadership researcher Bernard Bass:

* Is a model of integrity and fairness;

* Sets clear goals;

* Has high expectations;

* Encourages;

* Provides support and recognition;

* Stirs people’s emotions;

* Gets people to look beyond their self-interest; and

* Inspires people to reach for the improbable.

SUMMARY

The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid is a practical and useful framework that helps you think about your leadership style.

By plotting ‘concern for production’ against ‘concern for people’, the grid highlights how placing too much emphasis in one area at the expense of the other leads to low overall productivity.

The model proposes that when both people and production concerns are high, employee engagement and productivity increases accordingly. This is often true, and it follows the ideas of Theories X and Y, and other participative management theories.

While the grid does not entirely address the complexity of “Which leadership style is best?”, it certainly provides an excellent starting place to critically analyze your skills and improve your general leadership skills.

See also the LEADERSHIP AGILITY model

I provide excellent leadership coaching for managers and senior executives aiming to develop new levels of impact and enjoyment in their role . See my proposition and details here : Peter Cobbe Coaching

The approach is based on careful diagnostics and then a customised programme to suit very specific individual needs and current work challenges . The end result is evolution in leadership style and impact.

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10 Interview Tips

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Also Enjoy  the FREE Flipboard Magazine :  Achieving your Next job and Career Progression

10 interview tips.

  1. Create a ‘to be’ list

Entry is everything so think about how you want to “show up” at the interview. What qualities do you want to demonstrate? Decide in advance how you intend to come across – for example as confident, reliable, and dynamic.

Write a ‘to be’ list and identify ways you can transmit the qualities you want to broadcast. For example, to show confidence, make sure you can talk fluidly about your strengths and successes without bragging.

  1. Make it more of a conversation

The more you can make the interview a two-way exchange, the more likely you are to relax. Make the most of this opportunity to gather information, get to know your prospective colleagues and catch a glimpse of the way they do things.

Come to the interview with some insightful questions prepared. Don’t trot out the same old questions that every candidate is likely to ask (such as what the opportunities for promotion are). Read the company’s website and research their performance, whether on the stock market or the league tables, so that your lines of inquiry are on point.

  1. Be comfortable talking about money

Even if the job comes with an advertised salary, you may be asked what your salary expectations are. Anticipate this question and, off-line, practise saying your answer out loud. If you want to be paid more than the ad suggests, be prepared to give your reasons as you’ll need to justify your request.

Do some market research and find out what the going rates are. Check out how much equivalent jobs at other organisations pay by looking at job adverts or online salary surveys. Having this data at your fingertips will increase your confidence at striking a deal that feels good to you. It will also help you to come up with an original response to that interview classic – “Why do you want to work for us?”

  1. Know your strengths/brand

Be prepared to articulate your ‘unique selling points’. Give this question serious consideration. Think about your own combination of strengths – for example, are you that rare individual who is creative, proactive and reliable.

Before you go to the interview, complete this sentence, ‘I am someone who…’ Write down your answer and reflect on your response. Think about feedback you’ve had from friends, family and other people who have affirmed your sense of who you are.

 

  1. Be prepared to talk about your weaknesses

 

Anticipate being asked about your shortcomings. This is a sensitive subject that needs a careful response. Don’t be insincere, such as saying you’re a perfectionist if you’re not. Be honest about your areas of development. If attention to detail is not your strong suit, say so and then indicate how you plan to address this. For example, you could say that at times you might ask a colleague to check over a critical document to make sure that you’ve attended to all the detail.

  1. Value the non-verbal

 

When you talk face-to-face, it’s not just about the words you use. We’re social animals so body language, eye gaze and gestures all play their part. If you find it hard to look someone in the eye, you risk being judged as untrustworthy or as having something to hide. Sit in an upright posture without leaning forward – you don’t want to come across as a people pleaser. Do your best to sit still without fidgeting as this will make you look nervous. Hold the other person’s eye gaze until just before they look away to send the message that you can hold your own without being aggressive.

  1. Tailor how much you talk

 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of talking too much during an interview. Sometimes a question needs only a short response. Develop the ability to be concise. If a longer response is needed, you could structure your answer by indicating, for example, that there are three points to consider. Help the other person to follow what you say by using some signposting such as ‘firstly .’, ‘secondly…’ and ‘finally…’.

Varying the length of your input will help to make the interview more of a conversation. Listen carefully to what the interviewer has to say and, if needs be, check your understanding before answering.

  1. Have a get-out line

 

Think through how you’ll respond to a question you don’t know the answer to. Instead of fudging it, have something prepared. You could say, for example, ‘Please can we come back to that question as I’d like a little more time to gather my thoughts?’

Do your best to stay composed. If you suddenly freeze, take a couple of deep breaths and ask them to repeat the question.

  1. Ask for feedback

 

Towards the end of the interview, say that you’re keen to get some feedback on how you did (if this hasn’t been offered). Find out how who to follow up with and get their contact details. Do this in a respectful way so that you come across as keen to learn without being pushy.

10. Personal psychology – cultivate an attitude of ‘You win some, you lose some’

 

Have the intention to get the job without having the expectation that you will. Go into the interview with some degree of humility – arrogance is a big turn off for any employer.

Decide ahead of time that you’ll accept the outcome, whether you are successful or not. If you get turned down, be philosophical and resolve to reap the benefits of the experience next time you’re faced with an interview. If you do get offered the job – congratulations! – Time to go out and celebrate!

See more great interview insights here and other useful hints here

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Presenting to Executives – insights and ideas

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5 Tips for Presenting to Executives

Presenting to your peers is (relatively) easy. The stakes aren’t high. If you screw up, they’ll usually let it slip.

But executives are different. Executives get things done through delegating to other people. So, they are always looking for who they can trust – and who they can’t. Make a good impression and the exec is likely to give you more responsibility in the future. Make a bad impression and you earn a place on their “do-not-trust” list. Either way, it affects your career.

Executives are a special audience for presentations. And the stakes are high. Here are FIVE TIPS to keep in mind to ace your next executive presentation.

1. Get to the point in one minute
Executives exist in high-pressure environments. With 80 hour weeks, emergencies cropping up, high stress loads and demanding bosses and shareholders. TIME is one of their most precious commodities.

So don’t waste it by arriving late, fumbling with the projector (“why won’t it connect?”), making long rambling introductions and so on.Get to the point as quickly as you can. Within the first minute, if at all possible. There’s a good chance the exec is itching to interrupt you and barrage you with questions so get to your main point before the presentation is derailed.

2. Talk about problems winning in the marketplace
Executives don’t care about today’s problems. That’s someone else’s job. Executives have their minds focused on the next three years and what it will take to beat competitors, reach new customers, hold onto existing customers and increase margins. So, talk to them about the problems they will have winning in the marketplace, and how your ideas will help them. If you can’t talk to them about that, you’ll get bumped down to some department head – and well you should.

3. Sell a vision before discussing the details
This is especially true for sales people. Don’t walk into a meeting with an executive and start talking about your super-wonderful fully-guaranteed remote-controlled electronic bobbin. Execs will immediately focus on cost and product features, often ending the meeting with “We’ll get back to you” so they can have someone research prices.

Instead, focus on painting a vision of a better future – hopefully one that maps onto their three-year goals. Once they’re nodding at the vision – and ONLY after they’re nodding at the vision – should you talk about your product’s details. Cost is likely to be less of a concern now.

4. Lead with stories, not data
Executives respect data and making data-driven decisions. But they are also realistic about what data can – and cannot – tell you. They’ve seen many projects fail despite the glowing research results. And they’ve seen boot-strap projects succeed despite the lack of any data to back it up.

Executives often trust their guts more than they trust data. They consider customer stories, quotes from their largest channel partners and competitor moves just as valid as data. So use that. Come to executive presentations armed with lots of stories and introduce stories first, then the data to back it up.

5. Don’t be afraid of executives; be afraid FOR them
Because the stakes are high, and executives often shoot presenters for sport, people are naturally nervous presenting to executives. But this fear will only work against you and broadcast your lack of confidence. So, adopt a different mindset: be afraid FOR executives.

The Importance of Empathy

THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY

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The Importance of Empathy

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to come alongside someone, and not only see a person’s point of view, but also experience the other person’s feelings and emotions. You go beyond , for example, feeling sorry for that person, since that would be sympathy. And go deeper, seeking to understand that person in greater depth. It is an ability that you can acquire if you make the effort

Empathy is the skill to understand the emotions of people and to treat them according to their emotional reaction. This skill is closely linked with emotional intelligence which is basically analysing, assessing and managing the emotion of oneself and others. So by developing and practicing this skill not only you resolve someone’s problems but also win their hearts.

What Does Empathy Do?

Empathy soothes. Empathy heals. Empathy fills the gap; empathy is like the “Super Glue” of good relationships. It can pull you tightly to others and keep you together in all kinds of trouble.

Imagine – Use your imagination in several ways to your advantage.

  1. One way is to imagine yourself in that person’s situation. Really take time to think through how you would feel if you were in that person’s shoes—especially regarding the feelings they are experiencing.
  2. Another way is to imagine the person as a child. If you have photos of the person as a child, use them to help you visualise. Often when we consider the person in the vulnerable stage of childhood, our defenses tend to lower and lessen.

Nurture the Relationship

Make a point to regularly practice caring behaviors with this person. When you act lovingly or caringly toward someone, it actually increases your feelings of love and care, as well as, your ability to empathise with that person.

Set Aside Your Beliefs, Concerns and Personal Agenda

When you are dealing directly with others, go into the conversation empty handed—with no personal expectations or goal of fixing them. Your only agenda is listening to their feelings and trying to understand their point of view.

Identify with Their Experiences

When someone begins to share, focus on the feelings and situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar. This will deepen your emotional insight into the other person’s issues or plight.

Gain Personal Perspective

This method involves working on your personal identity. In other words, you need to learn who you are separate from the other person. If you do not have a clear sense of identity, then you can become “enmeshed” (emotionally entangled and dependent upon the other person) and will tend to take things too personally. When you take things personally, you cannot separate yourself enough to feel the other person’s issues. Begin to practice emotionally detaching—not allowing the other person’s negative behavior to determine your mood or choices. In time, you will gain a greater sense of identity and separateness that will offer you the advantage of perspective.

INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE:

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

Highly empathic people (HEPs) have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. They will talk to the person sitting next to them on the bus, having retained that natural inquisitiveness we all had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. They find other people more interesting than themselves but are not out to interrogate them, respecting the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction.

Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appreciating their individuality. HEPs challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them.

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticise him.”

George Orwell is an inspiring model.  After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. “I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed,” he wrote. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds. The result, recorded in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realized that homeless people are not “drunken scoundrels”—Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life. He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good—it’s good for you, too.

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,” attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change.

Just think of the movements against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. As journalist Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,” doing all they could to get people to understand the very real suffering on the plantations and slave ships. Equally, the international trade union movement grew out of empathy between industrial workers united by their shared exploitation. The overwhelming public response to the Asian tsunami of 2004 emerged from a sense of empathic concern for the victims, whose plight was dramatically beamed into our homes on shaky video footage.
Beyond education, the big challenge is figuring out how social networking technology can harness the power of empathy to create mass political action. Twitter may have gotten people onto the streets for Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, but can it convince us to care deeply about the suffering of distant strangers, whether they are drought-stricken farmers in Africa or future generations who will bear the brunt of our carbon-junkie lifestyles? This will only happen if social networks learn to spread not just information, but empathic connection.

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough.

We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on  global warming for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy.

Empathising with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim!  And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organisations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationship

 SEE ALSO LISTENING SKILLS

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