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Many managers lack confidence and empathy. Here's how to cultivate both.

As more in the workforce head back to the office, those in leadership can help their teams transition better with these internal skills.
The time for progress is now
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Leaders are put to the test with every major transition for an organization. As we emerge from the pandemic and remote work, how much can our management stomach?

From the unease of their teams to the uncertainty of how to forge ahead, they are left to put on a brave face, cleverly maneuver forward and guess how to reach the other side. After helping some of the most accomplished people over the last decade, I found that two of the biggest gaps for leaders in their internal skills include their confidence and ability to empathize.

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Here’s a breakdown to quickly move toward both, especially in times of transition:

  1. You’re panicking (and so are they): When you break bad news to your team, it’s easy to get stuck on what they think of you, how they’ll be talking about you, or how you could have delivered the information differently. Instead, it’s important to remember that while you are panicking, so are they. They must figure out what this means for their job and their life, how they feel about the current work climate and if they’ll be keeping their job. That stress will be consuming for them. Having a strong, clear leader focused on their well-being (rather than on yours) is what they’ll need. This is a great chance to practice empathy and strengthen your confidence by focusing on being with them, as opposed to getting it right.
  2. Confidence is less about showing and more about being: All too often those in leadership are deemed successful when they’ve achieved certain results. This KPI provides helpful benchmarks for the organization but does not necessarily illustrate growth of confidence as a skill. For this reason, it’s important to note that confidence is less about what you have proven you are able to do and more about how you feel in your own skin. Your own ability to acknowledge, recognize and praise your contributions will be a greater reflection of self-assurance, as well as a helpful trait to model as a leader.
  3. Being effective means growing outside of your own comfort zone: At times, leaders seem exempt from this challenge. Having to make some of the most cascading decisions, it’s easy to get lost in getting the work done. Additionally, with no one above you to challenge how you could keep growing, it becomes simple to let this growth process slide and even sometimes stop. This, however, is part of what leads to blind spots that prevent confidence and empathy development. For instance, if you must address a challenging situation in the workplace but avoid fielding difficult (or any) questions, you could easily miss the opportunity to empathize. To keep growing, ensure that you build a team of supports and advisors to help you propel forward.
  4. Brave is staying authentic: Confidence is also reflected when you feel fully in your own skin, able to reflect your personality and truly show up as you. Being able to practice this type of bravery will allow you to realize that your method or approach using your personality strengths and personal style is what works in your favor. By being more consistently yourself, your team might find more predictability in what to expect from you and therefore more ease in addressing you, which informs your ability to empathize with them.
  5. Show your humanness: No one needs a leader who is robotic. Instead, people search for the counter: someone who they can relate to, someone who inspires. This relatability helps build empathy when you must deliver challenging information.

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Being a powerful leader begins with keying into your inner world. Developing your confidence and empathy will allow you to manage the challenges placed in front of you with greater ease during this time.