As you learned in leadership training, new approaches, especially those that lead to major change, often require a shift in your mindset. Pursuing NM 2035 will be no different.
Exhibiting greater empathy is one of the five mindset changes that the Northwestern Medicine workforce is being asked to adopt, and it is perhaps one of the most important when it comes to supporting fundamental change. Here, Vice President and Chief Wellness Executive Gaurava Agarwal, MD, provides an overview of this mindset change, along with tips on how you can exhibit the empathy needed to help your teams be successful on the journey to NM 2035.
“A key component to a culture of well-being is people feeling like their leaders care about them and understand them,” Dr. Agarwal says. “This is the heart of empathy. NM is a multigenerational organization, and each individual, regardless of age, has different priorities and needs. As leaders, it’s important to take the time to pause, listen and understand the perspectives of your team members and those around you.”
Getting to know your team members and their priorities in life can help you develop a greater understanding of what well-being means to each person. With that greater understanding, you can better support them in achieving those priorities and greater overall wellness.
“Something that helps me be more empathetic can be summed up in a graphic I once saw,” says Dr. Agarwal. “It was a picture of a big circle, and within the big circle was a tiny dot. The idea of the graphic is that what you know about a person is just a tiny dot, but their life consists of so much more.”
You may never know what that person is juggling in the larger circle of their life, Dr. Agarwal continues. They could be going through a divorce, or they may have a loved one who needs special care. “So when you are making assessments about a person or inferring what a particular behavior or performance says about someone, remember to be generous because all you really know about their life is just a tiny dot.”
To help you be more empathetic and to help that tiny dot of awareness become bigger, Dr. Agarwal suggests the following:
Approach people from a position of curiosity. “This is actually more fun than directing people, and it takes some pressure off of having to have all the answers for the people we support,” Dr. Agarwal says. The idea is related to the concept of Leader as Coach, which you can learn more about in Learning and Performance.
Conduct regular leader rounds and visit with individuals you perhaps don’t have the chance to talk to in one-on-one meetings. To help you make the most of leader rounding, view the Leader Rounding on Staff video on Learning and Performance.
If the size of your team or the location of your team members makes some of these tasks challenging, then be extra cognizant that all you really know about each team member is that little dot.
Brené Brown on Empathy is a short video available in Learning and Performance that will help you understand the importance of empathy. To help prepare for the upcoming changes and support your teams throughout NM 2035, all leaders are encouraged to register forLeading Through Change and Transition and other change management courses available in Learning and Performance, as well as reviewing the many change management resources from the Project Management Office.