The collaborative team principles, empathy, is not the byproduct of a highly competitive and driven personality. Yet at the same time, theses are qualities necessary to build and lead highly successful businesses and teams. And the shift from “winning at all costs” to collaborative “we win” thinking requires cognitive growth, respect and personal discipline.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

Let’s face it.  Not everyone does well as a member of a team. Some people are best working as “solopreneurs” or in directing others.  Leading and working within a truly collaborative team culture requires the ability to self-reflect and the desire to understand the feelings and ideas of another person — even when you disagree. 

Some of the finest team leaders and business owners have learned that self-reflection and self-monitoring have helped them transition from highly competitive and directive leadership styles to collaborative and facilitative styles.  They will confide the transition wasn’t easy. For some, leaving highly competitive, dog-eat-dog organizations was the only way they could cultivate new skills.  

For example in one coaching session, a chief executive confided that the most difficult self-imposed barrier to listening to people he didn’t agree with was pride.  On the other hand, failing to perceive the perspectives of employees, customers and suppliers always cost his company more money than if he took the time to understand others’ points of view.  

Another executive confided that he had to cultivate compassion and humility.  And, he had to challenge an attitude he was taught as a child — to win and to win big.  He didn’t like to lose and listening to someone he disagreed with meant, in his mind,  they were against him. 

Winning was expected of him as a man and winning meant he would be a good family provider and successful businessman.   However, the lesson learned from self-development work was an eye-opening reality  —   once he succeeded in understanding the feelings and ideas of another person, he built loyalty.  And, for those who like to win — and to win big — there is another person locked arm-in-arm with you shouldering the load.  Winning becomes easier, and more people are committed to the cause.   

The collaborative team principles, empathy, is not the byproduct of a highly competitive and driven personality.  Yet at the same time, theses are qualities necessary to build and lead highly successful businesses and teams.  And the shift from “winning at all costs” to collaborative “we win” thinking requires cognitive growth, respect and personal discipline.  

Driven and competitive leaders claim that integrating collaborative principles into the business culture and leadership personality is not a soft or fluffy business practice.  Personal growth requires some leaders to face their inner tiger and the overgrown and tangled jungles of their souls.  But, the net benefits of building empathy into the cultural and operational standards of an organization is improved morale, commitment, and service quality. 

What Is Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and ideas of another person. It does not imply agreement.

Empathy is essential for resolving conflict in ways where everyone is satisfied with the outcome.  It is important for collaborative resolutions.

Each employee has certain rights that are linked to empathy. These include the right of respect, emotional safety, physical safety and opportunity for fulfillment. Empathy, therefore, has a powerful influence on learning organizations, conflict resolution and team harmony.

The collaborative team principle, empathy, does not require a power position to exercise within an organization.  Anyone at any time can be empathetic and build their personal power and loyalty among team members. 

However, leaders who are opportunistic or narcissistic often have volatile relationships in all aspects of their lives.  Their feelings, especially negative ones, are projected onto others.  They have little insight into themselves and are almost entirely unable to reflect upon how their actions affect others or their own emotions. 

The good news is that the development of empathy is a cognitive growth process and leaders can develop processes to nurture empathy in the workplace.  Learning how to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is both a personal discovery and unleashes commitment to excellence.