Understanding why Empathy and Self-Awareness are Essential to People Management Success

Successful people management helps align qualified people to organizations and their overall strategies. These strategies translate into distinct and competitive advantages that cannot be easily imitated.

People can be one source of competitive advantage, because they are valuable, rare, not easily imitated, and there are no good substitutes. People are complex and oftentimes underestimate their capabilities. Having a solid understanding of what drives people can maximize personal potential, save time, and resources.

Image result for cute animated group of people gif

Empathy and self-awareness are essential for leaders, but they are just as important to everyone within an organization. These two attributes are part of overall emotional intelligence (EQ), which simply answers the question of how we manage ourselves and others.

Organizational behavior research, published at the beginning of this year from Rice University, highlights how emotional states drive behaviors and decision-making.

Many people, especially at work, suppress their true emotional states. They may exhibit expected behaviors and make certain decisions based off of those behaviors. But if needs drive behaviors, and we’re not acknowledging and pursuing our own needs, then the behaviors we do exhibit are not our true behaviors. We often lose motivation and become disengaged, which spreads through a workplace like wildfire. 

Accepting your emotional states allows you to better understand your own needs, which eventually drive those behaviors. Think of it as a cycle or feedback loop. The key is to practice making that cycle a positive one. 

If we are able to get down to the root of what drives those behaviors, we can make better decisions. 

Making better decisions about relationships and business is what helps turn missions and goals into realities. Let us take a deep dive into empathy and self-awareness, and discover how they drive certain workplace behaviors.

C4C - Communication for Cooperation - MladiinfoSource



Empathy provides an inside look into individual motivating needs and helps aid in the quick adoption, and guarding, of organizational culture. We hear a lot about empathy, but for many, the word and its meaning are shrouded in mystery.

Empathy is the skill or attribute of sensing other people’s emotions, fully understanding their perspective (1), and taking an active interest in their concerns (2).

(1) – is called cognitive empathy

(2) – is called affective empathy

Empathy can be learned, practiced, and developed through upbringing and experiences. However, a new Cambridge study also recently discovered that genes do play some role in empathy. Approximately 10% of empathetic behaviors are genetic. How can we better understand the other 90%? 

Being empathetic is more than simply “putting yourself in one’s shoes,” it is about connecting and relating to others. Instead of simply waiting for your turn to speak, take an active interest in what the other person(s) are truly saying. The simple act of listening, which is becoming harder in our attention economy, makes the world of a difference in relationship building. 

Words are important and can reveal a lot about relationships. When relationships are built and nurtured around sensing, understanding, and actively responding to other people’s concerns, they are able to create value through that individual, people-oriented competitive advantage. 

Image result for ask yourself questions empathy art

Empathy can be developed by practicing mindfulness, active listening, and consistently examining your attitudes and thoughts during social interactions. Asking yourself, what are my end goals here? Am I examining and approaching this situation with an open mind? Leave your ego out of the equation.

From a B2C standpoint, the Harvard Business Review found that “it is possible to rigorously measure and strategically target the feelings that drive customers’ behavior,” which they call ‘emotional motivators.’

Most business issues are people issues. If companies are able to make emotional connections with their customers, they unearth a deeper understanding of what fosters those customer behaviors. The data collected from these behavioral patterns takes the guessing game out of strategy success.


Self-awareness is the ability to allow yourself to be fully aware, connect to your emotions, and is strengthened through transparency and self-improvement.

Being self-aware and connecting to your emotions is important, but going beyond those emotions and recognizing the impact they have on relationships is even more critical. We may have an “ideal” version of ourselves that we project onto others, but it is oftentimes a misrepresentation of our true selves.

Image result for self awareness in work image art

Research shows that when we bring our true selves to work, we make better decisions, cultivate confidence and creativity, and build better relationships. Self-awareness also increases workplace citizenship behaviors and reduces counterproductive behaviors.

When employee needs and behaviors are not properly understood, it oftentimes leads to disengagement. A 2017 Global Gallup Report indicated that approximately 85% of employees are not engaged at work, which leads to an estimated loss in productivity of approximately $7 trillion. A disengaged employee may struggle with proper ownership of their work, expectations, and or incentives. 

People want and need ownership over their work.

No matter how small or large the ownership is, it is essential in keeping employees engaged at work. Being transparent about goals combined with appropriate development and performance expectations are also important.

Understand that when it comes to people management, it truly is about them, not about you.

If colleagues, customers, and executives can harness empathy, self-awareness, and overall emotional intelligence and deploy it in an actionable way, organizations will develop their own unique, people-oriented competitive advantage.

If needs drive our behaviors, being aware of both individual and collective organizational needs gives you the building blocks for behavioral enlightenment.








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.