If you stay up to date with trends, a new (rightfully so) unavoidable subject is that of empathy. We are taught as kids that empathy is to understand how someone else is feeling, so as not to hurt their feelings when we communicate and/or interact with them. Do not call someone names, or exclude them from the team activity, or laugh at their mistakes, etc.
Unfortunately it seems many of these core lessons of the golden rule have been misshapen or even lost in the professional setting. Worse yet, are the obvious mistakes many of us make on a daily basis under the lens of empathy that shape and mold the culture and environment we work in.
Could many of us in fact be part of the problem?
Does your organization keep your job postings up to date as aggressively as possible?
Are your software engineer positions looking for 5+ years experience with technology that isn't even five years old? Do you regularly update the technologies you are actually screening for on technical interviews to be reflected in the job descriptions?
When you have an open job posting are you regularly providing feedback to candidates?
Few things reflect on the quality of your organization as quickly as your promptness to provide updates on their job application status. Do you provide immediate updates that a phone screen will be scheduled as soon as possible. Will a candidate be immediately aware that they are going to be invited for an onsite interview but the internal coordination may take a few days to iron out schedules, or are they left in limbo waiting for that onsite interview request? If a candidate flat out is not going to even be called, do they at least get an email with some reasonable explanation as to why? Are updates prompt or are they responses to inquiries?
Are your team members surprised by the feedback they get on their annual performance reviews, or have your regularly 1-on-1 meetings shared feedback constantly such that there are no surprises?
Furthermore, why are you still doing annual performance reviews? Read Primed to Perform and Start With Why and any of the other countless texts that clearly articulate the traditional annual performance review has had its time and has failed.
Is your onboarding "first day" experience for your new colleagues something you are constantly trying to improve?
Or have you settled into a spreadsheet checklist and a coffee mug on their desk? New team members should be greeted with red carpets and celebrations, and leaders should literally be stepping over themselves to make the introduction to your organization as seamless and joyous as possible. After-all, you only make a first impression once!
The Golden Rule
Once a week, my daughter and I go out to breakfast, which is essentially a visit to Starbucks on the way to school where she gleefully orders a non-caffeinated (I'm not crazy, ok!) beverage and a muffin. We then chat about things a ten year old girl would generally talk about.
It has become abundantly clear to me that the very fundamentals that matter in my life as a manager/leader of engineering teams are the very lessons my daughter can and hopefully is being taught at a young age in order to interact successfully with her peers, and be an effective member of her student council.
Really what it boils down to in the end is simply that empathy is at the root of all social interaction, and human beings are perhaps the most social creatures in existence, so what greater skill is there to have and continue to develop than that of empathy?