Posts Tagged ‘HR Consulting’

Engagement & Empathy

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Human beings belong to a gregarious species. We live in groups, we organise ourselves in communities, we develop language, rules and technology to communicate and co-operate with each other, and usually, we work in teams.

In short, we engage with each other and with our environment. Our engagement keeps us safe and happy. By co-operating together, in every form of work and endeavour, we support each other, harness the power of multiple skills, talents and intellectual points of view, and we create outcomes that would be impossible if we lived and worked alone.

Of recent years there has been a lot of interest in the subject of engagement at work. It is recognised that people are happier, more fulfilled and are likely to be more productive if they are engaged with their jobs. In many ways, this is fairly obvious, since you only have to look to your own experience of life to know that you have a better time and feel better about yourself and other people if you feel connected – connected with an activity, connected with other people, connected with your surroundings or connected with an idea.

Underlying this ability to connect or engage is what is probably our species’ highest, most prized skill: the ability to empathise. Empathy helps us connect with the world and people outside our own skins. It makes us understand. It allows us to see and feel beyond ourselves. And by doing this, we keep the group, and the individuals within it, safer and more effective.

Empathy drives our fascination with each other and this underlies almost every form of human expression and drives culture (from reality TV to fine art and literature), commerce and research & education. In every culture and across time, religion, age, gender, and geography, humans are fascinated with each other because we are fascinated with ourselves. Other people are like a mirror. To study other human beings is to understand ourselves better, and to understand better is to increase the likelihood of our success.

Really successful human beings have a high level of empathy, which imbues them with many advantages. Empathy allows us to read signals, understand situations, foresee problems quickly and connect subtle clues. Empathy allows us to see beneath the surface and operate with a sophisticated level of interaction.

People with low empathy struggle greatly. They can’t read social or facial cues, or discern more sophisticated relationships or patterns. They have a hard time “joining the dots”, understanding what other people understand, reading non-verbal language, and picking up on higher order social rules or patterns like metaphor and tone.  How things connect is often a mystery to them. People with low empathy have many difficulties with other people and their environment because they can’t read the signals and warning signs. Sometimes people like this are stigmatised with popular culture labels like “nerd” and lack of empathy characterizes autism spectrum conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome. Without the ability to exercise empathy, human beings have a hard time in life.

Engagement is not just a Human Resources term. All managers and employers should be developing an engaged workforce and an engaging work environment. But it goes much further and deeper than that. There is not a divide between work and the rest of life, and we are ourselves whether at home or in the workplace. Being engaged is what enlivens us, and underlying engagement, is our ability to empathise.

In the world of work, as in the rest of life, higher level empathy allows you to see effectively and well, and to achieve better and more sophisticated and seamless results. Understanding other people helps you understand yourself, and makes your path in life more smooth, and gives you respect and influence because you understand how other people tick.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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Related posts:

Psychopaths at Work

Building Real Relationships

Who Are You? “Know Thyself”

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

Murder in the Village: Teamwork & Community

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Slam Dunk

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

In the novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany by Amercian novelist John Irving, famous for writing The World According to Garp, the central character Owen Meany spends his whole life preparing for one defining moment.

In Owen’s case, it’s achieving a perfect basketball slam-dunk in a way that no one, including the god-like Owen himself, could foresee. Owen’s slam-dunk was his pivotal and enduring achievement. It was the moment when everything he had worked for all his life came together.

I think that this slam-dunk moment must come in everyone’s career, and lately I’ve been thinking it’s come for me.

For Owen Meany, because his creator is a master of black humour, his pivotal and defining moment was his last moment. But for those of us in real life, a pivotal moment should be a beginning, not an end.

In my case, all my professional and personal areas of interest seem to have allied themselves seamlessly, in a way that makes me feel as though, like Owen, I’ve been practicing for this moment all my life. And I have.

Sportspeople know this feeling of recognition as being in the zone. Psychologists and artists know it as flow. Teachers, performers and public speakers feel it as being in unison with their audience. It’s the ordinary yet transcendent feeling of satisfaction, empathy, elation & connection we feel as part of a crowd at a football match when our team scores a goal. It’s the feeling of rightness, when everything falls into place. Slam-dunk.

Throughout the years I have treated my life and my career as though it was a painting. Two generations of  “creatives” before me taught me to lay down strong foundations, to build up layers, to balance the composition and colour, to have a careful observant eye and to go with the medium not against it. When you make any creative piece (whether it’s a painting or a life) you have to trust that your knowledge and technique will lead to a successful outcome.

So I’ve spent decades trusting that, just like in a painting, a successful outcome would be built from accumulating knowledge, steadfastly laying down foundations, exploring widely and observing closely. In painting, there’s a defining moment when everything suddenly comes together and you know it’s a finished piece. And at that point, instantly, the painting becomes greater than the sum of its parts and has an independent existence that you’ve created.

It’s the slam-dunk moment. The moment of revelation: the moment when action achieves a guaranteed outcome. That’s why slam-dunk has come to mean a sure thing. It’s the moment I hope everyone has in their career and life.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.

Related posts:

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

Staying Afloat: Boats & Analogies

A Room with a View

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Grass Roots Sales Tips: Body Shapers & David Jones

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In life, everyone needs grass-roots grounding. Very early on, I was thrown into the deep end of salesmanship, and it was one of the most helpful experiences I’ve ever had.

When I was a university student, I used to be a department store “demonstrator” (spruiker, really). This began with a stint over the university holidays selling body shapers at David Jones’ flagship store in Elizabeth St, Sydney. My sister and I were set up with a microphone and a small stage between the escalators on the ground floor, opposite Make-up, and, wearing black leotards, we took it in turns to exercise while the other talked on the microphone. In between demonstrations we sold the product.

There were similar demonstrations at every other David Jones store across Sydney, but my sister and I out-sold them all by far.

It was a real thrill, and as university students, we needed the money. But mainly, it was the BEST FUN, and this is the real key: we loved it and it showed! Because of this attitude, and good practical demonstration skills, body shapers walked out the door that summer at David Jones, where, we were told by management, “Elizabeth St ladies never perspire”.

It was at the coalface of selling – only door-to-door selling could have been more basic and challenging – and it stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. I learnt the basic principles of sales on the job, and importantly I learnt they relate to every facet of selling from products, to educational subjects and information, to managing people (including one’s children), to philosophical theory (like climate change or smoking).

Here are some of the things I learnt at the coalface of sales:

1. Be honest and genuine

We made a lot of sales, for example, by telling people they could go down the road to Woolworths for a cheaper version of the product. I’ve applied this principle ever since (and you know people can smell a charlatan or or conman).

2. Believe in your product

After a few days demonstrating the body shaper, the physical results showed on our own bodies. It was easy to tell people they really worked.

3. Make sure your product is worth believing in

There’s no point believing in snake oil if all it is, is snake oil. That would just make you an idiot. If you don’t believe in your product, then find one you can believe in.

4. Love your clients or customers

Seriously! The customer is always right. Make sure you genuinely want to help them, and learn to know what they want and need.

5. Be confident

People respond to confidence & happiness. You don’t need me to tell you that ads of every kind are full of happy faces. This is for a variety of psychological reasons, but we don’t need to go into them here.

6. Be good at it

Whatever your product is, from a body shaper, a recruitment service or a sophisticated psychometric system, know it inside out and become an expert (but from your point of view – don’t pretend to know about something that you don’t).

7. The proof is in the pudding

My sister and I could prove the body shaper worked because we were always facing the audience in one direction. This meant that after only a few days of exercising on only one side, we became our own “before & after” example. People took one look at the difference between the sides of our bodies and just bought it. But we had to firstly notice it ourselves, and then we had to show them.

Provide evidence of how well your product works, and why.

8. Love what you do

You’ve only got one life, so make everything you do count towards your personal satisfaction. Success attracts success, and people will be drawn to you and your product.

9. Make sure people know you’re there

At David Jones, we had a microphone and a relatively captive audience.

You have to communicate your products and services. There’s no point in having the best product in the world, if no-one knows you do.

10. Look the part

My sister & I were young, slim, happy and reasonably fit. It helped a lot that we looked good in leotards.

Live your brand. If you are an HR Consultant or recruiter, then you might be the brand so dress appropriately, be well-groomed and be on time and courteous.

In every facet of life, a good sales technique helps. I have an old friend who is a magistrate, and she says she often wants to say to an un-engaged prosecuter, “Sell it to me!”. I think it applies to everything.

Selling is basic to human nature, not just because we like ”stuff”, but because it’s a genuine human exchange. As Sue Barrett, sales recruiter and blogger says, “Everyone lives by selling something.” A positive “sales” attitude applies to everything you do in life. It communicates that you are genuine, happy and useful, and have something unique to offer.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.