Be long term empathetic

Empathy is key if you want to lead others and especially if you want them to grow.

But while many leaders get empathy right they get the time-frame wrong and thus hold their team back from true growth.

But to understand what we mean we need to sidestep into another topic:

And then what?

Many people think and see only first order consequences of actions - what happens right after they do a specific thing. This is called first order thinking. Smart people follow that though up withe the question "And then what?". This reveals what happens as a later - but not immediate - effect of our choices. This is called second order thinking. For every time you ask the question "And then what?" you increase the order of thinking by one.

A big problem for us humans is that many things that have great first order results have horrible second order effects. If we sleep in we get more sleep (great) but show up late for work (bad) or if we skip workout we get to relax (great) but at the cost of our health and fitness (bad).

Inversely many of the things that is best for us long term have bad first order results. Working out is hard and hurts our muscles but improves our health. Learning new habits (like you are doing now) requires a lot of work but improves your ability to lead for life.

This is all because your brain is hard-wired for surviving by maximising your available energy. Eat all you can an then get some rest. It is not evolved for modern society where we have plenty of food but the true benefits comes from learning. Don't let your primitive brain win this battle and hold you back from greatness.

Back to empathy

Enough with the detour - what has all this to do with being empathetic?

The problem is that in the modern workplace we actually have plenty of empathy. But since giving negative feedback have social consequences our first-order brain simply prevents us from confronting our peers. This is completely misunderstood empathy as it might prevent our colleagues from being hurt right now but at the consequence of not improving and repeating the same mistakes over and over. This is also called ruinous empathy.

So by being long term empathetic we simply mean that you should be empathetic with people but by focus on their long term well being.

Be open and direct and give the hard feedback now even if it hurts. It is the only way to truly care for people long terms.

Especially as leaders this is a must for our people to trust in us.