The 2022 Business Resolution We Need: Empathy & Organizational Change
Ever heard the saying: “People might forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel”? This sentiment might more often be used to describe personal relationship dynamics but it’s relevant across professional realms of life as well. If organizations are made up of people, then fostering empathy in the midst of change is just as important in professional settings as it is in personal relationships.
A variety of events can be the catalyst for change within an organization: a leadership change, departmental restructuring, even a full brand redesign. Whether the change is big or small, leaders must steer with empathy in order to implement the change efficiently, effectively and, most importantly, to do so in a way that builds compassion within their organization.
Our 2022 Business Resolution
WeSparq was founded on the principle that driving revenue should never be an organization’s bottom line. In a 2021 interview with Hella Pinay Magazine, our Founder and CEO, Keesa Ocampo, discussed her drive to challenge the traditional model of business; taking a “heart-forward” rather than “money-forward” approach.
As our team discussed our goals for 2022 and the shifting nature of our business, moving through change with a heart-forward approach was a consistent theme. It reminded us of one of the key values our organization was founded on: the belief that good can also be profitable. With that said, one of our resolutions for the new year is to always lead with empathy in the work we do with organizations to implement organizational and branding changes that amplify their social impact.
With this resolution in mind, here are 3 steps to leading organizational change with empathy so that the change is not just effective for your company’s mission but also meaningful to your teams.
Step 1: Before You Start Talking About Change, Listen
There are a ton of fancy ways to put it; like, building “audience personas” or “assessing employee sentiment”. Rather than obscuring the first step of radically empathetic change management in corporate lingo, here’s the gist: Ask the members of your organization how they feel.
The bedrock of every recommended step in our process is centering the knowledge that your employees are human beings. Traditional change management takes a transactional, one-size-fits-all approach to applying change that’s agnostic to employee sentiment or feeling. In contrast, we aspire to leading change via an emotionally-centric, heart-forward approach. This fuels connection.
Why is this connection important? Because it cultivates a sense of belonging which builds community. Furthermore, communities drive change by inspiring and sustaining new habits.
Listening to your team members has two additional benefits; first, it helps you collect information that you can use to optimize your change framework. (Taking the time to listen, observe, and understand how people operate in the organization is key before attempting to change things.) Second, listening to the perspectives of your team contributes to your employees feeling heard.
Remember, empathy drives connection which cultivates belonging and builds community, and communities drive change. If you meaningfully connect with your organizational community, they will drive the change you want to see.
A great example of this is our client, Mosaic America, whose work on social cohesion through the arts has put them in the forefront of creating REAL change when it comes to equity and inclusion. While Silicon Valley has become notorious for making buzzwords and quips go viral, real empathy and its impact on communities can be seen in concrete ways when people and communities are not just heard, but also included, amplified, and represented. Lesson learned: Don’t just be the mouthpiece. Be the change.
Step 2: Clearly And Transparently Communicate Your Goals
The general rule of thumb is that the more informed people feel, the more they’ll be able to deal with any potential discomfort in the face of uncertainty. Once you’ve listened to your team members’ feelings, acknowledge their concerns openly.
Rather than getting caught up in a cycle of cutting people off from information, keep your team informed and share the current realities of the business. By giving people enough information to understand how they can participate and help drive the change you are looking for, you create a foundation of support for your change initiatives.
Establish a two-way dialogue with stakeholders so they feel safe to voice their opinions, perceptions, questions, and concerns to you. To be a leader of change it’s critical to be mature enough to listen, and to accept and value feedback.
When you communicate your change framework, make sure to focus on the reasons for your decision. Explain why the change is meaningful to you. This is critical so that you can show your team members why the change will be meaningful for them too.
Step 3: Co-Create Change By Taking a Grassroots Approach
As we’ve clearly pointed out: an organizational transformation won’t succeed without broad involvement. That’s why it’s important to help everyone feel like an active participant with something valuable to add.
Keep in mind that it’s counterproductive to just show up, deposit your change frameworks and best practices and then leave. Work with your team to co-design an approach to manage changes that will affect all parties involved. When everyone is given an opportunity to offer input on a solution, then everyone will feel a sense of ownership in the success of the program. That’s why co-creation is so important.
To help change take root, elect several “change agents” within your organization to champion the transition. This might include managers. It might also include people who are typically quiet within your organization. The important part is that these individuals believe in the mission of your change framework and want to help activate it within your organization.
It’s also important to bring in contributors from different parts of your organization. This will give visibility to your initiative to be one that is genuinely collaborative. In turn, this will activate further buy-in among stakeholders within your organization.
Electing change agents will help all your employees feel like the change is coming organically and is supported by the wider employee base instead of from the top-down. When employees have the support of their peers, they tend to accept new changes more. Additionally, change agents can provide team members with more day-to-day support than management can, when needed.
While business tools and technologies might evolve, the importance of one business practice should never change: empathetic leadership and communication. Develop and show empathy for everyone involved when you make organizational changes, and you’ll forge a team that feels valued, included, and driven to help your change initiatives succeed. Need assistance managing your organizational and branding changes in 2022? Reach out to our team!