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Nov 1
Timeless Principle #3 – Put Yourself in Your Employees’ Shoes

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared some simple (but not simplistic) principles every manager needs to know. As a review, here are numbers one and two:

1. Quit focusing on the outward appearance and concentrate on what’s on the inside.

2. Be a good listener. 

Hopefully you’ve started using these principles, or at the very least begun some self-reflection on how you’re doing currently with them.

Principle #3 is one of the most basic acts we can do but leads to incredible success: putting ourselves in our employees’ shoes.

Stephen Covey alludes to this in his 7 Habits in the principle “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” He’s absolutely right. Did you know that each of your employees are completely different? They all have different experiences, values, attitudes, wants, needs, desires, and goals. Each day these influence their work life and they can’t help but be affected by them. As a manager, you have absolutely no control on how these folks feel on the inside. Your only hope is to reverse roles with them and see things from their perspective and current state of mind.

Think about how you feel when someone invalidates your opinion, experience, or feelings. You probably get a sense of hurt followed by apathy or anger. If you continually manage without ever taking time to see a different perspective, this probably explains why your employees withdraw from you or at the very least don’t trust you.

This is a learned skill that takes a great amount of practice. It involves active listening and careful reflective communication. You might be tempted when developing this skill to say something like this to a distraught employee:

I know how you feel

Resist this. Do you really know how they feel? Why not try this instead:

That’s a real difficult situation you’re in. It sounds as though you’re very frustrated (or angry, sad, scared etc). Is that correct?

Allow them to respond and listen carefully to their response.  They'll either validate it or deny it.  Continue to probe using your active listening skills.  Let them tell you when you've got it right.  Then you can move on and continue the conversation from a perspective they'll be comfortable with.  By developing this skill, you’ll open up the door to better communication with your employees and go a long way to improving your relationships with others.

It’s going to take work though. You’ll have to resist the temptation to rush to judgment. You’ll need to be patient with both yourself and your employees, but it’s worth the effort. Just another tool in your toolbox, but it’s an important one! Take some time this week to put it into practice.

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2 Comments/Trackbacks




A good manager has to obey many rules if he is interested in keeping a normal working atmosphere. Listening to the others requires patience, sincerity and being able to give good advice. Managers should show interest in his employees' private lives and, if necessary, show some compassion and understanding.

Leaders earn trust by relating to everyone in the organization with understanding. Empathetic leaders create strong bonds and are seen as less political. A person who demonstrates the core quality of empathy understands others' points of view including those that are different from his or her own and shows genuine concern for others.

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