By Bobby Barzi – Pathwise Contributor 

I remember sitting in my first manager’s office after a botched attempt at an ad campaign proposal. I was 22 and an eager beaver at my first “real” job looking to please and advance rapidly. In my eagerness, I was absorbed with crossing the finish line– putting far more emphasis on completion than thorough understanding. Now, facing this meeting, that paucity of thoughtfulness was front and center. I prepared myself for criticism, all the while running through every rebuttal scenario I could use to save face. Who and what could some of this blame be associated with?

My manager walked in and sat down. Here we go, I thought.

“How are you doing?” he started with a light smile.

I jumped into my dissertation on why, what, how and who. But he stopped me mid-speech.

“We’ll get to all that but first, how are YOU doing?” I started to ramble some fluffy, half-hearted response. He wasn’t fazed by it and kept asking question and after question, genuinely interested in what I had to say. He would share and interject along the way about himself, his career and his family. We had a nice 10-minute conversation about anything but work and I felt I got to know him much better while letting him get to know me.

He then said, “this is exactly what we need from you.”

I asked him what he was referring to and he began to explain something that I have never forgotten. What we want as individuals is what we should look to emulate in our work. How we want to be understood and listened to is how we should understand and listen to our clients and customers. This “lens,” as he would frame it, was what allows us to connect at a deeper level to what we do.

A couple of things happened that day.

I learned why it was important to have a good manager. Someone who cared enough and took time to understand me even when I failed, giving me the space to grow. Also, putting on the lens of whomever I was interacting with would only help me AND them.

Empathy is not one dimensional nor is it limited to our personal lives. Inserting empathy in our work only allows us to better perform, manage and grow.

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