Muster the Courage to be Kind
Diving deeper into the concept of “empathy,” as the second of the 5 Commandments of Customer Success.
“Don’t find fault with the man that limps, Or stumbles along the road. Unless you have worn the moccasins, he wears, Or stumbled beneath the same road.”
The words written in 1895 by Mary T Lathrop are still quoted daily all around the world. We have shortened it to “Walk a mile in his or her shoes.” It reminds us to consider someone else’s point of view, position, and personal impact.
Every organization has different challenges and understanding what they are at the surface is only part of the recipe for success. Beyond simply knowing and understanding the problems that customers face, we also have to recognize the impact those challenges have on their organizations and on them as individuals. We build stronger relationships when we internalize the personal and professional impact of other people’s experiences.
Years ago, I collaborated with a client struggling with turnover rates. Each time a new person joined the team and was brought up to speed, someone else would leave, and the process would repeat. This cycle continuously delayed the original timeline, as progress would halt while key positions were sought after, hired, and trained. It was frustrating for all parties involved. Decisions were questioned and sometimes reversed and disagreements were frequent.
It’s during these challenging times that relationships have the greatest opportunities to strengthen. In a candid discussion with the customer sponsor, I inquired about the turnover. I learned that the company was moving their corporate headquarters across the country. The actual date of the move had not yet been determined, and all that employees knew was that change would be happening soon. Without a plan to go by or a clear understanding of what the relocation would mean, the uncertain employees pursued employment at other companies.
During this discussion, I discovered why it was so difficult for my client to deliver results for the organization and keep people on the team engaged at the same time. With this information, I could empathize with his situation. By putting myself in his shoes, I realized how challenging it must have been for him. I now understood his frustration behind misses in deliverables, regardless of who was responsible for the delay.
After this discussion, we started to work together in a different way, a positive way, a way that ensured success for them. We acknowledged the problem and determined that it needed a plan of action. We put plans in place that addressed quick project team member on-boarding for new employees. We communicated previous decisions and the reasons they were made to reduce the time spent on revisiting those decisions.
Mary T. Lathrop said it well in her now famous poem titled “Judge Softly.” These types of scenarios play out every week and if we look for the opportunities to ‘walk a mile in someone else shoes,’ we often walk away with even stronger, trusted relationships.
This article was published on the Kronos WorkingSmarterCafe Blog.