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Author's profile photo Jayne Phillips

Coach’s Corner – The Gift of Empathy

I’m Jayne Phillips, Sr. Director of Cloud Customer Engagement Enablement Programs, ATD Master Trainer, SAP Peer Coach at SAP.  I’m a Learning and Development Professional with emphasis in leadership development, career coaching, cloud customer experience and lifelong learning.  My personal motto: Stay Curious.

SAP’s initiative to create Customers for Life requires purposeful application of empathy. 

Humans. We have many gifts, many powers, many opportunities.  Often, we do not realize this, or we simply don’t pause to allow time and space to do so.    I love this quote regarding empathy because it is indeed both a gift and a power.  We are given the gift of empathy and the power to use it in ways that broaden our perspectives, deepen our relationships and ultimately make the world a better place.

In considering empathy as it relates to our work environment a few things come to mind which I’ll share here and invite you to continue the conversation with your thoughts.

Looking back on Jason’s blog of a few weeks ago, he shared the following from Maxx Snow, a Technical Recruiter for SAP’s Products and Innovation, related to what Maxx sees as his top 5 soft skills:

“Empathy – team atmospheres are difficult at times, and especially at SAP can be made up of all skill levels – from entry to senior level.  A good sense of empathy is always paramount to understand the problems your teammates may face and realize that everyone deals with different hurdles and negative feedback affects people differently.”

Our power as humans manifest both individually and exponentially as teams, groups or communities.  Using our power of empathy we can magnify the creativity and innovation produced.  So, what does empathy really mean and how do you use it authentically for these results?

Empathy as defined by Merriam-Webster: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also the capacity for this

More simply stated, empathy is taking actions to understand and share the feelings and/or perspective of another person.

We all have empathy, but it does take focused actions to make it an effective and powerful skill.  Below are a few actions that will help you to develop greater empathy and thus find the power it may unveil:

  • Active Listening: Listening is one of the most important communication skills we can employ.  Active listening includes the following:
    • Be fully present and attentive
    • Asking open-ended and probing questions
    • Listening fully without judgement or opinions
    • Clarifying what you hear and what the person means
    • Summarizing your understanding
  • Displacing judgement
    • “Seek first to understand”
  • Realizing agreement isn’t necessary, but honoring others’ perspectives is
  • Considering how varied perspectives play into a more diverse and creative outcome

With empathy we replace the adage of the golden rule with that of the platinum rule:

So why does this matter in the workplace?  Empathy directly impacts employee engagement and productivity.  As noted in this Businessolver 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Study the data backs up what we intrinsically believe to be true:

  • 9 out of 10 employees are more likely to stay with an employer who empathizes with their needs
  • 87% of CEO’s believe a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy in the workplace, as do 79% of HR professionals
  • 90% of employees, HR professionals and CEOs view face to face conversations and team meetings as the most empathetic ways to communicate

We should all honor the gift of empathy.  As with the precious gifts we receive in our lives we should take good care of our empathy, spend time enjoying it and most importantly share it with others.  When we treat the gift of empathy as precious it then creates power.  Power to enrich our lives and the lives of those around us, power to innovate in expanded ways and the power to succeed as a collective community toward common purpose:  Make the world run better and improve people’s lives.

This blog is focused on empathy within our workplace and with colleagues.  Watch for a future blog where I focus on empathy as it relates to working with our customers and partners.

Please share your comments on empathy, and especially share your experiences with empathy in action.


Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

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      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      Thank you Jayne! The "Platinum Rule" was new to me until I read your blog post, and does a great job of helping me understand the shift in perspective we need to make in order to embrace empathy fully. I had the fortune of hosting an executive panel at SAPPHIRE last year, and heard first hand how customer empathy has direct applications to business functions such as user experience/product design, product support, human capital management and sales. I was also glad to hear that these functional chiefs are also integrating empathy into the workflows of their businesses and materialize themselves in design thinking workshops, customer satisfaction surveys, and employee engagement scorecards.

      Executive Coach and SAP Mentor Seung Chan Lim lead a couple of workshops at TechEd Barcelona and Las Vegas with some fantastic results to help participants realize empathy. Here are the results: Empathy Leads to Action.

      Thanks again and hope to see more blog posts from you!

      Author's profile photo Resmi K S
      Resmi K S

      Hi Jayne,

      The platinum rule is new to me as well. very informative blog.


      Author's profile photo Thomas Sorge
      Thomas Sorge


      Very insightful. These skills are all linked to being a more effective leader or team mate.  The ability to cast aside judgement is key.  We need to move outside of our own perspectives and think about it from anothers point of view