Ep #101: Are You an Empathic CEO?
Managing human emotions is often labelled as a “soft skill” for leaders, but in reality, it is anything but. Today we will talk about being an empathic CEO and how feeling other people’s feelings can interfere with what you need to get done as a leader. We’ll also discuss some things you can do to develop those skills.
What you’ll find in this episode:
- How to know if you are an empath.
- The best way to manage your emotions and not be triggered all day.
- How to develop boundaries, structures, or processes to negotiate those emotionally charged moments.
Featured on the Show and Other Notes:
- The Thought Model
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Hey, I’m Kris Plachy, host of the Lead Your Team podcast. Running a million dollar business is not easy and whether you’re just getting started with building your team or you’ve been at this for a while, I’m going to bring you honest, specific and clear practices you can use right now, today, to improve how well you lead your team. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Hello, hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Lead Your Team podcast, I’m Kris Plachy your host. I’m so glad you’re here, thank you for tuning in. I’m meeting more and more of you as more and more of you are registering for the How to CEO program, which is just so fun to meet you, and hear how you’ve been listening to this podcast or even my previous podcast for some time. So, thank you and it’s lovely to see faces and meet people. So thank you for being here and part of this.
This podcast is going to drop on the, let’s see, 18th. And so by the time this drops, we may still have a few spots left in How to CEO, it starts on the 20th. So if you were thinking about it and you haven’t registered, take a look at howtoceoregister.com and if we still have some spots, they will be available to you to register. And I’d love to work with you to help you with all of it firing, hiring, team building, holding people accountable, delegating, managing your own mind as a leader, emotional triggers, all the stuff that I know you deal with, coaching, all these things.
So this week I want to talk about something that I’ve been nurturing and had this weird epiphanous moment, even though it doesn’t really make a lot of sense because it’s not very epiphanous. But I’m a certified emotional intelligence facilitator or something like that and I’m very familiar with the importance of emotional intelligence. I’m very familiar with the importance of what they call soft skills for leaders. I think that’s the biggest, baddest, worstest name that we could have ever given human feelings and emotions and soft skills.
Because, I don’t know if you agree with me, but feeling feelings is hard. It’s not soft. And understanding other people’s feelings and know how to have feeling acumen, right? Like really understand how to read the room. This is all critical skill to a leader, not soft skill like, “Oh, nice to have,” right? That’s a lie. And so, as I think about my career in leadership and I always have these very vivid memories of when I was a very brand new manager and oh, it was so hard.
The first six months of my job I just wanted to not be a manager anymore. I wanted to go hide in my office and just do what I did, which was be very successful on my own without needing other people to help me. But I stuck with it. And I realize now as I think about myself and then I pay a lot of attention to the clients I work with that I’ve known for a long time and I’m an empath, meaning I can feel other people’s feelings.
And I also believe that in many ways I can know what other people are thinking too. And I’m not talking about this in a kumbaya, sit around a circle, burn Sage, I don’t know all the things, and I’m not dismissing that either. I’m just telling you that this is not woo-woo. Being an empath is a skill, and it’s either developed or underdeveloped. And most people who are empathic and have underdeveloped use of that skill suffer, they suffer from anxiety, depression, overwhelm, exhaustion from other people, they’re people pleasers.
But then at the same time also control freakers, to a fascinating dilemma. They struggle with holding boundaries. They avoid conflict. If you are of an underdeveloped empathic ability, it’s doesn’t mean that you don’t have it, it just means you don’t know how to maximize it, okay? So keep in mind that as you think about empathy and being empathic, what we’re really talking about is your ability to feel what other people are feeling to the point that it can interrupt your ability to do what you know needs to be done, because you’re too preoccupied with what everybody else is feeling.
And then the next layer of that is that you also take responsibility for how other people are feeling. So we layer that into being the owner, founder, CEO of a company. And now you are feeling the feelings of your employees, you know what’s going on, you know how they’re feeling and you’re assuming responsibility for their feelings.
This is a bad cocktail because it alters who you are. It makes it so that you can’t hold people accountable. You can’t have difficult conversations. You can’t take action that you believe will make other people feel bad. It keeps you stuck. And this is a problem when you run a company. And I know that if you identify with this, you’re like yelling at me right now because you get it.
It’s like one client sent me a message it said, “Are you in a little microphone, earpiece in my earring listening to my thoughts?” Right? So I get you because I am you. And what I realized as I was writing about empathy and empathism is that is why I have had to build or why I have built all of these structures and processes to deal with the day-to-day human interactions of managing, right?
So how do I hire people? Think about just hiring, someone gets into your space and you’re an empath, you’re already noticing what they’re feeling, you vibe on it. That can interfere with your own wisdom if you don’t have a clear boundary. So you’ve got to have a hiring process, think about difficult conversations. You know they’re not going to be happy with what you need to say to them, but what we also know is you don’t make them unhappy. That’s why for me the thought model is what anchors my ability to remember where feelings come from.
I don’t make people feel a certain way. They feel a certain way because of what they think about what I say. There’s a huge difference. Now, that doesn’t mean I go around being a tool to everybody. But it does mean that when I have to have the conversations that are pretty awful for both of us, that I don’t want to have, I do that because I know that your feelings are your responsibility not mine.
Firing people. You’ve got to have a firing process. Empaths really struggle with bringing people in and out of a business because they get overly connected to them in a way that isn’t healthy. If you don’t have proper boundaries, and if you don’t have proper management structure. And what I want you to think about again, if this is resonating, is that the structures I teach, create ease for you. It’s like you’ve decided ahead of time how you’re going to handle something.
So in the moment when you know you have to have a difficult conversation with someone about their performance, you don’t have to go through all the gyrations again of, “Oh gosh, how am I going to do this? This is.” You don’t have to because you’ve already designed how you’re going to do it. You’ve built a system.
If you are an empath, you need systems to have in place for those moments as a leader that are emotionally charged for everyone involved, hiring, firing, developing, holding people accountable, having conversations, even delegating. And then of course, there’s your ability to manage your emotions and not be triggered all day. That’s how I know that someone’s an empath when they show up in front of me and they’re just exhausted.
And so I’ve had to develop my own systems for myself, right? So I’m telling you about the systems that I teach in How to CEO, if you were watching this on the video that I think we’ll post these on YouTube, you’d see that I have a CEO team blueprint that everybody gets in their kit. And this has all of the systems in it that I teach. It’s lots of many pages, but I also have my own processes, personal. Because the way I think about being an empath is it’s like a sponge, and I’m an extrovert. So I’m this interesting dynamic, right?
I’d love to be with people, but when I’m with people who aren’t managing their emotions well, I can take responsibility for their emotional health. And that’s very exhausting to me. So for example, through this whole pandemic, right? We’ve had a lot of time at home and I am surrounded by a beautiful family of people, but not everybody always manages their emotions very well. And as somebody’s mother, I take a lot of responsibility for that if I’m not careful. But there’s nowhere to go, right?
So one of my coping mechanisms I recognize has always been to go somewhere. I need a break, literally, not from people’s voices, but from people’s energy and feelings. I think as leaders, you have to have boundaries around your time. A lot of the women who hire me talk about how they’re constantly interrupted. That’s not going to work. You have to put boundaries around your time, your energy, your emotional health.
Journaling is enough exceptional way for you to process what you are negotiating especially if you have some partners or some employees or team members who are not empaths and don’t have awareness around their emotional battery and the labor that it requires others to deal with them.
Taking time for yourself is really good. Coaching is for me required. I have a coach. I talked to her every week. She is by far one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with, her name’s Natalie Olsen. She’s a dream. And she helps me unwind a lot of what I get wound up on. So I want to give voice to this because I believe when I asked my clients, “How many of you would consider yourselves highly empathic?” And I would say 85% of the hands went up.
So I’m noticing that I’m already attracting you because I provide structure, systems, practices for things that feel really hard to you. And what I wanted you to know as a fellow empath if that’s how you are identifying is that there will always be moments of challenge like that as a leader that you read the room and you realize, “Oh, everybody’s hating me right now.” Or whatever it is, but you get better and better with your boundaries and your systems so that you know how to negotiate those moments, right?
And so I want to leave you with some questions and some thoughts maybe about how to know if you’re empathic. So do you experience other people’s feelings deeply? Do you take responsibility for how other people feel so much so that you take extra steps to try and mitigate their negative emotions? Do you intentionally avoid difficult conversations because you know the other person will feel bad? Do you tire easily from having to make difficult choices and decisions? Do you tell yourself you’re bad at managing people? Do you avoid confrontations? Do you avoid accountability conversations?
Do you resent team members for forcing you to hold them accountable, shouldn’t they just know how to do it and do their job? Do you wish people would just do their job and not make it so difficult for you? Do you feel sensitive, weak or ill-prepared to be the type of leader that you should be? Those are just a few things that I think resonate for women who are empathic. And if you said yes to these and to a majority of these, these can become deal breakers for your success and your ability to negotiate in a management role, because it’s so exhausting.
And as a CEO, you’re a managing leader. You will always have somebody that reports to you. So I’d love to help you establish these structures and these boundaries and these processes for the parts of leading and managing that other people tell you are soft. I know you have a marketing process. I know you have a sales process. I know you have a design process if you make stuff. I also know you can have a leadership and a management process, I call the leadership operating system and I know you can have it. And I know it will help mitigate a lot of the personal challenges that you have as a woman who is a CEO.
So I’d love to work with you, you know guys I talk about that. Right now we’re enrolling, so I’m trying to save the planet with all of you, one woman at a time, so that we can make a difference and you don’t give up on your dream. So thanks for tuning in today, have an amazing, wonderful day and I’ll hope to see you sometime soon. Otherwise, I’ll talk with you next week.
One more thing before you go in a world of digital courses and online content, I like to work with my clients live because I know that when you have someone you can work with, ask questions of and meet with, you’re so much more likely to get the success that you want. So head on over to howtoceolive.com to learn more about our very exciting, very exclusive program just for female entrepreneurs. We’ll see you there.