Empathy Strength: Get Known For Your Talent

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Empathy to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For The Empathy Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile when you lead through the Empathy strength:

  • Spidey Sense
  • In Tune
  • Perceptive
  • Feeler
  • Caring
  • Sage
  • Listener
  • Sympathetic
  • Absorber
  • Confidant
  • Friendly
  • Intuitive

Red Flag Situations When You Lead With The Empathy Strength

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Empathy. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are a couple of Red flags for the Empathy strength (talent theme):

  1. The Give-Me-The-Facts-I-Don’t-Care-How-You-Feel Culture. For someone who leads through the Empathy strength, the emotions are where the truth lies. If you’re in a work culture that not only loves facts and data, but takes it further by also mocking or disregarding emotions, it might suck the life out of you.

  2. The Helper Job. Many people who lead through the Empathy strength are drawn to helping careers like nursing, customer service, counseling, or support desks. Although you can provide a great service to those on the receiving end, you can also do yourself a disservice if you allow the escalations, irate customers, pain, and suffering into your psyche every day. The drain of these situations can be significant if you don’t get ahead of it and have a regimen for boosting the ratio of positive vibes.

3 Fresh Application Ideas For The Empathy Strength

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Empathy at work , even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through the Empathy strength, put the talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Persuasion Ninja. People who lead through Empathy innately know that people make decisions with their emotions and they justify those decisions with logic. Next time your team needs to be persuasive for a presentation or business case, get someone with Empathy to help you think through what you want to make the audience feel…and then how to present a story or data to make that happen.

  2. Name It. Many coaches and therapists have used a technique where people name their feelings. People who have the Empathy talent theme can often do this more readily. They understand that our thoughts create our feelings. And then they can name the feeling (beyond the obvious first ideas, like “anxious”). If they act as a model for how this can boost collaboration on the team, they can show others how effective it is. For example, imagine someone saying, I felt totally divided and disheveled when both teams demanded the opposite solution.

  3. Notice The Unnoticed. Often people with the Empathy talent theme will catch the unspoken elephant in the room. They’re the person who knows that everyone is nodding their head as if they’re aligned - yet that Frankie is not going to implement the agreement when you leave the room. Someone with the Empathy talent theme can be the one to say, “Hey Frankie, you look like you might have a reaction to this. What’s your opinion?” That small action of calling out an eye flinch that no one else saw may have saved the team 3 months of rework and in-fighting.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework For The Empathy Strength

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. Volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
  4. Dig into the Empathy strength all the way. You can really nerd out on the nuances on the Empathy Talent Theme Page.

 

Here's A Full Transcript Of The 14 Minute Episode

You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I got to tell you, it's tough to find something more energizing than using your strengths at work every day.

Now, I get some pretty deep questions when it comes to the talent theme of Empathy, and how to align the things that you've seen in your CliftonStrengths results and the StrengthsFinder results with the actual duties of the job, and the interactions that come up in the real workplace, and whether you should actually make room for all the fields at the office.

So, in this series, I've been breaking down one strength per episode so that you can add to the insights that you already have from the StrengthsFinder report, and make that really deep tie between the job duties, the interactions, and the realities of the workplace, and map that to the definitions you've already seen in the StrengthsFinder report.

Now, if you're listening as a manager, use this series for career development ideas. Use the series to get ideas about what work to assign to what person and what responsibilities might be a great match for each person's strength. If you're listening for yourself, use this as a chance to build your reputation around your strengths, so that you're more likely to be given assignments that live in your strength zone.

It sounds kind of magical, doesn't it? My uncle, Alan, used to say that you know who gets the work next. It's the person who did it well last time. And that is a really great lesson around getting known for your strengths. So, if you're Empathy allows you to catch really important details in a meeting that no one else would have caught because they are emotional responses to a project or a product, and then the person who catches those the last time is the person who's going to get invited to that critical meeting the next time.

So, in this episode, you're going to get three layers to think about. First is career branding. The second is red flag situations at work. And the third is application ideas.

Career branding for Empathy. You probably already have a reputation for what you know. This is where most people have a reputation, which is their skills, their experiences, their knowledge area, subject matter expertise that might be functional. Or it might be product related degrees you've earned, jobs you've had, how you work, that's usually less a part of people's career brand. It's not something that they've focused on intentionally. Yet, this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

And when you think about the how of Empathy, oh, this gets really deep because this is how you relate to other humans. But it goes beyond what most people do when they are relating to others. It's almost like an academic exercise. But when someone leads through the Empathy talent theme, there's a sensing about it that is totally different.

So how you get work done and figuring out how to build a brand around those spidey senses and superpowers? It's really cool. And speaking of spidey sense, that's one of my favorite adjectives that describes the superpower of Empathy. So, let me give you a handful more of adjectives that you can listen for to see, “Oh yes, this really describes me and I would like to be known for that at the office.”

Now something like spidey sense, it's a little bit silly sounding. So, you might be playful, you might not. So, you may or may not like that. But it also may or may not apply to the role that you're in. You might need a spidey sense if you're in a role where you're vetting out the truth from other humans. It might come in real handy for you. Imagine a police officer who has a spidey sense. Well, that could be really useful. Imagine someone with a customer service focus who has a spidey sense and they can really understand when the customer is moving in the direction of customer happiness or customer loyalty, versus someone who is upset but they're not saying anything. And you have the spidey sense to match the feel versus the words.

Okay, more adjectives: in tune, perceptive, feeler, caring, sage, listener, sympathetic, absorber, like absorber of feelings, confidant, friendly and intuitive.

Now, like I said, those may or may not be a good fit with your workplace, but pick one or several that really resonated with you and then think about work and decide, “ooh, this one could actually be of great utility for this area of work.” And then make a goal of using that in your conversations and your interactions and begin modeling it.

So, people can see that there is utility in that at the office. Now let's talk about red flag situations for Empathy. These are cultures, interactions, situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to you if you lead through the talent theme of Empathy. And I'll give you two of these to be on watch for because if they fester, you might get the urge to become detached, feel disengaged, step back, distance yourself at work.

So, first red flag for Empathy. I'm going to call this one, just give me the facts, I don't care how you feel. You know, this vibe, you felt it from someone before. This is if someone leads through Empathy and emotions are where the truth lies. If you're in a work culture that not only loves facts and data, because that's fine for someone with Empathy, but they take it further by mocking emotions, or disregarding emotions, or talking about emotions like they don't matter. That might suck the life out of you.

Another red flag. This one surprises people. I'm going to call this one the helper job. Now many people who lead through Empathy are drawn to helping type of careers. Imagine occupations like nursing, customer service, counseling support desks. There are many, many more, but these can be a risk for people who lead through Empathy. Although you can provide a great service to those who are on the receiving end of your feelings and on the receiving end of your generosity of spirit for being able to absorb and understand what someone's experiencing, you can also do yourself a disservice if you allow escalations and irate customers’ pain and suffering into your psyche, every day. The drain of these situations can be significant if you don't get ahead of it, or if you don't have a regimen for boosting the ratio of positive vibes, or you don't have a practice for understanding that, -

“Oh, I'm experiencing this emotion that's in the room and it belongs to someone else. It's not mine to do something with at a skill that when you have mature Empathy, you might be able to absorb but not let it take you down.”

But this is a risk. I've seen a lot of people attracted to helper jobs, and then wallowing in those negative emotions or pain or suffering that can really bring you down.

So be on watch for that. It doesn't mean you have to avoid those careers. But it does mean if you don't have a self-care practice, or if you don't know how to tell the difference between your emotions and their emotions yet, these are the types of roles that can really wear you out if you lead through Empathy.

Alright, let's talk fresh application ideas. So, even if you're on one of those teams where you feel like the job duties are pretty locked in, these are ways that you could volunteer your talent themes in order to feel like you're getting known for the things that put you at your best, that you're modeling these things that put you at your best.

Now if you're a manager and you're listening in, then think about assigning someone who leads through Empathy, these kinds of things. Alright, three of them.

First one is the persuasion ninja. So, people who lead through Empathy, they innately know that people make decisions with their emotions, and then they justify the decisions with their logic later. Next time you have a need on the team, where there's a presentation, there's a business case, and you really need to be persuasive here, get someone with Empathy to help you think through what you want to make the audience feel, and then how to present a story or even the data that suits you to make that happen, to understand how to create that feeling or that experience in the room because they're so tuned into how to do that.

The second one, name it. Many coaches and therapists have used a technique where they have people name their feelings. Well, people who have the Empathy talent theme, they're often really good at this, they can do it kind of readily. They have more words and depth to their description than those of us who don't lead through the Empathy talent theme. They understand that our thoughts create our feelings. And if you can name the feeling beyond the obvious first idea, like, “I'm feeling anxious right now about this project.”

Anxious and stressed, those are two that come up all the time like as a catch all, because many of us don't have the vocabulary or nuance to be able to go deeper with the words. Well, someone with Empathy, they can act like a model for the rest of us. And this can be collaboration on the team, because they can show other people how effective it is.

So, before you think that I'm suggesting that you bring therapy into the office, what I mean is just imagine this example. Someone says, “Oh, man, I felt totally divided when both teams were demanding this opposite solution.” Or somebody could say, “Well, I felt really disheveled because they were pulling me one direction or the other.” And so even just taking those two adjectives, divided, disheveled, that's so much more descriptive than, “I felt anxious” or, “God, they really stressed me out.” And being able to get into that nuance of what the experience was making you feel, really helps you get past the issue, when you're collaborating, instead of leaving a meeting and complaining to some other teammate behind their backs, and then deciding that you don't like them, and you're going to work around them.

So, if you have someone with the Empathy talent theme, just being able to name what's going on inside can actually bring the problem solving mode forward.

Third one, notice the noticed. Hmm, and I call this notice the unnoticed because often people with the Empathy talent theme, they catch the unspoken elephant in the room. They're the person who knows that everyone's nodding their head along as if they're aligned. They're saying that, “yeah, yeah, we're all going to go do these action items”, but they know that Frankie is not going to implement that agreement. When you leave the room, someone with the Empathy talent theme, they can be the one that says, “Hey, Frankie, you look like you have a reaction to this. What's your opinion?” That small action of calling out the eye flinch, or literally there could be no flinch, it can just be the feeling that Frankie was given off, because remember, they have this spidey sense, well, no one else sees that or notices that and it might have saved the team three months of reworking, three months of infighting because they took the second to say, what do you think about this Frankie?

So, it's asking the person with the talent theme to notice the unnoticed by saying it out loud, asking somebody where they are so they can give voice to it, is such a great service to the team. And if you lead through this talent theme yourself and you're now listening as a manager, take that as something you can volunteer as a contribution to the team - noticing the unnoticed and saying something to Frankie, not to call people out obviously.

If you lead through Empathy, usually you're very kind and you wouldn't do it in a in the wrong spirit. It would be in the spirit of, “Hey, we haven't heard from you. What are you thinking?”, or, “What does this bring up for you?”

So those are three useful ways that you can apply the Empathy talent theme at work. It's just a quick tour for building a career brand through the theme of Empathy. I want to give a shout out to Deena Silverman and Joe Darren for content contributions. And Joe's the ultimate Empathy theme wearing guy. And to Andrew Kroger for making these sound good to your ears.

So, your personal branding homework.

Go take action on career branding. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in your summary section of LinkedIn to capture how you collaborate as a teammate at work.

The second one, think over those red flags. See if there's anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.

And third, volunteer your talents with those application ideas. And if you're a manager, have a conversation about it. Like I said, depending on what else it is combined with, it might give a totally different flavor to this theme. But just ask the person. Really tune in.

And by the way, if you have this conversation in a one-on-one, have it on video or in person, because if someone leads through Empathy on your team, they probably love the extra personal connection and that you feel fully present with them for this conversation.

And with that, I'm your host Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. If you've been thinking about doing a virtual or in-person StrengthsFinder event for your team, head over to leadthroughtrengths.com/training to see if any of our offerings are a good fit for you.

Until next time. Thanks for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

About Deena Silverman

Deena Silverman is the Director of Customer Experience at Lead Through Strengths, where she helps teams improve their productivity by focusing on their natural talents. Deena helps leaders pull off seamless strengths-based events that change the culture of their company. One of her greatest joys is studying human behavior and helping others achieve their goals. When she's not using her organizational strengths to create awesome events, you can find her running around with her two special boys and her unique dog, Ranger. Or she might be hunting for Gary, her repeat-escapee hamster with a top talent of persistence. Her Top 5 StrengthsFinder Talents are: Individualization | Achiever | Learner | Input | Activator.