December 19, 2015 | Posted in: Leading Hartfully, Living Hartfully

Research from the neuroscience field has demonstrated that we’re actually hard-wired to empathize with those around us, thanks to a neural network called mirror neurons. We see it when we hear of natural disasters, which causes a deep emotional response. Our empathy makes it so that we can’t help but feel concern and care for those we don’t even know. Not to be confused with sympathy. I watched a stirring, animated short video on Youtube regarding empathy with a little fox. Check it out. One of the points to the video was that when you make an empathetic statement, it should not start with “At least….). Oh how that resonated with me. How often do we mention something to a colleague that did not go well and they being their response with “At least it didn’t….” Responses like this don’t help and don’t solve the issue, they just annoy you.

Though we are hardwired for empathy, we don’t see evidence of this behavior in the workplace.  It seems too mushy. Why are so many workplaces suffering from a lack of human compassion, connection, and shared belonging? We care about the realities our colleagues face in our organization – of the challenges and opportunities they see going unaddressed and thus, our compassion arises from our curiosity to listen and learn, paired with our innate drive to relate to the realities of those around us.

This type of compassion is vital in today’s leadership because it’s the key to the internal driving force found within each us to understand what motivates our employees, what matters to them, and how we can connect the work they do to the shared purpose that defines why we do what we do. Many studies have shown that compassion in the workplace leads to higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction and reduces employee absenteeism and burnout. The Gallup organization’s major study asks employees if they have somebody they can call a best friend at work and if they have been asked about how they contribute to the organization and shown by their leadership that what they do matters. If they don’t feel they matter, they walk.

Here are some steps to help you to reconnect with your sense of curiosity and empathy to bring more compassion into the workplace:

  1. See your team mates beyond the roles they play in your organization and remain curious about what challenges them along with the willingness to listen to what opportunities they see for our organization to succeed.
  2. Make efforts to discover their true strengths by seeking to better understand and know those we lead – of what serves as the fuel for their internal motivation.
  3. Be open about not having all the answers because it’s impossible for anyone to truly know or understand the complexities of the work we do today and its impact.

Most of the daily decisions we make are not driven from a rational mindset, but from a response to our emotionally-driven, network of mirror neurons where we seek commonality and connection both to the work we do and to those around us. And that means that compassion in leadership involves an honest and more outward-focused approach to leadership that allows us to tap into the native talents, creativity, and insights of those we lead. Leaders must show their team members that they are present to hear, understand, and provide them with what they require to succeed and thrive. How will you show compassion and empathy to your colleagues, clients or customer today?

As the CEO (Chief Energizing Officer) at Hartful Living including and; I’m a Messenger and Mentor for women entrepreneurs, connecting them to their capacity to energize their work and their lives in the art of living Hartfully. At, you can make a living through giving with greeting cards and gifts to build your network net worth as an additive to your current business or an easy way to send gratitude and kindness to the world.