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Empathy: The Competitive Advantage You Didn't Know You Had

Empathy can absolutely be a superpower, but early on, this started as a significant disadvantage in running my business. However, we have built our business on empathy to solve problems for our clients. This ability has helped us serve our clients better experiences and lean more into being partners vs. going from project to project.

In short, empathy is the ability to understand and feel what others are going through. Unfortunately, it's often seen as a personal characteristic rather than something that can help in business. On one extreme, if you put yourself too far in someone's situation (finances), you can devalue yourself. So we started looking at what we do and its impact on our clients, which led us towards more solution-thinking than problem-focusing. This is the power of empathy. We've turned empathy into a game-changer for JECP, Myelin, and PRSRVE.

When creative business owners have empathy, they can better understand the needs and perspectives of their contractors, clients, and even themselves. This understanding leads to better communication, happier work life, and ultimately, better creative outcomes. By putting themselves in other people's shoes, creatives can make decisions that benefit everyone. For example, how often are we providing a service rather than asking the right questions? Then, later on in the project, problems occur. It's easy to blame the client, but ultimately we need to put ourselves in their shoes. Are we asking good qualifying questions? Are we limiting our technical jargon? Are they clear on what they need to form us? Have we done our due diligence?

Empathy also has a positive impact on internal productivity and motivation. When creative leaders show empathy and compassion, the crew feels valued and respected. This creates a positive work experience, and I find this is where the best art is made. Making great work often isn't enough. It's supporting great work by understanding others' needs. Everyone is different. Some people thrive with creative ideation, others are better at getting the work done, and some love getting people excited to work together. How often are you noticing how others produce their best work and support their needs? I often hear creatives tell me they want to delegate more but haven't taken the time to understand their team. Good outsourcing or crew building takes time invested in knowing your people. That's what successful delegation looks like.

WYDH Podcast: Empathy & Ego

Great creative today looks less like a creative genius and more like being a genius maker. When you understand your client's needs, you can support innovative treatments and deliverables with quality ROI. This makes you the top call for repeat business (Let's kill that Feast and famine plague). Supporting your team builds great culture (I know this even as a company of one with several subcontractors). Lastly, empathy also plays a role in building and maintaining solid relationships. They all say your network is your net worth. Many people take this as a numbers game, but the quality piece is where I have focused. When I can show up and listen better, I feel more connected and supported, leading to some new venture or opportunity. Plus, it's fun getting to know people. Lean in.

Empathy may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about business strategy, but it's a powerful tool that can give your company a competitive edge. By infusing empathy and compassion, creatives can improve relationships, increase productivity and motivation, and ultimately serve better outcomes. I encourage everyone to use empathy to build their business and enhance creative output.

Key Takeaways for Infusing Empathy in your Business

  • Practice active listening: When interacting with others, actively listen to what they say and try to understand their perspective. Avoid interrupting or thinking about your response while they are speaking.

  • Put yourself in others' shoes: Try to imagine how you would feel in a similar situation and understand where the other person is coming from.

  • Be open to feedback: Be open to receiving feedback from others and actively seek it out. Use this feedback to improve your understanding of others and their perspectives.

At the end of the day, you're a leader and have a responsibility. It's easy to see yourself as an artist, and I never want creatives to lose their artistry, but running your creative business doesn't have to be boring. Empathy is one of those creative, feeling-based tools I have used to grow, maintain and stay excited year after year. So keep up the hard work. Stay creative.

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