The Empathy Advantage: A book review by Bob Morris


The Empathy Advantage: Leading the Empowered Workforce
Heather E. McGowan and Chris Shipley
Wiley (March 2023)

“People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.

To what “advantage” does the title refer? My take is that it refers to (a) organizations that seek or already have a competitive advantage because their workplace culture is one within which empathy is most likely to thrive, and (b), to individual members of any workplace culture — at all levels and in all areas — who “recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of others.”

It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable, with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. It is also noteworthy that the results of all major studies of employee satisfaction indicate that respondents rank “feeling appreciated” first or second among what they consider to be most important.

These are among the passages in The Empathy Advantage of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of McGowan and Shipley’s coverage:

o “The Great Resignation”: A Long Time Coming (Pages 6-7)
o Managing the Multigenerational Workforce (20-21)
o Navigating Gender: Fro Mixed to Fluid (25-26)
o Meet Generation Z (29)
o Where Work Takes Place Today (41)

o The Center Shifts (45-47)
o The Hierarchy of Work Engagement (62)
o Origins of the Great Resentment (64)
o How to Spot Burnout (67-68)
o History Rhymes: Our Opportunity iIs Now (70-71)

o Aqueduct Technologies: Really Great Ideas, Really Happy Employees (75-76)
o The Rise of the Human Value Era (83-84)
o Lead Differently in Complexity (86-87)
o The Skills Gap May Never Close (92-93)
o Rethinking Work and HJobs: Jobs Are Biased (107)

o Understading DEI…and B (116)
o The Importance of Belonging (118-119)
o Peders as Collaborators (123)
o Nurturing Culture Through Dialogue (132)
o Beliefs + Behaviors +  Benefits = Culture (135)

o The Three Faces of Purpose (138-139)
o The Great Reset Opportunity: Why We Work (142-143)

NOTE: Simon Sinek has much of great of value to say about the power of being purpose-driven. Check out his brilliant book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009).

o Understand Your Expedition Team (155)
o Navigating Rising Global Uncertainty (158)
o Focus on the Fundamentals (164)

o The Four Leadership Shifts: Mindset, Culture, Approach, and Behavior (176-177)
o Mindset Shift: You Work for Talent (180)
o The Behavioral Shift: Change in Leadership Profile: Selection Criteria, Focus, Valued Traits, and Motivate With (182-183)
o sparks + honey: Building a Practice of Gratitude (185-186)
o The Cumulative Shifts Between Individuals and Organizations (190-191)

McGowan and Shipley provide brief but sufficient suggestions with regard to HOW to achieve a business objective. Fortunately, those in need of additional counsel are provided with hundreds of source references throughout the narrative.

With regard to the importance of empathy when “leading the empowered workforce,” to which this book’s subtitle refers, I am again reminded of this passage from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

I commend Heather E. McGowan and Chris Shipley on their brilliant contribution to thought leadership. Bravo!

Here are two concluding suggestions of my own. Highlight key passages, and, keep a lined notebook near at hand in order to record your comments, questions, and page references as well as responses to the suggestions and recommendations that are inserted throughout the book’s lively and eloquent narrative. These two simple tactics will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the most important material later.

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