5 Steps to Decision Making with Empathy


Empathy is a popular concept right now, both in business and in life. What does empathy mean to you as a leader? Leading with empathy can look different for everyone, but in general, it means that your leadership decisions are guided by an understanding of the needs of others. Follow these five steps to achieve decision making with empathy:

  1. Pinpoint the issue. Clearly identify the decision you need to make by thinking through what the problem is, what it looks like now, and what you want it to look like later. Ask yourself: Who is this problem negatively impacting? 
  2. Collect information. As you research the issue, use any hard data you have and your own observations. Ask others involved: How does this issue affect you and your job?
  3. Identify possible solutions. Most decisions are more than a this-or-that choice. Work toward finding all plausible solutions. Ask yourself and others: What will the positive and negative impacts of each choice be?
  4. Evaluate your options. Every possible solution will have pros and cons for your business and for the people involved. Recognize that some people will be harder hit by your decision than others. Ask yourself: Are there ways to minimize any negative impact my choice will have?
  5. Decide! Sometimes, completing steps one through four in the process will make your decision easy to make. Other times, you may find that a combination of options will be the best solution. And there will also be times when your decision is made even more difficult because of what you discovered throughout the process. Whatever your decision is, ask yourself: How will the implementation of this decision change the needs and expectations of the people involved?

Empathy Vs. Sympathy

As you work through the process of applying empathy to your decisions, keep in mind that empathy is different than sympathy. Making decisions guided by sympathy means you share the same needs as others. In other words, a decision will have the same impact on you as it will on others. Making decisions guided by empathy means you understand the needs of others, even without sharing them. Applying empathy to decision making means you recognize and have considered how the decision will impact others.

Empathy and Implementation

Decision making with empathy does not mean everyone is going to agree with your decision – there is no magic potion that will ever guarantee that. When you understand the true impact your decision will have on others, you can proactively mitigate any negative consequences that decision might have. This, in turn, will help you implement the decision with buy-in from everyone on your team.

More Insight to Help You Make Difficult Decisions

For more tips on how make decisions for your business, check out the Culture of Convenience podcast, Episode 0022, Decision Making: A Regret-Free Zone.

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