Why you need empathy

wazoku Blog

Recently the New York Times interviewed Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder and CEO of Slack, who was also responsible for another successful startup you will have heard of – Flickr – that was sold to Yahoo for $20 million. Among other things, he discussed what to him is really important when hiring someone to fit the culture he wants to have in the organisations he leads.

It’s not what their grades in uni were or how ambitious they are, it’s all about empathy. Put like this, it sounds like too fluffy a concept, to even be considered in a conversation centered around business, doesn’t it? He explains it further and uses a clever restaurant analogy, to explain why empathy is important to the kind of culture he wants to build:

“I really admire good restaurants. I don’t necessarily mean expensive ones. I mean restaurants that are well run with a seamless kind of flow. I notice things like whether the servers keep an eye on each other’s tables. If someone needs the check, they’ll tell each other. I think everyone likes working in an environment like that.”

This makes a lot of sense, because as Stewart also says when asked about keeping that kind of feel as his company grows “One of our values is that we should be looking out for each other. Everyone should try to make the lives of others working here a bit simpler.” Having this sort of attitude towards work not only builds rapport between team members but also ultimately contributes to a better work environment that will retain talent. If your workers are kind to each other there will be a culture of collaboration and chances are, they will enjoy working at your company and will be better motivated to do a good job.