Data and Empathy – strange bedfellows.

They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Whilst this quote has been around for a while now, I doubt it has ever been more appropriate.

It is in these uncertain times that we demand great leadership. We demand leaders who demonstrate genuine care for the people they have the privilege of leading. In demonstrating this care, they instil us with hope and confidence that they will do the right thing by us, the ones who are at the mercy of their decisions

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Whilst some leaders are natural carers who exhibit a strong sense of empathy, there are others who struggle. They find it difficult to engage on a personal level with their staff or team. They lead via rules and standards that will often get the job done, but rarely engender a desire for discretionary effort amongst their followers.

In other words, they will often perform in spite of the boss instead of for the boss. There is a big difference.

For those wanting to increase their care levels the best piece of advice I can give is to tap into each individual. Find out what they are thinking, but most importantly find out how they are feeling.

With my Western Bulldogs players, we have them fill in a wellness survey every Monday. From his data I or the appropriate member of staff can intervene directly with that person. It shows we care enough to ask the question but most importantly we care enough to engage when things aren’t right. Of course this is in addition to the personal check ins we have with all players.

You may say a survey seems a bit distant, cold. However, stats show that a person, especially a younger person is 70% more likely to signal they have an issue via a technological platform than verbally approach a leader with an issue. Whilst we love it when players come directly to us, and they do, we also need to catch the ones who are reluctant. It is far easier to tick a box saying I feel tired than ring up and risk sounding like a sook (their thoughts)

This system works in the corporate world where I have one client who sends a quick survey to their staff every Monday. Rate how you are feeling 1= Awful, 5 = Amazing. We accompany this with a couple of questions such as ‘what was your biggest win last week?’ (allows a worker to trumpet the good stuff they did) or ‘what do you need help with this week?’ Considering most of us are working from home and can’t have face to face conversations, these questions allow you to probe deeper than merely asking ‘how you going?’

The 1-5 scale allows you to keep track of trends and intervene before the trend dives too deep for a simple fix. For our Bulldogs players it culminated in them being given an entire week of training this week. No zooms, no meetings, no runs, no weights – just time to refresh for a big run up to November.

Great leaders use all the resources they have in order to lead effectively. These include their intuition, empathy, kindness and in this case data. If you are a leader who doesn’t score highly on the empathy scale or has a team unwilling to share, try gathering some data.

It just may turn you into a leader that can not only change a game, but one that can change a life.


Contact us for details on how you can develop into the leader your team need you to be.