5 ways to cultivate empathy on your team.

Click each tile for a practical tip.

Take off your armor—empathy begets empathy.

Your ability to feel emotions is what triggers them in others. If you want to connect with someone, you have to let yourself be vulnerable, too.

Try it:

When a colleague asks how you're doing, don't respond with a knee-jerk, "Fine, how are you?" Share something specific about how you feel in that moment. Or kick off your next meeting with a "pulse-check"—inviting the team to share what they're excited or anxious about—instead of jumping right into business.

Don't just be there. Be present.

As Oprah often says: "Every human being is looking for one thing, and that is to be validated, to be seen and to be heard." Your job as a leader is to help others know they matter.

Try it:

Model for your team how to give your full attention when it matters most. In your next meeting, close your laptop, turn your smartphone screen-down (or hey, even put it away), and listen attentively.

Catch every smile, tear, frown, and eye roll.

Thousands of invitations for empathy cross your path every day. Do you notice them and shift your behavior, or do you let them glide past?

Try it:

Tune into details and teach your team to do the same. For example: When you present, what signals do you look for in the audience? When you prototype a new product, how do you observe what delights or frustrates people, and respond accordingly? When you sense a change in a colleague's body language, how do you acknowledge it?

Try on a new persona.

It's not always possible to get all the necessary voices at the table. But that doesn't mean you can't summon your imagination and best acting skills to pressure-test your team's thinking.

Try it:

In your next working session or brainstorm, assign a role to each team member (e.g., the skeptical customer, the investor, the competitor, the patient) and have them represent that perspective as you review your work, to strengthen its efficacy. Better yet, ask team members to interview real people who fit those personas, before they assume the role.

Go see for yourself.

It's hard to get perspective when you sit at a desk every day. To better understand who you're designing for or collaborating with, go to them where they are and observe their routines.

Try it:

Identify something your team needs to understand more deeply (e.g., another function in your organization; a customer experience; the habits of your user-base). Then go on a "seeing exploration" to observe it: Look for rituals, gaps, and frustrations. If possible, ask your subjects questions to enrichen your findings.