Daniel Murray on the business case for empathy (#28)

Empathy. Maybe you think of it as warm and fluffy. Kind of like feeling sticks or holding hands, singing kumbaya. 

Or maybe you see empathy as an important skill for your personal relationships. 

But to Daniel Murray empathy is more than that. To him, empathy is a competitive advantage. It is a critical skill that enables individuals and organisations to develop deep relationships with their people, their customers, and their community to deliver greater value for everybody. 

Daniel Murray is the founder and director of Empathic Consulting where he helps businesses and leaders to develop empathy as a strategic capability. 

With a degree in Mathematics, an MBA and working as an internal Management Consultant for large Financial Services organisations, you would not expect soft skills like empathy to feature so strongly in Daniel’s approach.  But as you’ll hear in this interview, empathy is a very pragmatic skill in business and in life. 

We hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with Daniel Murray. 

You can connect with Daniel via LinkedIn, email or his websites for Empathic Consulting or Keynote Speaking.   

You can listen to the episode on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast.  

Show Notes

1:57 – background in mathematics, banking and insurance.
5:35 – some factors were missing.
9:27 – what factors made the difference?
11:30 – how to convince sceptics of value of people skills.
17:58 – what non-profits teaches about motivation and leadership.
23:27 – why did empathy stand out as a skill?
26:34 – judgement and assumptions.
28:46 – how to practice empathy.
32:30 – empathy doesn’t mean you don’t make tough decisions.
33:48 – empathy does not require you to feel the emotions.
36:10 – a tool to help be more empathetic.
37:00 – an example of empathy in action.
43:55 – how empathy helps product design.
44:45 – how does empathy help individual contributor at work?
46:05 – shaping workplace culture.
48:30 – accused of not empathising?
50:00 – taking empathy too far.
52:50 – a story about resilience.
57:00 – empathy enables diversity.
58:19 – one act of kindness can impact a life.
1:01:27 – get in touch with Daniel.

Links to References

Carl Jung 

Employee Engagement Score 

Sir Ralph Norris CEO of the Commonwealth Bank 

Mental models 

Study of impact on mood/hunger on judges granting parole 

Monkey and the Rhino – Book by Daniel Murray 

Key Quotes

“Different people have different strengths and preferences.” 

“Do we like to assess things analytically or through a set of beliefs? We all sit on a spectrum and move over time.” 

“Our company values are the way we experience the things that we do.”  

“I observed leaders who did things different and got really great results…they had a good sense of how to lead, motivate and empower.” 

“The most complex system in the known universe is your brain.” 

“Empathy was this idea – how can I understand why someone else does what they do?” 

“Most of human history we lived in little groups of people who were just like us.” 

“We think the models in my head are right and everyone else has the same model….today we are surrounded by people who are nothing like us.” 

“Empathy is putting my mental model on pause and trying to understand someone else’s model.” 

“When you see a magician do a trick they are breaking a mental model in your mind.” 

“When you hear someone say something….try to think of a question first….an exploratory question…” 

“One of my observations of CEO’s….they are incredibly calm…that calmness is often trait of people who are empathetic.” 

“Empathy does not mean you don’t make tough decisions.” 

“Empathy is an information gathering tool.” 

“Leaders need to understand emotion as they are important bits of feedback in the system.” 

“Empathy is not about you, it is about understanding them.” 

“We are dealing with humans. They are the most complex and most powerful things in the world.” 

“When humans are involved it’s never a purely technical problem.” 

“Culture is determined by the next million little things that happen and everything counts. The next email you write, the next phone call you take… your actions count.” 

“If you want a great culture you have to recognise that you are part of building that culture.” 

“We can’t all have thick skin. We have to find our own way to get through the storm.” 

“Empathy gives me that understanding that allows me to be flexible. Otherwise I only lead in a certain way which means only a certain type of people will be effective underneath me which means I’ll get a small homogenous team.” 

“Leadership is just about seeing opportunities to help people and taking those opportunities” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.