Anne Mulcahy's listening tour.


From Illuminate by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez. Copyright [c] 2016 by Duarte Press LLC. Published by Portfolio/Penguin (


Empathy is a fundamental requirement of healthy human relationships, and it's learned very early on. When a toddler sees her mother laugh, she instinctively starts to giggle in unison so they share the fun together. When she hears her little brother cry, she may sob in solidarity. Empathizing brings people closer and makes them feel more connected. That connection makes people more willing to help and cooperate with one another.

The same principle holds true in our professional relationships. A 2007 study found that leaders who show empathy toward others are viewed as higher performers, and for good reason: People who care about others demonstrate higher motivation, productivity, and creativity. When employees feel that their leaders care about them, they feel more optimistic about the future and are more committed to the organization.

Executives who are new to an organization often embark on listening tours with employees and customers to get a firsthand account of...

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