Amazon has some great leadership principles. These principles are focused around delivering results for the company. Moving fast, being right, and insisting on high standards. The wording of the principles focuses on achieving business success. Even “earn trust” which purports to be related to teamwork says “They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best”. These principles want you to create great value for the company.
This focus on business results makes sense. A for profit company is created to conduct business for the purpose of making money, not to help people.
Every large company has hundreds of pages of documentation on how to fire employees. How many pages of official policy demand employees be given respect, flexibility, patience, and trust?
Until recently, Amazon’s Leadership Principles were missing elements which spoke to more than being efficient and profitable. On July 1st 2021, Amazon announced it had created two new Leadership Principles. Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer explains that employees should lead with empathy, and Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility explains that leaders have a greater calling than just business excellence.
This article deals with the Best Employer new Leadership Principle — the need to lead with empathy. I have also outlined some specifics in the past regarding how to lead with empathy.
Everyone has a personal life
I once noticed that an engineer who reported to me was not finishing her tasks as quickly as she usually did. She acted normally in the office, but was falling further behind on projects. Occasionally I’d be unable to find the engineer in the middle of the day as well, as she would disappear from the office for hours at a time. Her co-workers had started complaining that she wasn’t pulling her weight.
I needed to see what was going on, so I called her into my office for a quick discussion.
Me: “Hey Nellie, I’ve observed that your tasks are dragging a bit recently. I looked for you twice earlier today and was unable to find you. Is everything ok?”
After an unconvincing suggestion from her that everything was fine, I encouraged her to speak her mind.
Nellie: “I’m in the middle of getting a divorce, and I have court dates during the day sometimes. It’s been a stressful few weeks. Figuring out kids, and daycare, and splitting our finances. It’s hard to balance things.”
People often don’t want to bring their private challenges into work. They may not want to cry at the conference table about a sick loved one, or rant about their marital problems to their boss. Regardless, things come up in people’s lives which can impact their performance.
There are employees who are not suited for their positions. They are missing a fundamental skill or leadership ability which will prevent them from ever being successful. Giving honest and frequent feedback to employees who are not performing is a good thing. No one can last forever in this situation, and an empathic manager doesn’t shy away from these critical conversations.