Becoming an Empathetic organization – HEROIC blog series

Becoming an Empathetic Organization

EMPATHETIC, CARING ORGANIZATIONS are emotionally and socially mature. People-centric, they create a healthy safe space (both mentally and physically) in which people can fully participate. They welcome emotions and demonstrate empathy, compassion and solidarity.

The Covid crisis in the spring forced many of us to scramble to reinvent the way we do business.  In June, together with Sekaten, we talked to 160 business people from around the world to better understand what they had learned from the crisis, how confident they were that they could continue to learn and adapt and what insights they had gathered about the changes needed in the way we do business.
Six systemic themes emerged from this dialogue, which we organized under the acronym ‘HEROIC’ or ‘Human, Empathetic, Role Model, Open, Innovation and Courage’.  Today, I am going to discuss the second – Empathetic.

In my previous blog, I discussed how the challenges of doing business in the Covid era have forced many of us to recognize our own and others’ humanity and vulnerability.  In a sense, this has had a ripple-down effect on how we interact with each other and greatly increased the empathy we show to one another.  And this is a good thing.

To quote Carl Rogers –“a high degree of empathy…is possibly the most potent and certainly one of the most potent factors in bringing about change and learning.” * The 160 people we talked to seemed to agree with this way of thinking.  Many want to see the heightened sense of listening and trust – the empathy we have been showing to each other – to continue going forward.  The main themes that emerged were the following:

  • Create a Safe Space Transparent and trust-based ecosystems — caring organizations know what physical and psychological safety means.


  • Create Dialogues and Listen Caring organizations listen to input from the whole organization and allow freedom of expression. They encourage creative dialogues that generate ideas, which can become collective creative actions. Caring organizations serve a community of people and ask them what they need.


  • Demonstrate Compassion Caring means showing patience, compassion and empathy to each other. Treating people with kindness and generosity, caring organizations promote wellness and solidarity among all the stakeholders.


  • Develop Emotional and Social Maturity Caring organizations feel totally at ease with emotions. They create a socially mature environment with a high degree of emotional intelligence where thinking, feeling and acting merge freely in daily business life.

The Covid crisis has forced us to rely on each other in new ways and find new ways of working in teams. These findings demonstrate that the kindness, empathy and understanding we have shown to each other in this remarkable period is something that people want to hang onto going forward.

In my next blog, I will discuss the third theme of HEROIC organizations – being a Role Model.

If you would like to learn more about HEROIC organizations and our study, please click on this link to download a copy of the report: The HEROIC REPORT


* Rogers, C. (1975). Empathic: An unappreciated way of being. The Counseling psychologist, 5(2), 2-10.

A blog series by Anne Clark