Coffee Anyone?


There is a great story that was going around a few years ago about a young woman who went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the daughter replied. The mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. The daughter did and noted that they got soft. Mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, daughter observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, Mother asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she smelled its rich aroma. The daughter then asked. “What’s the point, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

That’s a fair question for all of us. When “stuff” happens, how do you respond? Do you get weak in the knees? Maybe hard headed or worse, hard hearted? Or do you take control and change the very circumstances that created the challenge in the first place. Think about it!

Why Empathy Matters


I’ve had several conversations this week on the topic of empathy and whether or not it really is a skill that authentic leaders need to possess.

First let me say this, empathy is most definitely a skill. By definition a skill is something that we can become better at through practice (with good coaching) and repetition. A good working definition of empathy is the ability to see things from the other persons point of view. If we as leaders possess the skill of empathy we have the ability to better understand what makes our people tick. We have the opportunity to better understand what motivates our people and perhaps most important we have the ability to understand why our people react the way they do to our leadership.

Empathy allows us to adjust our behavior, strategies and tactics so that our coaching is better received, our communications are better understood, conflicts are avoided and our people excel. Empathy just may be the most effective trust building tool in the history of leadership.

Too many people believe that empathy is just that “touchy-feely stuff”, and that it has no place in leadership. Too many people feel that empathy actually weakens a leader, but nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders lead people not companies, not organizations, and not things. If you’re going to understand how to lead people you simply must possess the critical skill of empathy, we must have the ability to see things from their point of view.

Developing empathy will require an investment by you in your people. It’s not easy, it might not be the most fun, it might not be fast, and it is absolutely not just about feelings, but the rewards of understanding how your people think are immeasurable. If you are a leader that desires not simply to build more followers but to build more leaders then begin the process of developing empathy today.