Air Doctor: how to lead with empathy in a digital world


In the age of information, it’s easy to make data-driven decisions. However, InsurTech Air Doctor strongly advocates for the role of empathy in the workplace.

One thing that has stood out in the Covid-19 pandemic is the acceleration of digital solutions for customers and the workplace. The result is that in a post-pandemic space, companies find themselves in a world where resolving issues can be done remotely, removing the need for face-to-face interactions.

Yariv Ben-Yosef, COO at Air Doctor, said that despite our digital world, we must preserve empathy.

“As organisations, we’ve gained a lot in terms of productivity and efficiency. With that being said, we need to remain wary of damaging customer experiences and personal engagement.

Leading with empathy isn’t a digital process, it’s one deeply rooted in human nature, and it’s essential in the success, both with our customers as well as with our team.”

What role does empathy play in the workplace?

Up until recently, Ben-Yosef said process ruled the modern work era, and emotion had minimal input.

“If you wanted to run a well-oiled machine, you removed as much emotion as you could from the equation and ruled with an iron fist,” he said. But in a world where experiences drive value, the opposite is true. And the concept of authentic leadership has become prevalent among business leaders worldwide.

Empathy plays an integral role in the workplace and ultimately drives long-lasting value in an age run by technology. So, if empathy creates a competitive advantage, leaders need to learn how to harness their humanness to lead more effectively.

“It must be said that the purpose of leading with empathy is not to think of how one would feel or react as if we were in another’s place, but simply to be there and support one another. Understanding what one is experiencing without any judgement, is the true definition of empathy.”

Smart and effective leadership

According to Ben-Yosef, empathy is critical in understanding people. In the context of the business ecosystem, that translates into employees and customers alike.

“Empathy is dually important in improving your offerings, driving efficiencies, and improving ROI. It’s also essential in succeeding at digital transformation since leaders need to ensure teams and customers get valuable technological interactions,” he said.

Placing people at the centre of how every process works ensures a seamless blend of people, processes, and technology. Embracing a “People-First approach” is not only smarter leadership, but also smarter business. It applies to your employer’s using technology in the flow of their daily work, and also to the customers who experience your end-product.

How can we cultivate empathy?

As we navigate further into the digital world, Ben-Yosef said empathy is the “golden ticket” that will allow us to lay a stronger foundation for our future.

“We aren’t lacking in successful professionals; we are lacking leaders who recognise the value of empathy.”

Ben-Yosef proposed a few simple tips on how to cultivate empathy in a primarily digital world.

  1. Humility

You will never be able to get the full perspective and understanding if you don’t have the humility to accept that you can’t see the whole picture, Ben-Yosef said. You need to rely on other people’s perspectives.

  1. Focus on building relationships

Ben-Yosef explained that companies need to earn the right to serve its customers and lead its people. Building relationships based on trust is the first step to proving this.

“In the digital age, and social distancing, building relationships has become increasingly harder. We’re social creatures. Not social networking creatures.”

While emails and text messages might be a good way to exchange information on some matters, it’s an approach which often pacifies our ability to share emotions. And instead creates a feeling of indifference.

To reduce or counteract these situations, Ben-Yosef said companies should make use of more personable communications like video chats or voice calls, and when possible, in person.

  1. Listen with the intent of understanding

Something which is vital in building relationships is being able to listen.

Sometimes, Ben-Yosef said that those around you (even those who work for you) need to express a feeling. Being able to show them that their thoughts and feelings are as valuable as your own gives them the opportunity to remove any level of seniority, and approach you as an equal.

This paves the way for more open and honest conversations. Employees who feel like they can be more honest at work are more productive.

  1. Never make assumptions

Ben-Yosef said that the measure of a strong leader versus an inept one isn’t just their capacity to lead, it is their capacity to take ownership and not make assumptions.

“If you listen with the intent of understanding, it may be easier to realise that what people are saying or doing isn’t malicious, but honest and that it may be time to step back and reflect on yourself.”

The power of empathy

In a digital world, we are constantly looking for ways, or creating new ways, to increase productivity and efficiency.

“We try to replace routine work with bots, and when that doesn’t work we turn to AI.” Ben-Yosef  said. “The thing is, while this might work for buying concert tickets or issuing insurance policies, what happens when people are stressed and confused? What happens when they need a real person to hear them out? Is this robot a good listener?”

While even the most intuitive technology may thrive at automating and even resolving issues, it’s not ever going to be a good listener. Technology assumes what the problem is, and suggests a solution. This isn’t empathy.

Ultimately, Ben-Yosef said you cannot teach a machine empathy, this skill is uniquely reserved for humans.

Earlier this year, Air Doctor raised $20m in a funding led by Lightspeed Ventures to enter its next phase of growth.

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