William Liao

October 8, 2021

Take off your shoes

A colleague I used to work with had a reputation of asking three questions at the beginning of every meeting: 

  1. “How are you doing?” He was very good at reading people and if he sensed that you were giving a canned response, he’d immediately follow up with: “How are you doing really?” 
  2. “What do you need to be successful?”
  3. “How can I support you?” 

Not once would he look at his phone or at an incoming e-mail (we’ve all been there), instead he’d look directly at you while you were speaking. 

Without having to say it, he conveyed that you had his full attention and that he was listening. 

Throughout his career, this colleague garnered multiple accomplishments — from being one of the top sales reps in his territory to successfully running a team that spans the globe. 

There’s plenty of plausible explanations for his achievements, and while I won’t purport to know precisely what those reasons are, there is one trait that I can confidently point to as a contributing factor: his eagerness to put himself in the shoes of those he worked with.

It didn’t matter if he was meeting with teammates or with customers, he treated everyone with the same level of empathy. Based on my observations from the few years we worked together, I can affirm that by genuinely caring, he developed trust. With trust, came engagement. With engagement, came mutually positive experiences and outcomes of the best kind. 

Adopt empathy as your default — take off your shoes — and watch what becomes possible.