CxOs with Empathy: How to Build an Empathetic Corporate Culture

CxOs and executive leaders in the US are currently in the grips of unprecedented employee turnover. The Great Resignation/Turnover Tsunami is upon us, and CxOs are having difficulty pinpointing why employees are leaving. According to a far-reaching survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, 40% of employees surveyed consider themselves somewhat likely to change employers within the next 3–6 months, and 18% consider themselves likely or almost certain that they will be submitting their resignation. Since April 2021, 15M US workers have already quit their jobs.*

How to Demonstrate Empathetic Leadership

If you want to find out why, you’re going to have to go beyond employee engagement and satisfaction surveys to connect and empathize with your employees. If you are a CEO, COO, CDO, CFO, CMO, CIO, CTO, or other CxO executive looking to infuse empathy into your organization’s culture, consider the following:

  • Start with yourself. Thinking about yourself may sound counterintuitive when the goal is to understand others, but self-awareness and self-regulation are the foundation of empathy. You are not sympathizing or simply showing compassion towards your employees; you are trying to connect with them over a shared humanity.
  • Participate in reverse mentoring. Create opportunities for employees to mentor executive leaders on their day-to-day challenges, struggles, and triumphs. The benefits of reverse mentoring can sweep throughout the organization, improving empathy in CxO leaders, improving employee retention, transferring knowledge and skills, driving cultural change, and promoting diversity.**
  • Observe to understand, not to fix. Start by learning about your employees. They must trust you enough to express their concerns and needs honestly and authentically. Inauthentic empathy is easily identified and just as quickly rejected. Your goal is to observe.
  • Talk—and listen to—your employees. Whether through a reverse mentoring relationship or something less formal, spend time with the people you are trying to understand. Hearing their experiences can help you solve problems, be more creative, and connect as human beings.
  • Be patient. It isn’t about your opinions, experiences, or quick fixes. Developing empathy is going to take time and requires openness, honesty, and patience. As time goes on, self-regulate, and make sure you aren’t judging others’ points of view.

Empathetic leadership is an excellent talking point in a CxO interview. If you are thinking about undertaking a job transition, come up with examples of how you benefited your organization through empathetic leadership. To find out how to tie empathetic leadership into your c-suite resume, book a complimentary and confidential call with us here.

* McKinsey & Company: “‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The Choice is Yours”

** Harvard Business Review: “Why Reverse Mentoring Works and How to Do It Right”

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

If you are a Director, VP, CxO, or Board Member interested in an executive resume package or working directly with Mary Elizabeth, click to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.