In the very first chapter of Go-Givers Sell More, John and I discuss empathy as being one of five ways value can be added to another person’s life. Empathy simply means being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes: to feel what they’re feeling, as best you can.
A client of mine, the Americas Service business of GE Healthcare, beautifully expresses this idea in one of their written Guiding Principles: “We Make It Personal.” And I have to say, in all my years in business I’ve seen fewer examples of this concept as powerful as the following story, from Shawn Bailey, a field engineer there. This is from a letter submitted by AnnaMarie Blaire, RT (R) MR, from Harrisburg Hospital/Pinnacle Healthsystem:
“I just wanted to bring to your attention an outstanding job by Shawn Bailey.
“We were having intermittent machine issues where the scanner would go down during a case. These intermittent issues are the frustrating ones, for both technologists and engineers. Shawn had corrected some issues and was pretty sure the problem was fixed, but he wanted to keep an eye on the problem.
“We were asked to scan a 4-year-old under sedation ASAP, and we were very concerned the problem would occur again. We could not afford to have the scanner go down with a sedated child on the table. Shawn assured us he would stay on site and be ready if we had any problems.
“The child arrived and it was clear that she was very scared, as were her parents, especially, awaiting the outcome of the scan.
“Shawn left the department and soon returned — with a teddy bear he had purchased at the gift shop. He brought a smile to the child’s face, as well as the faces of the parents and technologists. She clung to the bear as she was put to sleep.
“The scan went off without a problem. We were all touched by Shawn’s care and concern for the family and his reassurance to us that he would be there if we had any machine problems. The gesture will always be remembered by the staff and showed us that GE CARES.”
I’ve read this letter from stage several times now, and each time there have been tears from several audience members (and perhaps a few from the presenter).
Can you imagine the fear that little girl must have had, and the fright of her parents? Not to mention their distress at the fear their daughter was going through?
I think we all can, to a certain degree. I also think that Shawn Bailey not only felt it, he did something about it—and that was what made all the difference. By having empathy, and by communicating that empathy through action, he made it personal.