Using empathy for Urgent/Important tasks

I came across this lecture on using empathy as part of the collaborative decision-making process while researching content for the Free Diploma course. We all know we should be dealing with the important stuff first, so why don’t we?

It sounds simple enough, but the problem is that we’re far more likely to deal with urgent activities, regardless of importance; because we can see them right in front of our faces. Think an email coming in, a phone ringing, or a coworker barging into your cubicle.

Urgent matters are usually visible, they press on us, they insist on action, and in business usually relate to the sales process that has in fact “called” the customer to their action. Urgent matters are often popular with others, and more important to others than you. They’re usually put right in front of us to get our attention. And often they are pleasant, easy, fun to do.

If given a time frame, say 1 hour’s work, humans will generally try to solve the problem of having too much work by putting the tasks to the top of the list that is quick and easy to do so they can start checking off at least some of the number of things that have been set in the insurmountable challenge.

This actually goes against what the Eisenhower Matrix, and puts an urgent bias for a business owner, even if the tasks are both urgent and important. The more urgent task still get bumped up to the top of the list.

The business owner is the person that should be deciding what is the most important, so even if you employ people to focus on important tasks, employees will follow the business owner lead, particularly when trying to impress the business owner by doing a great job.

Affective empathy is used to prioritise tasks in order of how urgent you feel a task is, whereas cognitive empathy, also called “problem-solving”, uses tools like the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) what is most important.

Building a team

If you love dealing with the fast-paced problem-solving nature of customer service and getting “wins”, you will naturally focus on urgent tasks. This means that you need an assistant to focus on the important stuff that is not as time critical for you, such as scheduling, accounting, follow-up. This will mean less important things will become Urgent, and lower your workload. This is good for people that want to grow their business focusing on sales. Build your team in this order:

If you want to do the marketing and strategy for your business, 90-day plans etc… get an assistant to look after the urgent matters for you. You just have to give them clear instructions on when to escalate things up to you. For example, when they can give refunds and up to how much they can give. When they do escalate a problem to you, it must come with enough information so you can provide the solution and be a hero to your customer. Customers are NOT always right, but they always win. You can make it a win-win situation for you by getting them to come back. Build your team in this order:

This makes your business scalable as you can duplicate your teams until you have 8 people directly reporting to you, and have around 60 to 100 staff. If you have more than 100 staff, you are classed as a “Big Business”, so it is likely you will need to restructure your business by then.

What’s “the problem”?

There are an infinite amount of problems, so it depends on each situation.

If a lack of sales is the problem, a salesperson may just give attention to their best 2 customers, but the business owner is then likely to start getting complaints from the other 8 customers, but the decision needs to be made as to how important these customers are to your business objectives. Maybe you can’t meet these customer’s needs, so is it worth keeping their business. These situations are commonly known as “sacking your customers”.

In the situation above, you could get rid of 8 customers, find just 1 more like the 2 customers you want to keep, and that would likely increase your sales by 20% with a lot less effort.

However, if you feel you sales growth depends on building relationships and getting more customers, you need to find out how to get more business from your customers, and complaints become more important as problems you can solve. People that come back and complain do so because they like coming to you, and want you to fix their problem so they can come back again and not have the same problem. If they were not planning to come back, they would just walk away and say nothing, but then you don’t get the opportunity to overcome problems that other customers may have as well.

Happy customers don’t find cheaper options unless they are looking for them. It’s like when an employee tells you they are leaving you because they have a job with better money. How did the employee know they could get better money if they didn’t apply for the job, so the real question is why they felt they needed to apply for another job?