A few years ago I started to think about the most untapped levers of productivity in business being empathy, sleep and purpose, which I have converted into the acronym ESP. I penned a blog post in 2018 that summarized my opinion. It turns out that, beyond the data that shows that empathy, sleep and purpose are good for business in terms of performance shareholder return, they are entirely congruent with one another. And this I didn’t know what I started to write about this.
Purpose and Sleep
Research led by Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice in 2017, showed that people with purpose tended to sleep better. Noting that the population in the study were older, the report said, “Helping people cultivate a purpose in life could be an effective drug-free strategy to improve sleep quality…” And, in line with another practice that I like to recommend, meditation, it seems that mindfulness can help establish and/or enhance purpose (and I would say, improve sleep, too). Ong wrote, “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.” See more about Ong’s research at Science Daily
Empathy and Purpose
In terms of leadership, empathy is really developing into the killer app that fosters employee engagement while helping to produce better products and services for customers. If empathy is essential for building an ethical framework, it’s also vital for helping to build community and drive a sense of purpose throughout the organisation. Ming Chan wrote in a 2018 article, Why Empathy is the Most Effective Leadership Skill:
“To foster a new generation of leaders and, in the process, build a thriving community and sense of purpose around it, the first step should always be to develop a sense of empathy.”Ming Chan
Empathy and Sleep
If I didn’t find a concrete and researched connection between being empathic and better sleep, there is plenty of evidence that a lack of sleep impacts empathy, both cognitive and emotional. The impact on affective empathy is more recent. This is supported in a study, published online in 2016 by the Journal of Psychophysiology, and led by Veronica Guadagni, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Laboratory of Human Cerebrovascular Physiology in the Cumming School of Medicine of the University of Calgary. Guadagni summed up the research:
“If individuals describe their quality of sleep as poor—if they feel tired and not well rested—their ability to be empathic in unpleasant situations is reduced, compared to others who feel satisfied with their sleep.”Source Psychology Today
Bottom line: There is a strong association and interconnectedness between Empathy, Sleep and Purpose. Whereas I used to write about this based on intuition and experience, I now can fall back on some hard research. And, I’d argue that to get the full effects on productivity, you’ll probably want to try to incorporate all three (ESP) into your business.