The Power of Empathic Leadership

“How to Wow” author Frances Cole Jones unpacks the art of sensitive—and sales-driving—management

By Barbara Thau

Frances Cole Jones is a business expert. The best-selling author of “How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in Any Situation” and “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World,” she’s a guru on the art of body language in a business setting.

The business etiquette/body language/job interview expert’s blog ( ) has also been voted one of the top 100 websites for women by .

Here, she details the power of curiosity—and asking pointed, empathic questions—when serving patients and managing staff that both enrich the ECP/customer interplay and bring a collaborative spirit to an optical practice.

TIP #1

Give the ‘Because’

Social psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study that showed that giving the “because” behind any request or suggestion you make increases the possibility of cooperation from 60% to 94%.


Rather than simply saying, “These frames would be best for you,” try: “These frames will work best for your face because you have widely set eyes, a high nose bridge…” Presenting the idea this way reassures your customer that your choice is driven by their needs rather than your desire to make the sale.

TIP #2

Call With No News

Calling a customer to let them know that you don’t yet have the answer to the question or the solution to their problem, but that you haven’t forgotten about them, is an easy way to build trust.


It’s easy to call with good news, and most of us understand the importance of calling with bad news. Calling with no news often gets dropped, however, even though it’s a terrific way to build trust. What would this sound like? Suppose you had a customer who called in the morning, hoping for an afternoon appointment. Calling them midday to say, “I don’t have anything for you yet, but I haven’t forgotten about you,” will help them stay relaxed and make it easier for them to be understanding if you can’t ultimately grant their request.

TIP #3

‘Wallow’ Before Problem-Solving

Sometimes we are so pleased to have a potential solution to a problem that we forget others may need time to process their frustration and disappointment that the problem exists. “Wallowing” with them before presenting a solution will help make that solution more acceptable to them.


We all have customers who are very attached to their frames and upset when a style they have had for years is changed. When this occurs, it can be easy to jump right to, “Don’t worry! Frame X is very similar to what you have.”

Doing this doesn’t give your customer the opportunity to feel their feelings, however, and they can’t hear you until their feelings are felt. Given that, you might say, “I absolutely understand how much you love that frame; you have had them for years!” Then wait while they tell you, yet again, just how long they have had those frames. After that, “I know it’s not exactly the same, but frame X has many of the same features, and I think it might be just a bit more lightweight…” Now you’re out of the wallow, and into the win.

TIP #4

Ask, ‘Can You Tell Me Why You’re Doing It That Way?’

The question offers team members the opportunity to explain their thought process and add their contribution, which is a great way to keep morale high.


As an expert in your field, it can be easy to see a member of your team tackling a problem in a way you find, well, baffling, and immediately correct them—and this makes sense. The tricky thing about correcting others without inquiring into the “why” behind their choice is that it can be demoralizing for that team member.

Taking a moment to ask, “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?” ensures your team member keeps their dignity. If they don’t have a great reason, by all means jump in and sort things out. If they do—and it’s terrific—well, you’ve learned something!


Frances Cole Jones founded Cole Media Management after working at major publishing houses as an editor of commercial nonfiction books. In addition to her own books, she has an iOS app called “Interview Wow,” and frequently contributes to news networks and business channels on interview and business etiquette topics.