Sep 29, 2021
One of the I think keys to genuine empathy is through consistent one on one and how you display empathy, like, structurally inside of an organization. So, for example, a one on one is that place where as a manager, you can create safety with your team and with your direct reports and create a vulnerable relationship where you really do know what's going on inside of their world in their life
Sometimes, when you hear from leaders, you are inundated with their success stories: their key tips to making your life or company just as successful as theirs has been. And the whole thing can kind of seem a little unattainable and aspirational.
Which is one of the things that I love about today’s interview with Adam Weber, the Senior Vice President for 15Five. Adam is one of those highfliers whose work is marked by successes, whether that is leading HR professionals in HR Superstars or successfully growing and then selling Emplify as a co-founder.
But my conversation with Adam isn’t just a series of success stories. He is going to tell you about moments where he was NOT his best self, where as a young founder under tons of stress, he created distance instead of connection…and what he learned from it. Along with a lot of other great content.
Adam is a structure guy, so be ready for some really actionable suggestions. Adam is also the author of “Lead Like a Human”. Great title! He has a wife, two sons, and a dog named Poppy and he loves spending time in nature, camping, and bird-watching. I hope you enjoy today’s conversation as much as I did.
Adam, I'm so glad to have you as a guest today. Welcome.
It's good to be here. Liesel. Thank you so much.
Yes. So a question that I oftentimes get in my work is defining what empathy looks like in the workplace. And I know that you're someone who has worked a lot professionally and written and thought about connection in the workplace. How would you define empathy at work? What does it look like?
I think it work. Empathy at work, I think, is seeing your employees as whole people as their whole sales and just in recognizing that they have things that are moving in their life that are outside of work, they have aspects of things that work that are impacting them that maybe you're unaware of. And so just taking that holistic perspective of each person and the unique experience that they're having and translating that and how you relate to them.
Thank you for that. I have found as I work with different companies as I meet with individuals that oftentimes when people like get it, when they feel really resonant with the importance of empathy and connection in the workplace, it comes out of a place of personal experience. They've had some touch points with either needing empathy and care or being in the position of giving it in a way that was really impactful. I'd love for you to share a story of when you've either really needed care in the workplace or when it's been really important for you to give it.
Yeah. I think I have two stories that come to mind. The first is maybe how early in my career I was able to practice empathy in a way that helped me see the value in it. I started in my career when I was 22 to 25. I was the pastor of a Church, and it's a story for a different day, but basically became the head pastor when I was 25, never given a sermon in my life. Wow. And was trying to support and was really the only staff person for two to 300 people and was trying to support them when in reality, like, I was just still really young myself.
And I think through that experience, a lot of people opened up to me about their lives. And you got to be a part of some of those high moments, like weddings, but also you're very much in the midst of really, really difficult situations. And so during that season, I think I learned a lot about just the value of sitting with people through hard things. It was during that time that one of my very best friends had ALS and he passed away and over an 18 month period.
But, you know, every Tuesday and Thursday, we sat together that entire time and have lunch together. And I think just being with him and watching him go through that experience was something that really built empathy with me. So that's may be on just like, the personal side of, like, really early. I got a little bit thrown into the fire of empathy and being just being with others.
Yeah. And I know that you have a second story, but I love it. Could I just interrupt you for a second? Because I'm struck with the dynamics of that story, something that I find myself facilitating a lot around is compassion, fatigue and talking. Or even Adam Grant use the term languishing recently. That sense of like, I don't know if I can give to anybody else because I feel so drained myself. You're young. You are responsible for the sole care of all of these people. I'm sure you have things going on in your own life.
You have this personal friend, so you're watching an emotional journey of watching him die. How were you finding equilibrium and places to be filled up for yourself so you could keep giving to others in a way that mattered?
That is a great question. I think what's interesting about being 25 is at that time. I don't think I did it with a lot of intention. I think when I reflect back on that time, there was a lot of kind of giving on empty without making sure that I was in a place of health myself. And one of the things maybe later in my career, I have realized the value for myself is making sure that I'm giving. One of the things I've noticed for me is that I need solitude.
I'm a person who naturally is drawn to other people and wants to be a part of their lives. And if I don't give myself space to restore and space to make sure I'm my whole complete self, I end up kind of crossing, twisting the wires of giving in a way that is healthy for myself. I wonder sometimes when I look back on that season, there's a natural part to that where I was just kind of being myself an inflow and giving in a way that's comfortable.
And I think there's probably another part of it that was just a little needy that really was really empty and didn't have great pathways to and to kind of restore myself, too. Which is probably why at the end of that year transitioned away from it. You know, I don't think I was acting in a way the problem is sustainable in my own life. Actually.
Thank you for that vulnerability. And even as I look back in to what my body and my person seemingly had the capacity to just absorb and keep churning. In my twenties, I'm like, oh, my gosh, that was a lot that probably wasn't healthy, but there's a certain hubris to that stage of life where you think I can just keep going.
Yeah, there's an infinite amount of energy and there's an altruism that's really beautiful, I think with, like, a willingness to, like, I can change the world, you know? And there is some truth to that. I think there's also some wisdom that maybe came a little later for me, too.
I interrupted your flow, though. You were telling the first personal story. I'd love to hear that second story that you had in your back pocket as well.
Well, the second one, really, like, set in motion. I had a windy career for the first ten years, kind of going from pastor to academic advisor, entry level job, entry level job, entry level sales job. And then I kind of stumbled into doing a start up about a decade ago and starting it with my business partner, Santiago, who was a week out of College at the time. So I'm ten years into my career. I've got two kids and we start this start up. I have no experience at all.
And immediately just the company just started to grow. And I went from kind of being a one person employee to having a team. And in the very beginning of that process, I felt so overwhelmed and I felt so stressed that I started to follow some of the negative patterns that I saw and managers that led me prior. And remember, there's a couple of specific moments, but where I just was not being myself and I was creating barriers between my employees, the people I was interviewing, I just wasn't leading in a way that was sustainable for me.
I was trying to act in a way that I thought managers and leaders were supposed to act. And I think during that time, I just hit a bit of a breaking point, like, because of how hard startups are in general, I was like, I'm not going to be able to sustain this if I try to do it. Like, I think everybody else is supposed to lead.
And what was that looking like? I just love for you to flesh that out a little bit more. You were like, this is the way it should be done.
And it looks like what I think it looked a little bit like the authoritarian, the kind of Industrial Revolution leader. The leading is a disconnected self where, like, I was one way at home. But then I'd show up to work. And just like, I wasn't that there would be, like, curtains or anger or there would be kind of, like, spouting off orders as opposed to, like, truly listening and collaborating like things like that. Or it would just be like, when you're interviewing someone instead of, like, coming up with your own way that you interview people that I was following, a guide, that when I would do it.
I was like, this just doesn't feel like me.
Yeah. You're moving into uncharted territories. And I find that in my life and in those I work with, it's easy to work off of a template instead of doing some of the work that it sounds like you are beginning to engage in. Like, is this representative of me and my best energy?
That's exactly right. I think the template phrase is a good summary of what that season felt like for me.
So what was the inflection point for you? I imagine you are not still operating out of that place of discontent.
You know, the inflection point. I was actually in the middle of an interview with someone who I still work with to this day. She's someone who I feel like I've had a really great relationship with and invested a lot into her life. But in the middle of her interview process, I was following a template, and I looked at her resume, and she took a gap year, which is super cool, by the way. Took a year to Europe right after College, and I followed this guide where you're supposed to do high pressure interviews and super awkward pause about her gap interview.
And it was really uncomfortable in the moment. I was like, Gosh, I just was like, I can't do this for this is not me. But then simultaneously, I actually damaged our relationship, even though we had never met at the time. And it took us a year, truly a year to get to the spot where she really trusted me and where she felt like she actually knew who I was because this initial impression was not actually the person that I was. And so I think that interview was really that moment was really a turning point for me.
That kind of set my entire trajectory and career around focusing on leaders, focusing on what good leadership looks like that I really think that moment and, you know, just full to take that story full circle. By the way, when we sold our business in April and she sent me a text, the same person sent me a text and said, There is not a person other than my mother who's impacted my life more than you and which I saved. And that was a hall of Fame. Probably one of the most powerful messages I've ever received, especially in the workplace.
I think the reason it was so meaningful to is because of how much that moment was transformative in my leadership.
Right. Well, and I'm struck there's a certain level of intuition and engagement that is necessary to know that there has been damage done to a relationship, to be able to look back and be like, it took us a year. How are you seeing that disconnect expressed? And I'd love to delve into it specifically, because especially as leaders, there are, we don't know, necessarily when the impactful moment will be, which is really like an encouragement to be showing up as our healthiest best cells less. We do damage.
But over the course of that year, were you realizing in real time, like, oh, there's kind of something in between us.
Yeah. I think it's one thing. It's something sometimes you can sense, but you don't know because we don't really know each other. And this was one facet of who she was attaching a lot of significance to a situation that was not my best version of myself either.
I think it was, you know, throughout the year as I started to really improve, like, one of the I think keys to genuine empathy is through consistent one on one and how you display empathy, like, structurally inside of an organization. So, for example, a one on one is that place where as a manager, you can create safety with your team and with your direct reports and create a vulnerable relationship where you really do know what's going on inside of their world in their life, like how they're doing.
And just in those moments, I think that it was kind of in those one on one. As I started to improve how I built relationships with people in the workplace and how I uncovered how they were doing and how I could help that just could sense kind of consistent, like, just like walls, walls. I think that were put up that we had to work through. And then I think also that her experience was different as other people started to come there like, that doesn't feel like a person doesn't feel like Adam.
That's not the Adam I know. And so I just think with time now, I mean, what's so cool about that is now we've worked together for eight and a half years. Right. So we're in a really different spot. But obviously we were then, which is really cool and pretty rare, by the way, to hire someone when they're right out of College. I got to work with them for that long. I think that's a pretty neat thing
To get to be able to see their growth trajectory. Well, I like something that you alluded to, which is the things that we can do structurally to build connection. And I know that that has actually been, like a big part of just the product and your professional movement in the world. So I'd love for you to tell me more about some of the best practices that you've seen. And you work with Amplify. And now with 15 five in what companies can be doing to think structurally about.
There's a handful of things that come to mind because I also think sometimes topics like this can feel overwhelming, but if you get really practical, you can start to see where these different containers are inside your organization to create trusted, empathetic relationships at the manager level, I think is really like where this is the most powerful because that's where the relationships are the most personal. And so if I think about a new manager, maybe think about my own story. Often times they were a top performing individual contributor.
They got promoted, they never got any training. They have super high goals. They're feeling overstressed. And then what they do innately is they start to carry and transition that stress over to their team. And they create kind of environments of chaos and confusion as opposed to clarity and team alignment. So one example of that was good.
I just want to recognize that's so accurate to the pain points that I observe again and again. Please continue. But what was well stated.
This is my world, though. These observations are pretty much what I spent all my time observing and helping companies with. And so I think for that manager, like, there's two really key containers for them. I think where they can show empathy. The first is what typically happens is on that manager is just kind of follow that path I just shared as they show up on Monday. They bring all the stress that is above them straight into that meeting on Monday morning. And it's like you can feel it in the atmosphere.
They bring in the stress, they bring in their own issues. They bring in whatever those things. And it really changes how it feels inside of just at that team level. And that type of environment really, like put walls up for people being like themselves. And so just a small switch, which is at the start of every week before we get to the stressors and the goals. And that all of those things before we do those things. What we first do is we just hear about what happened over the weekend just to create the rhythm and the habit to understand the phrase I use is there's always a story behind everyone's story.
And it's like, how do we make sure that we are just keeping those dialogues open to hear what's going on inside of your world, inside of your life, inside of what's happening outside of work. So that's one and that's in a group setting, and then the way you transition that forward, then it's end of that one on one setting as well. I mean, just a really small change to a one on one for a manager of just never starting the one on one, really checking your own energy and checking your own priorities at the door and showing up and being willing to listen first, be curious first and invest in their lives first.
And then it just unlocks so much as far as being able to understand their world, being able to support them and actually helping you achieve your own goals for your team, that sort of thing. So those are two at the manager level.
I think at the company level, how you can display empathy. One that I'm passionate about is we measure amplify measure engagement for companies. And while that is a neat thing, what's powerful about measuring is when the CEO says the thing out loud, that's hard about the company that everyone else knows. They just don't know that the leadership knows when a CEO says, you know what? Everyone thank you so much for your candid feedback. It is clear that our goals are currently not attainable, and it's really impacting how you're feeling and showing up at work today or how you're showing up at work in this season.
There is power in that at the company level, when you can show empathy at the macro scale, to the experience of the company.
The acknowledgement of the pain point. I'm thinking, like burr under the saddle, sort of a reality.
Yeah, because it just it diffuses the tension. It's not even that we have it solved. It's just that we all understand that this is real, that we're all working through now. We're not a perfect organization. We're making progress. But I am aware of the same thing that you are aware of. And I think that that built a lot of trust and empathy as well. And then there's policies from an HR perspective, there's small things. One of the things I thought was so profound that 15 five are really it's huge for people going through it.
It's small in the realm of the impact to the benefits, bottom line or something. But our 15 five has a child bereavement policy like something that small. That when you come into the organization and it's it just shows a level of care and compassion for the whole person, for their world and for their experience or during COVID. We had family members who passed away. And so how as a company, not just as the manager, but how as a company, do we sit with and support people who are going through really, really challenging times?
Yeah. I have found in the conversations that I'm having policies never seem top of mind until they're suddenly top of mind. I'm like, oh, that's our policy. And whether that's our berievement leave policy says you have to have proof of death or it's only for immediate family members. We give people three days, and that doesn't take into account COVID related travel or all the sorts of things. And to pay attention to those things, it does feel impacted because especially as people are having so many more moments to touch on that.
I was just seeing someone's LinkedIn post about needing to bring, like, a bulletin from extended family members funeral to prove that they weren't just lying for time off and just how cheap that made it feel. But it was the policy, and nobody looked at the policy for a decade.
Yeah. And there's I don't even know what to say about.
Yeah, so sad about it.
I'm picturing that's just the Seinfield episode. I know George Castanza's trying to get his flight covered in your right. This is how it's supposed to be.
Well, you just think policy, the eternalist. Like how like your fourth grade teacher being like, did you really go to use the bathroom with your hall pass or you just cutting class? Yeah.
There is just I think underneath that there is such a lack of trust, right? There is like, we don't trust you, even with really hard aspects of your life like you're not trusted, I think, is at least the underlying message that an employee would receive through.
Well, like a meta level. If you're conveying yourself as a leadership team and a company that can't exercise trust, there's probably some trickle down questions that need to come up. What does that say about how we hire people? Or what does that say about how we manage people in an ongoing basis that we continue to have the perception of people that we can't trust? There's probably questions about other areas of your people operations if that really feels true or change your possible.
And I also think every employee asks themselves, Is this company worth my best?
They have a level they're willing to give. And I think a small things like having to get a funeral bulletin. I think our create marks for people to go. This isn't worth my best. I might give time, but it's not going to be my best, right. And I'm not sure that I blame them. I don't I I'm not sure I wouldn't do the same.
Are you giving your people what they need to stay engaged in the midst of all of the disruptive life events that are coming at them? I deeply resonated with how Adam described the managerial journey: the stress that comes from suddenly having to manage and inspire and care for people. It is just hard, especially right now. And I hear, again and again from companies, that they want to be able to support the mental wellness of their people but they just don’t know how. Handle with Care Consulting can help. Empathy is a skill that can be learned and we can train you. We have targeted keyontes, tailored to your pain points and industry, Empathy at Work Certificate programs, and coaching options. Empathy doesn’t have to be difficult, reach out for a free consultation.
What is a time or a contributing factor that really it felt difficult to build connection with a given person or a team in your working career.
I think for me just myself, I think where I run into issues is when I get overstressed in general. And then I think I start to project at times on to other people, or I try to take that stress that I'm feeling and I push it to others, which is not a very empathetic posture. And so I think that has always been the thing I've had to be mindful of it. And startups, you really do have to be a venture backed funded startups are not for the faint of heart.
They are very stressful environments where you're growing quickly. So the business is changing every twelve to 16 weeks. It's like a whole different place, and there's a lot of pressure. And so I think finding balance in the midst of pressure in the midst of feeling overstressed. Like, I think those are the times for me, as opposed to like an individual, like one individual or things like that. It's when I get a little bit too inward focused to be thoughtful of other people.
Yeah, for some reason, what connects is even on a personal level. As a parent, I know when I am feeling like meta stress, whether that's work related or going back and forth with the roofing guys who are doing the hail damage and those sorts of things really can pull from my ability to be present, fostering joy, contributing to a shared sense of a espirit de corps with my children that feels very resonant on a personal level, as you were talking about that, especially in a startup culture. What did that look like for you?
And maybe there's like a day or a season that comes to mind, but whether it's coming out of a tough meeting about metrics or thinking about the steps towards Series A, what would that look like with your team when you were feeling preoccupied like that, how would you begin to interact with them?
Yeah, these aren't like my finest moments, but I think there were some memories or some thoughts I have that I go back to early where we're trying to take a thing that's nothing and turn it into something. And I was working as hard as I possibly could and overworking. I think during that season and sometimes during like, end of week metrics or views, it would be painful for me just to hear other people's metrics and feel like maybe they weren't working as hard as I was now with some perspective.
I'm like they also weren't owners in the business. I think I got to understand now, but at the time that was really painful for me and I had a really hard time just sitting and understanding. And I think when you lead with frustration, it makes it really challenging to understand what their actual blockers are. Then you're not really collaborating with them on the solution. You've just decided that you're frustrated at that in the interview story. Actually, those two scenarios were pretty much the foundation of what caused that kind of leadership change in my own life.
In that first year of the startup, there was a moment where I like walking out where people are sharing metrics, and I just left the meeting and I think that was another one where with some time I was like, alright, I need to really think about what it means to be a leader and how I sit with people and invest in people and even the other side of that. How do I set clear expectations or agreements where we're both mutually aligned? So I'm not just disappointed, but we have a shared clarity on what we're working towards.
Right in just my last interview was with Max Yoder and he was talking about expectations versus agreements. And I thought, oh, yeah. That's so true. If it's just my expectation, then I either need to be able to release it because I didn't make it known to you, or we need to transition to an agreement where we're both on the same page. And I thought that that repeats itself in personal lives and work live hear that?
Yes. Exactly. Sounds like he nailed it, by the way. So I will just to build on that concept. This is why I think things like role clarity, things like clearly define goals, what those really give to our genuine agreements, not just expectations between employees and managers. And I actually think as tactical as those sound, that those create more empathetic workforces because it creates clarity inside the organization. It creates clarity of what is expected of me. So that's one part of what it does. So then we're all now collaborating on the same things instead of just like a manager who is constantly disappointed, constantly frustrated, who then puts up walls and isn't willing to collaborate, sit with the person, help them grow.
And the other thing it does is that when something challenging happens in that person's life, if there's role clarity and there's clear goals, there's ways for people to know how to step up.
So you are in a high pressure environment in startup culture where I imagine that I don't know, maybe even more regularly than quarterly. You were having to pivot and move, and maybe like, finesse where we're going and what we're doing.
How did you find that you were able to maintain that sense of clarity in the midst of an ecosystem that was kind of changing around you pretty rapidly? Or maybe I'm not describing that ecosystem correctly.
I think you're describing it correctly. I think it depends on what season of the journey. So in the beginning, I think I did a relatively poor job of that. I think first time entrepreneurs, it's like the new idea always feels like the most important idea. And with time. And so there was rapid pivoting. But I'm not sure that it was always wise. And then with time, I think what we did was we really, really buttoned up, how we align as a company, on what's the most important thing and then but then also understand that things change and adjust and have good ways to what we call it triage, triage adjustments and pivot, as opposed to doing them kind of like the day, radically or inconsistently.
And I think that creates stability for the employees, too. When you kind of peel back the curtain on here's how we build strategy here's how we pivot strategy, so that for them, it doesn't just feel like constant whiplash within that triage.
You describe so many points of learning in your journey as a leader. A couple of years ago, you took the time to put this all down in book form and lead like a Human, which is a book that I have and have really enjoyed as a tool of insight and a reference point even in the work that I do, I'm wondering. It's it's your own, like baby bringing forth into the world now that it's had a couple of years to toddle around out there, what is the impact that you've seen?
And is there any part of the book that you just feel like is especially important right now?
Yeah. I think one of the things that I really appreciated about writing the book, obviously, I shared a lot about my early part of management, but I think once I turn the corner and really gave the time to figure out, like, it's hard work, I think to figure out how to become a leader that other people want to work for. It unlocked my own life. It unlocked the performance of my team. It unlocked a lot of their personal lives. And so it's a journey that's been really meaningful to me.
But I will say, when you do start ups, there's an interesting part of it, but the whole time, it feels really temporary. You kind of know it's going to end. And so I think one of the things with the book that I'm really thankful for is that it's a little bit more permanent. It was spot on time when I wrote it, but it lasts. And so it's a nice juxtaposition, I think with a start up and similar to I was a songwriter early kind of when I was right out of College and a lot of the songs I wrote I find really challenging today.
Like, I think about some of the things I was writing about.
I go, wow, it's interesting, like a spot in time, but it's got this permanence to it, and the book is like that I think for me and that there are aspects of it. I write. I go, wow, this is really challenging for me like that to actually live some of this stuff out myself, too, in a new season. The one the one that I think is the chapter that's been the most valuable for me is called centeredness.
And the reason why it actually goes all the way back to the very beginning of our conversation today is that I didn't have the tools early in my career to find my own grounding and to find my own wholeness and recognize that when I am in that place, then I can put all these other practices in place that allow me to lead in a more human way. And so it's without being too prescriptive because I really didn't want it to feel prescriptive. I want it to be each person's individual journey, but I do think there's an aspect of it that is just have I thoughtfully looked at my own life and what things are working in my life and what things are restorative to me and allow me to connect to, like my whole connect itself so that I can show up in a steady, consistent way in the workplace.
That's probably the one over time. I think that I think the most I reflect back on the most.
Yeah. And what guidance would you offer? Reflection is definitely the first step, but for individuals who are starting to take account and go, oh, that's not congruent or Gee, that's really crappy and painful. That's got to be different for me to be able to stay in this for the long term.
Yeah. I think there's some version for everyone of self reflection, like how do I take the time to analyze or think about how I'm showing up in the world and with my team? And I think that is both done. Personally, I do this myself. One of the things I do is I just actually Journal and cursive, and I just write what the feeling people still use cursive.
The elementary school teachers would be so proud.
I might be the last one, but it's not active for me, I think, because it forces me to go slow. That's what I like about it, which is probably why it doesn't exist anymore, but really just try to write my emotions, right what I'm feeling and how I'm showing up. So one is like doing the self reflection yourself the other, especially if you're a leader, is just like to make sure you have someone outside of your scenario, but who knows you well enough? Who can tell you the truth of how you're showing up?
I think that part is really important because most leaders just get lied to constantly and they don't know it because of role power. And it's really important to have people that you trust, who will tell you the truth about who you are and how you're showing up so that you can make progress and work on it. And then I think for me, the gratitude practices that have worked for me in my life like I do these gratitude walks. It's because I have a busy mind, and when I walk, it's just a little easier to stay focused and things like that.
But I don't want to prescribe the actual activity. I think it's for you. What are those activities? What are the things? Is that exercise? Is that hiking? Is it once a week or once a month, you block out a day where you don't work, but you just take time to do something restorative for you.
That's good. I especially like the part about leaders being lied to and not knowing it. I think that is that's descriptively true for so many people.
I also think that's why I have a lot of empathy for CEOs and why I just have a heart for the CEO experience in the journey because I think it's really lonely for a CEO because I think one most of the time, everything you say people respond as if it's awesome and people are lying to you a lot, and they're not being because you hold their job in their hands and their family, security and all of these things. And if you show up every single day without having these, like, I think I have empathy for how lonely and isolating that feels for people.
And a lot of times they're unaware that that's happening to them, right?
Building empathy and connection always has its challenges. There's this added layer right now of the particular challenges of the pandemic of social issues that feel really divisive of a continued uncertainty about how we're structuring workplace policies, not knowing what's going to happen with our kids in schooling and all of these challenges. What have you found really is helpful in continuing to move the needle on connection and care in the workplace, specifically within COVID-19.
I think one aspect is that just to take a little the pressure off yourself of trying to solve it. This is a big thing that's happening in the world, and it's happening to all of us. And so there's no perfect answer. There's no perfect policy, there's nothing perfect. You can say there's no burnout vacation thing that's going to immediately make things better. So maybe just like, releasing yourself with the pressure that this is, like, yours to fix in isolation. But the most impactful thing I think leaders can do right now is just have conversations and just be in on the conversations.
Burnout is a really good example, because it is like we're on, like, Wave five of burnout. I didn't even know what level of burnout it is, and it's impacting all of us in ways that we don't even know how to articulate ourselves to. There's this part of me, like, even with the Great Resignation to, like, not take it so personally to allow people just to be where they are. And some people now, there's a part right before the acquisition where some of our very first employees left, people are very, very close to.
And there's a part of that where you just have to recognize that, like, when you go through something that's significant in the world, sometimes you just need change. You just need change. It's not personal. It's not about the leader. It's not about the business. It's like, hey, there's a lot going on, and I just need something different.
I wish I could give you a perfect answer. I just think this is such a hard. I think it's such a hard topic because I just don't think any of us are immune to this. And I just think it's like, when you're in the middle of a story, you don't really know the answer to it. You just need to just kind of be in it and acknowledge that you're in it and maybe give space for your employees to also be like, it's okay that they're in it too.
I think I feel like the thing that isn't going to work, like, even with the great resignation, for example, is I think if you can be charitable with people as their departing, I just hate to feel really at the whole tenor around people leaving is so negative, and I find it exhausting. I don't understand why someone can't show up to a company, give their best hit a place where they go. My time here is like I'm ready to grow somewhere else and be celebrated. And it just to be like we honor that season for what it was and the impact it had on the business.
The business is about the business and the purpose of that business, not the individual who is running the business. So I celebrate that impact. And then and I think that that is a healthier way to process this, as opposed to making it taboo or sweeping it under the rug or acting like no one's leaving. People are leaving. People are leaving every company. You're not the only company where people are leaving. It's happening everywhere because people are looking for change. But if we normalize it and we celebrate people, it just feels like that is just like, a more appropriate way to handle honoring the time people gave instead of making every time someone leaves, it feel like a failure.
I like that. I think that's a good word. Adam, are there any other questions that you wish I would have asked you or insights that you have to offer?
I just I was like looking at my notes that I had earlier, and one of the most powerful things I feel like I did as a leader was when I knew that we had, like, a deep issue of conflict. I guess one of the things with empathy to me is that this component that happens inside of organizations, which is this conflict, and it's a natural thing that comes up when people are working hard towards a goal and maybe don't proactively solve an issue. But at some point, like conflict manifests itself.
And to me, one of the roles of someone who's, like an empathetic leader, is sitting in the midst of that conflict and being willing to truly listen and making sure that in that listening, that people feel heard and some of the most some of the work I looked back on over the last ten years of running a business I'm the most proud of was were the hardest conflicts where there were teams that were highly disengaged, and I Dove into the middle of it, and I sat with a full team and I said, what is going on?
Let's just talk. This is a safe space and just listened 90 minutes, just sat there and listened and wrote it all down and then summarized it and share it back with them. And I was just like before anything else happens first, like, do you feel hurt? Do you feel like this is what is happening for your experience?
And then once they're heard one that diffuses things, but then to then to go back and try to bring healing and restoration in those relationships and put the things on the table that have been living in quiet, in festering.
And there is to me that's a really practical thing. But to me, that is there's empathy in that because when conflict festers, it really at work. When conflict festers at work, it really impacts all aspects of a human being's life. And so to dive into that and to help create resolution in those situations, I think can really unlock workplaces. But it also creates better lives for all the parties that are involved in those scenarios.
Yeah, I agree to be able to wait into those deep waters and help diffuse it by radical attention. And just really hearing people is huge. Anything else? From your notes?
I think we did it. I feel pretty good.
If you are interested in reading Adam’s book, Lead Like a Human, to get more great content, it is linked in the show notes.
Here are three key takeaways from my conversation with Adam…
You can find out more about “Lead Like a Human” here: https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Like-Human-Practical-Building-ebook/dp/B08DG14GG6
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