Empathy In The Virtual Work Space with Brave By Design’s Laura Khalil
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Laura Khalil is the Host of Brave by Design.
Brave by Design helps ambitious women do the inner work that is a catalyst for building wildly successful businesses and lives. Laura teaches women how to develop magnetism, presence and confidence to build meaningful connections, create more opportunities, and take your dreams from the vision board into reality.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
All right with us right now we've got Laura Khalil. Laura, you're the Host of Brave by Design. You empower women to work and live well your audience, primarily women in tech. You are a public speaker. You are on the web at bravebydesign dot net thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. And boy, yes, I was a public speaker. What am I now
So it's all moved online, you know. So, you know, we will get back to normal for sure. But I believe I'm sure like you do that. I think that there are a lot of people, a lot of businesses that are going to look at their current way of doing things and say, You know what, we cannot allow ourselves to go through that if they caught themselves unprepared. And so I think everybody's going to look now at their current way of operations and say, we have to be able to shift to virtual a virtual environment or something like that. Without any hiccup. Yeah. Because I think there are a lot of businesses that are like, Okay, everybody worked from home. Oh, boy. Wow, what do we do? Yeah, right. Exactly. All right, Lauren, so I'm hoping we could kind of talk about that a little bit. I know you've got some experience with that. Absolutely. So what's your way First off, I guess You know, in terms of like, what's going on right now, obviously, you've done a lot of speaking of relationship with a lot of companies. Explain the the problem that you see, both with workers, with manager leaders, and then the the operations, the companies themselves, um, in terms of like, you know where we are today. And you know, and again, we're recording this at the end of March. And so, obviously, we don't have crystal balls. So we'll you know, we'll do our best to imagine what life is going to be like by the time this airs.
Yeah. So there's a couple things. First of all, there's companies that have been proactive in the past in learning how to adopt and manage distributed teams. And then there are companies whose pants are on fire right now, who said, Okay, we have to react to this go. Now. If you are in the former camp, you're probably a little bit more used to a flexible workplace. policy work from home policy. If you're in the latter camp, this is a huge shift. So I just want to acknowledge it's a huge shift. It's okay that we're figuring it out, give yourself permission to say, we don't know how to do this yet, or we're still working it out. And remember, we are we cannot go back to how it was. So there is no going back. There is a new normal in place. And I believe that that advice is going to persist. Even after we get through this pandemic. We will have for companies that have been resistant to work from home, we're going to see that this is actually quite an efficient way for employees to work, you're going to see changes in policies, you're going to see new ways of working new ways of collaborating. So it this is new and but this is how it is. So there's a few things that we need. To think about if we're a company that's focused on this, and I want to specifically talk to the management layer right now, because in certain companies, there's a certain old school style of management, which says, Well, I need to see butts and seats. So, you know, I need to see you to know that you're working right. Now, obviously, we know in this day and age, that's, I mean, it, there's no point to it. There has not been a point to that style of management for probably the last half century. However it's persisted. And that challenge with managers who are feeling that is typically because when management has done really well, it's invisible. And when management is invisible managers feel invisible. So they will sometimes create processes to make themselves appear more visible, because there's some insecurity around Well, they can't See what I'm doing? So does anyone know that I'm doing all this? Does anyone know that I'm keeping track? So really just think about that if you're listening to this, are you, Matt, what is your management style. And because we are moving into an era in a day and age, where things are done virtually where people are at home, with their children, with their spouses, with their cats and dogs, and everyone's trying to do everything I want everyone to think about the first thing. And this might sound a little surprising, but the first thing is sharpening your empathy edge. There is a great book called the empathy edge. I really recommend folks go grab that and that is really about how to lead with empathy. Now you may be saying, Oh, well, empathy, Laura that's so soft. You know, I mean, come on, like what what the heck do I need that for? And I'll tell you what, there's been some really interesting research done on how Empathy can actually boost productivity can boost employee engagement and can boost sales. So, um, one of the stories I love is of a collections agency. Who, you and we, I mean, I've never heard from them before, but if you've heard from them before, you know, those people are not happy on the phone, right? They're calling you and they are pissed off angry, give me my money. Well, um, one woman who worked in a collections agency decided to start her own and do it differently. And she led with empathy. She led with Hey, let's try to empathize with the people we're speaking with on the phone instead of breathing down their backs or breathing down their neck, screaming at them. And let's also empathize with our employees. And here's what happened. She became her collections were triple the industry average, so they collected more her employee Were not just evaluated on how much money they collected, and they were also evaluated on how many thank you cards they received from people who they collected money from. Can you even imagine? A someone giving a collects a collections agent? a thank you card? Yeah, that's what happens when we develop empathy. So we have a profitability, and we actually develop
a more engaged staff. It is something that people are not talking about right now, but is critically important. So when I meet when I talk about empathy, what I'm really talking about is understanding how people feel. seeing things through another person's perspective. So if you have employees at home right now, ask them how they are. Okay? I mean, that is real simple, but we don't do it. How are you doing? How are you managing? How are you coping? How are the kids? Just very simple questions, create time and then listen to what they say because some people may be going through a period where they say Listen, I need to teach the kids you know, from 9am to 11am, my husband and I are, you know, switching off and on companies who are going to do this right? are going to hear what their employees need and say, Okay, well, here's where we can flex. And here's what's really important and we need to make sure it gets done. You
know, Laura, we rose a few years ago actually interviewed the boot core again to at the time was the director is the athletic director at West Point. Now he's with I think he's the alpha director, North MC. I don't know sports, too. Well. You know, he's the Director of Athletics for the NC State Wolfpack, whatever that means. Okay, great. Awesome. Yeah. Okay, but here's the thing. Um, you know, in this really kind of gruff West Point military environment you know, as he's talking about leadership and character, that was one of the you know that so that's what they teach West Point leadership character and number three empathy and when he said that I was and I've got a link to the interview which you'll see when when he says that I'm like, you know because I was yeah and you know and I was back in the in the early 90s when I don't think empathy was really valued it is today and so you
didn't experience that? What's that? You did not experienced that in your time?
Oh no are you kidding You know, Petty Officer Elad, you get your get your button gear. What are you talking about? Yeah, that's like, you know, there's there was a lot of Yeah, a lot of sayings that I will not repeat right now. If If you legitimately, you know, had an issue and you know, if you did anything other than fulfill the mission So today, you know, I guess boos point is that, you know, he said, Listen, you know, we, if, if we ignore the problem, we don't solve the problem. And so if I have a cadet and that cadet has an issue, I would much rather find out what's going on so that we can solve it, rather than just say a tough it up and rub some dirt in, you know, push it down old school mentality.
Yeah. Which is what most, you know, unfortunately, what a lot of men have learned, shut down, don't talk about it, just go do your job, right. And well, and then what happens? You know, we people, I mean, you can't, you can't get rid of this stuff. It just eventually, you know, appears in different forms. So, I mean, I love that and empathy is, I mean, it is the way it is the way forward. So here are some of the questions when we're thinking about how to engage, how to keep our employees engaged. If you are truly concerned about employee engagement at a virtual level. I want you to Consider one talk in your employees, what's going on in their life to are you scheduling time with the team that is not related to the work. And I mean by that we don't have our water cooler time anymore. We don't have our lunch break time anymore. So it is very important that when we talk about how the staff is doing we also include let's have a happy hour. You sit at your your computer with your favorite beverage, I'll sit at my will just see how everyone's doing. Because people who feel a sense of purpose and alignment in the values and vision of the company as it aligns with their own are more likely to be engaged employees. So companies who are living their mission are more likely to inspire their employees to stick with them. Okay. So we want to think about that. Are you building a safe environment the worst thing is an environment where there is no psychological safety. That goes For if you're in an office, or if you're virtually if I say something on a zoom call, or a video call, and I know that by me disagreeing, I'm going to be retaliated against in some way, shape or form. That creates a lack of psychological safety for people to be themselves. That creates disengagement right there. So please remember, we need to create environments where we are inclusive of different people's beliefs of different people's thoughts. We have a session where it's like, Hey, I don't care, throw in any idea you want. There's no bad idea and nobody is going to be made fun of for, you know, their idea not being chosen. We're just going to do a whiteboard thing. We're just going to throw them up on the wall. Those are the type of things we need to think of. If you're running a top down organization, you're going to be very challenged right now. Some of the most innovative employees are on the ground, right? Go talk to them. What are they up to too. So those are some of the ways that I would start, I don't want to talk your head off. So let me let me take a breath for a second.
Well, so a couple things. Number one, what about the manager says, I don't have time. I don't have time for that. Like if I were to do that and talk to each one of my employees, like I'm, there's no way I'm going to get done what I need to get done today, or my schedule is just so maxed out. I can't do that.
So first of all traits of a great manager. Um, the first trait of a great manager is somebody who schedules and holds to consistent one on ones with their team. Hmm, it is absolute and we see this research over and over and guys, I'm citing research. So you must hold to regular one on ones with your team. Now, if you are managing a team of 60 people, I highly suggest you begin to delegate. Okay, that would suggest to me we have a problem, but yes, one on ones mission critical. And let me ask you, here's the alternative. The work doesn't get done. You get a backlog, you lose employees. And do you want to hire right now? How do you want to go through that process? Does that sound like fun to you? People are having to do that it's the new normal. But, you know, you can work with what you've got, you can adapt to what you've got, you can learn how to be a manager who makes time for the things that are important. And if your employees are important to you, which I think would be a wise way to think you'll make time for them. And if they're not, well, you got bigger problems. Hmm. Yeah.
And then, you know, there are a lot of our, you know, a lot of our listeners, a lot of people that we work with, we're already virtual companies. There's kind of no need for office space, who kind of work in this virtual environment and, and sometimes our teams may stretch across the globe. And so I think it's really easy to be very transactional, particularly for hiring freelancers, overseas, for example, you know, and we've got, you know, we certainly have a group of folks that we that we work with overseas. And I think it's important for us to remember that, you know, even though they may be acting as a freelancer, you know, they're part of the culture. They're part of these this company's culture. And I think that if you want great performance from them as a freelancer, you know, invite them in. And please take time to get to know them on a personal level, and right, and how would
I so I consulted for years. In the marketing space, I worked with companies like GE, Intel, Twitter, doing all kinds of developer marketing consulting, so I have been that that outside person, and I'll tell you what, the companies who took the time to say Laura, tell me about yourself and what you're up to. We'll get more into Have you rather than the hired gun approach of, or the mercenary approach of, okay, we need this, get it done, boom, goodbye. I guarantee you, you will get more from people, if you just inquire about them. And here's a great way to do this where it ties into the company. Ask them this question. What's really important to you? What matters to you in your life? I'm not just talking about the work. I'm what Matt like, What do you care about? What do you do? Because that's how when we understand someone else's values and their mission in life, we can begin to see how the work that we're doing and our company's values can align. And when people can see the alignment between what the company is doing and what they want out of their life, we immediately begin to build more engagement. It's a fact.
Yeah, what do you say to business owners and or executives that have found themselves in the unfortunate position of Having to furlough layoff downsize a number of people I mean that can send shockwaves throughout an organization. What do you do in that case with the survivors, the survivors, but you know, people that are still, you know, they haven't been let go. That's scary. I've been an employee in that situation. I've also been an employer in that situation. It's an awful feeling.
It is very scary. And I think that your your note of calling them survivors is true, because it does feel for many people right now, like we are in a form of war, but a war against a virus. And so that's very apt Now, when we have and the problem right now for many companies is there's so much uncertainty, that it is hard to say, we're not going to do this again. It's hard to say in a month, you know, we'll be back it'll be fine. We'll come back. We don't know that. So first, do not lie to your employees don't lie, don't tell them or try to make it overly optimistic. Be honest with people, people value, honesty. Some of the things that you can do, if you are going to furlough employees or lay people off whatever it may be, you can offer or you can provide resources for retraining and redevelopment. You can direct people to those resources you can even direct. You know, one of the things that I see companies doing is, and this is I've seen this happen when we were in physical locations, and I've seen it in virtual now is helping employees build their personal brand. One, that's great if they're going to end up moving up in your organization eventually. But it's also useful if the employees may eventually be let go. Now, so that makes sense. I'm crazy to people like what are you telling me to do? Like, train my employees to leave? No. But train them in how to bet put their best foot forward that will help you in the organization. Right? How do you write an elevator pitch? How do you talk about yourself? How do you craft a vision for what you're working on? Those are the things I'm talking about. Those are very transferable skills to anyone who's leaving a company. So teach them how to talk about the product, talk about the service, talk about what they do, talk about who they are, that will help them when they go speak to your clients, but it also provides the benefit of helping them down the road if they need it. Hmm.
So Laura, tell me about your business and how you grew your your practice your speech, you know, your your professional speaking career here.
Sure. So I actually as I said, I started in a while I worked in Silicon Valley for a number of years, and I decided to start my own marketing consultancy in 2013. And doing that I realized something very interesting that many of the traits that had penalised me as a full time employee were my greatest assets as a leader. I was the type of woman who was the quote unquote too much person. I was too bold, too determined, you know, too outspoken. And so when I started my company, I realized Wait a minute, companies like that. They want to hire someone who's confident, who's courageous, who knows what they're talking about, who speaks directly and is clear. And so doing that, I built quite a roster of clients and built a very successful consulting business. As I was doing that I began to speak and train more on how other individuals could do that. And how other individuals could develop the mindset because what I here's what I learned Josh, and this is, this is the truth. As you know, anyone can tell you how to ramp up a business, right? It's not like these are secrets locked in a vault that you cannot access. There are steps to running And growing a business, you can go find them online, you can go Google them, you can get a teacher, whatever. But what I found when I started training, and when I started coaching is people would come to me and they'd say, well, I've done what you've said, or I'm trying to do what you've said, but I've hit these roadblocks or like, it's a little harder than I think. And I've just given up and that's when I realized, I don't need to teach you the steps for how to build a six or seven figure business. I need to teach you the mindset for success. Because if you do not have that, I guarantee you, you will self sabotage, you will fall into old patterns, you will find all kinds of ways to roadblock yourself from your success. And so that when that when I began to have that insight, I said, you know what my greatest gift to the world is to teach that to teach that mindset to develop confidence, clarity and courage to go do great things and not stop yourself.
Yeah. As a speaker, how will you adapt?
Well, we're figuring it out right now, but
we're figuring it out right now. So I'm, I am adapting one by giving myself permission to pause, permission to feel and to say, Oh my gosh, I'm scared. I'm upset. I'm annoyed. I'm angry. So let's just start with that. Second thing is okay, I did that. So okay, what am I doing? Second thing, obviously, going virtual, obviously, creating more online courses, creating more online training. I've actually what I've done is I've used this time as a wonderful opportunity to ramp up my podcast brave by design. Normally we run once a week. Now we're running daily with shows to help people thrive during coronavirus. So there are all kinds of opportunities within this challenge. You just have to be able to look for them. Obviously not going to go speak in front of audiences. Right now that would be a sentence for all of us. But what I will do is create virtual events, work with companies who still want to understand that engaging employees does not stop when they are at home. We still need to create courses and training to engage employees, wherever they are. Now everyone is going through a tectonic shift right now. So let's give everyone permission to be like, I'm trying to figure this out. This is confusing. It's going to take a little bit of time for us to readjust. That's okay. But when they're ready, they'll see Oh, my God, look at everything Laura's doing. Look at what she's up to. Wow, she's really ahead of the curve. So that's how I think about this. There is always opportunity in crisis. Always. Yeah. And see, I don't find that opportunity.
I completely agree. And Laura Khalil, thank you so much for joining us today. Again, you are the Host of the podcast Brave by Design, which you find right now in your podcast player. And you can also find Laura on the web at BraveByDesign dot net. Laura, thank you so much. Is there? Is there anything else that you'd recommend for someone who's like, I like this Laura person? How any other piece of content?
Say, lady, I kind of like yeah, here's what I recommend heading over to Facebook. Join the Brave by Design Facebook group. I go live on there every Wednesday. So if you want to stay in touch with me, you can actually talk to me, I'm one of these people who really is focused on connecting with my audience.
Very cool. Laura, thank you so much. Thank you.
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