Change is Hard – Even When It’s Good For Us

My son loved his play kitchen when he was a toddler. His toy groceries, pots, and pans came to life for him, so he would bake cakes, fry up eggs, and offer me and my husband dinner, which usually consisted of waffles, a chicken leg, asparagus, and a side of fries – and chocolate milk.

As he got older, he played with the kitchen set less and less. But the thought of donating it terrified him. Especially since his world turned upside down in the Pandemic. One day in 2019, he was in kindergarten, playing with his friends. The next, he was taken home, away from his friends and school, for many, many months – and had no idea why.

As he neared 6 and 7 and he went back to somewhat normal life,  he still clung to what he knew, refusing to make any changes. And that meant we could not give away a single toy or book without drama. Despite telling him we wanted to make room for new toys and games – and bring happiness to another child – he wouldn’t budge. And so the toys collected dust and took up room.

I get it. Change is hard. Even when it’s good for us. Even when it’s worth it.  Even for adults. (TWEET THIS!)

Why?

Change requires us to lead the status quo behind. And that makes us uncomfortable. The status quo is what we know. It’s why moving cities and developing a new routine is hard. It’s also why seasoned leaders sometimes have a tough time embracing a new paradigm of emotionally intelligent and human-centered leadership. Even though our brains know we might land up in a better place, our hearts don’t want to let go. And our brains are wired to exert the least amount of effort on actions and activity – change requires us to think harder again, for lack of a better phrase!

Change means we risk failure. We may not know how to expertly navigate the change. What if we do it “wrong”? What if we cause more harm than good? What if we look like an idiot? What if we don’t know the next right step to take? This often happens to people trying to strengthen their empathy. What if I offend you with all my questions? What if I appear weak? What if someone walks all over me? All valid fears to feel – but also myths about what empathy really means!

Our brains understand the need and desire for change. But it doesn’t make it any less scary and hard.

So I invite you to calm your heart when facing change. We should allow ourselves to feel the emotions associated with it fully. Denying them is pointless and counterproductive. We can grieve the loss of the status quo or our idea of comfort by focusing on all we gain when we change.  And we can seek support as we make the journey – and celebrate achievements along the way by measuring success.

My son has eventually learned the power of decluttering to make room for new interests. He has learned how happy his old toys can make another child. And yes, he gets half the money if we sell the items – no one said you can’t incentivize change!

The only way to live, evolve, and grow is to experience and embrace change. The alternative is to stay stuck and stop learning. And really, who wants that? What is the point of life if you live and work that way?

Photo credit: Magnet.me on Unsplash

How Empathetic Leaders Can Set Strong Boundaries to Avoid Burnout

We are in some tough times. 

Layoffs, Market volatility. For many, returning to work or at least navigating change in a hybrid environment.

Managers are currently caught in the middle. They are feeling pressured from above to get back to delivering stellar results and improving profitability. And they are squeezed by their people, demanding (rightly, after many decades of the opposite) a more human-centered and healthy approach to integrate their work and life. The Pandemic accelerated this movement, and many workers don’t want to go back.

That leaves many leaders stuck – and exhausted.

These folks want to embrace compassionate leadership as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration, and engagement They really do. But how can they do so without losing their own health and sanity in the process? How can they avoid burnout?

The answer is not to give everyone whatever they ask for, nor is it to force you or the team to take on extra work. It also does not mean you become an unlicensed therapist and then slip on your own responsibilities. 

In my new book, I’m developing five pillars to being an effectively empathetic leader while still expecting excellence, setting boundaries, and avoiding burnout. 

Setting boundaries is essential for any leader to prevent burnout and maintain high-performance standards while still caring for their people as…well, people. Here are some strategies that can help leaders set better boundaries at work:

  1. Set clear expectations: Communicate with your team members and colleagues about your availability, working hours, and the time it takes to respond to emails or messages. This will help them understand your boundaries and respect them.
  2. Prioritize self-care: Take care of your physical and mental health by exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough rest. Find hobbies that keep you in the present moment or simply give you joy, working out a different part of your brain. This will help you feel more energized and productive during work hours.
  3. Delegate tasks: Identify tasks that can be delegated to team members or outsourced to external vendors. And then trust them to do it! This will help you focus on high-priority tasks and prevent burnout.
  4. Say no: Learn to say no to requests that do not align with your priorities or are outside of your capacity. It’s better than saying yes and then dropping the ball! Saying no can be difficult, but it’s necessary to maintain boundaries and prevent over-committing.
  5. Take breaks: Take regular breaks during the day to refresh your mind and recharge. This can include taking a walk, meditating, or engaging in any activity that helps you relax. Schedule them in your calendar, or you likely won’t do them!
  6. Unplug: Set aside specific times during the day when you will unplug from work-related technology, such as email and messaging platforms. This will help you disconnect from work and prevent burnout. Again, scheduling and time blocking this is key.

Remember, setting boundaries is a continuous process that requires self-awareness, communication, and commitment. By setting clear boundaries, you can improve your well-being and productivity as a leader. – and still, be empathetic and compassionate with your team.

Editor Note: I experimented with ChatGPT to initially draft this blog post and then polished it to make it my own. I was delighted to find that many of the concepts I’ll be talking about in my new book, coming Fall 2024, are referenced in this list. While I am always skeptical of AI technologies, I highly recommend you play with ChatGPT for your own content, research, or brainstorming!

Photo credit: Danie Franco on Unsplash

How Your Body Reacts to Mistakes vs. Success

I remember how my body felt when I made those BIG mistakes. Do you? How does your body’s reaction compare to your successes? My mistakes felt a little something like this…..

Panic rising up my chest into my now flushed face.

My stomach somehow dropping to my feet in the opposite direction.

Numb or tingling hands and feet.

The sound of my own heartbeat in my ears.

My eyes welling up with tears.

Success causes a very different physiological reaction than mistakes, doesn’t it?! But which are more valuable to making you the person you are? 

But we often gloss over our successes and stay laser focused on the mistakes because of the trauma in our bodies that those mistakes cause.

In great detail, I can describe all of those heart-stopping mistakes:

In college where I served as my sorority’s Rush chair during a crucial year. I had managed to turn attitudes around and mobilize everyone to work as a team to save the chapter – but screwed up the very manual process for the last round, in essence, dis-inviting maybe about 50-100 women who wanted to join us, with no way to change the decision, leaving our chapter in dire straits and my sisters furious with me.

My first management consulting engagement right out of college, where I spent weeks coding computer-based training, only to press the wrong button the night before our manager needed to compile the code and – POOF- it was all gone.

That brand new marketing job where I was thrown in to picking up on organizing our presence at a very large and important sales trade show. And despite triple-checking requirements and timing because I had never done this before, we completely missed the set-up time, and the VP of Sales had to bail me out.

That time I poorly estimated costs and hours on two of my very first consulting projects, resulting in great money for my subcontractors, but barely enough for myself. 

And SO MANY MORE…

But what I also take away from those mistakes are the lessons learned, like many more famous successful people do. How to perform better. How to pay attention to detail. How to communicate more clearly. How to listen to instructions and ensure I repeat back what’s expected so we are both on the same page.

Those mistakes make me the valuable professional I am today. Without them, I might not be as successful. And they led to so many more wins in my career. Leading a global roadshow. Pivoting brand messaging to boost sales. Speaking on stages about the power of empathy.  Researching and publishing books. Guiding clients to connect and engage through empathy with the stakeholders who matter most.

Your mistakes may cause intense trauma, but they provide the fire that forges the successful person you are today.(TWEET THIS!) Older. Wiser. Sharper. You now know what to do and when to take your hand off the hot stove!

Looking at them that way, is there ever really such a thing as failure?

Photo credit: The Blow Up on Unsplash

Why Can’t Love Be Part of Your Business Model?

Think about your organization’s values for a sec. Oh, and if you don’t have those articulated, we should probably talk

I bet you have values such as integrity, honesty, innovation, fail fast, or others that are similar. Maybe you have something like, Take Risks or Customer Obsession, or even as one client of mine did in the past, Embrace Curiosity – which I always loved, especially as it relates to empathy!

But do you have the word “love” anywhere on that list? Does even the thought of love in a business context make you feel a bit nervous?

While it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re talking about love in all its forms this time of year, I bet you never thought about including that word in any sort of business communications whatsoever. 

Except maybe to say “We love our customers” or “We love a challenge”

Your invitation today is to think about the role love plays in your company’s mission, culture, and success. In the way, you operate with each other. And…to not be afraid of it anymore.

Of course, I don’t mean romantic love. Although I, and a few others, all met our spouses at one particular company I once worked for! I’m talking about love in its truest form.

Last year, I devoured bell hooks’ book All About Love: New Visions, in which she explores the fact that we don’t all have a common definition or construct around love, even though it’s one of the most important human emotions. And that is part of our problem individually and as a collective world. 

This book got me thinking about what I really believe love to be. I’d never really thought that much about it before. And she goes on to talk about how we conflate love with romantic love or caring, or even fondness. 

For those of you who don’t know her, Bell was an American author and social activist, writing about race, feminism, and class. She explored the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender, and what she described as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. She published more than 40 books ranging from essays to poetry to children’s books and appeared in many documentary films, as well as being a lecturer. She passed away in 2021 and, to my own detriment, that was the first time I ever heard of her so I began reading her work.

bell writes that Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.” She also states that “To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.”

Commitment. Responsibility. Respect. Trust. Required in all meaningful relationships. If that doesn’t have a place in organizational culture, I don’t know what does.(TWEET THIS!)

Our workplaces are where many of us spend the bulk of our time. If you add up the time each week, you often spend way more of your waking hours with your work colleagues, clients, or customers than with your own family.

How can love not have a place in those essential relationships?

We don’t have to think of love romantically. We can think of it exactly how bell describes it. Love means caring. It means commitment. It means honesty, respect, and trust. As we break free from outdated models of corporate culture and dysfunctional relationships with colleagues or customers, we can see that love absolutely needs to be part of the equation.

A while back, I wrote a blog post called Choose Love about embedding love into your values and business model. No matter what you do. No matter how big or small your organization. 

No matter who you are, you have influence.  Whether it’s 100,000 followers, a team of 150, or your email list is just your mom and your best friend. 

Whatever you’ve got, use it. 

Never underestimate the importance of your work or message no matter what your role. It may seem trite, but if you can influence or inspire even just a few, then you’ve done your job well.

Now more than ever, in these tumultuous times…when folks are feeling raw, vulnerable and afraid…now is the time to use your voice and choose love – as a leader, as a colleague, and yes, as an organization. 

You can absolutely build love into your values, leadership style, or yes, business model. Like this:

  • Love yourself and be self-confident so you don’t feel the need to bully others or let bullies win over you
  • Love your neighbors and colleagues so that all people can feel accepted and appreciated
  • Love your clients so you can bring real, honest value to them
  • Love your customers so you can make their lives better with your products or services
  • Love your partners so you can create wins  that benefit everyone
  • Love your community so you can collectively pull everyone up together
  • Love your environment so its beauty and nourishment enriches generations to come
  • Love your family and friends so they have a firm foundation to fully spread their own love to others

Here’s what I know to be true: No matter what your religion, nationality, gender identity, or sexual orientation, the only thing that matters is how you show up in the world and love. You are the example when you think no one is watching – because sometimes only YOU are watching, and you want to be proud of what you see.

Same thing goes for your company – maybe you’re not world famous, maybe you don’t think the press will care about you. Or perhaps you think you’re so large that such a personal value doesn’t impact your day-to-day work. I’m here to tell you, that’s not true. It all matters to someone, somewhere, sometime.

Choose love. Start small and practice love with whoever is in your circle of influence right now. If that’s just your family and friends, choose love. If that’s thousands of employees, stakeholders, email subscribers or Instagram followers, choose love.

We’re in this together. But we need to show up in ALL areas of our lives, and business, too. Don’t be afraid to make work personal.  Get aligned. Choose love. 

PS: This post comes from my February Hot Take episode on The Empathy Edge podcast. If you’d like to listen to this post, please click here.

Photo Credit: Michael Fenton, Unsplash IG: @michaelrfenton

Reinvent or Renew in the New Year?

Perhaps a new way to approach your new year’s goals this year is to decide:

Do I want to reinvent or renew?

This question asks you to reflect on how the last year went for you, which is a much more nourishing way to plan for the future. 

As a recovering Type A overachiever, my bulleted list of 35 new goals (tactics, really) wasn’t serving me anymore so I came up with three new ways to set goals.

But this year, I’ve had the privilege of working with one of my besties, women’s coach Jamie Greenwood, who guides ambitious, big dreaming women on how to live life on their terms. And together, we created NOURISH, a unique retreat to approach the new year with more ease and joy. (Please join my email list to know next time we run it!)

Our first step, before blazing into new year goal setting, is to clear the decks and reflect on the past year.

What went right? What am I most proud of from this past year? When did I feel most fulfilled and energized? What do I want to RENEW?

What held me back this past year? What did not align with my values? What actions, habits, or behaviors (or people) did not serve me well? What can I REINVENT?

Not every new year requires a complete personal transformation! If you thoughtfully reflect on the past year, perhaps you can merely turn up the volume on what’s already working for you. (TWEET THIS!)

For me, I’ve reflected on the many years I’ve offered brand story and messaging consulting to both solopreneurs and fast-growth businesses. The work was starting to drain me. For every amazing client that embraced our co-created work, brought it to life, and found tremendous success, others paid me well yet never executed –  and stayed stuck. And that made me incredibly sad.

With the launch of my book The Empathy Edge, I began delivering keynotes and leadership training about the power of empathy as a strategic leadership, culture, and brand advantage.

Eyes sparkle. Flames rekindle. New leadership paradigms emerge. Attendees leave my talks inspired to redefine success, align their personal values with their career goals, and bring humanity back to their work. And I was inspired to do work that helps people be more compassionate while still achieving excellence. Yes, it can be done!

For me and for Red Slice, this new year is one of REINVENTION. I’m adapting my business model to do more of what lights me up and makes a difference.  I am repositioning myself primarily as an empathy speaker, facilitator, and author.

Strategic advisory work (aka, brand strategy and story consulting) will be less of my focus, and only on an exclusive basis for right-fit corporate clients and larger organizations.

What is a right-fit client? Ready and willing to adapt, revamp, do things differently, and embrace empathy in their leadership, culture, and brand engagement.  Ready to connect and engage emotionally to accelerate impact and revenue.

While I will longer promote my SLICE engagements to solopreneurs, I still love supporting ambitious passionate people doing great work.. Existing courses, plus a new workshop and 5-week course will help you craft a winning brand story and strategy – with empathy at its core – to stand out, attract more ideal customers, and grow your impact.

And of course, my content and podcast will continue to inspire you to amplify your impact. Remember my mantra:  Cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive!

This is a big reinvention for me and for Red Slice and I hope you will join me in redefining success and hopefully, making the world a more empathetic place. Lord knows we need it.

Stay in the loop on all the changes! Be sure you’re on my email newsletter list for the new website launch and for my new Brand Story Breakthrough course coming soon!

 Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash 

Bridging Political Divides With Empathy

Can we ever bridge our political divides here in the US? Every day, things seem to get worse. We argue over guns, abortion, civil rights, and whether removing state secrets from the White House and locking them in your safe at home constitutes a crime. 

But what would happen if people on both sides could engage in meaningful dialogue? What if we all took personal responsibility to spot the lies by getting curious and doing our homework?

Recently on The Empathy Edge podcast, I  got to talk to a Twitter influencer I’ve been following for some time now, David Weissman. David and I discuss his story and how he grew up only consuming Conservative information and assumed it was all true. How we believed Democrats were trying to hurt this country and the shared values that attracted him to Trump’s campaign in 2016. David talks about how one Twitter conversation with actress and comedian Sarah Silverman sparked his curiosity to dig deeper into the Constitution and pundit claims, where he realized how many fear-based lies he had been told. Having stood in both camps, I ask him what we should know about why the Conservative message resonates with people, and how he thinks we can find common ground one empathetic conversation at a time.

Key Takeaways:

✔️Kindness and civil conversation will go further than name-calling or mudslinging ever will, regardless of which side of the conversational divide you are on.

✔️The magic of empathy is that if we can really deeply listen and understand that we can deeply listen without agreeing with each other, initially, we can at least have a conversation.

✔️People will not always change what they believe even when faced with facts. They have to be willing to change, do their own research, and see things from a different perspective.

TUNE 🎧 IN HERE: https://bit.ly/3f6tn4h

And remember, wherever you are…VOTE! Make your voice heard.

Check out more great guests and conversations about all aspects of empathy on The Empathy Edge podcast. Right here or find it on your favorite podcast player.

More you might like:

Mónica Guzmán: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Divide Political Times

Jonni and Maria Go There! Podcast: What the Hell is the Patriarchy?

How to Make Your Voice Heard

 Let’s Talk About A Better Workplace Culture

Seth Godin’s daily posts range from the inspirational to the tactical. The mundane to the philosophical. So when a post punches me in the gut, in the best possible way, it gets me thinking. Which is his goal: Stop existing. Start thinking. Disrupt the status quo.

Recently, he wrote a post called But First, We Need to Talk About. The gist is that what we are willing to talk about gets attention, resources, and energy.  So when we’re unwilling to talk about end-of-life health care costs or oppressive capitalist systems, we can’t change things. Instead, we pour countless hours of conversation into things like political infighting, Tik Tok crazes, or why Kim Kardashian ever dated Pete Davidson (those last 2 are way far out of my wheelhouse)

The realization hit me: This is why I’m talking about empathy at work and creating better leaders, cultures, and brands. I want us to pay attention, yes, but to actually make a change. Transform.

It started out with helping my clients craft an empathetic and engaging brand story, rooted in purpose. And yes, advising them on where they need to walk that talk in their culture, leadership, processes, or habits.  But it’s become a bigger movement to me. One in which we rethink our existing models and narratives of leadership and organizational success.

For too long, we’ve adopted false and binary narratives that you have to choose between humanity and profits. That compassionate leaders cannot also be competitive. That ambition can’t co-exist with empathy and collaboration. That we need to be one person at work and another when we’re off the clock.

Who the hell made these rules? Oh, right, we did. Humans. Our capitalist and industrialized society.

And we blindly bought into this status quo.

Here’s the great news: We as humans have the power to CHANGE those rules. They are not laws of physics that cannot be broken. We made them. We can make new ones.. (TWEET THIS!)

But first, we gotta talk about it. 

We have to talk about what is not working, where we are not being inclusive, and how our business practices might be harming our people or the environment.  We need to admit that profit had been held up above all other concerns for too long.  And that we can have both/and rather than either/or. 

Then we need to talk about how we get there. How we re-establish new rules together. How we create a better workplace culture. How we make the entire for-business system better.

Are you ready to talk to your leaders, teams, and customers about the future of work and the empathy revolution? I’d love to help. Let’s chat about a transformative and provocative talk to kick this into action for your organization tomorrow! 

Who Influences You – and Who Do You Trust?

Thought leadership is nothing new. Strong personalities make up the fabric of business success folklore. Henry Ford. Richard Branson. Steve Jobs. Oprah. Sara Blakely. Mark Cuban. Jessica Alba.  Tony Hsieh.

Since becoming an entrepreneur in 2008, I have been exposed to so many more of these cult personalities that many folks who still work in corporate life have never heard of. Marie Forleo. Chris Brogan. Gary Vaynerchuk. And further,  there are those thought leaders that influence us in the personal development and lifestyle space: Mel Robbins.  Lisa Bilyeu. Glennon Doyle. Tony. Robbins.

Influencer marketing may be a fairly new concept, but thought leadership (which I equate as somewhat similar) has been around a long time. It’s a fabulous and authentic marketing tactic. Establish  yourself not just as a successful leader in your organization, but as a leader in your industry. Someone who has their finger on the pulse of trends and customer insights.

There are many influencers and thought leaders that inspire me. From whom I learn a lot. But I am very skeptical of those who get elevated to gurus, saviors, and absolute truth-tellers. 

It got me thinking about how we decide which influencers we will trust. Which we will follow. I don’t even like the word “follow”as it implies discipleship. 

And that is my fundamental problem with many of the “gurus” out there. When I started out in entrepreneurship, I immediately spotted such snake oil salespeople a mile away. They promoted how they knew the “secret” to your business success. If you learn their formula or do things exactly the way they will tell you (for the low, low price of $5,000), you will be able to buy a jet! They planned extravagant conferences, walking onstage to pounding rock music and fire torches going off. 

I saw new entrepreneurs, mostly women I have to admit, spending THOUSANDS of dollars they didn’t have to take a short cut promised by the so-called prophet.  It made me so angry, I even tried to pitch a Wall Street Journal reporter to do a story on it.  

We definitely need influence in our lives. But we have to be more discerning about who those people are, and what we expect from them. So how do you decide who to trust?

I believe it’s wise to avoid experts who raise these red flags:

  • Make you pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn their “secrets.”If they can offer a framework, or valuable lessons within a curriculum, that is one thing. But if they start making me think there is some secret shortcut to success or a
    “7-figure business”, I keep my guard up.
  • If their social media feeds are full of acolytes agreeing with every word that drops from their lips – or if followers expect them to have all the answers to the challenges in their own lives, I back away. We should never give anyone else that much power. 
  • Anyone who encourages people to go into massive debt to fund their dreams. Not responsible. And not sustainable. Just gross. I’ve heard one such current trendy expert tells her “students” that if they don’t go into debt and max out their credit cards, they don’t want it badly enough. Big no for me.

How do I know who to trust? Well, that’s harder for me to put my finger on. I value authenticity, but not manufactured authenticity. It’s kind of like pornography: You know it when you see it. With our eyes wide open, we can tell when someone is genuinely trying to help people or when they are trying to hustle them. I also value those who treat others with kindness, respect, and empathy and don’t believe they are “too good” to talk with them. And I especially value those who you can disagree with and they invite this with curiosity rather than having their authority questioned. 

We should always be questioning and conversing, not blindly following supposed influencers or experts. (TWEET THIS!)

No one has all the right answers, and we shouldn’t act like these people are gods. They are human. We can definitely be inspired by them, learn from them, and be open to new perspectives, but do so with our own self-confidence fully intact. 

Who do you love to follow and learn from? What makes you trust them? Who do you currently avoid? Would love to know so please DM me on Instagram @redslice.

Photo Credit: Zac Durant on Unsplash

Living a Life of Integrity

My dad, Joseph Piccininni, passed away at 93 years young at the beginning of July. He fought a ridiculously brave fight, constantly getting up again after heart issues, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and more. One thing you never did with my dad was count him out!

For those who knew him, my dad LOVED a party. Quick with a joke, smile, and cocktail, he loved being around friends and family more than anything, never wanting to miss out. When we were planning my wedding, he said, “Make sure we have a fully stocked, open bar for our guests!”

Dad was married to my mom for 62 years before she passed away in 2016. He worked hard his whole life and was one of my earliest influences on having a strong work ethic. He was a butcher and in the auto wrecking business. among other things, before earning his college degree in night school while raising three young sons with my mom (I came along later) to become an engineer, which he was for more than 30 years. Dad even kept working into his 80’s, at the local butcher counter and as an Ohio State stadium usher! He loved designing and building things (structurally sound, but aesthetics could be better!) He built out the attic of our childhood home into a 2nd floor, designed and built a few sheds, decks, and even built our summer house in Mastic Beach, NY.

Dad served our country in the Korean War – and was always happy to share the story of that time he and his Army buddies attended a Hollywood party at Rosemary Clooney’s house in L.A.!

My dad taught me so many lessons about integrity, inclusivity, and happiness – lessons that have helped me succeed my whole life and into my entrepreneurial journey. He welcomed everyone into his home – our friends, neighbors, workmates. His zest for life was palpable. He taught me that age is just a number and you are only as old as you act or feel. “Appreciate your age, Maria. In 10 years time, you’ll wish you were the age you are now, so always enjoy it!”

Dad wrote me a six page letter when I went off to college  – and told me it would be the last such letter he’d ever write to me. In it, he shared how proud he was of me, and gave me all sorts of advice for life: Honor yourself and your integrity. Work hard and honestly at whatever you do. Surround yourself with good people and friends. Never lose sight of who you are and the generations who came before you. And to enjoy every single second of college – and life.

As a kid, it was my dad who helped me (unwillingly) learn to not care what other people think. He always loved embarrassing us kids in public!  Usually, it  involved singing loudly in a parking lot or doing something goofy in front of our friends! He loved turning almost anything into a song – grocery shopping, trash collecting. Dad also had a strange fascination with cheesy 80’s music, in addition to his love of the Rat Pack and Big Band era. He often sang “I Just Called to Say I Love You” when he’d phone me up.

Luckily, my son and I got back from our London vacation in time to say goodbye to my dad before he passed away. He was unresponsive but he knew we were there. Every now and then he’d open his eyes and nod. We played his favorite Rat Pack music for him. We kissed him goodbye. We left that first night and I just knew in my heart he had seen all of us and could now leave in peace. He passed away the following morning.

My dad taught me how to love life, how to welcome people into my home, how to work hard, how to live adventurously yet also with integrity. And in his own way, he taught me valuable lessons about what choices not to make, and I’m equally grateful for those.  I love that I got to speak to him a few days before he died, by video, when we were both able to say Ï love you” to each other.

Who influences you? From whom have you learned valuable lessons?  It could be a parent or another role model. It’s a great idea to take stock on the lessons that person has taught you and how it influences your everyday life and action. In the end, who made you who you are?

Five Lessons from 100 Podcast interviews

Last week, I hit 100 episodes on The Empathy Edge podcast.. 100 episodes! In that time, I’ve had the chance to speak with best-selling authors, CEO’s, marketing leaders, psychologists, social and emotional learning experts, culture consultants, and DEI champions.

The podcast started in August 2020 as a way to keep my empathy research going. Spending three years writing The Empathy Edge, I immersed myself in the data, stories, and interviews. And then once the book was out, promotion began. And the research stopped.

Suddenly, I didn’t see that latest report. The data I was using was outdated. Oh, and a global pandemic changed the way we work and how we interact with each other.

As the topic of empathy became more mainstream and evolved, a podcast seemed like a great excuse to keep interviewing experts – the best part of working on a new book! And you know me – I love to talk about empathy.

A podcast is as much fun and as much work as I thought it’d be. But it’s the best kind. And it has taught me many valuable lessons about connection, conversation, and change. (TWEET THIS!)

Five Lessons From 100 Podcast Interviews

And, if you’re thinking of starting your own podcast,  how this experience can transform you.

Never Go It Alone

When I set out, I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone. What mic do I buy? How do I even list a podcast on Apple? Who will do my production and editing (because that makes me want to poke my eyes out). A friend connected me to a friend, Erica Mills Barnhart, who had her own podcast and she told me about her production team, Turnkey Podcast. I went to them and said, “Please help me make this happen.”They immediately put me in a Launch Your Podcast course. I got everything done that needed done and now this dream team edits and produces my podcast every week, just for you. 

Learn How to Listen – and Ask on Behalf of Others

Having been on many podcasts before, I knew how to do my spiel. But hosting is another ballgame. You have to learn how to listen. And respond. It’s a lot like acting, really. Curiosity was not too hard for me, as I’m fascinated by my guests and their experiences.  But I also have to ask the right questions to move the conversation along. I don’t like too many podcasts because it annoys me when the hosts ramble on and on about themselves, or don’t get the guest to answer the question asked – or the question I have as a listener. I have learned to think even more about my audience and what they would want to know. What do they need? My job is to get that info out of my guest for them. 

A Podcast is A Great Way to Meet Amazing People

Forget the awkward LinkedIn connection request: My podcast enables me to reach out to anyone and everyone I find interesting and have a chat! If you are naturally curious like me, this is a wonderful way to build authentic connections. Some of my guests have even become clients, or have hired me as an empathy keynote speaker or empathy workshop leader at internal and customer events.. But that’s not why I talk to them. I invite them on because they have something to teach us all. And stories humanize us. The more stories I can help tell, the more I can create more empathy in the world.This is why I’m committed to inviting women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented leaders and experts to my microphone.

Organic Conversation is Authentic Conversation

We have talking points, sure. And prepared questions. But I invite my guests to feel like we are having a casual chat. It’s not just rote Q&A. It’s interaction. We add to each other. We interrupt each other.. We go off on a tangent if that’s the conversation’s next logical step.  We embrace ad hoc joy for scripted humor. The best compliment I get is when people say they feel like they are sitting with us over coffee! When you do a podcast, yes, prepare, but keep room for organic flow for a much richer experience for both of you – and your listeners.

There are So Many People Working to Make the World a Better Place

I think the most valuable lesson I have learned from 100 interviews is that there is hope. If we seek out the changemakers who are doing hard things, we find that there are thousands, millions of ways people are making a difference. Whether they are a CEO of a social enterprise helping Ethiopian women escape human trafficking, a coach helping women find their own voice, a doctor helping children become more emotionally resilient, a DEI expert  helping parents crack open tough conversations about race, a workplace crusader trying to help build cultures where people can thrive at work,  a marketing leader using his company’s brand to stand up to racial injustice, or a community buidling expert sharing how to make online communities more authentic and connective for mutual benefit…..all of my 100 guests have shown me that you can work toward empathy in ways big and small.

Which one is my favourite? That’s like asking me to pick a favourite kid! But I invite you to take a listen and DM me on IG to let me know which one is YOUR favourite!