We See The World As We Are With Kelli Oberndorf

We See The World As We Are With Kelli Oberndorf

In today's podcast episode, Cristina and Alex welcome Kelli Oberndorf again to dive into empathy and perspective.

Many think that empathy is a skill that one can learn. However, empathy is a mindset and a way of being in the world, and with each other.

In the workplace, we tend to categorize empathy as something else we need to 'do', one more thing that we have to put on our plate.

Empathy isn't a thing to put on your plate...It IS the plate! It is what you should build your leadership on. It is the basis for the actions you take and the way you engage with your employees. It is how you create bonds, loyalty, and trust within your organization.

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human

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Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that’s with our families, co-workers, or even ourselves.

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.

Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore.

HOSTS: Let's dive in.

Authenticity means freedom.

Authenticity means going with your gut.

Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself. Not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.

Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.

It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.

Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.

It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.

Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. Cristina and I are joined with our third musketeer, Kelli again today. Welcome back, Kelli.

Kelli Oberndorf: Hello. Yes, thank you for introducing me that way.

Cristina Amigoni: Hello, hello. We should bring our swords next time and do a all for one, one for all.

Alex Cullimore: We're going to have Ted Lasso jackets and musketeer swords. It's going to be a very eclectic outfit by the end of this.

Kelli Oberndorf: It’s our Halloween. It's our company Halloween costume.

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. Ted Lasso with swords. I’m not sure if that was the message you intended, but sure.

Alex Cullimore: Brings up, interestingly enough, our topic we wanted to discuss today, we wanted to talk about empathy, which is a double-edged sword, in some metaphor, I'm sure. We can talk a little bit about empathy, what it means, what it is in the workplace, what it is to people and why it's important. Let's dive right in. Whoever has thoughts on empathy?

Kelli Oberndorf: Well, I think this conversation got started between the three of us, when we started looking at some of the literature that was attributing empathy as a skill that you can learn. Really, empathy is a mindset. It's a way in who we are when we come to a conversation, or we're interacting with others. I was writing some things down that sometimes leaders slough off this conversation as something that is a soft skill. Really, empathy isn't a skill. Now, there are things that make up empathy, and we can teach how to be good, like listening, and we can talk about building relationships and putting ourselves in other’s shoes. It really is who we are, what we're bringing, and how we're relating to the other person that creates empathy, right? We've all talked about, too, when we talk about what we're putting on a leader’s plate, or on an employee's plate, but it really is “the” plate. Empathy is what we can build everything in our leadership on top of. I was just remembering our initial conversations around this topic, and just brought me back to that conversation, making the distinction between what a skill is and really more of a mindset.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. I really like that distinction. Because a skill, sometimes is seen as just a tool in the box. It's like, “Oh, I need my empathy hammer today. Let me use that. Tomorrow, let me just leave it in the box, or let it collect dust for the next nine months until the next poster I have to hang up.” That's not quite it. You can definitely choose to use it or not. 

Alex Cullimore: Empathy, it’s a poster.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. I'm not sure how successful your relationships are going to be when you let it collect too much dust.

 Alex Cullimore: I like that idea of it being a mindset as well, because while you can get more in the skill of getting yourself into that mindset, it is something you habituate. You just are. You are empathetic, and you are existing in a more empathetic space, or being more empathetic when you're in that mind space. I think that's one of the key underpinnings if you want to talk about psychological safety on a team, is having that empathy for what does it mean? What kind of workload am I giving people? How are people doing? Why are they responding the way they are? Getting really curious about that. Being curious, well, where are they at and what might they be feeling? This new change we've created, is this going to be a pinch for these people? Then what can we do to help that?

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. What I heard you say is that awareness. It's the awareness of someone else's perspective. It's relating. We may not be able to say, “Oh, I've been in that exact situation.” You can empathize with someone's feelings like, “Oh, I felt that way before.” I can understand maybe why there's insecurity, or why this person might feel vulnerable, or why they might have a problem, or an issue, or concern, or maybe an insecurity about it. I think, you have to make that leap in your mind of rather than just saying, “Well, I don't know what they're going through, because I've never been in that exact situation,” is actually listening to what the experience actually is for the person and saying, “Oh, okay. I've gone through something that looks similar, felt similar. I can say, “I can understand where that person is coming from.”

Cristina Amigoni: Well, and I would say, it even starts sooner than that. It's the perspective that the reminder that there is another point of view. We may not be able to relate. We may not have had the same experience, but even just taking interactions, or questions, or anything that comes up as huh. I was like, “That's an interesting perspective. I wonder what lens they're seeing this through.” I may not know, so that's where the curiosity comes in and ask, but I'm at least going through the non-judgement and the not reaction, because you just look at things as like – miss that. Didn't think about that perspective. I'm curious about learning a different way of looking at things.

Alex Cullimore: That's a really good way of looking at it. I think that, if you think about it, a lot of human experience, and this is something like that topic of Brene Brown's Atlas of the Heart. There's definitions for all different types of emotions, and she categorizes them into what times of life you might be experiencing these. If you think about it, you may not be in somebody else's specific situation and of course, they're in a different time and place in their life bringing into whatever situation it is, even if it is something that you maybe can relate to. Ultimately, we're going down to some of those base emotional levels where you have had the experience likely of feeling betrayed, of feeling embarrassed, of feeling excited, of feeling the many, many different words that can help differentiate and give us some new ones to what we are feeling we have all likely experienced flavors of those, knowing that curiosity for like, oh, yeah. That curiosity to be like, “Okay, well, I wouldn't feel upset about this, but they seem upset about this.” It is fine. You have to allow for that, too, just because you wouldn't want to and you don't want to have to deal with whatever else, doesn't mean that person is not having that experience.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, I love that. I love what you just said there. Because like, just because I'm not upset about this shouldn't devaluate, or invalidate somebody else's feelings of maybe stress, or frustration. It does take that stepping back, rather than putting yourself in the center of that circle every time there's something that comes up, or we could say that's self-centered, and I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way. It's just like, we are individuals, so we typically look at things from our own perspective. Really coming to the table and saying, “Well, there's actually multiple perspectives. Oh, this is really triggering, or super stressful to this person.” It's an acknowledging of someone else's experience.

Cristina Amigoni: Definitely is. I would say, even for anything that goes on, but especially in change management, we always highlight how it's really about empathy. The secret to change management is empathy. It's knowing that what I know and the way I see things is not the end. It's about figuring out how is somebody else going to see this? How are they going to be impacted by this? It's an exercise of empathy. Without empathy, you will always miss what's on the other side, because you won't focus on it. That's a key focus. It's also the assumption that it's never going to be just my perspective. The assumption is like, there's always another side. There's always three a 100, a 1,000 other sides to everything that we do and everything we bring to the table. Make that assumption rather than, “Yup. Well, I've communicated the way it needs to happen. Everybody else needs to get in line.” I'm like, “Well, we don't see the world as it is. We see the world is we are.”

Alex Cullimore: I like Cristina's trade secrets on the airwaves. Change management is empathy. It is actually our approach and that is definitely the way to do it. I like the way you said it about self-centered, Kelli, because part of empathy, I think, is putting yourself in what might be someone else's center. Trying to see what it might be like from their point of view, seeing that perspective and being like, “What is their center?” Can empathize with the fact that it is tiring sometimes to feel like you have to do that and to not know where people are at and to be guessing what their perspective might be. If you need help by getting to there, you just have to think back on a time when you were not listened to on that, where there was some part where somebody was telling you something that they were not empathizing with you on. This becomes very frustrating on the receiving side. When you want help bringing people together and you need the team to be cohesive, it's a huge benefit to really start to put yourself somewhere else and remember what it was like to not have that. Even if you don't understand their perspective, even if you don't agree with somebody's perspective, it doesn't mean it's not valid and it definitely will still come to the table, even if you'd like to say that it isn't valid.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. As you were talking, and then you said exactly what I was thinking, which was, you don't have to agree to be empathetic. We don't have to even have the same perspective. We don't, clearly don't have the same perspective, right? Or usually we don't have the same perspective as others. Sometimes we do. Even if we don't, we can still bring empathy to the table. Because empathy is just acknowledging. It's creating that space for vulnerability and honesty and transparency to be present. Then self-reflecting of like, “Okay, I get it. I understand what this person is.” I don't necessarily agree, or maybe it doesn't even change anything. It could lead down the same set of standards, the same goals, the same outcome needs to be present. When you give people that opportunity to express what is actually true for them, that is empathy. Part with that.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. If you start with the assumption, then there's always going to be that truth on the other side. There's always something that we are not thinking about, because we don't know what their perspective is. Then it becomes, when we do miss things, or when things are misinterpreted, then it's not personal. It's not an attack. It's just, that's the way it is. Every time, there's going to be something that gets interpreted differently, or we didn't explain, or we didn't think about. It's a learning situation. It’s like, “Oh, what can I learn here?” Got it. Learned that.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. How can we have space for everybody here? It really does, too, go back to that conversation of equity as well and around that we all have a place here at the table. Everybody's opinion is valid, even if it's not something that may work for various situations that we know. Everybody that’s sitting at this table has a slightly different vantage point that they're coming from. That's why when we talk about change management and the teams that need to be a part of that, that we include all people – people from different parts of the organization, from the top leaders to the end users, right? That we're bringing that perspective to the table saying, “Oh, actually, we respect everybody's different perspective and that they may look at this problem from a different point of view, because what they do every day gives them that different perspective.” If the leaders at the top are just saying, “Well, it's my way or the highway, and there's no other place for any of these insecurities to come out when we are creating change in our organization. that, yeah, they'll just do what we say, because the hierarchical structure says that's what we're supposed to do,” then we just miss this whole opportunity. Actually, sometimes it can lead to failure around change, because we didn't actually get those perspectives in the room. We didn't listen and we didn't give that space to say, actually, that's not going to work for these reasons and here's why. That's a missed opportunity in a lot of ways for organizations to think too much from that top-down perspective.

Cristina Amigoni: I would say 99.9% of the time, it leads to failure.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. It's a guaranteed recipe for creating change resistance. You're not going to feel heard. You're going to feel like you're being forced to do something that you don't see the point of, especially if it's just based on like, “Hey, well, I'm higher in the org tree than you are, so just shut up and listen.” It's going to be hard to just receive that, especially on an ongoing basis. There are times when we all have to do things that just are for the collective organization more than whatever we individually think should happen. That'll just be part of work, but you can get there a little easier if you lead with some empathy and be like, “Hey, I understand this is going to be – this is going to be change for this. Here's why this is important.” That's where you go back into, here's what's in it for you. Here's what that – it’s a huge exercise in empathy. What are you going to get out of this? This is going to be better for all of us and here's what this will look like in the future. Yes, it might be painful right now and that's what we're going to work through when we’re here with you. Just be that supportive acknowledgement role and be like, “I know. I get this as frustrating. Here's the reasons why we think it's still necessary to push through.”

Cristina Amigoni: Definitely. We know empathy is the secret weapon for change management. I would say, it's a secret weapon for leadership as well. It's a secret weapon for everything.

Kelli Oberndorf: It’s good relationships.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, exactly. For being human, as just, yeah. You're human, you're here, your life and everybody else's life is going to be slightly better with that. If it's not a skill, then how do we learn it and develop it?

Alex Cullimore: I was just thinking about that one, with what was Kelly was saying about that you're never going to quite fully get the perspective. Then you're saying it too, Cristina, there's not going to be a time where you get all of those perspectives off the bat, until you've gone through it. Yeah, there'd be things you miss by communicating. I think, part of what makes empathy not necessarily a skill is that it's not perfectible. There's not a time where you can get certified in empathy, and then you're just always empathetic. It comes down to your own – where you're showing up from, how much energy you have to devote to this, how curious you can be. You can have the intention of continually getting more and more curious, so I think is a huge staple, to your point, Cristina, or your question, Cristina, about what do we do to build empathy? I think, curiosity is a major pillar in that. Staying open to what other people might be thinking. Staying open to what that means. Being curious about how we can then include that. Is this a better idea than we had before? Is this something we should just address, because otherwise, it's going to become – you're just talking about change resistance, which if you think about it, we go through change management. Ultimately, life's always changing on us. That just becomes a leadership skill, since half of leadership is helping you through the things that are being moved through.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, what I heard both of you say is, there's a need for introspection, right? It's the ability to step back, rather than just shoot off what we think, or diminish somebody's, “Oh, well. That's not going to work.” Devaluating their perspective. It does require us to actually step back, which is the same thing that is required in good communication, is the ability to step back and say, “Okay. Well, what is my reaction and how can I bring a more authentic experience of communicating?” I think, that's the same thing for empathy is being able to say what is exactly that I'm feeling in this moment and how can I bring an inclusive conversation? How can I validate this person's perspective? How can I be curious? I mean, curiosity is such – it’s like, if we could all bring just curiosity to everything we do, I mean, we probably would be a lot happier, because we see. Because the ticket to connection is the ability to be curious in someone else's experience. That actually creates the bridge between the two of us, is that, again, it doesn't say I agree. It just says that I can stop. Before I just jump into my opinion, or putting my foot down about some initiative, that curiosity and introspection allows us to create the connection, which then opens up to possibility, because to your points, both of your points, that we all have some perspective that actually, could help us move it forward. We're never going to be able to solely know where everybody's at, because we're not everybody. That recognition. I don't always have the right answers, which is hard, because we are taught that you have to gain this knowledge and you have to be these experts in your field, and so then when you reach the certain point on that hierarchical structure, then you have this superiority, which then means everybody else below you isn't quite as good as you, because they don't have that title. Really, that's just washing empathy and that conversation of empathy. Washing that out and saying, “Oh, actually, even though I have this title, or I have this leadership role, that the people on my team are just as important as I am. Their perspective is just as important.”

Alex Cullimore: In that way, I think curiosity is a big portion of it. Patience is another huge portion of it, because there's the patience of investigating that learning what other people are – and learning people have a hard time expressing themselves, especially when there already is a hierarchical structure and there's some belief of other power structure. There's easy enough to float towards the idea of whoever has the fanciest title in the room, but that doesn't necessarily share what the best ideas. It's just what that idea is. Having that patience to go explore these options and really, I think, ultimately, deeply ingraining that mindset, you're talking about, Kelli, of I don't know. It doesn't have to be about accepting that other – other people can have different perspectives. It's not saying that every perspective is right. It's just saying, there's probably something to be learned here. Having that acknowledgement is important and just ingraining in yourself, that getting to that perspective is worthwhile, and that it doesn't mean accepting it, it just means we should talk it out and we should still have that available to us and have people feel they can share that. Even when we, and the patience goes in, then a second way then, too, when the team needs to move forward and you believe this is a very necessary move, or change, or something, you can become very impatient. We can feel like, well, just stop resisting this right now. We just need to get this done. It's a long-term patience, too. If you display that and wait and have that acknowledgement, you're building that muscle for next time. Even if it feels very urgent that you get this one thing done, you just don't want to hear from people right now. Even when that's the case, you're then selling yourself against the future when people will then feel less patient, or they can't be listened to.

Cristina Amigoni: It's definitely a long-term mindset, which is why it's mindset, not a skill that you just bring out whenever you feel it. It's because of that long-term thing. It's not a one and done. You don't just go into a meeting once and ask for people perspective. You actually create that every time you meet with people. I like the patience portion of it, because it does take a lot of patience to highlight it and spend the time upfront, knowing that long-term, once you have created that psychological safety, the perspectives will come naturally without you having to ask every time. It is going to take the 20, 30, 40, 50 times of creating the safety that I'm like, “Oh, this is not just one time. They actually want to know my opinion every time.”

Kelli Oberndorf: Patience is an interesting conversation, because I think organizations who need to move through change quickly, that patience is, or impatience is inbred into the culture of well, we just have to get this done. We just have to move through this. Well, the market is saying we have to. Of course, there's some things that require us to fastball pitch us into some different way of being. An example I can use this telehealth during the pandemic. It was like, telehealth was around before the pandemic. But all of a sudden, everybody had to switch and change. Then that emergent situation, like, yeah, maybe there wasn't like, “Hey, is this going to work out? Are we going to be able to accomplish this?” It's like, “No, we have to accomplish this.” We could have said, if you have an opinion on how this needs to go, great. Right now is the time for you to bring it up, because we got to get this done and we got to see our patients tomorrow on telemedicine. There are moments where you do have to move through those. In reality, the majority of the things that we do, we think we have to have this fast pace mindset, the startup mindset where things have to just move forward, so we can get this product to the market, or we can get this da, da, da, da, da out. Because that in reality, that's also a mindset that everything has to go at a warp speed. It actually, things don't necessarily have to move that fast in reality. We have that inbred into this culture, then it breeds an anxiety that lives inside. That, okay, and that anxiety then says like, “Oh, wait. I can't bring it up, because we're moving too fast through this. If I can't bring it up, then maybe my opinion, or my voice doesn't matter.” Then we can go into ourselves, and then be hiding out in the back of the classroom, for example, and never say, “Actually, I have something to say.” Leaders and organizations actually have to be willing to slow down for a minute. Go slow to go fast is, whatever.

Alex Cullimore: Telehealth is a perfect example of that, because that was a change, where suddenly everybody literally on a calendar date, suddenly, everybody had to do that. We couldn't go to places. That was just mandated. That's a good example of just a curveball thrown. On the flip side, if you can build this culture where you don't have that anxiety that you're talking about, or the organization feels like they have to, then when those curveballs come along, it's a lot easier to immediately source all the opinions you need and be like, “Hey, we're going to have to make this shift very quickly. What is everybody's opinion on this? How can we do this best?” People, if you already have gotten them to the space, where you've been empathetic enough times, and they feel they can be heard, you're going to get the honest opinion. You're going to get a lot better information a lot faster. If you slow yourself down, again, to speed up, suddenly, you can get those necessary opinions upfront, instead of trying to super warp speed your organization and watch all the pieces fall off that you inevitably have to struggle along and go back and pull together at which point, you're accomplishing the same thing and what would have been the patient amount of time, but you've burnt everybody out a lot more on the journey.

Cristina Amigoni: You lose trust. Trust is gone. The next time there's a curveball, good luck. It's going to take you another two years to figure that one out. The pain that's going to be felt, the decrease in productivity, the silos, the team breaking up, the lack of communication, all these things will just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Alex Cullimore: If you want an example of how history will carry over, think about your own career transitions. I mean, I've worked at places where it was a very non-trusting culture, and it's very difficult to work there. Then I went to a different job where it was a very, very open culture, but I wasn't really able to engage in that, because I did not trust that that was really a thing. I didn't trust that leaders, bosses, etc., could have that more open mindset. I didn't really engage, plug into this. We carry this individually. If you start to carry that baggage as a team, where the team starts to have the folklore of like, “Well, last time we tried this, this department stood in the way.” Now you're talking about ingrained stuff, plus personal history. You have a lot of baggage to end up having to clear out, which is why we always half joked that the other half of change management is somewhere between physical therapy and work therapy. It's just clearing out the bad habits.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. To your point, Cristina, earlier too, is that takes 30, 40, 50 times, because of what you were saying, Alex, is that you're not only bringing the experience of this organization with you, you're bringing your career and all the different times that your boss said that there was an open-door policy, but really, there wasn't one. The next time your boss says, “I have an open-door policy,” then you're like, “Yeah, whatever that means.” Every time their door is closed, you’re like, “Yeah. See, they don't really have one.” It would be hard as leaders working through that where you have to say, “Hey, Cristina. Let me hear what you have to say. Alex, what's your perspective on this? Because I know you have this experience that I don't have. Where do you see this going? What are some of the benefits and some of the ways that we could be missing the mark?” Use those change management principles, like the SWOT analysis, and all these technical terms that we use that actually use those to draw out the perspectives on your team. You say, now we're really have a good idea of we need to keep our eyes on this potential problem that could derail this. I might not have really realized that, or been present to it, unless somebody said it. If I'm not sourcing people to say things in the meeting, or one on one, or whatever, then like you said, 99.9% of the time, it'll fail, or won't go the way it will, or will just abandon it. People will be like, “Wait. What? Are we doing this? Or no, we're not doing that anymore? Okay. When did that happen?”

Alex Cullimore: The road to trusting again.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. What I'm wondering is, as you were talking about it, what I keep thinking is like, why is there so much lack of empathy? I would say, there's never enough. In a lot of cases, there's just straight out whack. Think it's constantly jumping to conclusions, blaming the other side, not pausing, not thinking that maybe there is a different perspective. There's just the immediate, “Oh, they just don't understand,” or something. Why do we lack so much empathy?

Alex Cullimore: It’s an interesting question. It goes back to that being centered around our self. Especially if you're the one suggesting a change, it's so clear in your head why all these things have to happen. Inevitably, you have forgotten some things that probably aren't great about whatever your idea is. I think, we just have this idea like, well, it's such a great idea. Everybody should be able to see this. Or, why should I need to have to ask everybody this? This is where we should go. It just seems so readily apparent. I’m just curious, because we do hit that hurdle over and over and over again. I don't know why we don't find empathy.

Kelli Oberndorf: Well, maybe it's because society doesn't really put a big emphasis on that, in both the family unit and as something that we can learn over time through experience and guidance. I think of my kids’ preschool, and when one kid went up to the other kid and hit them, that it wasn't like, “You can't do that. That's bad.” Instead, they would be like, “Wow, what happened in this situation that would instigate that?” Okay, well, can we actually find a better way of handling that than hitting in the future? Can we use our words? Can we try to compromise? I think, we don't do a good job in society of actually spending time at those really developmental years and teaching that too inside the family unit, that that can guide that child to seeing those different perspectives from an early age, so it's actually more of just a reflex than it is something like, now that we're in the organization and we were never taught about that, now we're trying to learn that now. That's a lot harder, right? We know that. It's easier to learn as a child than it is to learn as an adult. I do think that there is a responsibility inside our school systems, inside of the family unit and support for families, that we're actually putting that as something that we teach along the same lines as mathematics and reading. That we also have this education around what it is like to be an empathetic person?

Alex Cullimore: I love that idea. I think, it does definitely go back to childhood education. We do need a better job of that. It's funny when you measure it, like with mathematics and everything. I studied math in college and don't use it a bunch in the world, but I do have to use empathy all the time. It's like the Joel jokes about like, “Well, yeah. I learned a lot in school, but I didn't learn how to file a tax return. That never came up, even though that's going to come up every year for the rest of your life.” That one's going to be the one thing consistent. It feels like, empathy and emotional reasoning and being able to do that critical problem solving of like, why did this result in someone punching someone else where we could have used words, doing that thing? Is something that would behoove us throughout our lives. Yet, we're stuck with other subjects that will be more technical in nature, or more tactical. This is a skill to learn, versus this is what's going to underpin you in your relationships with everybody forever.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Well, it's so much harder. It's like you said, now we're undoing what wasn't done, or we're doing something that was never done. It's that much harder as adults to come in and do that and make it a mindset instead of a skill that's in my toolbox. Because, well, it's a mindset, it's a huge rewiring of the way we do things and we see things. Besides the fact that it guarantees that we are going to have jobs for the rest of our lives in this organization, it would be nice if it were a little bit more of a mindset, because it really comes down to a lot of things; miscommunication, silos, lack of trust, lack of collaboration. I mean, you name it. Take a problem that's happening in any organization, and I would say, it's the number one problem at the core is lack of empathy.

Alex Cullimore: It would be something that would help move it. I think, part of that is that we – back to the idea of education as well is that we teach this as you. You're either right or you're wrong in most situations. We create punishments, instead of creating understanding, or seeing what we can do better next time. That continual feedback of like, what if you're wrong, you've moved down on your performance review, you're moving out of the organization, if you're wrong enough times, which I think makes it even harder for leaders to show up and be like, “Wow, okay. I hadn't considered that perspective.” It feels sometimes like being wrong. It feels like, “I can't believe I missed that.” Now, if I have to now admit that. Now, it's going to look like I was an idiot and didn't think about this first. We have that level of shame and guilt over the idea of a mistake. It's a lot harder to have that curiosity and that patience, and everything we've talked about, that builds that trust long-term.

Kelli Oberndorf: Which is why leaders have to create a platform for it. You have to manufacture it now, because it's something that you didn't learn as a kid, or society tells you, it's this or that way, and you're right, or you're wrong, or it's black, or it's white, or there's no space for other opinions. I mean, jeez, we just see that playing out in so many ways in our society. To the leaders, they have to actually bring a good amount of awareness, especially if it's not – doesn't necessarily come natural to them, because they may didn't have leaders, or parents, or teachers, or public figures to actually say, it's okay to have opposing opinions. It's okay to not agree. It's okay to come to the table with a different perspective. It doesn't have to mean they're right, or wrong, or that we follow it, or we don't follow it, or this, or that. It's just a place where people can come and say, “These are my thoughts on this, or this is what's hard for me, or I get upset when this happens and this interpersonal issue happens.” If you don't create that space for it to be okay to bring it up, then you're not creating an empathetic team, or you're not – you can't create that empathy on your team at least.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Which reminds me of the fact that as you were explaining the whole pressure of not getting it wrong and being judged if you do, somehow the title equals thinking of every single possible thing that could come up. If not, then I don't deserve the title and where I am in the organization. That's also connected to the fact that if we don't know how to have empathy, if we don't have that mindset, if it's not natural, then it's not only causing others to not have their perspective heard, and not seeing what happens in other, but how can we possibly have empathy for ourselves if we don't know what empathy is, if we don't know how to demonstrate it for others?

Kelli Oberndorf: I'm really glad you brought that up, too.

Alex Cullimore: That’s a really good point.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, that we've been talking a lot about empathy is something that's like, what we do for others. You're so right. It's like, can we actually give that to ourselves? Can we say, “Whoa. I feel like I don't know what's happening in this moment. Or I don't understand what that person said, or I don't understand the dynamics of a problem.” That, it can create insecurity and can we actually give empathy like, “Oh, yeah. Of course, you don't. You've never reached this moment.” You've never had just this problem. You've never been in this situation. Can you bring kindness to yourself first?

Alex Cullimore: Kindness and curiosity and compassion. Bringing all of those back into, can you do that for yourself? Can you do it for yourself so you can do it for others? Not so that you can do it for others, because you should be able to do it yourself, too. It just also, I think it's much harder to do it for others if you can't do it for yourself, to Cristina's point.

Cristina Amigoni: Well, I say this is a good point to just dictate empathy. Go be empathetic. Figure it out.

Alex Cullimore: Didn’t talk about it and be, “Just go do it.”

Cristina Amigoni: Just go and do it.

Kelli Oberndorf: Snap your fingers. Now, you're an empathetic leader.

Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. Thinking about yourself and be empathetic.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah, that's right. That's our homework for our listeners is find a place where you can be empathetic for yourself in your life. Then find something within the people that you work with, where you can bring empathy to the table.

Cristina Amigoni: That's a better takeaway, then just go figure it out.

Alex Cullimore: Everyone who train it, ask yourself, what would an empathetic response be? What would an empathetic response to the situation be? Then just brainstorm for yourself, brainstorm with other people. Do whatever might help get into that mindset a little bit more. Because that is the start of curiosity. What might it look like to be more empathetic?

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, I love that. Because that's a great pause. You got the email, you get the text message, you're in the middle of a conversation, you're planning something is start with that question. It’s like, what would it look like with somebody else's perspective? What could be happening on the other side? If I don't know, that's okay. Ask. If I asked, what's your perspective?

Alex Cullimore: Again, not about having every angle all the time.

Kelli Oberndorf: Yeah. It's actually assuming you don't.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. It's assuming you don't, which is probably a more correct assumption is, this is my perspective. This is the perspective of three people. Great. What are we missing? Constantly have that question. What am I missing here?

Kelli Oberndorf: Absolutely.

Alex Cullimore: Now, go be empathetic. Thank you very much for listening, everybody. Thank you again for joining us, Kelli.

Kelli Oberndorf: Thank you.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you.

Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo Podcast.

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Laura, and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas, or questions. You can reach us at podcast@wearesiamo.com, or on our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. WeAreSiamo is spelled W-E-A-R-E-S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.

Kelli OberndorfProfile Photo

Kelli Oberndorf

Certified Professional Facilitator and Coach

Kelli holds a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration and is a Certified Professional Facilitator and Coach. She empowers individuals and organizations to invest in the wellbeing of their employees and themselves by strengthening relationships, building trust, and establishing community within the companies she works with. Kelli is highly skilled in interpersonal and team dynamics, conflict resolution, and 1:1 management coaching. Her work is practical, applicable, and will improve communication, kindness, and trust throughout the organization.