Lessons in Leadership Style: Empathy Works [Podcast]

While in a position of power in an organization, it can be difficult to gauge how effective a person’s leadership style may be. Oftentimes employees are nervous to address issues with their supervisors, especially if they think their managers won’t listen to their perspectives.

While there isn’t one right way to lead, more and more research reveals that leaders who practice empathy have better relationships with their teams

A person who can adapt their communication and leadership style to meet the needs of different individuals are liked more and seen as friendlier. This type of leader knows that there isn’t just one way to do things. They can change how they manage their employees based on context and situation. They welcome meaningful feedback and apply it effectively.

Our Guest: Gary DePaul, Ph.D., HR and Leadership Expert


The special guest on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends is entrepreneur, author, researcher, and performance consultant Gary DePaul, Ph. D. Books he’s written include Nine Practices of 21st Century Leadership, The Most Effective and Responsible Clinical Training Techniques in Medicine, and his most recent work, What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?

When talking with Gary about effective leadership style, he said one of the major things to avoid as a leader is fake collaboration. This happens when a boss creates the illusion of collaborating with their team–but in reality, they’re not listening to others, making all the decisions themselves, and having a one-way conversation. 

Real collaboration, Gary says, can only occur when a supervisor listens and guides their team based on the exchange of ideas. There is no hidden ego or agenda on the boss’s part.

“If we’re going to have real collaboration, you have it so that one person is leading, and everyone else’s role is to inquire. The boss should consider: What is this person saying? Why is it important? Am I understanding it right?” Gary says. “That’s what real collaboration is. When you have that synergy, when you’re focused on what the other person is saying, and you sincerely are listening, using empathy.”

Empathy is Crucial (Whether You’re a Boss or Not)


A great way to make your team feel comfortable sharing ideas, Gary says, is to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Admitting to things you can improve on shows self-awareness. Also, it shows your team that you’re empathetic to any concerns they may have regarding your present leadership style.

For example, Gary says, “If you’re new to being a supervisor, acknowledge it. Recognize you’re going to make mistakes and ask for feedback, informally. Say, ‘How am I doing? I know I’m new at this. What can I do to do this better?’ Do things like thank people and acknowledge them for what they do. And then hold people accountable with the team and hold yourself accountable for what your team does.”

Of course, leaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from practicing empathy. The best way to get good results at work, whether you’re a CEO or hourly employee,  is to outright ask people for feedback and provide it to others voluntarily. As an employee, you can improve relationships and overall output at work by taking the initiative to interact.

“If you’re not a leader, but you want to connect with your teammates, simply ask your peers how they’re doing!” Gary says. “Check in with them, especially if you’re working in a virtual, remote environment. And give your boss upward feedback!”

Developing a leadership style that works can be difficult. But if you’re empathetic and open to your employees, you’re setting everyone up to improve not just their work output, but their human experience at work!

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more useful information on how to develop an empathetic leadership style by connecting with our guest, Gary DePaul, on LinkedIn.

The Year Of Living Inspirationally

I checked my latest Instagram/Facebook picture post and one of the comments read: “You really should have your own reality show, Kevin.”

I smiled. KevTV, I thought. Nice ring to it. But no – the movies The Truman Show (1998) and Edtv (1999) and the onslaught of “real” reality TV shows since have turned me off to that prospect. Overexposure and exploitation now, as well before the “Twitters” really took off way back when, continue to raise the bar on offensive banality.

However, I’ll bet some folks who know me well, or not so, raised their eyebrows at my own brand of overly shared social banality (which is thankfully far from being offensive). That’s fine because each of us has the choice to change the channels, right?

Indeed. My latest socially shared channel of late was my own family “Disney” channel when we took our girls to Disneyland right after the New Year. And I shared picture after family picture after funny artsy picture after family picture. Hence the comment, “You really should have your own reality show, Kevin.”Disney Sisters

But that’s not why I do it. At least, not the primary reason. It’s not why I’ve had a fairly regular blog about personal leadership, responsible parenting, and domestic violence awareness called Get Off The Ground since 2007. It’s not why I’ve had my own “world of work” blog called Reach-West since 2010 (and it’s not why I had been blogging years before that with, since 2004 actually). And it’s not why I’m so excited to raise the bar on the recruiting experience in 2015 with PeopleFluent.

All these self-proclaimed accomplishments and accolades don’t mean I’m “Mister Fancy Pants early-adopter and thought leader” (my LinkedIn number from when I joined is over 1 million). Considering my first tweet was on May 11, 2008 – “I’m setting up my Twitter account and have no idea what to do next” – I’ve only wanted to connect, to share and more importantly, to learn before that and ever since.

Which is what led me to TalentCulture and #TChat way back when in 2010. Again, to connect, to share and to learn. Which is also why reminiscing this moment on the TalentCulture #TChat Show with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt, co-authors of A World Gone Social, was so poignant.

Two particular points they made in their Harvard Business Review article titled The 7 Attributes of CEOs Who Get Social Media resonated with me and inspired this piece. Not only for CEOs – for anyone in any leadership position – including leading the social “self,” what I feel is the most important position of all:

They Are Relentless Givers. They give back, they mentor, and they care about real social issues that have nothing to do with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They constantly share what they know, connect others and — often for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do — they do good.

They Lead with an OPEN Mindset. “OPEN” – short for Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network – means that no one person, even the highest-level leader, can have all the answers. Instead, we deliberately build personal relationships with those willing to help us discover the answers, together.

Combine that with what Jeanne Meister, author of The 20/20 Workplace, wrote recently, the fact that we’re all “digital citizens” today; it ain’t just the Millennials digging the social scene. And as a recent MIT Sloan research report showed, 57% of workers now consider “social business sophistication” to be an important factor when choosing an employer.

Each of us can and should be social leaders today in work and in life, relentless givers with an OPEN mindset, commiserating and celebrating with one another in collaboratively creative ways we’d never imagined, even way back in 1999. We should even demand it. That raises the bar on the beneficial.

Okay, but Disneyland? Hey, I like to be liked and I like to have fun with my immediate family and extended family and friends (online and off). That I will not deny. I’d argue that most of us do to some extent, but for me, it’s not contingent on how I choose to connect, to share and to learn. 2015 will be the year that the rest of the world finally starts to catch up with their own social mojo – we’ve already seen time and again how the world chooses and uses social to elevate, not denigrate. The TalentCulture #TChat community never fails to inspire.

And the reality is, I do think that this inspiration will make for a very good year.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: hang_in_there via photopin cc

Want To Be Your Own Boss? Try This First

By Hans Balmaekers, Founder and Director,

Plan B: Entrepreneurship?

Many young professionals quickly discover that corporate life falls short of expectations. Do you relate? You probably feel you have more to offer than your job requires. You may even think you could outperform your manager. If so, you’re not alone.

It’s no secret that Millennials tend to score lowest in employee engagement. Many of us feel that, if only the economy weren’t so bad, we could have started our own companies by now and could proudly call ourselves entrepreneurs.

The great stories of leading self-made innovators like Elon Musk make it easy to see ourselves standing in their shoes, building companies and disrupting industries just as they did. And because corporate life can be so frustrating and unfulfilling, it seems attractive to completely jump ship and do our own thing.

Perhaps if you burned your bridges, you could soon be the next Steve Jobs, on stage, presenting the next big thing, with the world at your feet…

News Flash: Entrepreneurship Is No Ticket to Success

Ready for a wake-up call? The truth is that your dream isn’t likely to become a reality.

Most young-professionals-turned-entrepreneurs don’t even come close. They aren’t even entrepreneuring. They often do the same kind of work as before — but as consultants. (What else can they do with only a few years of experience?) These free agents chase clients, network like crazy, stick their toes in social media and market themselves, but they find themselves still unsatisfied and earning less than before. Has being brave ever felt less appealing?

Another Path

Maybe you shouldn’t leave and become an entrepreneur. Maybe there’s another way to use your talents and ideas and channel your frustrations about how your organization needs to change. Leaving is not your only option. Why not take a deep breath, stand up, rise above your desk and shout out, “Enough! I’m making changes around here!”

Sure, that might seem a bit theatrical. But be honest. Doesn’t that statement actually describe how you feel?

Start A Secret Intrapreneur Mission Now

If so, try a more subtle way to go about disrupting the status quo — start a secret mission to become an intrapreneur. That means you can use your entrepreneurial mindset and skills to create the job you love and generate better results for your company.

Read that again — a job you love that generates results for your company. Is that possible? Sure it is. Many have done it. Not all openly call themselves intrapreneurs, but the population of these inspiring and talented people is growing. They are changing their companies’ cultures from within, and launching hugely successful products. Think of companies like 3M, Sony, Vodafone, Dell and Google, just to name a few. Intrapreneurs are absolutely essential to these organizations. Most of them started their careers at the same point as you. They experienced the same frustrations as you. And just like you, they knew change was needed.

They had similar ideas and the same urgency to challenge the status quo and figure out how to get things moving. But instead of walking away from those challenges and leaving their employers, they decided to drive the change they envisioned.

Being a change-maker takes passion, persistence, patience and resilience. It’s not the easy road. And it’s not how our generation was raised. We’ve been told that the choice is always ours, that we can have whatever we want, and that participation is optional.

GenY operates with the mantra, “If we don’t like it, we don’t do it.” If you don’t like your job, it might seem easier to quit, but that will not necessarily help. You may still end up feeling unfulfilled, with no stage and no audience (plus a lower salary, or none at all).

Isn’t it more exciting and rewarding to show colleagues, managers and senior executives that we Millennials can fulfill our promise of being innovators, connectors, change-makers and leaders?

The next time you envision yourself as Steve Jobs, picture yourself on the same stage announcing the same breakthrough innovation — but wearing a shirt with your current company’s logo. A successful and happy intrapreneur. Doesn’t that feel more fulfilling than endlessly chasing gigs? You still get your monthly salary, and if you do it right, you’ll grow your income faster than you would as an entrepreneur.

Still Not Into Intrapreneuring? Consider This

Like many GenY workers, you may feel inspired to play your part in changing the world for the better. Multinational corporations and other big organizations play a major role in change-making, believe it or not.

You can take a shorter shower to save water, but compared to the consumption of big industrial corporations, it’s a droplet. You can talk for hours about the financial crisis, but as long as big banks and institutions don’t change the way they operate, will it ever be solved? Transforming education is a must, but if there’s no work for hundreds of millions of young people, why care?

Multinational corporations and big organizations are crucial in changing the world for the better. And the only way to make them frontrunners in that process, rather than followers, is for next-generation employees to drive change from within.

What’s Stopping You?

Ready to apply yourself to the ideas that will help you become an intrapreneur, rather than an entrepreneur? The best way to start is by learning how to perform better at your current job and in less time. Your time can be better spent investing in interesting side projects, engaging in more strategic relationships, and building your reputation.

Are you in?

Hans-Balmaekers-founder-sa.am_-001(Author Profile: Hans Balmaekers is the Founder and Director of, a resource for young professionals who care about their future, want to make a difference, and want to develop the mindset and skills to become change-makers. This month, is launching an online intrapreneurship course to prepare aspiring and new intrapreneurs for success. Connect with Hans on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, the blog offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

The Grinch & The World of Work: #TChat Preview

The holidays have us fired up here at the TalentCulture World of Work Community. And that means we’re tapping into some high-powered friends – social business leaders at Mashable and HuffingtonPost/AOL for a super-spirited #TChat Radio program this Tuesday – followed by a dynamic #TChat Twitter convo on Wednesday. (See questions and other details at the end of this post.)

What’s the dust-up about? Well, we’re venturing into territory that lives on the edge of political correctness – a sensitive area for some. But workplace culture has implications for an organization’s contribution to the greater good. So in the interest of understanding the important relationship between corporate culture, community engagement and responsible leadership, we’re exploring holiday traditions, social behaviors, and business goals.

Consider this. I visited a friend’s workplace recently. It’s a really awesome space — open and airy, very hip — all mod cons, as they say. And it was oh-so-politically correct — green, Leeds-certified, the whole nine yards. That’s all OK, but here’s where it gets weird: Everyone is accepting and open, right? Culturally aware, they’re friendly and respectful. However, they’re so very culturally aware that holiday displays are strictly forbidden — no lights, no plants, nothing that might upset someone who’s not a fan of lights and plants in a holiday context. No expressions of wonder, affection or hope represented in association with (insert your favorite holiday here).

Click here for details about #TChat Radio this Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 7:30pmET

Click here to learn more about #TChat Radio with community leaders from Mashable and The Huffington Post

We’re not being political or religious. We’re just putting it out there: What if we said, “Enough, already!” with intolerance in the name of political correctness? What would happen? Would heads spin? Would the earth stop spinning? Would it really be that bad?

In the fearless tradition of #TChat, we’re taking this on. We’re setting up for an open, honest and spirited discussion that’s timely. Here’s the primary challenge:

Can we acknowledge holidays in the work setting any more, or has that ship sailed on the tide of progressiveness and political correctness?

Against this backdrop, we’re going to look at how organizations can show gratitude and thanks all year long, not just in…oh, all right, we’ll call them “holiday greetings.” For this week’s questions, we have our flameproof, thermal long johns at the ready, and so should you. Bring your passion and let’s talk – both on #TChat Radio (Tuesday night at 7:30-8:00pm ET) and then on the #TChat twitter stream (Wednesday at 7:00-8:00pm ET).

#TChat Discussion Guide – The Season of Sharing

Q1: Devil’s advocate: Does it even matter to stakeholders for an org to express the season’s sharing spirit? Why?

Q2: Where do orgs fall short in projecting an image of doing social good – during the season or at any time?

Q3: What can leaders do year ‘round to give credibility to end-of-year, seasonal shows of social good & sharing?

Q4: What are some traditional vs. new, innovative ways for orgs to express gratitude? What’s a good mix?

Q5: How is technology helping orgs to express gratitude? What are the pros and cons?

Don’t Miss The Discussion! Detail Here…

Bring on your inner Scrooge or heartfelt George Bailey!

First, tune into #TChat Radio, Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7:30-8:00pm ET / 4:30pm PT, when we tackle the topic of holiday correctness with guests Meghan Peters, community manager from Mashable, and Brian Sirgutz, senior vice president of social impact at The Huffington Post/AOL.

Then join us for a free-wheeling open forum on Twitter: #TChat– Wednesday, Dec. 12, 7-8pm ET / 4-5pm PT. We look forward to your thoughts and reactions. No fear here, just an interest in learning and sharing, in the spirit of the season! See you Tuesday and Wednesday…!

Image Credit: Mister Grinch