Minter Dialogue with Maria Ross

Maria Ross is founder of Red Slice, a marketing and branding consultancy. She’s also a speaker and author of a number of books, including the inspirational Rebooting my Brain. Her last book is The Empathy Edge, How to Harness the Power of Empathy for Effective Leadership. In this conversation, we discuss how and why empathy can be a powerful tool for businesses, how to promote it in a business context as well as the differences between cognitive and affective empathy.

Please send me your questions — as an audio file if you’d like — to Otherwise, below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to go over to iTunes to rate it.

To connect with Maria Ross:

You can find Maria Ross on Twitter: @RedSliceMaria Ross on Linkedin

Sites mentioned:

Red Slice on InstagramAgainst Empathy by Paul Bloom


Further resources for the Minter Dialogue podcast:

Meanwhile, you can find my other interviews on the Minter Dialogue Show in this podcast tab, on Megaphone or via iTunes. Please don’t be shy about rating this podcast on iTunes here!

Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).

Transcript via Descript:

Maria Ross interview (time-stamped)

Minter Dial: [00:00:00] Maria Ross, great to have you piped in from, I’m hoping
somewhat sunny California in these crazy days. in your own words, Maria, tell
us who you are.

[00:00:13] Maria
Ross: [00:00:13] Well, I am so happy to be here talking to you
mentor. I know we’ve corresponded over email quite a bit before today, but I am
a brand strategist and author and a speaker. I work with companies and
entrepreneurs on crafting. An authentic and compelling brand story so that they
can, they can engage the right target customers and clients. That’s my, that’s
my bread and butter. But as I mentioned, I’m also an author and a speaker. I’m
speaking on both business and inspirational topics, and The Empathy Edge is my
latest book.

[00:00:46] Minter
Dial: [00:00:46] Congratulations on your book. Of course. I fully
loved it. and I really enjoyed it. I’m beginning to be aware of the topic. I
hesitate to use other words, but some of the things that I really enjoyed. One
of them, you said, was well watch documentaries.

I was always a fixated on reading great
fiction and for having done a documentary. I’m like, Oh, that’s cool. And then
the other one you, you enlarge in my mind was on go travel, visit other
cultures, to discover more empathy.

[00:01:17] Maria
Ross: [00:01:17] Yeah. And, and you know, what I loved about that
was that that’s sort of all the tips around how to strengthen your own empathy
muscle and start to practice seeing things from another person’s point of view
in a safe environment, right.

[00:01:29] In a, in a non-high stakes’
environment. because if you’re only in the own, your own echo chamber of your
own perspective, that’s the only viewpoint you’re ever going to be able to even
see. So I, I love the idea of if you have the means being able to travel and
experience new cultures, and as I mentioned in the book, you know, not on a
three hour port of call with a cruise ship, but you know, actually immerse

[00:01:51] But there’s a great story I
shared in there about a social entrepreneur. Named Dina Bookbinder, who was
moved into practicing empathy as a child with a very creative teacher who helps
the kids travel with their imagination. So, learn about a different part of the
world, right? Postcards, learn about, you know, taste the food.

[00:02:10] Look at the practices and, and
cultural habits of that community. You don’t necessarily have to, to get on a
plane to experience some of that travel and some of that other perspective,
which I love because it makes empathy more accessible to all of us.

[00:02:25] Minter
Dial: [00:02:25] So let’s just talk about The Empathy Edge a second
and how you got into writing it. What was, where did that stimulus come from?

[00:02:34] Maria
Ross: [00:02:34] Well. I’ll give you the cliff notes version. But,
around the fall of 2016, I’m here in the US we had a major event going on, a
presidential election. And for many of us, it was a pretty shocking and,
hopeless time. Just the behaviors that we saw. The interactions between people
in our community, this surfacing of hatred and ostracizing the other and fear
of the other. It started to worry me on a very visceral level. I, my son was
two and a half at the time, and here he is, and you know, preschool learning
about sharing and words are not for hurting.

[00:03:09] And you know, I sort of gotten
this very existential like, why, what does it matter? You know. But the
conversations I was having with other colleagues and with clients was very
similar. Like, what do we do? How do we, how do we change things? Do we have to
go join the Peace Corps? Do we have to run for office?

[00:03:27] And I got on this track of what
can we do within our own spheres of influence? And naturally that led me to,
well, where’s the biggest sphere of influence of all the place where we spend
the bulk of our time, which is at work. So, how can we look at empathy as a way
to lead, as a way to build a strong culture as a way to build an irresistible
brand and a customer connection.

[00:03:50] And I was delighted that as you
know, the data’s out there for how an organization benefits from adopting an
empathetic mindset. The bottom-line benefits could convince any skeptic that
this is a good way to run and manage a business and lead people. And so, I
wanted to put that together as a case and sort of say, here for the skeptics
out there, here’s the reason why this is not a soft skill. It actually matters.

[00:04:17] Minter
Dial: [00:04:17] It’s funny or maybe crazy that we need data for
this because it does seem so darned intuitively right.  I think that the more empathic people
obviously get that the issue, of course, is convincing the less empathic

[00:04:35] Maria
Ross: [00:04:35] Exactly. And I think also we’re, we’re, you know,
people say sort of why now?

[00:04:40] Why is this a time that we can
be talking about it? And there’s, I think there’s a couple factors
intersecting. One is that we are starting to rethink capitalism and leadership
and business success. We’ve subscribed to this dogma for a very long time
around, you know, it’s take no prisoners. It’s, you know, competition can’t
coexist without, with compassion and all these other, you know, trite sayings
and trite beliefs that are actually not true, and we’re starting to see
companies break the mold. Many of them I profiled in the book that are having
great success. They are showing that you can be competitive and compassionate
at the same time. You can be kind, but you can be ambitious that they’re not
mutually exclusive.

[00:05:24] I like to say, you know,
cashflow, creativity and compassion are not mutually exclusive. And now we have
these models out there that are showing us that, Oh, this, this could be
something you could look at. You can, you can flip the script on this and, and
still be successful and still lead your market and still innovate.

[00:05:42] In fact, because of it is what
the data shows. But I also think with the incoming talent generations.
Millennials, gen Z, they are forcing this conversation in business right now.
They are demanding a different type of culture and work environment and the top
talent won’t go to companies that don’t truly, genuinely lead and practice
empathy, belonging, compassion, whatever name they decide to give it within
their organization. And you know, I spoke to a generational expert in the book
who, who in no uncertain terms said those companies that don’t will die because
the top talent won’t go there. And if the top talent doesn’t go there, they’re
not going to be innovating.

[00:06:25] They’re not going to be on the
cutting edge. So, I just find that a really interesting thing that now I feel
like there’s a little bit more of a reception to this message in the business
world. Among the right people, among the people that are, that are innovative
leaders and, and looking to change the game.

[00:06:41] And as they become more
successful and prosperous and start attracting all that top talent, the
outliers are going to get left behind.

[00:06:49] Minter Dial: [00:06:49] So I want, I wanted to jump in on another question, backtrack one second and do some level playing field on what is empathy? Because they, as I discovered, actually, they’re not only does, does everyone have kind of a different opinion of the, let’s say un-researched, but also within the academic circles there are different opinions of what is empathy. So let’s hear what your vision of what is empathy.

[00:07:17] Maria
Ross: [00:07:17] Yeah. I ran across the same thing. Everybody I
interviewed had a slightly different definition, and you know, as you know, if
you look in the definitions over time, in the 1500’s sympathy meant something
more akin to what we consider actually. And then in modern times, psychological
thought has made room for the fact that you can have emotional empathy, but
also cognitive empathy.

[00:07:36] Whereas sort of like. I can
imagine myself in your shoes. I don’t necessarily have to be feeling what
you’re feeling. So, for the purpose of the book, I decided to level set it and
say, here’s what we’re talking about here. In the business context, empathy is
a mindset. It’s not even a feeling. It’s a mindset.

[00:07:52] It’s a, it’s a way of taking a
perspective to, to consciously try to see things from someone else’s point of
view. And then where I go the step further is where it really matters is that
you end up using that information to take action. Which is what I call
compassion. In the book, you can, you can have all this empathy.

[00:08:13] You can take all this
perspective, but if you don’t do anything with that information, it dies on the
vine. So, in a business context, where it really matters is not about like
claiming that the organization is empathetic or claiming that leadership is
empathetic. And maybe you are, but what are you doing to take action with that

[00:08:31] How is that information of that
other person’s perspective informing your next move. And that’s, I think where
the real power of it comes into play. So, you know, you can have cognitive
empathy, you can have emotional empathy in the business context. They don’t necessarily
have to live together. but in some cases, you know, a leader might be able to
feel what another person’s feeling because they’re so good at seeing things
from their perspective, but it’s not a requirement.

[00:08:57] And I think when I talk to audiences
about that, they breathe a sigh of relief of, it doesn’t have to be with both
of us crying in a room together.

[00:09:05] Minter
Dial: [00:09:05] So just reformulating those, this notion of,
understanding cognitive empathy, and then there’s the, I feel what you’re
feeling, feeling or affective emotional empathy.

[00:09:20] And then there’s the, there’s
this notion of empathy, and then there’s the action that follows it. So,
empathy plus action. Let’s put that in the bucket of compassion. The several thoughts.
One is, does it, does empathy exist without perception of empathy?

[00:09:45] So if you think of like the
sound in a forest, the tree falling. If I am being empathic, but you don’t
perceive me as being empathic. Is that empathy?

[00:09:58] Maria
Ross: [00:09:58] I believe it can be because it’s about your ability
to take another person’s perspective. And even if the other person doesn’t
realize you’re seeing things from their perspective, you still are.

[00:10:08] So I believe it’s still existing.
It’s existing in, in your mind and in your decision making. And then you can
take that compassionate action so that. Even if that person doesn’t call it,
Oh, you’re being empathetic. All they know is they’re being seen, heard and
understood. Even if you potentially are delivering news, they don’t want to
hear, which is often the case in business. Sometimes it’s not about, I, I try
very hard with my business audiences to talk about the fact that this is not
caving to crazy demands. This is not giving in on everything. That’s
submission. That’s not empathy. So again, if we look at it back from the
perspective taking lens, you see, empathy could exist for you, even if the
other person doesn’t realize you’re being empathetic because it’s going to be
the action that you take.

[00:10:57] That’s going to make them feel
seen, heard and understood. The words that you say, the actions that you take
as a result of adopting that empathetic mindset. Would you agree?

[00:11:06] Minter
Dial: [00:11:06] I do. And so, I, I’ve, I’ve been exploring this
particular topic because let’s say you can try to exercise empathy through a one-way

[00:11:16] If I were behind the mirror, you
can’t see me. You’re looking into the mirror, but I, I’m trying to be empathic
with you and understand what’s going through your mind, but going back to your
initial statement, which is really, it’s about mindset. And so, if my intention
behind the empathy is decent, that’s a good starting point. Afterwards, the
actions that followed because I’m still behind a glass mirror, may or may not
be appreciable or feelable by you. One of the, getting into another question
which I’ve, I’ve also bounced around and been, I would say, bounced off of,
which is the power of effective empathy and I, I’m sort of getting to a point

[00:11:59] I understanding what’s going
through Maria’s head is one thing and heart and all that feeling. What she’s
going through is just a whole other layer. And to the extent that we, and I
certainly have been focused on cognitive empathy as the, let’s say, the
stepping-stone on which I’m happiest for everyone to stand in business.

[00:12:22] It does feel like it’s a long
way. Yet the most powerful way when you can actually also feel what the other
person’s feeling. Your thoughts?

[00:12:33] Maria Ross: [00:12:33] I would agree. I, you know, in my research on empathy for the book, I came across a book you’re probably familiar with called Against Empathy by Paul Bloom, Mr. Bloom. And I actually think that book was greatly misunderstood by a lot of people.

[00:12:48] But I mean, and he says it very
clearly in the book. Look, I’m not against compassion. Like I’m not a monster.
Right. But I think he brings up some good points where the, the. The affective
or emotional empathy can have a shadow side.

[00:13:04] You know, where if you are, are
paralyzed by the emotions you’re feeling for someone else, you might not be
able to do your job. And as a survivor of brain injury, for example, if my
brain, my neurosurgeon is so empathetic with what my family is feeling and
thinking that it, it affects his performance. In the operating room.

[00:13:26] That’s a problem. Now, we still
want him to be empathetic for our situation, but be able to be clear-headed
enough and, and, and grounded enough that he can do what he needs to do. So,
there is a shadow side of, if you’re making decisions based on just feeling
that feeling that someone else is feeling, what if they’re in a state of

[00:13:47] What if they’re in a state of,
you know, such intense grief, they can’t think clearly, right? You don’t want
to necessarily. Adopt that feeling and be. Be hindered in the same way. So,
there is a shadow side to exactly feeling what someone else is feeling and in
the moment, especially when hard decisions need to be made.

[00:14:07] But to your point, I think when
you have that component of heart, when you’re seeing things from that
perspective, that’s where it can really be powerful in business. And I use the
example a lot of one of the most empathetic bosses I ever had. Male, by the
way, and we can talk about gender in a moment, but had to lay off the entire
marketing team.

[00:14:30] Now, was that, was that a
decision we wanted? No, and the way that he did it, the way that he supported
us, the way that he understood our point of view and provided all the resources
we needed to be okay from that decision are one thing that’s, you know, where
he, he had his cognitive empathy going. His emotional empathy was in the way he
was interacting with us.

[00:14:52] And, and you know, his eyes
welling up with tears and being supportive and giving us hugs. And, you know,
maybe that’s not appropriate in every workplace, but you know, his ability to
feel our pain made it an even more nourishing interaction despite. The news
despite the decision that had to be made. So, I think, you know, and because of
that, he is someone I still am, am devoted to this day.

[00:15:20] I consider him a mentor. We meet
up occasionally. So, the power of that loyalty and that connection can go
really far in the business context. When you do bring your heart into it a
little bit more. So, you don’t have to, but you can exponentially reap rewards
from that if you do. And if you, if you’re not faking it, right.

[00:15:41] Yeah. So.

[00:15:43] Minter
Dial: [00:15:43] Yeah. There’s this notion of exponentials is what I
think is exciting because let’s say that the getting to that steppingstone of
cognitive is already a good step and we’re happy. Yay. And we’re moving along.
We’re improving, we’re understanding people’s situations and feelings. We can
understand them.

[00:16:00] You’re crying. Okay. That’s the
situation. Yeah. I do believe that. Even in the case of your doctor, there’s,
there’s another element to this, which is compartmentalizing and knowing when
to do what to do. So, for example, let’s say your doctor, woke up and got into
a fight with his spouse. I assume, what?

[00:16:23] I think you said it was a man.
So then, well then, he has to put that aside. And then he’s got to do some
surgery and, and so you, sometimes you got to put things aside and that ability
to put your affective feeling, Oh my God, my nurses feeling very bad, or my
patient’s feeling very bad. I’ve got to put that aside in order to operate yet
do I believe that?

[00:16:49] And I write about this in my new
book, that as a doctor. Your success, your outcome is as much, if not more,
based on everything surrounding the surgery, such that the nurses who are
working for him, the anesthetist, who did the work under the professor’s
dominion. If he, he’s a doodad and I’m trying to use not a nice word for him.
He’s not a nice guy. With all of his team will, you’ll feel the effects of

[00:17:22] Maria
Ross: [00:17:22] Yes.

[00:17:23] Minter
Dial: [00:17:23] You know, in the post op and the, you know, the
pre-nervousness going into it and yeah, he’s very good, but he’s an asshole.

[00:17:31] Maria
Ross: [00:17:31] Right, right. So, we use that excuse in business
many times. Right? Right.

[00:17:37] Minter
Dial: [00:17:37] At least he gets the numbers in. He’s a real ass,
but gets the numbers in.

[00:17:41] Maria
Ross: [00:17:41] Right.

[00:17:41] Minter
Dial: [00:17:41] And I feel like that’s where we need to be here
because it’s not, it is about how you get the numbers there. It’s not just
getting 100% just like, it’s not just about doing the right surgery yet. When
you’re doing the surgery, you’ve got to compartmentalize.

[00:17:57] You focus in, you got to zipped
in, you’ve got to forget you’re your bad night, but your argument, blah, blah,
blah. Zip it in and then right afterwards, you know, thank you to the team. Oh,
I know you came in earlier than expected. Dear nurse, I know you cut your
finger anesthetist and you’re employing empathy at that moment.

[00:18:18] Maria
Ross: [00:18:18] Yeah, and I think that’s where, like you were
saying, that’s where you get the exponential benefit of it. If, if you can, you
can combine those things and you know, in, in my world of working with companies
on their brand strategy, that’s what we meet mean by a holistic brand
experience. It’s not just, you know, a company saying they’re empathetic on
their website and we care about our customers, but then their actual.

[00:18:40] Your actual experience doing
business with that company says, well, that’s actually not true. You know,
they, their policies are horrible towards customers. Like, so, you know, we
could think of airlines, for example, that would fit that bill, but, I think it
is, but exponentially the companies and the leaders that can do both can show a
different model of success that I can be just as proficient and good as, you

[00:19:07] The asshole guy who’s making his
numbers, and I’m still making my numbers, but I’m also not leaving a trail of
destruction in my wake. Yeah. And, and, and a bad personal brand of my own
behavior and making a toxic work environment for all of those around me. So,
there’s all these other benefits that that person gets when they combine.

[00:19:26] Those two things, and I think
we’ve, we’ve subscribed to this thing for far too long of like, like we’re
saying, where you accept that just because someone’s good at their job, they
can be a jerk and it’s like, no, you can find someone just as good at that job who’s
not a jerk. So, it’s not that there’s this limited pool of resources out there
of people, and I think the more leaders and workers we can find that model,
that behavior.

[00:19:52] My dream is that you make those
jerky people, the outliers, who will not be tolerated by organizations moving
forward. Like it’s not enough. Google did extensive studies on, not on people’s
jerkiness, but on, you know, just looking at a resume, for example. they did a
study a few years ago about what, what makes you a success at Google, and they
studied hiring, firing, advancement data, and.

[00:20:18] Contrary to their own belief
that you had to be the most proficient at technology, computer science, what
have you to succeed here? It showed that actually know the people that
succeeded there were the ones that were high in collaboration, empathy,
communication. So maybe they were potentially less good at the, at the
technical proficiency, but they were more successful.

[00:20:44] So even though you know, they
even proved themselves wrong about their own thinking when it comes to that.

[00:20:49] Minter
Dial: [00:20:49] You talk about that. I really liked that point. I
wrote an article recently. Do you hire human doers or human beings? And if you
look at the way the resumes are constructed, they are designed to show what I
do, what I’ve done.

[00:21:05] Not who I am, who I want to be.
And so, we, we’ve created this malarkey. So, let’s, let’s, dig in on this, the
less prone to empathy kind of personalities. So, if you’re faced with Maria a,
let’s say a guy who’s a hard numbers guy, he’s great success. Why? Why, why am
I going to bother with this? Convince me that I need to be more empathic.

[00:21:30] I know. I know. My shit. I’ve
been doing this for 30 years. Look, my numbers are in. How do you get me to
open up and then get, get with the clock?

[00:21:43] Maria
Ross: [00:21:43] Yeah. I think, well, there’s a lot of data around
that that I could talk about. so, from a, from a very, surface area. Teams are
led by empathetic leaders or have an empathetic culture, increase innovation,
they increase productivity.

[00:21:58] There are many studies that show
that people will actually work longer hours for less pay, which is not
necessarily a trend. I want to continue, but if they are part of an empathetic
organization or have an empathetic leader because they understand that people
have their backs and they are willing to make sacrifices as well.

[00:22:14] So right off the gate, right out
of the gate. You get more productivity and more innovation from your team, even
if your team is high-performing now. Right? The other thing is, in terms of
retention and attraction, what we talked about earlier, these incoming talent
generations, they’re going, they’re grilling these organizations about that and
they don’t want, they don’t, they want, I think it’s 71% want to work in an
environment that feels like a second family.

[00:22:41] So if you are a leader and you
are trying to build a team. You’re not going to attract those people because of
your own interpersonal behavior. So that’s another incentive for them. in some
cases, there’s, there’s data around empathetic organizations that increase
their stock price. They clearly increase customer loyalty and retention.

[00:23:04] So all of these things, even if
you’re a numbers guy or a numbers gal, you should be caring about these markers
of bottom line success. And saying, okay, I can get more of this by changing
the way I interact with people interpersonally, by trying to get out of my own
way and not just relying on the numbers and not, you know, locking myself in my
office and not interacting with the rest of my team.

[00:23:30] Because pretty soon you’re not
going to have a team and none of the work gets done unless you have those
people there and they feel seen, heard and understood. So, I think that one of
the big things is that. One of the studies that I looked at, which was the 2019
which came out after I wrote the book, the 2019 state of workplace empathy.

[00:23:51] It’s by an organization called
business solver. They do this study every year, and the statistic around 72% of
CEOs believe that workplace empathy drives financial performance is a number
that’s gone up every year. So, more and more CEOs. Care about this, which means
if you’re not the CEO and you’re leading a team, you better be on board with
this because your CEO is starting to track this to financial performance and
financial success.

[00:24:21] So yeah, I would love to just
take an hour with those people in a room and show them all the data.

[00:24:27] Minter
Dial: [00:24:27] So as I sit here in my office over here in Paris.
I’m reflecting what you say. And I love this type of conversation because it
makes you like, here we go. So, there’s this thing called the internet, new digital
stuff, digital transformation.

[00:24:47] The, the, the necessary. Next
thought. Well we got to do all that. Oh well shit, we met the customer’s
important. Let’s be customer centric. Pays the bill. Parent is important. I
feel like the, there’s a, then there’s a whole wave of, of washing around,
right? Customer centric washing, you know, we say, or we say you’re important,
but don’t we do it.

[00:25:14] Maria
Ross: [00:25:14] Right!

[00:25:15] Minter
Dial: [00:25:15] And then a digital transformation. 90% of them.
These programs are failing. So, they’re saying, but they’re not doing it well.
Now there’s this notion that empathy is there. So, empathy is good to
understand your customer, customer experience, customer journey, and then
you’ve got the internal thing.

[00:25:33] Managing people, managing
innovation processes. How do you fall in on, on making that happen? Do you want
to focus on the customer, or do you want to focus on the internal? How do you,
how do you get a program, let’s say an empathy program working in an
organization, you know, obviously if you’re only an organization of two, it’s
one thing, but a sizable company,

[00:25:57] Maria
Ross: [00:25:57] right?

[00:25:57] Minter
Dial: [00:25:57] How do you articulate a program of empathy that doesn’t
feel like washing and doesn’t fail?

[00:26:03] Maria
Ross: [00:26:03] Well, in my work with branding. I’m always talking
to my clients about, you cannot just paint, you know, put a coat of brand paint
on your business and hope that it sticks. You have to brand from the inside
out. And if you want that customer connection, if you want to be seen as an
empathetic brand who sees, hears, and listens to your customers, that’s also
something that has to start from the inside out.

[00:26:27] So it has to be in how you run
the company so that it’s how people talk about an authentic brand. That’s what
they mean. Authentic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re, you’re green or you’re
this or you’re that. It just means you walk your talk. So, if you are going to
have these better, closer customer connections and treat customers really well
and say, you know, we, we hear you, we’re in lockstep with you and, and inject
that humanity into that experience.

[00:26:53] What is the experience inside
the organization? So, they have to go hand in hand. Often when I’m working with
a company on their brand message and story. Inevitably, and this is part
partly, this is my background as a change management consultant, is I don’t
just look at the marketing. I don’t just look at what’s going to go on a website,
and I say, can you actually deliver this promise?

[00:27:12] What are you doing internally?
How is this impacting hiring? How is this impacting employee policies? How is
it impacting, the rewards and accountability structures you put in place so
that people that succeed here know the behavior that you want them to adopt? So
that they succeed here, and it often ends up in a transformation project.

[00:27:32] Even if it starts from the
marketing side, right? It ends up like, Oh, there’s a lot more internally we
need to look at as well. and so I feel like they have to be done in tandem, but
if you need a place to start, you may as well start internally and making sure
that you are delivering everything that you are going to proclaim to the market
and have that all set up.

[00:27:56] So that it’s believable and it’s
ready to go. And that’s what I loved. The way I wrote the book was about three
concentric circles. Number one is the individual or the leader. You know, my
organization is 5,000 people. They are never going to change, but I can start
injecting empathy right where I am right now in my own sphere of influence.

[00:28:14] That ripples out to the internal
culture. And how the team interacts and collaborates with each other, and then
hopefully that ripples out to the external brand. And now your interactions
with your customers. Now you can’t wait three years to sort of get your own
house in order and then hope it ripples out at some point.

[00:28:32] Right? So that’s why a lot of this,
what I like about doing the brand work that I do is oftentimes it’s, it’s
coming from the external first. But when they peel the onion, they realize, Oh,
I get it. I get why. This has to be something we work on internally as well. So,
the impetus is we need more market share.

[00:28:52] We need more customers. We need
to have a better story in the market. But the result is that they then see how
they need to transform internally. And that’s kind of exciting.

[00:29:01] Minter
Dial: [00:29:01] Do you, when you talk about these concentric
circles and start with the individual, what about self-empathy or how, how much
of a place does that need to be as a starting point?

[00:29:11] Because let’s say I can try to exercise empathy with my team, and this idea of being wishy washy with myself too wishy washy. I say that because that’s the kind of filter people have.

[00:29:22] Maria
Ross: [00:29:22] Right? I think, well, you know, I quoted a Buddhist
teacher in the book about this whole notion of you have to have compassion for
yourself before you can have compassion for other people, right?

[00:29:32] So you have to have, you have to
have empathy for yourself, which sounds a little weird because you’d be taking
your own perspective, but I think you do have to have that. You have to have
that presence. To make space in your brain for adopting another person’s point
of view. If I’m too stuck in my own junk about my own insecurities, my fears,
my worries, my, my baggage, if you will, there’s no room.

[00:29:56] Every interaction I’m going to
have with you is going to be about me. So, empathy requires that we get out of
ourselves and try to see things from another point of view. And you cannot do
that and you, you know, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping
others. And so, I think it’s so important.

[00:30:12] That’s why my first tip in the
individual section is about practicing presence and being more mindful of
what’s going on for you. Just like you were talking about compartmentalizing
earlier, you have to be a little self-aware about that so you can
compartmentalize. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.

[00:30:31] So you need to figure out, like
in this day, before this meeting, before I deliver this message to the team,
checking in with yourself and how do I feel and am I grounded and am I, am I,
am I going to be open to taking an on another person’s perspective? So, I think
it’s very, very important.

[00:30:49] Minter Dial: Beautiful! Last question, and I really think of this as a new frontier. Certainly I have not come up with a good answer and I’d love to hear your idea. How on earth do we measure empathy?

[00:31:02] Maria
Ross: [00:31:02] That’s the million-dollar question. And, and I, I didn’t
get too into that. In the book, there’s, there’s a few indices out there.
There’s a woman out of the UK, you’re probably familiar with Belinda Parmer,
who does the empathy, the Global Empathy Index, where she measures it on a
variety of factors, including, customer reviews, social media mentions,
programs that companies have within their own organizations and how you measure
empathy. What I found interesting in my research is that every company has to
do it their own way. There’s sort of no panacea of, of this is empathy and it
looks exactly the same in every company. So, for example, some of the companies
I profiled in the book that are doing a great job at a culture level, they
might call it service, they might call it humility.

[00:31:49] They may call it, you know,
treating each other as family. Although, you know, sometimes we’re, we’re at
least empathetic to our families, the podcast. But I think that whatever your
organization calls it, you have to just call it. You have to just articulate it
for your organization and then say, what are the actions and behaviors around
that value that are going to demonstrate for us.

[00:32:14] That we’re living that out. So,
so one of the companies in the book, for example, next job, they talk about a
culture of service, which is their version of empathy. And they have a very big
flashy way that they, they look at, they have a whole peer nomination process.
It, it’s, it’s something that goes on all year long.

[00:32:35] It builds excitement among
employees, and then it ends in a. Award of flying. That person who wins that
service award, they call it the Avenger award. And their family a trip anywhere
in the world, vacation anywhere in the world. So, they’re putting their money
where their mouth is of like, this is important to us, like to succeed here.

[00:32:55] We need to care about this. And so,
I think that whatever you, you first, you have to articulate that for co for
your culture of what? What is empathy around here? Right. What does that mean
here? And then let’s then put the measures and metrics in place about how we’re
going to measure that here. But that’s also the exciting opportunity is that it
doesn’t have to look one way.

[00:33:16] It can look like whatever’s
going to be the best thing for your cult culture and your organization to bring
people on board. So long-winded answer. I think that companies are doing it
very differently.

[00:33:29] Minter
Dial: [00:33:29] It’s great. I mean, where I was thinking this thing
is like, well, if I’m, my company has made diversity a key point and that’s,
that can be a great one.

[00:33:39] I want to focus, like you were
saying, the external ideas like innovation, the speed of innovation. Maybe that
can be a really, you know, concrete seasonable. Element. That’s going to even
please shareholders more obviously. Cause that’s, that remains another issue.
So great to have you on the show. Tell us how people can follow you, Maria, get
your book of course. And be in touch with you.

[00:34:04] Maria
Ross: [00:34:04] Yeah. My main hub is and people can
find everything there about the books. I’d love for them to sign up for my
email list and get insights and inspiration. I’m on Twitter @RedSlice. I’m on
Instagram @Redslicemaria. LinkedIn, of course, Maria J. Ross and I’m on
Facebook @redslice. So, I would love for people to connect and let me know what
they think of the conversation.

[00:34:28] Minter
Dial: [00:34:28] Well, beautiful. Thank you so much, Maria. I look
forward to our next life online. That’s the for now the way it’s going to be
and keep preaching the good word.

[00:34:37] Maria
Ross: [00:34:37] Yes. Thank you so much.

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