The founder of $5 billion healthy snack company Kind on how to build a culture of empathy without losing your competitive edge

Daniel Lubetzky Headshot 1
Daniel Lubetzky.

  • Daniel Lubetzky is founder and executive chairman of Kind snacks and a “Shark Tank” guest judge.
  • He recommended leaders incorporate kindness into their cultures as it helped him find success.
  • To build an empathetic culture, define and implement your “how” and encourage honest feedback.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of snack company Kind, guest judge on “Shark Tank,” and founder of multiple foundations and nonprofits, grew up with empathy in his blood.

The child of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish immigrant to Mexico, his parents taught him the importance of deeply caring about other people and finding common ground in order to avoid hatred and division.

While these types of childhood lessons don’t always translate into great business advice, Lubetzky has always been adamant about instilling empathy into the companies he builds.

His team culture emphasizes kindness over competition, and he believes this approach actually helps his companies outperform – and based on Kind’s recent $5 billion acquisition, this softer approach hasn’t stopped them from succeeding.

Here are a few of the ways Lubetzky recommends other leaders start to bring more kindness into their cultures – without needing to completely overhaul their approach or lose their competitive edge.

Focus on the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’

Setting aggressive goals is a part of any competitive business strategy.

But Lubetzky thinks too many business leaders overlook an important aspect of this kind of planning – how you want to go about achieving those goals. “Where you’re heading is very important, but how you get there, how you’re approaching every day, is as important as anything,” Lubetzky told Insider.

In an end-of-year letter to employees, Lubetzky shared some examples of what this looks like day-to-day on his team: “The way we work – the way we welcome hearty debate and disagreement, because we know it makes our ideas better and stronger; the way we respectfully listen to one another, try to see one another’s points of view, and assume positive intent; the way we practice integrity across all of our decisions and refuse to cut corners or accept false compromises; the way we push ourselves to achieve excellence but not at the expense of practicing kindness in every small action; the way we take initiative and responsibility for what we do – is what fills me with pride.”

Defining and implementing the “how” of your business can take many approaches, but Lubetzky swears by a simple set of core values that can guide team behaviors and decision-making. Perhaps more importantly, this can also help ensure you’re hiring the right people to keep this empathetic culture strong.

For instance, two of Kind’s values are “kind yet hungry,” which helps them look for teammates who will balance a drive to achieve with integrity and respect.

They can also guide what behaviors you choose to incentivize and celebrate. “We have an annual tradition called ‘Kindos of the Year,’ when we recognize those team members who have gone above and beyond to live out the kind values and champion them within the organization,” Lubetzky said. “Kindos is just as high an honor, if not more so, than meeting an important sales goal or other business objective.”

Be kind, not just nice, and encourage honest feedback

Lubetzky said there’s an important distinction to keep in mind when building a more empathetic team culture: that true kindness is different than just being nice, and while one will create a more competitive team, the other may weaken it.

“You can be nice and not criticize and be polite,” he said. “I’ve seen it so many times with companies I admire where nobody will tell the CEO or founder something they need to hear because they don’t want to be the one to disagree. That’s the moment when mediocrity is going to start seeping into the consciousness of that company.”

Instead of just being passively nice, you should be aiming for an active empathy, where your teammates have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other and connect – which ultimately leads to an organization where people are comfortable giving hard but important feedback.

“Kindness requires honest feedback and honest feedback requires strength, and that strength is much better achieved when you have a culture where people trust each other and know that they mean well toward one another,” Lubetzky said.

This deep trust built off connection and empathy is why he and former Kind president John Leahy worked so well together, despite rarely seeing eye to eye. “Because we knew we shared a goal to strengthen Kind, we never tried to one-up one another or put the other person down,” he said. “We were able to have constructive back-and-forths knowing there never was a different agenda or underlying issue masked as something else.”

Start small and build empathy into the everyday

Lubetzky said an intent to improve is the best way to start integrating empathy into your workplace. “If you’re asking how to create a more empathetic workplace, you’re already way ahead of everybody else,” he said.

Then, think of small ways you can model the behaviors you want to see, such as taking a moment to ask a colleague how they’re doing, giving a more junior person the floor, or celebrating a small win a teammate had. “We all are a product of all those little interactions with every person, and that’s what counts the most,” he said.

Also look for ways to build more opportunities for empathetic connection. This doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary: Lubetzky suggests things like team events that give everyone a chance to meet or slightly less efficient meetings that allow time for casual connection. “All of our leadership team is encouraged to do 15-minute connects every month or so where they check in with everyone on the team on a personal level,” Lubetzky said.

Finally, as you’re going through this process, be empathetic and forgiving with yourself, understanding that it’s not easy to build this kind of culture and you’re sure to make mistakes along the way. “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always behave the way I’d like to,” Lubetzky said. “But it’s the commitment to try to improve that really matters.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson, who oversees 17,000 employees, shares the one leadership trait that’s the most important in today’s corporate world: empathy

Roger Ferguson
Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA, said interpersonal skills were crucial to his success.

  • TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April after 13 years as a corporate chief.
  • Insider spoke with Ferguson about what he’s learned about leadership.
  • He explained why empathy is the most important skill for leaders to develop and show today.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Roger Ferguson knows a thing or two about leadership.

As the vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 1997 to 2006, he steered the country’s economy through the massive financial aftershock of September 11. After serving as an executive and then chair of reinsurance company Swiss Re for two years, he took the helm as CEO of TIAA in April 2008 – leading a financial-services company that manages over $1 trillion in retirement funds.

And in the past year, he’s overseen 17,000 employees through a shift to remote work during a pandemic and the racial reckoning following George Floyd’s death.

“I’m really proud of the fact that during those periods, we kept our values,” Ferguson told Insider. “We have come through these series of crises as a financially strong and stable company with ample capital.”

Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April, handing the company over to Thasunda Brown Duckett, former CEO of consumer banking at JP Morgan. As his tenure as the company’s chief winds down, he’s had more time to reflect on his career. He told Insider that there are four specific traits that define a good leader: expertise, vision, perseverance, and empathy.

Empathy, he said, has been the most helpful in his career as a leader – especially during difficult or uncertain times. Having this trait, regardless of your industry, will make you a better manager or executive, he said.

Empathy, as Ferguson defines it, is the ability to create an environment in which team members can bring all of themselves to work.

“Individuals don’t want to follow someone who’s going to treat the follower as just a cog in some grand plan, a small piece of wood in the large machine – that does not make anyone feel very good,” the CEO said.

Effective leaders take time to embrace diversity, the unique skill sets individuals bring to the table. They care about how their employees feel and cultivate an environment where all people can feel comfortable.

Workplace experts agree that empathy, and emotional intelligence in general, are key to leading productive and engaged teams.

Empathy can take many forms. It can be a leader making work more flexible for employees juggling caregiving responsibilities or expanding child care benefits, as many parents struggle to work and raise their children during a pandemic. Ferguson took both of these steps to support employees recently.

“In a crisis moment, showing some empathy gets people to follow you,” he said.

There’s a clear payoff. People are generally happier when they’re shown empathy. And multiple studies, including one conducted in 2019 by the University of Oxford, have found that happier employees are more productive.

“At the end of the day, the leader probably makes a small number of decisions, but many other people make daily decisions and they must be done in a way that’s consistent with the larger goal,” Ferguson said. “I think that’s best done by people who are really most engaged and are really committed to and bought into the vision.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Break Free B2B Marketing: Nicole Brady of SAHM Reviews on the Importance of Empathy in Reaching Your Niche

Nicole Brady Image

Nicole Brady Image

For over a decade our team at TopRank Marketing has fostered a strong community of leading influencers, developing close relationships with subject matter experts in a wide variety of industries.

When it comes to B2B influencer marketing, it’s natural to wonder just what an industry influencer actually looks like?

In our third season of Break Free B2B Marketing video interviews, we’re continuing in-depth conversations with a selection of top B2B influencers, and taking a close look at the issues that each expert is influential about in their own industry.

Each successful B2B influencer has a rare mix of the 5 Ps — proficiency, personality, publishing, promotion, and popularity — as our CEO Lee Odden has outlined in “5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers.”

Featuring all of these qualities and many more is Nicole Brady, publisher at SAHM Reviews, who we’re delighted to be profiling today.

According to a study done by G2, 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review. A different study tells us that 91% of customers between the ages of 18 and 34 trust online reviews just as much as they would a personal recommendation. Long story short: buyers care about reviews, whether they’re a business or an individual consumer.

Some people understand this more than others. One of those people is Nicole Brady. Nicole Brady is the founder and force behind SAHMReviews.com, a successful site known for it’s engaging story-based reviews of products and services. Knowing how to tap into stories and find your own niche storytelling techniques are skills integral to any B2B marketer, which is why we invited Nicole to speak with us for today’s episode of our Break Free B2B marketing video series.

Break Free B2B Interview with Nicole Brady

If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • 1:15 – Introduction to Nicole
  • 2:38 – Building empathy and trust with an audience
  • 4:12 – What are story-based reviews and why are they important?
  • 7:15 – Signs of progress in Nicole’s space – and where things are going
  • 12:12 – Why are individual reviews more impactful than brand content?
  • 15:22 – How important is technology and thinking outside the box to consumers?
  • 19:16 – You create board games?! Tell us more!
  • 25:43 – What do you see as the key qualities that make something fun?
  • 28:08 – How did Nicole find her niche and what advice does she have for others on a similar journey?
  • 30:40 – Any tips for working with brands as an influencer? Tips for brands working with influencers?
  • 34:02 – What advice would you give to B2B marketers looking to break free?
  • 36:04 – How to get in touch with Nicole

Nick: If you try to look ahead one year, how do you envision the space where you’re working? What do you think is going to change? And what do you think is sort of the main trend line that’s going to carry it forward?

Nicole: I think moving forward from here, people are realizing the importance of not only technology and the integration of that technology, whether it’s companies being able to do curbside pickup, people not being able to come into their businesses, but they’re still being able to function in eCommerce, in digital learning, and you have so much distance learning and telecommuting. I think companies are going to have to embrace all of those things over the next year, that it’s caused them to have setbacks this year. I think, had we been more prepared with telecommuting, with distance learning, and had we been more prepared for those things? I think this entire quarantine that we’ve had would not have been such a problem to our economy. I think moving forward in the next year, that’s really what people are going to have to adapt to — finding ways to think outside the box, and different ways to engage with their consumers, whether it’s on social media, allowing them to purchase through social media, allowing them to use curbside pickup or whatever it is, and finding ways to do things without having people walk in the door, or even traditionally, the way they’ve been doing it, I think we just have to really look outside the box and find new ways.

[bctt tweet=”“I think companies are going to have to embrace all of the things over the next year that have caused them to have setbacks this year.” — Nicole Brady @SahmReviews” username=”toprank”]

Nick: What do you think makes the content from that third party individual, an influencer, or even just a consumer giving a product review? What makes that so much more powerful than brand content?

Nicole: Because it’s real. It’s someone who is sharing their opinions. It’s not scripted. It’s not a commercial. And I guess that’s one of the things that if you are hiring content creators or influencers: do not pin them down and say you can or cannot say something, you need to just give them free reign. They are creative, they’re creative individuals. That’s why they have a fantastic audience. Usually, that’s why you know about them, you know.  Just say, “Do your thing.” If a company comes in and says, “Hey, here’s these ingredients, create a recipe,” and you’re going to somebody who is good at creating recipes, you don’t want to say oh, by the way, we want it to be this, this this, and this. You don’t want to say that,  you want to give them the information.

[bctt tweet=”“If you are hiring content creators or influencers, do not pin them down and say you can or cannot say something. You need to just give them free reign.” — Nicole Brady @SahmReviews” username=”toprank”]

Keep your eye on the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Also check out episodes from season 1 and season 2.

Take your B2B marketing to new heights by checking out out previous season 3 episodes of Break Free B2B Marketing:

The post Break Free B2B Marketing: Nicole Brady of SAHM Reviews on the Importance of Empathy in Reaching Your Niche appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez on How B2B Marketers Are Embracing Empathy For Better Customer Storytelling #B2BMX

Happy woman embracing herself image

Happy woman embracing herself image

How do B2B marketers who fully embrace empathy build stronger relationships?

Miri Rodriguez, storyteller and internship program head at Microsoft, recently presented the opening keynote at the 2021 B2B Marketing Exchange Experience virtual conference, and asked this important question.

Although this pandemic year at #B2BMX won’t see B2B marketers gathered in the event’s usual sunny Scottsdale, Arizona location, plenty of new attendee opportunities were on tap virtually.

Refresh, renew, remix has been the conference’s theme this year, and to help ease the lack of physical networking #B2BMX included a Spotify music playlist, live music performances, and even various charitable elements.

Miri began by looking back at the history of empathy in B2B marketing, to when empathy was new to the B2B space, especially the practice of considering it a leading component of the digital experience.

Storytelling Uses Empathy to Move Past Numbers and Facts

Storytelling is not just the telling of stories, Miri explained, it’s also a design approach to stories that work on the human-to-human level of business marketing.

Telling stories in such compelling and connected ways that your messages are then also easily and willingly transmitted to your audience’s customers is a goal of B2B marketing that infuses genuine empathy, Miri said, and then began exploring empathy’s important role in brand storytelling.

Miri explained how in her role at Microsoft she began an examination of empathy by looking at what storytelling is not, asking industry brand professionals at many different levels for their insight.

Storytelling isn’t so much information, data, facts, or numbers, but the emotional transfer of that information using memorable characters, plots, and conclusions which all foster empathy, she noted.

Miri Rodriguez image.

The emotional transaction is the glue that binds customers to a brand’s message, making them feel connected at the most human level, Miri explained, and mentioned LinkedIn’s January 2020 report which found that empathy was the platform’s top 2019 theme — one that offers strength to both brands and customers.

“Brands want to transact with people who are showing high levels of empathy,” Miri noted.

[bctt tweet=”“Brands want to transact with people who are showing high levels of empathy.” — Miri Rodriguez @MiriRod #B2BMX” username=”toprank”]

Since the pandemic began, empathy has only increased in its importance for B2B brands, and increasingly employees want to work for brands that include high levels of empathy, she noted.

How can you begin leading with empathy?

Miri mentioned the oft-used Bill Gates “content is king” adage as a jumping off point for all that exists beyond content for today’s B2B marketers seeking to infuse greater empathy in their brand storytelling efforts.

One key is finding a universal truth, especially when it’s an actionable emotion that your brand lives by, and Miri suggested that these types of truths often derive from a brand’s mission statement.

What Feeling Is Your Brand Story Sparking?

During her #B2BMX opening keynote Miri also put out the question, “What feeling is my brand story seeking to spark?”

Sometimes examining or even rethinking a brand’s mission can help B2B marketers find these key feelings, she suggested.

In her example from Microsoft, Miri shared how the firm came up with empowerment as its new mission several years back — a feeling that CEO Satya Nadella and the organization have embraced in many ways since.

Miri then asked, “Is your brand leading with a feeling that they can share with their customers?”

She urged B2B marketers to make brand stories easy to consume, which in turn will make them convenient for customers to pass on to their own associates and customers.

Miri also explored cognitive empathy, and the importance of seeing your customer first and foremost as a human. She urged B2B marketers to always keep in mind that there is a human on the other side of the screen, the other side of every email, in a physical room, or wherever you communicate with a customer.

It’s important for B2B marketers to allow themselves to recognize the type of emotional empathy that reaches out and makes connections on a more human level, and Miri shared how marketers can benefit when they retrain their brain to think about your humans instead of your customers.

Having conversations that go beyond the mere facts about a product or service and its features, to instead form deeper and more empathetic connections, will build the kind of trust that makes business transaction elements more meaningful, Miri observed.

She also looked at the type of compassionate empathy that can begin when B2B marketers take the time to assess themselves introspectively, examining personal vulnerabilities.

Empathize by being cognizant of the experiences your customers are going through, and recognize that especially those in the GenZ and millennial demographics frequently make connections that are more on the emotional side with the brands they do business with, Miri noted, and explained that these younger customers also aren’t necessarily buying a product merely for the product alone.

Often they are looking at a brand’s mission before deciding to do business with them, and some will even refuse to work with a brand that defaults to having no public mission or stance on social and other important issues, she said.

Seeing The Humans Behind The Brand

Miri spoke about the importance of allowing B2B customers to see the humans behind the brand, and urged marketers to pay attention to who they’re delivering a B2B brand’s story to, being mindful of the fact that an audience isn’t just your customer in B2B, but also the audiences of those customers.

Miri then asked several key questions:

  • Why should your end-user care about your story?
  • What insight does your content include?
  • Does it educate and otherwise help your customers, beyond simply helping with a particular feature of a product or service?

For every B2B marketing story you set out to tell, Miri recommends first asking yourself who the story is dedicated to, how it can help them, and how it will hopefully make them feel, especially when the story is tied in to one of your brand’s universal truths.

Showing the origin of your brand’s story is important, Miri said, as is reminding your customer why your brand is important to them.

An ideation phase includes finding the solutions your customers want in the formats they prefer, and Miri shared an example from Microsoft in which customers pointed out that they preferred blog content written not so much by marketers but by people directly involved a particular area of expertise.

Low-cost and low-effort story prototyping can also be a great way to test a variety of creative concepts, Miri noted, before moving on to the testing and implementation stages.

Making Genuine Audience Connections That Evoke Emotion

Are your brand storytelling efforts evoking the type of emotion you want to foster with your content? Miri explained that reach and engagement are both helpful in determining which efforts are making genuine connections with your audience.

Miri concluded her insightful and energetic #B2BMX keynote presentation by reinforcing the notion that genuine B2B brand stories always contain a character, plot, story, and conclusion, and that powerful storytelling only happens in the B2B space when marketers tell their stories for their audiences, and not to them — ideally with empathy, creativity, authenticity, and heart.

Empathy in B2B marketing is a topic near and dear to our team at TopRank Marketing, and to learn more about bringing it to life in your own marketing efforts, contact us, and check out the following five recent resources we’ve published:

The post Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez on How B2B Marketers Are Embracing Empathy For Better Customer Storytelling #B2BMX appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.