39 min 49 sec

Sophie Wade: On why empathy is a strategic asset in shaping the future of work

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Sophie Wade: On why empathy is a strategic asset in shaping the future of work

Ever wondered how empathy fits into the fast-evolving workplace?

Dive into the heart of the modern workplace with our latest EXtra! EXtra! episode featuring Sophie Wade. We explore the nuances of how technology is reshaping the future of work and the pivotal role of empathy in designing better workplaces and connecting diverse, multigenerational teams.

This one is important listening for leaders and managers as Sophie explains how empathetic leadership, driven by technological advancements is key to creating a human-centric and adaptable work environment in which your people can thrive.


Sophie Wade is a work futurist, international keynote speaker, founder, LinkedIn Top Voice, author, and authority on Future of Work, Gen Z and Empathy.

She leads Flexcel Network’s efforts helping executives and managers adapt work operations and practices for changing and unpredictable business conditions.

You can connect with her here:https://www.linkedin.com/in/a-sophie-wade/

Or listen in to her podcast here:https://www.flexcelnetwork.com/podcasts/

For more content on designing better work and workplace experiences, visithttps://www.tydy.cohttps://open.spotify.com/show/3YPlfXqpNvBNxsJk9aye3b?si=d23ad175488141e2

#FutureOfWork #EmployeeExperience #Leadership #Empathy

Welcome to season two of EXtra! EXtra!, the podcast where we dig deep into how businesses can prioritize their most valuable asset, their people. Last season we cracked open the EX playbook and this time we are rewriting the rules. Join us for candid conversations where there are no rules, no cliches, no jargon and no one-size-fits-all solutions. Just real talk about what's reshaping the employee experience landscape. So if you want to get to the heart of what makes workplaces tick, just hit that subscribe button and let's get started.Debkanya: 0:42

Today we've got with us Sophie Wade. Sophie, it is so good to have you on the show. I'm really excited about our forthcoming conversation because there's so many questions I have for you.

Sophie: 0:55

Debbie, thank you so much for having me. It's a delight to be here.

Debkanya: 0:59

Fantastic. Sophie, very quickly now, I know you've done so many different things. You're an author, you're a LinkedIn instructor, you're a founder, you're there's a long list, but do you want to quickly tell our listeners, a little bit about yourself?

Sophie: 1:14

Sure. Thank you. Yes. I will say that I'm a Brit living in the U. S., but I've lived all over the world. FlexCell Network, we help upskill leaders to manage multi generational distributed teams to thrive. And we really focus on the future of work, transforming work, understanding how the workplace has changed in this new sort of technology driven environment? And I, yes I have courses on LinkedIn. We do workshops and I do a lot of speaking and writing and do two books over there. So with a focus on empathy. Empathy in terms of understanding other people and really being able to connect with them so we can work together effectively.

Debkanya: 1:54

I'm glad you mentioned your book, in fact, Empathy Works. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Sophie: 1:59

Start with a small question. Thank you. So yes, that's actually my, it is my second book and it is really about the future of work. Actually, it is how we are transforming the workplace, which is very much human centric. So I say the new world of work is human centric modern work, because it's, it seems odd to talk about the future of work when we're in it, really. So it really is about. Empathy, first of all, to define it is being able to put your, the ability to put yourself in somebody else's shoes as them, not as yourself, but as them see the world through their eyes and connect, feel what they're feeling, connect with their experiences. So the idea is, and we really, understood that more than ever during the pandemic, when we could see into each other's worlds and we really got to experience much more, you're much more raw and open. But the point about this is as the workplace is changing, as technology has been changing our work environments. We're needing to work in different ways because the nature of work itself has changed. And we're needing to work much more closely together. All the easy work has been automated away. It's much more complex. We're working on more teams, more projects. And so we need to understand each other. And so that's why empathy, the ability to understand each other as human beings, working together on teams on non routine projects becomes that more important. That really was, it happened, I was talking about empathy in the workplace before the pandemic and then it rose to that much more importance, but we need it. We continue to need it because it is about the fact that how we're operating our businesses, how we're working has changed so much. And therefore we need to, we can't come to work with those two dimensional cardboard cutouts of ourselves. And I'm not saying we necessarily bring all of our warts and lumps and bumps every day. But we do need to be able to work more closely at higher pressure, dealing with much more complex issues and be able to deal with that working together.

Debkanya: 3:54

Yeah. In fact, I do want to talk a little bit more about empathy because it's a topic that I am very interested in myself as well. And there was, I was listening to this other podcast where, they were talking about how. Empathy is hard, actually, right? When you talk about it, it should be simple enough to put yourself in that same situation and imagine how you would feel or react. But distance makes you forget. So when we're talking about empathy, who exactly needs to be more empathic. Is it leadership that you're mainly focusing on?

Sophie: 4:27

I do because they set the example, but it needs to be everybody. And it is, the thing that makes empathy hard is that it is a question of putting yourself into their shoes as them. So if it were if I were in your shoes, it's not me in your shoes, I have to say, okay, so I'm trying to be you, Debbie. In Bombay. So what is your experience? I need to understand so much about you in this particular situation to really understand what is your, what's your context, what's your background, what's your family so different to mine. So there'd be lots of things that I would be, I would find hard to understand because my background growing up in London is so different to yours. However, if we can find some common ground, that's where, maybe, you like the same TV show or we both well, actually, we found some common ground already. We both have dogs. So you have a dog. I have two dogs. We already talked about that. So we already connected. That's where we find this common ground. And so if we working on a team together or I as a leader, you'll be happier working together with me or feel more at ease with me or be able to, we'll be able to trust each other more because we've already found some common connections. So definitely with leaders, it's really important. So I focused on leaders and empathy centered leadership. It's also in terms of creating an environment where people can feel safe, these trust based relationships, because now as we're transforming work and we're needing to work in different ways, decentralized, because everything is, with technology is digitalized. I need to be ceding more responsibility to you. I need to be giving you more control. Over how you're working but more about how if you're closer to the customer than I am, you need to be making more decisions. I need to give you that, that responsibility. And therefore I need to understand more about you. I need to, trust you. And so this, the ability to understand who you are, when you're stressed you know, be able to read your signals, these become that much more important. So I, as a leader to be effective and oversee and coach my team, or rather than telling you what to do and commanding, that, that is what elevates empathy in our current environment,

Debkanya: 6:34

There's many conversations that we've had where we've talked about the merits of so called soft skills, right? And empathy falls into that. Do you find it hard to convince people that empathy is indeed important and absolutely crucial to the running of a business versus, the hard numbers game that people usually prefer?

Sophie: 6:55

Yeah. In the States, suddenly there's, there is some shift towards calling these soft skills, power skills, which I appreciate more, I think also words matter. So yes, there's baggage with the word empathy. There are lots of people who think about it as being kind and nice. And at the beginning of my book, I actually say, I'm not talking about empathy in terms of being kind and nice. It's really about human understanding and it can be used manipulatively. So yeah. Assuming that we're taking the sort of the ethical way of, or using it on a long term basis for productive means, then empathy is really important. When I frame it in the sense of it's about human understanding, it's about being able to be more informed and to have more understanding about the person that you're dealing with or in a meeting, be able to have a better connection with people and, be able to build trusting relationships, be able to ask more open questions so that you can have a more productive A better meeting and have better outcomes that then people start to understand that it's not just about placating people. So it really becomes very functional, very useful. And I'm talking about empathy habits. So the book, in fact, is, it sets a stage. It talks about human centric system to put it in context. But I get very practical about it because that's what people want. Is it going to be like, how does it work in leadership? How does it work when it comes to selling? Because really connecting with customers is incredibly important. How does it work within teams? So getting really practical and tactical with empathy becomes very important. And so that sort of, wins the argument, so to speak.

Debkanya: 8:31

Fantastic. No, I'm definitely going to read your book because like I said, this is something I really want to study more. Sophie, you have your own podcast as well. Transforming Work. And I know you, I was going through it. You have some really fascinating guests on that amongst all of them. And, the core has always been that, you're trying to figure out what makes work better, ultimately. Is there one common insight that you've got or gathered from your guests?

Sophie: 8:57

I think the point of it is actually helping people understand how work is transforming mostly because of technology. There have been economic changes since, let's say the golden boom after the second world war. There have been economic changes, there have been societal changes, the makeup of the family. The fact that now with, because of economic situation, you are having to have two parents typically who are having to work rather than just one, say in the U S. And. You have, more broken up families, you have single, 40 percent of families in the U S they are actually, there's a, the woman is the primary breadwinner or the sole breadwinner. And so that changes how much flexibility the, that person needs in order to be able to, have the kids, get the kids to school and those types of things. So we've had a lot of changes that have been changing the nature of business and changing the nature of work and how we need to set things up and organize things to help people function better. But there hasn't been that much flexibility in the system. However, technology has been changing things so dramatically. It really has raised the bar. Collaborative work has changed, has increased 50 percent over the last 20 years. Non routine work has increased 40 fold over the last 20 years. Because we have been automating the, the repetitive, boring work, leaving us, as I said at the beginning with, there's much more complex problems that we have to solve. I look at all this technology and then the kind of like the counterbalance becomes this human centric aspect of it. So that's the thread that comes through in all these conversations. We're talking about like, how is work changing. The focus is on people. And so as we're dealing with all this technology, who is actually using all these tools, these incredibly sophisticated tools, these new communications platforms, that helping us collaborate or produce faster. And it's also speeding up how we're having to work and the nature of how we're interacting, using different platforms, using different tools, more asynchronous and as well as live. So there are so many things which are reliant upon us. And therefore that's why the thread that you see in all the conversations comes down to human beings and because we haven't been using empathy so much, we haven't been concentrating on that human aspect. We, we went from factory situations to offices, which looked very much like factories. And when we're doing knowledge work, that is not going to help us do our best work. And we've also done a lot of research to see that human beings aren't good at repetitive work. They get bored, they make mistakes. What we are better at as human beings is non incremental inspiration and non sequential thought and coming up with the ideas out of nowhere. That's what we're good at. And we need to, particularly as AI comes along, we need to be doing much more of that.

Debkanya: 11:42

I love that. And in fact, one of the things that, we spoke about recently on another episode was, how we need to stop thinking of people as inputs of production. In fact, this was Dart Lindsley who talks about this and he in fact, flipped it around where he said, the employee is a consumer and work is something, you buy so it should be considered a product.

Sophie: 12:02

Yes. Very interesting concept from him. Thinking about work differently. For example, designing work, nobody ever said having us all, let's say for knowledge workers, having us all sitting in an office five days a week or six days a week or whatever it was before, but five days a week, 40 hours a week. That's the best way to work. Absolutely not. We never designed it that way. And so the fact that we actually should step back and sit down and go, How should we best work for this particular company, for this particular group of workers who are doing these particular projects, who have those particular type of customers? That's the kind of fundamental sort of first principles approach that actually is the right way to think about when we're bringing all this new technology, when we're working different ways and our customers keep changing their behaviors and then they're, our competitors implementing new technologies, which changed their customers behaviors, which then influence, like we're dealing with a lot of stuff and we need to really think it through differently now. It's a very exciting time, but also for, CEOs, a challenging time, obviously to be dealing with so much change in the marketplace. And internally. So I do empathize with them. But not all of them.

Debkanya: 13:14

Yeah, totally. In fact, the thing is you've been, when you started this conversation, you spoke about how we are currently in the future of work, right? You've been talking about work and technology and the impact technology has on various aspects of how work is designed. Do you find that the future that you envisioned when you first started writing and researching and talking about it? Are we there yet? Are we already living it?

Sophie: 13:40

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I look at it as arriving in 2020 and the reason for that, I wrote my first book, the white one there, it's called Embracing Progress, Next Steps for the Future of Work. And I rushed it out in 2016, 2017, it came out in 2017 because I was so sure the future of work was going to arrive then. And I wanted to be, I had the book there and it took, a global pandemic to catalyze it to happen. I believe, and I'm not the only, certainly not the only person who believes we are there. We as human beings haven't caught up with it yet, but the technology is there because it really is this highly digitalized, fast moving, incredibly interconnected mean what we have 25 billion things in the, in, in the internet of things. So that's the, that's. You know what I'm talking about in the first book, which is this incredibly interconnected world and what it looks like and how we're needing to operate and flexibility is in there and working in different locations in the blended workforce of employees and a network of freelancers and independent contractors. Like all of that was, we could see happening way before the pandemic, and then it was accelerated. I wrote a piece which went into somebody's book in, in July of 2020, so say we are here. So all the dynamics are here. As I said, we haven't caught up yet. What I didn't anticipate is that because there was a lot of resistance to adapting because there's so many changes that needed to happen, really integrating technology and all the changes that would come with that, that when the pandemic came, accelerated everything, there has been this focus on location and particularly in this country a lot of sort of tension about, control and, people wanting to live their working lives differently and have more balance and all those type of things. There's, it's been a sort of distraction and a diversion towards the focus on location. Whereas, what I've always been talking about pre pandemic was, we need to be changing how we're working because of how business is operating. We need to be able to pivot. We need to be able to adjust as we did during the pandemic. We need to be, to have that flexibility to be able to be responsive to customers. And all of those changes require us to have a flexibility I was going to say baked in, but that sounds too rigid, integrated in so that we have the mindset to be flexible and open minded to what customers needs are. And I use, for example, the example of Windows 95 and Windows 97, like software would have these big product releases, right? Two years apart, huge thing. And a product was a sort of static thing. And now we have continuous for example, in 2020, Zoom released 400 new updates, features and functionality over the course of 2020 alone. So we are used now to rolling upgrades Oh, look, we can do that now, who knew, and you might tell me and I go, Oh yes. I saw something else. Isn't that cool. So that's how we're living our life now. It's continuous movement. And so as we're understanding that sort of, that's one of the features of the future of work is that it's a continuous evolution that we're on. Most businesses are not there yet in terms of making the transformation, which is a kind of scary work. Because it, has the connotation and has the reality of requiring an enormous amount of change management. More transitions. The pandemic did help throw everything up in the air to be, to enable companies to what extent that they were able to do that, to what extent that they actually brought the pieces back together again in ways that enabled them to then move forward in a much more flexible way, with much more adaptability integrated into the system. So yes we're not all there, but the, but the foundations of it are certainly there.

Debkanya: 17:34

Yeah, and I agree with you. I feel I do feel the technology is there. It's just that, if the customer says so, then you will run and make it happen. But if an employee says so, it's a demand and it's usually not seen in the same light, right? And that's the unfortunate truth.

Sophie: 17:50

And that's the challenge because, customers and employees are actually the same people, right? So I know I can see my own behavior changing, certainly from before the pandemic, certainly from the middle of the pandemic. And I can see that I still haven't settled into a new kind of a rhythm yet, not having worked out my, the cadence of my new working life. And so we see that obviously with our customers and, we need to be adapting for that, but we haven't quite, it's also uncomfortable. And now that was even before AI threw another huge spanner in the works, and we know that's going to continue to change how we're both, completing our tasks, the kind of projects that we're working on, the way that the tools that we're using, and of course the top hundred ChatGPT related AI tools are changing, every couple of months. That's crazy. So how we're dealing with that. And then of course, there's not just the functional and features aspect of that work. There's also the psychological aspect. Of every generation, they're trying to adapt to that and the fear, the concerns and the excitement, all of those things at the same time that everybody's dealing with at the same time as all the other, this other stuff is going on too. So not easy.

Debkanya: 19:06

In fact, the newest generation of customers, employees who are customers is actually less forgiving of, that attitude, the older attitude, you talk about the millennials or generations that went before that were okay. Not okay, took it in their stride and said, this is just how work is. And this is just how it's going to be. And you didn't really think you had a choice, but then now you have a new generation that's entered the workforce. And I know you, you work on this a lot about how to design work for a multi generational workforce. How is that changing? Do you think, people are not going to be okay with the things with the way things always were, right?

Sophie: 19:45

Yes. So I, empathize across the board. If you've been working the same way, if you've been working the same way for 30 years, it's very hard to, one, recognize the realities of what is now, right? Because you don't, you see it through your own lens, through your own habits and routines, and you're also more comfortable with what, to go, okay, let me throw all of that out. Not that I'm suggesting one throws everything out by any means. But that's a hard. So what and how you adapt and how easily you're going to adapt. Those are all not easy things. Whilst you're getting on with running the company, or let's just say you're at, you're working at, reasonably senior level and you're trying to manage up people underneath you who have various different levels of experience. Now, one of the things that's about the youngest The youngest group of workers. Yes, I don't like labels, but sometimes they're helpful in terms of where people are in their life are, but let's say the youngest group of workers, they're very helpful to, to look at how they're reacting because they have the freshest eyes and for the majority of employees under 20, 27 and under the majority of their work experience has been working from home. If they're knowledge workers has been working from home. So the office is the anomaly. And if you look at most of our offices, yeah, not so nice. Let's look with fresh eyes and wonder why they react to when they say if I have a choice, I'll go in for certain things and see my friends and connect with more senior people. But other than that, I don't really want to be sitting in a cubicle if I'm doing focus work, I want to be at home. So we can understand a lot more about how things are and this new working environment and the dynamics from working with or listening to some of our youngest employees, because they don't know what was, they only can understand what is now. They also don't have enough experience to really put it all in context. So this is when the multigenerational aspect is incredibly important because you need to have older employees and executives working and listening to younger employees and vice versa. Mentoring and all those types of things, as well as multi generational committees and teams so that you can have this transfer of knowledge and understanding and putting things in context. Because, really we do have like the blind meeting the blind a bit here because of the lenses that we have or the inexperience that, that others have. So it's a very interesting dynamic and exciting challenges and opportunities.

Debkanya: 22:10

Yeah. What do you struggle with the most though when you're doing this? Is it about, I've read about how collaboration is extremely hard or even knowledge transfer for that matter is hard between generations. Do you find, any of this is true or is it completely different in your experience?

Sophie: 22:25

This is where I came from with empathy. This is the actual, the reason I started off with empathy was actually from when millennials were getting the brunt of their darn millennials, like they want this and they want that. And so I was like, okay, timeout. Let me just do a whole bunch of research. Let me go into this and really try and understand. And what I did is I put myself in their shoes and I was like, okay, so how are they seeing the world? And that. That tactical solution when I actually said hang a second. So there are lots of things that are the same. The Gen X, we were called slackers at that time. We, all these labels come out in the same way. However, there are certain elements like technology and how technology and flatter organizations have changed careers. Like you have these non, nonlinear careers are the norm. There are other aspects that have been changing the workforce and how careers developed and how work is and how the nature of work and what does that mean for our our approach to work, our attitude to work, the work life balance. If careers keep changing and new jobs keep popping up why would I, decide on a career now because who knows what's going to, so there are lots of, so I put myself in their shoes and that was why I came out with empathy as being a sort of tactical solution. But now. When you're trying to have people connect across, let's say, and do a bidirectional mentoring pair, it really is a question of try and put yourself in their shoes and ask questions, ask open questions. Debbie, so what's it like to be living in Mumbai and you know what is your experience and really trying to connect with different aspects that will help me understand the differences and the similarities between our situations. So that's really where empathy is incredibly important in, virtual meetings. Trying to read the signals because it can be easier to, to a great extent when you have more body language, when you can, you have more sort of sense of whether somebody is leaning back and looking out the window, but you can get, all those things. You can be paying more attention to voice tone and timbre and grammar and all those type of things, all sort of phraseology. When you're on virtual calls as well. So that's where empathy came out of this in order to be able to help connect people. And one of the other things about empathy that's really critical in this multi generational environment is you need to step away from judgments and not make assumptions, and that's where some of the big problems come or miscommunications or misinterpretations as to why. So Gen Z's aren't lazy. Why do they have a different attitude to work? Asking those questions, digging into it. And that helps connect people, have a much better understanding of what other people's situation is, why they're, why they have a different approach or an attitude. Is job hopping, or is it exploring? It's very hard to actually move internally within organizations still. Only a third of companies in the U. S, as it's globally on the LinkedIn data was showing only 33 percent of companies have internal talent mobility programs. So if it's really hard to move internally, that means it's easier for me to advance my career because I'm worried about my financial stability to actually leave the company. But then I'm labeled a job hopper rather than actually wanting to advance, needing to increase my skills. I wanted to stay competitive so I can be judged poorly as a job hopper, but actually what I'm trying to do is increase my skills, become a more valuable employee. And that's the only way that I've been able to do that. So very different perspectives until you actually start getting into it.

Debkanya: 26:01

Yeah. In fact, it's also coming down to the fact that, there was previous generations that were expected to be more loyal to their employer versus today, you have people who are more loyal to themselves first, and then, maybe to their employers...

Sophie: 26:15

wouldn't put it like that, actually. So the way I think about it is, so if you equate loyalty with tenure in the past, if somebody, let's just say in the fifties and sixties, they had a job for life. And they were given security so they could, one, they could trust the organization because they actually did have a job for life. And so they're I give my loyalty. I'll work, long, hard hours. I will stay there because I can. And it's guaranteed for me and I'll get a pension and I'll get to retire. So retirement is basically out the window. And 24 percent of Gen Z's believe they're not going to be able to retire. Pension funds are under water and you are guaranteeing me as my employer, you're guaranteeing me zero, zero job security. Therefore, where's the loyalty? What loyalty are you giving me that I should respond to it? So that's where I see connection on values and connection and trust based relationships, which has changed the dynamic of, leadership, of managers, of teams, because you have to have a very, you have to have different relationships because that job guarantee changed the whole dynamics and loyalty is one, it's a two way street and two it, there needs to be something there, which is coming from the corporation too. And both sides of that, the social contract has been broken for a long time.

Debkanya: 27:41

That's so true. And I'm glad you put it like that. In fact, we've been talking about how people are looking for companies that they identify with, the companies that they can trust hopefully. And where they have shared values. And there's, there's also this, I have to bring up the word purpose because there's always that as well, where you're aligned in terms of purpose. But all of this now comes back to, it's, partially employer branding in order to attract the right kind of talent. But then once you have them in, how do you retain them? And that's, is it a separate conversation? And do you think it's the same thread?

Sophie: 28:15

Very much the same thread. The key thing about values is they don't, they shouldn't change. So I'm always talking, With the clients, like in terms of timeless values, like empathy, like trust, like integrity, because they don't change. They can be anchoring to employees, particularly when everything's changing around you. But also I, as a new employee, if it's, trust or integrity and inclusiveness or values, those shouldn't change. And let's say transparency. It's one of those that I'm going to feel safer and if that's, the whole point about culture and values is it's supposed to help dictate or determine people's behaviors when they're not in the office, when they're not with anybody else. That's how people are supposed to behave. So if I believe that my, that I can trust my manager and he or she is going to be open with me, and you have purpose that I'm aligned with, and I don't think the company is going to change that purpose. All of those things mean we're going in the same direction and I understand what I'm doing and I can see where I'm going and I can see why my, how my work contributes every day to the mission and direction of the company. And I can be comfortable with the people I'm working with when I'm not with them, when I am in the same room as them. And so all of those things create the kind of working environment where I can stay. It does have to be the same from what's communicated to me externally as a candidate. When I come in, if there's a disconnect, I'm going to leave almost immediately. I'm not going to stick around because I cannot trust if you, if you're giving a message that isn't consistent when I come in and that also goes together now very much so in terms of customers. Customers are more discerning, is there consistency with the the messages that they're giving to the customers in that employer brand and how they're treating employers. Because if those two things are misaligned, I'm not going to trust that or what should I not be trusting about what else is this brand is telling me.

Debkanya: 30:16

Yeah, because it goes back to core and like you said, values, right? Ultimately, do we align, are you trustworthy? It comes down to that. I love the, different themes that we've touched on today. You've talked about empathy. We've talked about technology being where it is today. It's just, while technology is where it is today, we are not quite using it as well as we should. Is that correct?

Sophie: 30:39

I don't know about should, but yes, if we're going to be effective, one of the disconnects between generations is, for example, in terms of, if we focus on outcomes, do I need to be working 60 hours a week? To be effective and produce the same outcomes as somebody, let's just say who might be 25, who's using, some great project management tools and, doing a whole bunch of async work. And so they don't have to be in lots of meetings and therefore they only needing to work 40 hours a week or fewer hours a week and yet producing the same if they're judged as. How long are they working? Then they're not going to be judged in the right light. So I think when we can use the tools and really understand the types of tools, I literally was just reading this article about increase in productivity and it was about using, integrating some technology tools effectively. So when we can bring these tools in it, this is a micro increases in productivity or something, but yes, when we can use the, these incredibly sophisticated tools that we have and when we design work and bring in the tools that make sense for our department, our team, so that we can do the best work and, create the outcomes that we need to. And we're not focused on the inputs. We're focused on the outcomes, that's going to help us actually work more effectively. We won't, aren't necessarily going to, have to kill ourselves and work all over the weekend. Because we're designing it purposefully and being really thoughtful and intentional. I think that's one of the very interesting aspects of the future of work or modern work, as I call it. And I came up with four principles and I, it's L I F E. So it's learning, intention, flexibility, and empathy. And so the learning, we have to be lifelong learners. Intention, it is having more autonomy, being much more, proactive and taking more and more responsibility, which is necessary, but also of your career, of your life. It is individually now up to us because we don't have these sort of linear incremental careers that we can sit on and not have to think about and it carries us up. We're going all over the place and different companies. And then flexibility, thinking about the person, each individual employee, because every single one of us is different, no matter what age we are, whatever generation we are, whatever company we're in, whatever team we're working on. So it is, the bar has been raised definitely on managers to understand each of their team members. Really have more of these power skills to be able to understand each person so that we can be effective. But it's, I think, I do, I find this very exciting because we're actually having to stop and go how can we do our work? Really well, what is what is our work? How do we break it down and then build it up again? And be able to do it in the best way possible. There's quite a lot of work to do between now and there. And it's going to be a little bit messy on the way,

Debkanya: 33:22

but I think overall we are heading in the right direction. Yeah, because there's so much work that's going into it already. And there's so many conversations that we're having about this. Of course, maybe it's my own echo chamber thing, but well,

Sophie: 33:36

yes. and so I would say, yes, there are lots of conversations about it. I think the most part, in fact, most of the companies in the middle, there are a lot, there are companies that are really pioneering and pushing and researching and tweaking and iterating and really leaning in hard to work out how to work and not focusing on location. And there are some companies, not so much but the most people are in the middle. And they're not, but most of them are not committed to it yet and not recognizing because of some of this focus on control and location, it really, there isn't the focus on everything, work is transformed, business operations have changed, is driven by technology and we need to be shifting how we're working. There's a lot of work to be, there is a lot of work to be done. I am very optimistic and excited about where we're going, because when we think about it, when we do all this well, what we're talking about is leaning into the fact that we did all this research shows that when you, help people, you direct employees to their skills and their strengths and what they enjoy doing. They do better work. It really is this win. If I'm helping you adjust to, work life balance. And so that you can, not juggle your work and the rest of your life, but actually make it fit better together. And maybe, I help you out. We work out our team dynamics so that I can cover for you sometimes like this is how we actually live better, happier lives and the business wins too. So I'm very excited about where we're going and recognizing that, we've got some way to go. And I do really, I'm always trying to get more companies to commit. Fixed hybrid is not going to get them there because it really is about understanding the human dynamics and each one of us is different. So flexibility is necessary. And that takes some adjusting to because, we need these team level agreements to help people understand and make, make compromises across the team. So there's a lot that needs to be to help us get there, but I do think that where we're going is a really powerful, exciting place.

Debkanya: 35:40

I hope so too. So we always like to leave our listeners with, practical tips, right? Something quick, something that they can do. And we're talking about, it could be enterprise level, or it could be smaller companies, young people teams, smaller people teams. What is that one thing, you'd like to leave them with in terms of where they can get started

Sophie: 35:58

So like I said, in my book, I have these empathy tips to really get, but get practical. So I'm going to break it down. So think, feel, act, think about what the person, how the person is thinking, so it's about think, feel and act, connecting with how they're experiencing and then acting based on that. So one of the ways to be empathetic, let's just say in any meeting or interaction, or even when you're reading an email or text, think first if you don't, if you're not sure about what that person means, so first of all, you listen carefully or you read carefully. Don't make assumptions. Don't jump to conclusions. Ask questions. And asking open questions so that I can draw out more information so I can make sure I understand you. And then I can also say Debbie, what I think you, I heard you say was this, because so many things, particularly across generations, words mean different things. Hard work means different things. A career means different things. Really like simple things have, can have very different meanings. So it is about listening, It's about confirming that you understand, maybe restating what somebody said and asking open questions, just that is going to help any interaction go better. Just that you'll have more information, more understanding. And just the fact that I'm listening, you will understand that I value what you say. I may not agree with what you say, but I value what you say. And I'm listening and I'm trying hard to understand. So you will be more open to what I have to say after that. And I'm also encouraging you to act in the same way and mirror how I'm behaving. So very practical, very detailed, and you can do it tomorrow.

Debkanya: 37:30

But one last rejoinder to my question. I love that. I love the fact that, yes, I'll think, feel, and then act. But this is what one individual say in the people team is doing. And then this person ultimately has to take this information and take it to say, for example, leadership, get budget and that's a slightly harder thing to do. And usually, you, if you speak to employees, they do say that there's a gap between that conversation that they've had with HR and what actually happened on ground afterwards. How do you bridge that?

Sophie: 38:02

The point about empathy is you have more information, so it's not based on everything that I think. If we're having a discussion, then I'm going to take away this conversation information from what I think my opinion, but I've also got a much better handle on what you think and what your opinion is, because I really tried to understand it from your perspective. So whatever happens. If I've made that effort, I've probably reached over the table towards you try to understand what that is. It is extremely likely that I have a more rounded, deeper understanding of the issue. And so when I go to have a different conversation with my boss. That it's going to be more informed and that I'm going to have more information. Just having a better perspective, a more expansive understanding is going to make any opinion that I take away or any decision that I then make, it's going to make a better informed decision.

Debkanya: 38:59

I'm glad you, left our listeners with actual practical things that you can do today because, it's easy enough to get started.

Sophie: 39:07

You don't have to like really tap into the feeling, that can come because we do actually do it naturally. But just the difference that it makes to the other person when you, they feel really heard and they feel that you're trying to make an effort to understand what they really mean, it goes a long way to start.

Debkanya: 39:24

Great. Thank you so much again, Sophie. This was a really interesting conversation.

Sophie: 39:29

Thank you very much for having me, Debbie. It's been an absolute delight.