The Future of Work is Empathy with Work Innovation Specialist, Sophie Wade

The Future of Work is Empathy with Work Innovation Specialist Sophie Wade

In this week’s episode at The Leadership Habit, we are talking with Sophie Wade about what’s next now that the future of work has arrived. Sophie Wade is a work futurist, an international keynote speaker and a Workforce Innovation Specialist at Future of Work Consultancy at Flexcel Network. Over 475,000 people have taken her LinkedIn courses on empathy and the future of work skills. Sophie’s executive advisory work and transformative workshops help leaders understand and adapt to new business conditions and attract, engage, and retain a productive multi-generational distributed workforce. Sophie got her BA at Oxford University and MBA at International Business School INSEAD. Sophie’s second book, Empathy Works, The Key to a Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work, comes out May 3rd! Tune into this conversation as Sophie and Jenn talk about what’s next now that the future of work has arrived.

Full Transcript Below

Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and I am so excited to be sitting down with Sophie Wade today to talk about what’s next. Now that the future of work has arrived. Sophie, you heard her incredible bio! Sophie, how did you become a workplace innovator? Tell me about your journey and how you came to be. I’m so excited to be talking about your book today, but let’s hear a little bit about you your experience within this work or anything that you wanna share.

Meet Author of Empathy Works, Sophie Wade

Sophie Wade:  So, well, I think, you know, my journey is actually kind of interesting and sort of important because I grew up in England. I am British and American now, but I’ve lived I actually studied Chinese and then having done science and, and have lived around the world and I’ve lived in five different, I and worked in five different countries, which really gave me a different perspective that, you know, work is different in every country and how people work and when they start and stop work and the attitudes they have towards it.

So that really helped me sort of understand that there, there is no set way of working. There are sort of different rules in every place. And then my sort of first career, all about strategic development. I build a lot of financial models and help people raise money. But then I have two kids and when my, my daughter became three years old and, and they were sort of both complaining that they never saw me, I then started looking for workplace flexibility and sort of looked into it, did some research having got a job that was three days a week, cause it’s like, there must be many more people who want to work or have more flexibility in their work. And so I actually started working for a friend three days a week doing executive search for hedge funds, which was fascinating. But I really started looking into this aspect of workplace flexibility and this was 2011, so this was 12 years ago. And and so I decided that I had the, was going to try, you know, maybe spend a year, year and a half trying to get myself the kind of flexible job that was going to allow me to have better work life balance the, you know, very sort of old term now but, or set up company that was going to sort of work, sort of work on that.

The Future of Work and Workplace Flexibility

Sophie Wade:   And that’s what I did instead. I set up a company. And so I’ve really been in this space advocating for trying to, you know, connect people, trying to, you know, do consulting workshops. And then, around 2014, I came across the term, the future of work, of which workplace flexibility is a big chunk of it. And I realized that that was a, there was alot that was involved, and that was going to be very challenging for companies to adjust to because really driven by technology. So that’s how I really got into this and, and, and really looking at how leadership has changed, a lot of challenges between generations in terms of communications and miscommunications and Jenn, that is something that you are, we’ve had some great conversations so that was something.

And then the last piece of it was through three pillars, and the third one was the decentralized workforce, which was increasing then of course, you know, we know a lot more about that since the pandemic started, but, but that was, that was sort of where it came from. And really, the sort of the human-centric counterbalance to this technology-driven world that we’re dealing with. So that’s how I sort of got there because the talent aspect of it, how people are working, has changed a lot with all the technology. Now that’s integrated into our work.

Jenn DeWall:   So when you, oh my gosh, like so many questions, right? Like one question, what’s the biggest difference that you notice between the five countries that you’ve worked in terms of the attitude towards work, anything stand out or any, you know, any A-ha’s or interesting, I guess, observations that you’ve made?

Work/Life Balance Around the Globe

Sophie Wade:   One of the big changes I mean, I, so I lived in Germany. I lived in worked in Germany for two years and most people got to work nine o’clock on the dot and left at five o’clock on the dot and worked very hard during that time. But I was actually in, it was one of the first sort of online businesses, digital business and the technology people, the technologists were the only people really that I knew. And I knew a lot of them in the company who would be working over the weekend, who’d be working past five o’clock. So that was really interesting having been working before that, or recently before that in Hong Kong, where for the, you know, around five years that on and off that I worked in Hong Kong, I worked not only long hours, every weekday, but I worked two out of three Saturday mornings from nine till one, every single weekend. Like that’s just how the work was set up. And it, it was a while ago. I don’t know that they do that now. So going from sort of working five and a half days a week to, to, and long hours to a much shorter you know, schedule, I mean, I was working past five o’clock.

So that, that sort of showed me immediately the range. And then, and, and also, you know, Europe had say, what I would say is a more balanced view of work. That work is important but it has its place and it is it, you know, there there’s non-work, and I wouldn’t sort of say life because these things were all, all integrated and should be in my opinion. But they have, it’s a more balanced, and it isn’t assumed that your work in the evening, it isn’t assume that you would work over the weekend. And so coming here to the us and I’ve always been engaged in, you know, digital media and lots of things. I was doing venture capital and I work very long hours and I always love my work, but it has a, there’s a very different work culture here compared to Europe. And that was, that was, there was a strong contrast from, from living in Germany to working here.

Jenn DeWall:   Gosh, I love the perspective of even just bringing it back to our listeners that no matter where you sit, you likely have a different culture than the next. And it’s always important to remember that because when someone’s coming into your organization and you’re onboarding them, they are carrying with the norms of that past industry. And it’s really important to have those conversations with them to let them know what is it like here? What does work look like you? And I talked about it on the pre-fall even perception versus reality. How are you judging people in your workplace? How are you evaluating them and determining whether they’re a fit or whether they’re ready for the next role, those expectations are often missed when someone joins the team?

Sophie Wade:  Huge. And, and, and, you know, I have talked about this in some of my speeches, which is about how people react and, you know, from a generational perspective, but it’s huge on the cultural perspective as well, in terms of, let’s just say hard work now, hard work for older generations typically means working long hours late at night, you know, grueling, probably grueling, boring work. And that’s kind of how it was. And it goes back to the Protestant Calvinist doctrines, which is like, you know, you will go to heaven if you suffer in your work. I mean, you know, it’s kind of, that’s where it came from. But now, you know, younger generations, if you’re you using really, you know, good tools and, you know, project management apps and, you know, slack and all the rest of it, you can be working very hard in 40 hours, get all your work done, achieve the same results and that’s hard work. how different you could be evaluated by someone older, it’s like, well, you know, yes, you know, she gets stuff done, but you know, she’s not working hard because, you know, she leave work at six o’clock or something like, right. That’s where you get serious repercussions from people who come at things with very different attitudes and understandings based on, based on their history. It’s not, there’s no critique. It’s just, we have different backgrounds and interpretations and experiences. And that really we have to be careful how we evaluate other people and how we judge other people based on, on sort of our own context.

The Future of Work is Technology-Driven

Jenn DeWall: My gosh, I love that response. And I hope that there are a lot of aha moments that were triggered by that. So let’s move into our conversation. What is next? Now that the future of work has arrived. I know that you had talked about it, you know, at a high level. And could you just say, what are the components again, or how do you define the future of work? Just a level set before we progress again?

Sophie Wade: Huge. Yes. So the future of work, there are many definitions out there. Absolutely. It is very hard to nail on one, but the way I look at it, it is really based on technology. It is a much faster, interconnected, technology-driven world, which is because it’s all interconnected. We have a faster feedback loop. We have a lot of new technologies coming in, which are, meaning customer behaviors are changing, and we’re having to respond to much faster work. Isn’t linear in the same way because of how we have to react. So work itself has evolved. There’s much more knowledge work. There’s much more non-routine work. So non-routine versus routine work non-routine work has grown enormously over the last few years.

Jenn DeWall: What do you mean by non-routine like special projects? What do you mean by non-routine?

The Project-Driven Economy

Sophie Wade: Well, anything that it, so we’ve had a lot of routines, you’re doing the same thing over and over again, predictable you project it out three to five years instead. Yes. Projects. So when we talk about non-routine work, then project work is a, is a huge portion of that. And in fact, the Harvard Business Review November-December 2021 issue said the project economy has arrived. They actually used Germany as an example that now 41% of their GDP was, was accounted for by projects and projects, because they’re not, they’re not linear, they’re not the same. They could be a bit different sizes and lengths and grouping together, different people. That’s a different way of working. And so that’s part of, so there’s a lot of things that have been changing about the speed and the nature of how we’re working and how predictable it is.

Because if we are integrating new technology at our company, and then we have, you know, consumers who are then reacting in different ways to how the, you know, what the product is like, or how, how we’re delivering our service, that’s gonna change the behavior, which then changes kind of how we need to operate. And then what technologies are competitors integrating. And what does that mean about how com how our customers reacting to our products? So we have to just keep innovating and, and I sort of use know the video call, like zoom you know, Microsoft teams over the last two years, how many times have we noticed or been alerted to, but, but notice, oh, there’s a new future here. Oh, oh, cool. And we don’t kinda go, oh, there’s a big software release. And, you know, so we’re really used to, so the future of work is really about constant innovation, constant change in a more, in a less volatile way than during the pandemic, but it is to do with a lot of change. And now there have been societal developments which have, you know, helped move that along. In terms of now you have typical, we have two people in a family working for economic reasons. You have, you know, a lot of single parents, you have, you know, a lot of single mothers who are the, the primary or soul you know, earner in a, in a family. And so you have a lot of different societal situations, which make it more challenging, which are increasing the need to have more flexible working options. But, technology is really the drive in terms of how it’s changing so much about how we do business, how fast the marketplace is developing and how we need to work as a result.

Is the Future of Work Everyone Coming Back to the Office?

Jenn DeWall: Okay. Again, so many thoughts were stimulated. I, you know, I, I really do love that, whether it’s thinking about because I know in our pre-call, we had also talked about the fact that, or maybe I think it was us talking about the fact that there were organizations that are now forcing people to go back to a fully in-person structure and they’re met with resistance. Right. Do you talk about flexibility? What do you see from where you sit?

Sophie Wade: From where I sit? I really look at that as being— it’s not gonna set up that business or institution that somebody was asking me a question on LinkedIn about, you know, their, their college reinforcing, reinstating, you know, old pre-pandemic rules. It’s not gonna allow entities to be competitive because when we’re talking about this technology-driven, fast-moving marketplace, when you’re needing to kind of like being able to pivot, not just, you know, you know, post-pandemic to be able to, to adapt to new marketplace developments, you need to, you need your company to be responsible. You need your employees to be responsive. It’s a mindset. It really is driven by a mindset. And if you want your people to be, to be flexible, they need to be in an environment that is flexible, and that includes their work arrangements. And so we also need employees to be engaged. We need them not just to be going through the motions and turning up, or, or staying at home and just doing, doing whatever. And just like, you know, checking the box at the end of the day, we do need people to be engaged because the problems are much more complicated, and we’re also working together much more closely. And, you know, we haven’t been used to that. Right. We’ve sort of come in our kind of like, yes, you know, showing up as, you know, of course, a two, two-dimensional person, and now I need to know who you are and be able to respond and you, and, and bring both help you bring your best self. And I bring my best self to tackle the problems of today.

Human-Centric Management in the Technology-Driven Workplace

Jenn DeWall: Okay. Now we have to go into it because I think seeing the whole person. And then, not the norm, right? Conditioned to come to work like, Oh, by the way, you leave your personal self behind. Deal with that on personal time we don’t see that, we don’t have time for that. And it’s interesting because I think it’s created confusion around younger generations that might want it, but then also are observing, and they’re like, well, maybe you don’t do that again. We’re just talking, we’re not labeling here if you’re listening to this, but, you know, because I think this can be a contentious topic, but talking about seeing the whole person, why do you think this is such a big piece of the future of work?

Sophie Wade: I think, well, for me, this human-centric counterbalance to the technology-driven environment that we’re in now that you know, who are the people who are actually using the technologies, which are now the tools. We’re not so focused on the technology instead of, you know, living inside the factories that we needed to produce enough food. I mean, that’s where it all came from. We really focused on, on, you know, increasing production. Now we’re a place where we have sophisticated tools that we can really use. And it is the human beings that we need. And we need to have people be doing their best work.

And if they’re gonna do that, they need to feel comfortable. They need to feel included and welcome. And so that’s where I come, you know, come from the empathy angle because empathy for me, I mean, it can be about being nice and being kind, but really empathy is about human understanding. And so when we’re thinking about like, who, if I want to engage you in my team, I, we need to, I need to understand who you are and you know, what your background is and okay, so you, you know, where do you live? And, and, and I don’t have to engage you sort of intimately, you know, in terms of like knowing, you know, confidential things about you or whatever you, whatever you are comfortable sharing. And that’s where we sort of need to understand, like, what are you comfortable sharing? What should I, or should I not share so that, but so that we have a relationship. So we have some shared understandings which helps us work together more closely, mostly particularly in the kind of more challenging dealing with the more challenging questions and issues and, and solving the problems, which are requiring us to come together.

You know, somebody from marketing, someone from business development, someone from finance, you know, all the different and technology, we all need to be, you know, working together, coming with very different and diverse mindsets and context and backgrounds. And that’s what we need to solve the problems of today. And we need to be able to bring, you know, everything that we can to the table and the other people around the table, be able to, to deal with that and accept that and embrace that. So inclusion and empathy, which are really about welcoming and understanding people and, and allowing people to be comfortable and understanding they are, are, are absolutely critical to be able to move forward and be, and be competitive. You know, in today’s environment.

The Future of Work Requires More Flexibility for Employees

Jenn DeWall: I love even saying that, because that example earlier talking about flexibility, whether let’s say, for example, you are a single parent and you, you know, if you don’t get to know the whole person, you don’t know what they’re walking out to, like the type of responsibilities, what that schedule looks like. And I think the individual wants that tailor now, right? That’s what we’re saying. They want flexibility.

Sophie Wade: And they just need that flexibility. There was one case I came across probably six or seven years ago and the flexibility that this woman needed at that point, she needed half an hour. She was a single parent. She had two kids, and the kids were, I think, like six and five and she needed to be able to get to work half an hour or later, so that she could put the two kids, six and five on the bus going to school. So you know, that’s all she needed and that was gonna make all the difference in the world to her because of her, her family situation.

Jenn DeWall: Yes. And what’s interesting though, like again, because we’re challenging the generational norms, we’re seeing a full person, I have absolutely sat and mediated a conversation between a manager and their employee and the manager. And maybe this is generational. Maybe this is just their lived experience, could not fathom that this employee was asking for accommodations as it related to their children. And I think it was like a doctor’s appointment that was going to be recurring and, you know, really pushing them well, if you want to make that appointment, you have to do it outside of work hours, which when are medical clinics open, you know, like when are they actually able to get care? But it was so interesting to again, and I think, well, that was in 2018. Just to see that level of, in my eyes where I sat it was, yeah, let’s just push it out just as you said, a half-hour, like, and this is, is already what the employee had proposed. It’s like, could I come in later and work later? And this manager was still saying no. And I think then it comes down to our own ego of like wanting to enforce this and being resistant to change, to seeing things in a different way.

Sophie Wade: Well, I mean, so yeah, a couple of things. One is absolutely weird. Human beings be, are creatures of habit. And that’s what we know. And I think, you know, that’s one of the reasons that, and also what we feel comfortable that we can control and sort of getting our arms around things. And so I think that’s one of the reasons where, why people do want to sort of go back to the, bringing people back to the office because it’s kind of like I can get my hands around it, but also, you know, I think one of the things, the big change that needs to happen, what’s very helpful when it happens is focused on results.

Because if that manager had the comfort that that person, you know, is, is beholden to the results. And they kinda like, well, you know, as long as you get your work done, you know, you get it done. And at the same time, you know how I mean, we do now understand we have much more data now to understand how distracted that worker, that that employee is. If they can’t get it done. And they’re focused, you know, instead of being able to get their work done and really engaged in their work, they’re keeping distracted by the fact, well, how am I gonna get this done? How am I gonna get my kid to the doctor? These are, these are the issues that we now understand that we, that are sort of distracting people and not allowing them to really get the job done.

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Empathy Works – The Key to Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work

Jenn DeWall: I wanna jump in because we haven’t done the formal introduction, your newest book drops on May third. I believe that it’s called Empathy Works. What was your kind of perspective on creating that title or Empathy Works? I mean, yeah, Empathy Works, but what was your experience with wanting to name your book that.

Sophie Wade: Well, it had a lot of, so it’s Empathy Works- The Key to Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work. So empathy, what I started off with a title about strategic empathy because it was trying to sort of say, well, this is not, and empathy is not just a skill. It’s a cultural value. It’s a mindset, and it’s a skill I was trying to understand to, to sort of getting the point like how to, to communicate that it really is a, is strategic to enable companies to enable employers to, to really make a difference particularly. I mean, really, especially now we’re dealing with much more challenging over, so really trying to come up with something and came up, you know, the sort of play on words when I just suddenly came up, I was like, Hmm, that really resonates. Cause you know, you, you play around with titles, and I was strategic empathy being like, oh yeah, it’s fine. Or whatever, but it didn’t, it, it, but Empathy Works really seemed to just sort of nail it. It was, it, it, it like, and it does, it really does.

Jenn DeWall: Absolutely. Well, even I think about empathy just goes back to seeing the whole person. So what message is the message of Empathy Works? Let’s talk about the messages that are within the book. What is its framework of it? Tell me more about your book and how your book is written.

The Future of Work is Empathy

Sophie Wade: So, thank you. The aim of the book, it’s not just to say, well, this, you know, human understanding and, and, you know, if we can tap into, you know, our people, that’s, that’s it, because we do have this new era of work, the future of work is, is really different. And I wanted to, to present a sort of framework that will help people really understand a way to move forward, not, not just as kind of like a skill that you can practice. Although there are lots of empathy habits, which I clearly layout in a very practical way. Like these are the things, the empathy habits you can practice as a leader, as a salesperson. But starting off with a framework, sort of understanding where we are, why we are here, you know, technology and all the rest of it.

And what technology has done really allowed us to focus on rather than like a TV blasting out to millions and millions of viewers with a very sort of generic message. We now can actually focus and target to customers on a one-on-one basis. We can actually recognize them in the street and go, oh, that’s one of my customers. And we sort of have a sense of who they are. We empathize with them. So now, you know, lot of stuff that I have a LinkedIn course, which is, which has got, is called Empathy for Sales Professionals, which has been doing really, really well, because we need to understand and tap into and, you know, understand what the pain points of our customers are. So that’s the, that’s the first piece. And then we sort of look at the customer journey and all different elements of that customer journey. Sophie Wade: And so I sort of have this yin yang symbol and there’s the customer journey. And then there’s the employee journey. Well, if we have all these people within our organizations who are trying to get to, to empathize with customers and trying to understand whether they’re, you know, delivering the technology solution, whether they’re talking to ’em in the sales, or when you are, you know, wherever you are in the organization, all the different elements need to be coordinated and focused on understanding that particular customer. So they also need to be able to empathize, not with a customer, but with each other because it, this needs to be consistent. So the employee journey. What is the employee journey for each person from when they first are attracted to the organization and how they sort of get promoted all the milestones along the way? And now as they leave at some point, because, you know, not every organization is big and had, you know, diverse enough to be able to keep people, but you may want them to come back again in the future and also spread the word, about what a great organization you are. So have them as ambassadors. So there’s no more, there’s no sort of like when somebody’s left the organization near we burn the bridges.

Jenn DeWall: There is, I, I say that because I, I still observe that. And I, I do think it’s, it’s bananas because I’ve watched employees that have been there for multiple years, great attitudes, great contributions, and right, because of a variety of reasons, it could be size, scope, career opportunities, development, the employee has chosen to move to a different thing. And then I watch the ego of leaders taking it. Maybe it’s incredibly personal, maybe whatever that is, but then you burn that bridge. And what do you think that employee’s gonna do? It’s like a slap in the face of all of the contributions. Like

Sophie Wade: It doesn’t even make business sense, to have someone who leaves, if you have them as an ambassador of saying, oh my God, that company was so amazing, right? Recommending in a tight labor market. You don’t want people to anybody to be a bad out in your company or feel disconnected that we are in a, this, you know, we have a much more network fabric type of economy now, and they can be recommended. They can be introducing people or, you know, being, being a, you know, in sort of marketing, you know, your company. And they may come back. I mean, I have recommended in the past for people, if there are like warrants or options that you give employees, you can put them on hold, they can go and get valuable experiences somewhere else, and then come back and then reengage with that sort of, you know you know, employee optional, you know, warrants programs so that you actually encourage them to come back once they have more experiences. So I think that there’s, there’s a lot that can be done to have that, not be a sort of, you know, linear journey in and out of the organization at some point, because we know these 30-year careers are not there anymore, but it be sort of much more circular and, and networked, and people might have been an employee at one point, then they might be a part-time employee. They might later in the future become a sort of expert consultant. Because you know, that they know about this particular marketplace or we tried something there. And, you know, so there are lots of different arrangements that you can have, which with employees currently and in the future that aren’t necessarily full-time or, or part-time employees. So that’s the framework. It’s really the customer journey and then the employee journey. So that gives a framework, for the whole book.

But really look looking at what I call the human-centric system. So it’s really then thinking about empathy, empathy in terms of, you know, integrating some remote, working some workplace flexibility, flexibility for people who may be fixed site. Cause there are a lot of employees still who, who don’t have any option. They have to be working on-site wherever that may be. And so remote working is gonna be a possibility for them, but they can still have flexibility. But, but with thinking about everybody’s situation and how to get to, bring the best help everybody do their best work. So that’s, that’s what it’s about. So it’s very, it’s practical. It sort of gives you the sort of the, it sets the stage gives a framework. And then as I said, it, it shows how empathy can be practiced, bringing it into the culture, integrating into the culture, elevating it as a cultural value, helping change the mindset. Because the mindset is really key in order to make workplace flexibility work. For example, it really is about focusing on each person as an individual. And, and then how you can practice empathy in all aspects of, of, of your work, teamwork, leadership and, and really, you know, a lot to do with inclusion as well. Empathy and inclusion are, are very closely connected.

Embracing the New Rules

Jenn DeWall: Absolutely well, and I think it’s important, you know, as, as the leaders are listening to this right now, thinking, examining, being curious with yourself, what are the beliefs or let’s call them old rules, traditional rules that may not serve today’s working environment. And what do you need to relearn or adjust to be able to accommodate that? Because yes, you said it’s a tight labor market. If you don’t accommodate it. Yeah. Someone else will. And it’s as I hate to be as direct and blunt as that, but for the most part, yes. And I think we talked about this in a pre-call, the companies that are, you know, really addressing, like seeing the whole person, making sure that they’re making certain accommodations, even changing the expectation of how a leader shows up. I feel like a leader shows up, I feel like the accountability of a leader is that much different. You can’t just show up as the office bully or the office jerk and be that authoritative person because you will have turnover underneath you. And then the buck will ultimately like, you know, that spotlight will shine on you and it’s again, don’t judge yourself for maybe embracing those things today, be curious with yourself about, okay, what can I let go and know that it’s just a new muscle that you’re building. It’s just a new muscle, but I have a question as it relates to I forget what you had said, which I loved, but I kind of equate it to the gig economy, right. The project or the project worker. And because that is a big piece. If I look at even myself as an individual, you know, I work, you know, quarter-time sometimes for Crestcom, part-time Crestcom, but then I have my own business, but then I consult and then I work for a different organization. I have five different email addresses. Right, right. And so when you’re really thinking about culture and the need for the individual to see the whole person to understand the scope because it also impacts, you know, even if I think about being a gig worker, cuz that’s kind of how I, I guess I would classify myself to some extent it’s that, you know, they have to see what else is on my plate because you can’t just drop in and say, I want you to do this now because I said so, and I forgot to drop no, actually like you have to be more mindful of what I have and I want to help you achieve your success. But it’s not the same like quick feedback loop when you’re talking to people that have different priorities. I dunno.

But, and so my question with that, that being said, understanding that the gig economy is there and that empathy needs to happen. How do you preserve your culture in the face of a gig or project-based economy, because then you’re that individual is caught between cultures? Like how do you actually preserve that, from your perspective, I know we didn’t plan to talk about this, but it’s just more of a curiosity.

Sophie Wade: Sure. There are so many things that you, you talked about there. So I do want to say that a key thing about how I see leadership changing and I will say, I’m sorry about it being so dark, it was very, very bright, here in New York, but it suddenly got dark so I’m sort of in the shade.

Jenn DeWall: Hey! We understand tech challenges. Now I know I do. Every single person needs to understand when I set my lighting, the sun was shining, but I don’t need to stop and change my lighting!

Work Culture in the New Era

Sophie Wade: So, so thank you. So first of all, leadership has had to change enormously. And I actually, in my first book, I talk about going that leadership is going from ego to empathy. And, or, or you can sort of look at it as being the, for being from the person to the organization. And so, so you have this culture, which really is the culture and it isn’t driven by the leader, the leader sets, you know, helps set it, but it is a culture of the, of a company, something which is very much involved, everybody’s involved, and everybody loves it and every day but it, it really has changed how leaders need to interact with people and understanding all the different things that they’re dealing with. And so on a cultural basis, you know, these are, these are what connect they and us, they can be very strong for each individual organization when it comes to the project economy or the 1099 economy, I do, I personally differentiate between the gig economy, which tends to be in my mind, it’s sort of easier to differentiate between gigs, which are, tend to be very, very short term, lots and lots and lots of projects like Handy or TaskRabbit, something like that versus the 1099 economy where you have, you know, long, long term, but you know, maybe two days a week with one company one day a week, so that those are longer-term project or independent contracting relationships.

And that changes because you have those certainly the research in past was showing that TaskRabbits and Handy and those type of gigs were supplemental income for the most part, not the main income. So 1099, when I’m looking at the 1099 income, that becomes important in terms of how it’s being supported and, and how much, how many more people are choosing a range of work arrangements, including which may be, you know, a part-time employment. And then, and then more project work on the site. So what I would probably say in terms of culture, connecting it is that you likely work for, for many of these, these companies that you’re working for have similar cultural characteristics, because you would not be working probably I’m guessing we don’t know each other very well, but I’m guessing you’d be choosing companies that have the kind of mindset or the kind of, or the same, the kind of vision that you, that aligns with your vision and the, and the kind of cultural values that you have. So you’re not, you’re not having to massively change the type of culture like, oh, this is a real sort of toxic culture versus this is, you know, that, or, or maybe you, you know, maybe you can deal with the toxic boss in, in, on one company, but, but overall the vision and the mission are similar so that it isn’t, it isn’t discord.

You’re not having completely, you know, kind of like put on a completely different hat because we’re trying to be who we are every day and that that’s going to, if it isn’t consistent or congruent with the, the sort of environment and the, that we’re working in, or, or the people that we’re working with that becomes more challenging these days. And that’s why, you know, a lot of younger folks certainly are leaning into and asking about the cultural values before they go and work somewhere.

Jenn DeWall: Interesting that you say that because I will not take, and maybe I am more of a project worker like 1099. I’m like, I’ve never gotten so many 1099s in my life before, like, as I was doing my taxes this year, because it is like, I will not do business now that I have a choice as an entrepreneur. I won’t do business with a culture that I think is, you know, just not a fit for me. I just won’t, I don’t I’ll find something else. I trust that I find some I’ll find something else or I’ll figure out how to offset, subsidize my income if I need to, but I will not compromise my values.

Sophie Wade: And then on the other side that somebody who’s hiring you, they’re gonna want to have, you know, so we talked about cultural fit and the cultural fit, you know, can mean when it’s not a practiced what I would say correctly, cultural fit for me means that you are aligning values. It’s not about having people that look and sound the same or have the same education, you know, because there are certainly, it’s about having a lot of diverse people, but who have, who are aligned with their values because rather than being something that can, can be discriminatory. So, but it means that if I’m hiring you and I’m making sure that we, that, that we’re, it’s a cultural fit so that you are going to enjoy working in my company and you are gonna feel included and welcomed and comfortable and be able to contribute. And all the rest of it, that means that you, that we can feel connected on those values, even if I’m, you know, you’re not with and, you know, working with, with, with teams in, in the company, you know, five days a week. And, and so that’s, I think how you can, you can be working across different companies and different work arrangements because those values are profound to who, to who you are and to who, you know, you know, I am in my company, that’s hiring you. And that’s the way to connect us and have that sense of belonging, even if you’re not there five days a week.

Jenn DeWall: No. And I love that you talk about the values because I can think about organizations where, you know, earlier in my career, you get your employee handbook. These are our five values, right? Honesty, trust, or whatever the heck they’re all about respect, right? They’re all the same at every company. It feels like sometimes. And then you come into the company and you’re like, oh, but these values are really just part of the employee handbook. We actually don’t hold people accountable to this. Right. It becomes funnier. It should be like, what are values now? And so it’s interesting to feel like there were these, like, I don’t wanna call it a of values because I do know there were plenty of people that absolutely adhered to them, but there were also people that were not held accountable to adhere to them. Mm. But now you have this thing of like, you can loosely as an organization, talk about your values, but I will enforce the values. Like I will make sure that I am standing confidently in that right place. So like, if you don’t actually adhere to your values, I will walk. And I think there’s a lot of people that will do that now from my generation.

Sophie Wade: Oh, absolutely!

Jenn DeWall: I’m not gonna just sit there if you’re gonna pretend and like smoke mirrors, make it look so cool. And it’s not by, like, why would I waste my time. Sophie Wade: My thing is if I don’t, if I don’t trust you as a company, right? This is, this is why the whole, the whole leadership dynamic has changed. And it’s going away from this command. I sort know, going from commanded coach. And I talk about this a lot in my book, because in that relationship, trust is so critical and trust and empathy and under in someone, because if you don’t trust me, there is no, I am so aware of the, or certainly the younger generation is so aware of the lack of job security in this country. It has been there for a long time, but it, we, I, I think, you know, I was certainly sort of delusion that, you know, there was more job security, but really when you are at-will, you are at-will. And, and, you know, you can be fired for, for any reason almost or just be let go because things have changed and these things are pivoting and, you know, goodness knows what, but if, if I believe the company values are integrity and trust and empathy or transparency, then I think it will least the company that I’m working for is going to give me a heads up, is gonna be open and clear with me so that even if things are changing, that they’re actually going to help me, you know, maybe find a new position or job and upskill, so that I, at least I can be looking for another job either inside the organization, there are companies that help people find jobs.

Sophie Wade: I mean, seriously. I mean, obviously the, as outplacement, but really engage in trying to help someone find a job because things are changing. So if I think this company is going to help me in my career, I’m going to stay there and I’m going to that. Loyalty’s gonna come from the connection on the values when there isn’t any, any legal reason that, that sort of, that loyalty, the relationships and the sense of trust that, that are going to keep, keep people there. And the, you know, the feeling that, you know, this company’s investing in me they’re gonna keep me competitively challenged and, and developing me. And I actually was just talking to a friend of mine from business school, who his company just one, the company most likely to help me grow in my career. And that was a new, it’s a new category. And I was like, oh, that’s so awesome. Because what it means is that those employees are saying that company is going to help me stay competitive. And, and they were as well as obviously contributing the bit to the business, because if, if, if the employees are growing and developing, they’re obviously going to be, you know, investing in the business as well. So I thought that was a really interesting new category and was very exciting.

Jenn DeWall: That’s so true. Like in the work that I do with Crestcom, gosh, Crestcom has been one of the best organizations at showing like support and value and feeling seen. It was just almost startling. At first, when I got that, I was like, what do you mean? Because I worked in a cutthroat or more cutthroat, two different cutthroat, like kind of conservative cultures, and then talked about this too. And now I’m working for another company. And the first thing that they said to me is we just want you to be you, don’t worry about everyone else. We just want you to be you. And, and those like, you know, I will absolutely take less money. I will, you know, work harder to just , but I will, because those values are so important. And yes, I have student loans to pay. Yes, I do.

Sophie Wade: So pay her more!

Jenn DeWall: Like, but I will still figure it out. If I, you know, I would still take less pay. I know that I’ll figure out how to pay my student loans or whatever debts I might have. And like, I will still do that because my happiness is so important, but I, I know that we’re near the end of show. And I just want to ask you Sophie, like any final thoughts as it relates to maybe the conversation that we’ve had today, or your book Empathy Works, what would you like to share on a final note with our listeners?

Learning New Empathy Habits

Sophie Wade: Thank you. This has been a great conversation. And I, so the thing about this book is, you know, ultimately the whole point of it was to be practical. And to actually, again, help people understand each other, because, well, you have to start with yourself first. So you have to have enough understanding about yourself, to be able to understand other people that you’re working with. And it could be within the company. It could be along your supply chain, anybody in your ecosystem, and really just leaning into that and, and being very practical about different empathy habits, which could be really small, just like, you know, having whether you’re working virtually or in person, you know, connecting with someone at the beginning or the end of the meeting, you know, oh, you know, how’s, how’s your dog doing? We’re both dog owners. You know, we had, we both had our dog dogs in interrupting us. And they actually out right, right here next to me,

Jenn DeWall: Mine’s locked out right now. Mine’s locked out. She can’t come when we’re doing it live otherwise. Sophie Wade: Oh, OK. Well, I thought I’d have them here. . So you know, so we connect on that. These types of, of, you know, connections are so important. So that’s a very basic one, but there are lots of things that you can do in terms of empathy, which is like reading, reading, other people, looking at their faces listening to, to their voices. When somebody sends you an email or a text you know, looking checking, did somebody really mean that checking what, what they, what they meant without making a judgment? So there are lots and lots of practical things that in the book as well as sort of giving a, a greater framework. So the idea is really to, to bring more human understanding, you know, really lean into that the sort of the human-centric, as I said, counterbalance to this technology-driven landscape, because where now we’re coming out of the pandemic. I know we just had some huge new COVID cases coming up. But, but now that we’re coming out of it, there is no back to go back to. So we need to really craft the way forward for every single, you know, organization for their company, for their employees, and that’s gonna be different. So really trying to work out how to do that and how best to be able to connect with people and work that out, bringing everybody together and getting their contributions, because that’s gonna be the most successful way forward, really getting the expertise from, you know, more seasoned new managers and executives and the technology staff for from tends to be from people who’ve really grown up with the technology and having everybody together working together effectively. And that for me, is really using empathy to do that. So, so that’s kind of like the reason that I think this book is important is to, to sort of help people, you know, coming out of the pandemic and really being able to forge a new way forward, that’s going to be effective and enjoyable, and people engage in their work and have some fun of me. Come on.

Jenn DeWall: I, we have one short life, like work does not actually this awful place. Like there are a lot of things that we can do and it all starts, well, actually, I’ll just say this. It all starts with empathy, Empathy Works! So how do people get in touch with you? Where can they get the book? The book drops on May 3rd. How can they get in touch with you?

Where to Find Sophie’s Book: Empathy Works

Sophie Wade: Wonderful. So please preorder, it is available on Amazon on all kinds of online retailers. Whatever your favorite retailer is, please go and preorder it there. And if you do, there is actually a preorder offer, you can get a free to get to, to join a live webinar where you can ask me questions live. So that’s great There’s lots of information about the book there. There are also worksheets that will be available in the book. You’ll see that there are worksheets to help you sort of go through all kinds of things and choose your empathy habits and stuff like that. So My company is also Flexcel Network, but is where all the information about the book is. Also, I have some LinkedIn courses which are actually free for the month of April if you want to take advantage of those now. Jenn DeWall: Oh, fantastic. I love that. Offer free courses, Sophie, thank you so much for donating your time, passion and expertise to share your perspective, your lived experience in with The Leadership Habit listeners. I am so grateful to have you on the podcast. I hope to have you back again and for everyone listening May 3rd, preorder your copy. Empathy Works. Thank you so much, Sophie Wade, Sophie Wade: Thank you, Jenn. Really, really appreciate it! It’s been such a fun conversation.

Jenn DeWall: Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast. I loved the conversation with Sophie. So many different thoughts, different points of awareness and reflections came up as a result of that conversation. And as Sophie shared her new book, Empathy Works, The key to Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work comes out May 3rd, and you can head on over to and there you can actually preorder your copy if you know someone that could benefit from this episode or they could really maybe gain a new perspective from hearing our conversation, share this episode with them. And of course, if you enjoyed this conversation, don’t forget to leave us a review. I’m your favorite podcast streaming service. Thank you so much for tuning in until next time.