Mobilize Women '19 Power of Empathy
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about empathy as a tool for leadership, particularly when it comes to building inclusive cultures. We all have different experiences, and it’s complicated to actually view the world from someone else’s perspective. Empathy can build a bridge into that understanding and lead to a culture in which people can show up as their authentic selves. According to a recent study, 91% of CEOs see a direct link between empathy and an organization’s financial performance and given the research behind the impact of diversity on a company’s results, we tend to agree. However, that same research found that 72% of CEOs think that the state of empathy in companies needs to change, yet few are taking action because they don’t know how.
Livestream recordings made possible by RBC Wealth Management - U.S.
00:00 So without further ado, we're going to launch into our first panel. And this panel, to give you a little bit of context is, is a really important one to me because we talk so much about how we're going to create change. And one of the areas in which we need to see more companies and leaders, Stand stepping up, is seeing leaders really advocate for it. Leaders who say, yes, I want this in my company. I want this for my customers, I want this for my employees and I'm willing to take the action to make that happen. But what we've seen is many leaders don't know how to actually do that. It sounds great, but like, you know, in practice, what does that look like? What does being an empathetic leader, who really is driving diversity, how does that manifest itself? So today we're going to start at the top. We're going to hear from top leaders about what they do everyday to create change in their companies and in the worlds. And so honored to welcome Ajay Banga, the president and CEO of Mastercard and Andrea Jung, the CEO of Grameen America to the stage.
01:09 Yup. I will get out of your way. Oh, thanks Ajay. Very kind.
01:18 So we're going to get right to it. As many of you will see throughout the course of the day, these panels go fast. We're digging right into the heart of, of the matter. Um, so lots of great stuff here and so honored to have Ajay and Andrea join us on stage. I want to quickly start with what can seem like an obvious question that I think is an important question. Why is leading with empathy important to you? Why do you care about it? And was there some aha moment that you said, oh whoa, like this is, this is something I should be thinking about or has it just always been part of your existence? And Andrea, if you could start.
01:54 Sure. Morning everybody. It's great to be here. Um, so I think that this whole subject matter of empathetic leadership is certainly, probably never more important than now. I mean we are in a moment where if there's any kind of tone deaf aspect from leadership or administration, you can have people sitting in or walking out. I mean it's, it's a clearly an inflection point in terms of truly being able to put yourself in other people's shoes, uh, and being able to understand what your constituent, whether it's your customers or what's your employees. I mean I think it's always been important but probably never more important than now. Um, I personally can remember, um, you know, before I joined Grameen America, I was the CEO at Avon for many years and when I first became the CEO, you know, you know that there's this kind of, it's such an influential, um, role, but it is not a command and control role.
02:55 I mean when you, when you have an org chart, technically when you're a CEO or president and CEO of a big corporation, everybody ladders up to you. So technically, you know, you are direct and able to direct and have people who report to you so to speak. But you realize very quickly that it, it's not about command and control. It is really about influence and influence is hugely about, um, making sure that you understand, which doesn't mean always overly sympathizing. Uh, but it does mean being able to walk in the shoes of the people on any huge change decision you're going to make. Uh, in our case, I remember at Avon we had six plus million independent sales representatives. And when you land in the job, you realize, I mean, they can vote with their feet, they can just leave their, they're not your employees.
03:42 So when you were making big substantive change and we were, whether it was compensation, whether it was strategies to go into other channels, the Internet where there was perception that there would be disintermediation, um, how do you communicate that? Uh, and if you are not an empathetic, authentically empathetic leader who is going to take the time before you make any of those changes to truly listen, which doesn't mean you're always going to do exactly what they want you to do. Um, that is the first step to being able to influence and then change and mobilize people and have them follow you even if it's not something they would have thought they wanted to do, but it's critical.
04:24 So I think the only thing I'd add to that is that, uh, the, uh, empathy is not just the question of leadership. Empathy is about your life. And if you want to lead a life that's fun with other people, you don't want to constantly be under stress and fighting and kind of putting up walls and barriers with other people that you kind of want to be empathetic to everyone. And if you carry that through your life and you one day become fortunate enough to have somebody report to you, then it kind of remains with you through that. And it becomes natural to you if you try and learn it. When you become a leader, it's too late. You have to have it in you because otherwise people can see you trying to fabricate it. And people like Andrea, if you spend a little time with her, it's in her, inside her. And that shows us when she was a CEO of Avon, she would have had no difficulty moving from here to there. Once she realized what she wanted to do. The example of those 6,000 salespeople realizing it and doing something about it are two different things. And she's able to do something because it's inside her. I think you have to be an empathetic person in an out to feel that you could also be an empathetic leader.
05:33 But, and then how does that manifest itself? So you're talking Andrea, about, you know, okay, 6,000 salespeople, we're changing compensation structures, we're making these big changes. But how do you get into the minds and hearts of those people to understand the impact? Like that's, I mean, that's, that could be your entire job is just trying to, to listen and to understand. Yeah, yeah.
05:55 Actually I maybe I missed quite a bit. It was 6 million. Oh. Um, which just magnifies the ability to actually touch people. You know? I mean, if I have an opportunity to talk to you and you're in my office and, and is one thing, but there, you know, there are all kinds of formal and informal ways, but to actually, and I think it's easier today certainly with technology, but just one comment, you know, artificial intelligence and on technology can not replace. I think what Ajay and I are talking about, I mean it's, it's human touch its DNA. I mean it's not going to get replicated in a survey necessarily, but, uh, we had to do things big and small. But one of a couple examples would be, um, I use one from Grameen America is that a couple of years ago we, we actually made some changes and we had some of our members, which was unusual in our history, which has just been rapid growth.
06:48 But we had a stalled period where we had some of our members not renewing their loans in, um, a certain quarter. That just seemed very unusual. And, uh, you know, which we hadn't done before. We really brought many of them in to the Senior Management Board, people who had left. Um, to actually just listen not to what was good, but obviously what was bad or what changes we made. And I think that was the first time when they were just shocked, uh, because these are, we know we've, we've served over 120,000 members, but to actually bring people in who've left, who've decided they don't want to be part of the program anymore and really try and understand it, some reasons didn't change what we were going to do. Some absolutely did. But I think this concept of, uh, asking questions, asking the hard questions, wanting to hear not just the good, but that's sort of the bad and the ugly and also, um, listening, uh, is it starts there.
07:44 So we brought them in. Um, you know, at, at Avon we would have every quarter a group of people come in that would represent, you know, that their other constituents and be able to be, uh, counsel. They were independent, they weren't employees, but they were able to be counseled to the CEO all the way directly, um, to hear what was going on out there. But it's, it's one way. There are many, but you have to have that in my mind. And in a moment of an in person, um, true authentic listening that you, you deeply care and you can't fabricate that. And Andrea, for those that in the audience that may not know, could you describe what Grameen does? Sure. So Grameen America is, um, the largest and fastest growing micro lending organization in the United States. Uh, we are 11 years, um, in the U S in 14 cities, 21 locations. And we've given out a $1.2 billion of loan capital to low income women entrepreneurs around the nation. 120,000 have gotten loans down. It's amazing. Like the,
08:56 the ordinary thing is they are amazing because these are [inaudible]
08:59 non-recourse non-collateralized loans. Um, they are shut out of the financial system here in the u s um, if it was difficult to get a loan before 2008 as a low income, uh, you know, uh, entrepreneur after the crisis and the lending crisis and the pullback of traditional underwriting and risk. Um, we have become a, you know, a really, really I think affordable and scaled source of entrepreneurship, um, investment when for many of them, their only other opportunity are kind of usury payday, payday loans. So, um, little plug here, but you know, Ajay and the, and the team at that Mastercard have been huge partners because we can't do this alone. But this whole issue of financial inclusion in the United States, financial literacy and financial inclusion, uh, and credit and access to capital being a basic human right for women, uh, in this country, Eh, you know, there's an income inequality and lack of access for women. And so we're trying to do something, um, serious and scaled towards that.
10:12 Ajay, you, um, you're born in India and you have had an incredibly successful career. You are like an incredibly powerful business leader, thought leader. You're creating such change. Um, and yet you've talked a lot. Um, although you've talked very openly about being searched by the TSA and a lot of the bias that you faced, um, which, which you point out, I actually think it's so interesting, this idea of you've accomplished so much and yet there's still this bias, um, maybe because of where you come from or what you look like or what you wear. And so how do we, like, if that exists in our world where we're judged based on these surface, you know, or that surface where we're judged based on these, um, through these biased lenses, how has that shaped your experience and how, how do we all kind of start to, to we think the way that we look at others, we treat others. Um, and we lead. Others
11:23 Looked at this story about the TSA pot, was that after nine 11 ice to get randomly picked out to be evaluated at every DSA checkpoint and you would have 27 people walk through and then I'd get, Sir, you've been randomly chosen. I'm like, yeah, I get it. So that random part of it was, that was the part that used to bug me. The fact that they were doing that job by checking people is fine. I don't have a problem with that because they keeping me safe along with you. But when you randomly a similar looking guy each time because you don't understand that you don't comprehend, then that to me is less than comforting. But your question is much more than that. And I think, uh, the best way for me to answer this for you is to tell you about two or three things I believe in, right?
12:10 And the first one is that life is 50% luck. The question is in the other 50%, do you seize your luck or do you let it go by? Because we've all got 50% of our life in luck. But some people seize it and others that had go by them. And what I mean by that is if you're not willing to take a risk, if you're not willing to be outside your zone of comfort in your life personally and professionally, then you probably will be one of those whose luck will go by because that luck comes by and you don't recognize it. But if you're willing to take that risk, if you're willing to step out of your zone of comfort and go from running a company that distributed and made women and others independent entrepreneurs and distribute product to one that now does one portion of that.
13:02 Helping women become entrepreneurs but in a very different way. That's a pretty courageous move. For me, moving from consumer products to financial services was way out of the box and particularly to an institution like Citibank, which had a culture of breeding from within. When I first went that, this is many years ago, so you would think I left city and came to Mastercard. When I left, it was in 2009 Mastercard was a 20 billion market cap company with 4,000 employees. I had 80,000 employees working for me at Citibank in my last job in a much bigger company, so in theory I was stupid. What I was taking a risk of an off a different type. The point is I took the risk country Mastercard's at $260 billion market cap company. We are one of the top 20 companies. In the world in market cap and we've multiplied up people many times over.
13:56 So now it looks like a really good idea. And I had people tell me, boy, you were really lucky you moved at that time. I'm like, screw your to [inaudible] stupid. It's not just so it's a question of seizing your luck, if you know what I mean. The second part of this that works is if you're willing to learn from everybody you encounter, because Andrea's history and experiences are different from mine. So she has to have something inside her that I can learn from when she's talking. And if you take that principle about everybody from your housekeeper to your colleague, to your boss, you will always find that people will allow you to learn from them. And then this issue of looking and feeling different becomes less important. And the final one is if you've got a sense of humor about this, all right? A sense of humor and humility are kind of interconnected, right? But do you have a sense of humor about this? You can use your fact that you're different to make friends and to actually talk about it and to get to know people because you're different. And so I think you shouldn't take this too seriously. You should take it just, it is who you are. God chose you to look like this. Tough luck on the other hand. Yeah.
15:15 Oh, the other hand, baby. This is the 50% good luck and you should seize it. See what I mean? Yeah. So it's just the question of how you look at things. Is it tough luck or good luck and how do you feel about it? Yeah.
15:32 Andrea, we, we've been talking a lot about empathy here and I want to know um. Does it, does it ever hurt you as a leader? Does it make some of those tough decisions longer to me, you takes longer to make or you maybe don't make them, um, you know, because you're, you're thinking somewhat with your heart or with your, your compassion outside of just maybe your brain.
15:59 Yeah. I think that's a great question. Um, and I think there's a sort of, you have to thread the needle and finally define the difference between empathy and, uh, being overly sympathetic or what some people consider being overly compassionate. Um, which is not a bad human trait, but if you're in the leadership role and you have to make tough decisions, um, you have to have courage. I mean, and they are not always the popular decisions. So I think that being listening to people, um, so you use an example, but if you've got, you know, a union negotiation and you are, uh, you can still be a very empathetic leader in the union negotiation process, which is different than being overly sympathetic, you know, going with, uh, the demands, which aren't necessarily, you know, right for the enterprise or are the right decisions to make. So I think you have to draw that fine line.
16:57 I think all of us have probably been in the situation any, and you know, because we're human and we care about people. And I certainly have been in a situation where have I ever made a decision too late or later than I should have because I'm in probably more sympathetic, uh, overly compassionate when it particularly interrelates to a tough people decision. Absolutely. I mean, you know, so and when you look back in retrospect, you just say for the person and for the organization, we probably should have made that change a little bit earlier. Um, and those are things that you learn. You personally learn and, and, and develop. But I think that empathy can never make you go wrong. Um, I, you want to listen, you want to walk in those shoes, but then you've got also have the courage. Um, and that's why they say it's lonely at the topic is sometimes you have to make that often.
17:51 You have to make that that very tough call. Um, I remember one time when we had to make a very difficult set of decisions, um, sort of d layering and d taking out some spans of control and it meant that, uh, you know, like a significant number of middle management we were going to take out of the organization. Um, and I remember being in a group, we're going around the world and you know, big, big audiences and we hadn't made the decision that Andrea was staying and Ajay wasn't, but we knew we wanted to communicate early about the changes that were coming. And so it was, you know, an anxious time. But the fact that I remember getting emails and notes afterwards that we were quote listening, we were able to be honest, transparent, acknowledged that this was going to be difficult, acknowledged that not every single person in the room was still going to be with the organization in the next three months. But the reasons why it would be a stronger, more efficient decisions would be made quicker. It would be better for the enterprise. And I remember getting notes, which were that, you know what, maybe it's not going to be good for me, but we appreciate the empathy that we, we appreciate that you understood what we said so I don't, I don't ever think empathy can drive you to the wrong place. You can't be overly sympathetic though because you have to stand and be courageous.
19:12 Do your decisions. That's the last part I can, I just put another spin onto that. I think people mixed up kind and nice with fair and fairness is accurate. People want, they want transparency and fairness. They want frequent communication, but we from our side, because it's tough on the other side, translate that into being kind and nice and avoiding the tough conversation. You're actually not helping at that time. You're actually being a pain for that person because you could help them if you were fair, transparent, and frequent to improve and develop better. So that's the first thing. The second thing is the word empathy creates a lot of miscommunication. Think about this differently. In our company. The way we discuss it is that you don't have, when I was younger, you had IQ and EEQ as a definition of how you grew in a company and we've added DQ and DQ is your decency quotient.
20:08 And so think about decency as compared to empathy and suddenly everything becomes clear. It's the same thing. Empathy is a subset of decency, but included in decency is the willingness to say, I actually don't agree with what he just did and I feel badly about telling you this, but you need to hear this from me and not from her or later from the email. You need to change this because this is wrong and here's the reason why and let's talk about it. And if you disagree, let's have a conversation that is a, I would tell you we are not perfect. It's just yesterday I had an incident of an employee writing to me feeling that we weren't exhibiting our DQ, but if you looked at everything to do with that person, they had been given feedback consistently about their issues systematically, simply, clearly, but they hadn't accepted it. Now that's just stuff. It's not going to change. Those are the tough situations if you feel bad about later. But I think empathy as a word gets misunderstood. Decency, caution. DQ also is easy to remember. IQ EEQ DQ. And that's what we're trying to do. Get the company to operate with DQ at, at it's core all the time.
21:20 One other quick question on, on this topic that I have for you, which is, we've talked a lot about the internal decisions you make and how that manifests itself. Um, the, you know, the DQ, uh, but what about externally as customers? I think as consumers we're, we're constant, we're seeing more and more companies that are speaking out on social issues, diversity and of trying to lead with their values. Um, and, and how do you have, part of it is like, how do you interpret that? When do you feel that it's very authentic, that it's coming from a good place? Um, so I know Mastercard just recently announced this week a big initiative around their credit cards and, uh, transgender communities who could get credit cards in there, a transgender name versus their legal name. And, and I would love for you to talk a little bit about the work that Mastercard's done and, and particularly the work that went behind this effort. Um, cause we, we were discussing that earlier and I think it's important to note that type of intent that, that comes from that.
22:26 So this particular one is actually very recent and it's just that it's part of the whole celebrations that are in this period of time. We were working on the idea North American Marketing team was working on the idea of enabling people to use that true name as compared to their legal name for the card they carry or for their account on the phone or whatever. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that a ton of 1200 people don't show up asking for a card named Andrea Jung and then we have 1200 Andrea Jungs wandering around. That would probably not be a good idea. Right. So we have to be careful while we do it. She thinks it's not a good idea. I think it's fine if I can use her bank account, I'm cool. But she doesn't think so. So the fact is that you're going to be careful how you execute it, but the idea is in it's simplicity is marvelous and a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to make it get done well.
23:20 But again, the topics bigger than that, I think the topic is one of our, you, uh, how do you behave externally with a voice. I think there, there's a little bigger nuance. There's, the way we looking at it is there's things that are legal, illegal that's more challenging. There are things that are within legality, but people get nervous taking a position that I'm willing to take a position on all day long. So if you do something with immigration that is currently legal in this country, we don't want illegal immigrants in the country. And you make comments about how they are all rapists or murderers or are inappropriate, that I find offensive because I'm an immigrant too. She's an immigrant too. And by the way, most of you, what immigrants have are this generation, the generation before. So we kind of all in this together, other than a few native Americans who unfortunately in fact are the most discriminated in this country of what they could have had had.
24:15 They had the true opportunity of what this country has afforded. So this is bunk and the quicker we are willing to call it bunk, the better off. Yeah. So that kind of thing I'm willing to talk about. I'm willing to talk about transgender rights. I'm willing to talk about gay rights, but what, what is me has been the legal legality. Illegality comes, for example, marijuana is legal in certain states, but it's not illegal at a federal level. I am controlled at a federal level. If I allow the payment or electronic payments to take marijuana, even in a state where it's legal, I go to jail and I ended up vetting an orange jumpsuit and I don't look good in an orange
24:57 That's simple. So I have a very simple method of deciding, good, not good. This one's not good.
25:03 Um, I just have to, to, to add in to that, you know, and I became a public company CEO back in, in 1999 and when you look all these years later, I have to say when I look at the, the, the CEOs running companies today, I, I am quite inspired because it is a different time. Um, but there is a tremendous amount of leadership on issues and taking a stand that I didn't see when I became a CEO 20 years ago. Um, you know, there was a little bit of a rule of thumb and this was way back again before the, the millennium that you know what, you've got customers that are a rep are Democrats. You have customers that are Republican, same with your associates. So kind of just try and stay in the middle of the road that doesn't hold anymore if you don't take a stand.
25:52 Because we need leadership. Okay, we need leadership in this country. And CEOs are incredibly important influential leaders on issues. And if, if companies aren't going to take a stand in the number of companies and leaders, it's the leaders who take the stand. You know, I'm a lucky to work with Tim Cook on the Apple Board and I can't tell you how many times around that board we have the conversation about we have the lead on privacy. He cares, he cares deeply. And it is not an Apple issue. It is a, it is a global issue and he's believed that he has to take a stand on it in terms of doing the right thing. And that is when you step up and stand out and there are people who are not going to agree, but you've, that comes with the territory and just like Ajay, you mean just you're going to say something, you're going to take a stand because it's the right thing to do. And I I that that is imperative.
26:45 Um, it's part of the mantle and I think it's inspirational right now. Uh, in terms of business leadership, I think it's
26:52 clearly believe,
26:56 I think our employees want us to do this as well because they need a voice. And this is and whether you like it or not, you are their voice, so I think that's a good thing to be. That way if you consult with them and do it. I think the challenge really comes in if in the process the legislative process abdicates its responsibility and allows people who aren't elected to start taking opinions on stuff that's on that side of the law. That's the best. What I meant it Tim's example, a Tim Cook's example is a really interesting one. There is an absence of legal clarity in that space. He's taking the moral high ground on how you deserve your data to belong to you and I think that's a very, it's a very important point. We've done the same but Tim's bully pulpit is very strong and he should use it for that. I expect him to because of the person he is, but if that had been a law in that place, Tim would have been the first one to say there is a law here. I will go up to that point and no further. I think that definitional system is really important in your NorthStar as a CEO because you weren't elected by the people. You kind of seized the other 50% of your luck and got in there. Right.
28:08 All right. Thank you so much, Andrea and Ajay. This was amazing.
28:24 We're good.
28:28 Thank you, Ajay. Andrea and Kristy.
You deserve more.
No matter the challenge, you don't have to face it alone - but it’s up to you to take the first step. Join Ellevate to find the people you can trust, who understand what you’re going through, and who genuinely want to help you succeed.
Already a Member?