Hi, I'm Lauren Gallo. I lead talent partnerships and originals marketing at SnapChat.
How would you describe empathy?
I would describe empathy as recognizing and understanding someone else's feelings. It's really being able to be in somebody else's shoes and understanding their perspective. I think having empathy is important because it brings you closer to others. You're able to bond in a deeper way and understand where someone is coming from.
Can you tell me a situation or a story that symbolize empathy to you?
I have a mentor, her name is Angela Ahrendts. I used to work with her at Apple. She is the definition of an empathetic leader. She's pretty incredible and she's one the most compelling leaders I've ever worked with in my life. Apple is a huge organization and it can be challenging to get everybody to really rally behind a certain initiative or strategy. She was so understanding with everybody that she was speaking to and so patient in getting educated on what everyone was working on. That practice helped her know how to best approach what they were working on to take it to the next level. She's incredible at relating to people.
Has that changed the way you work?
Yes, absolutely. Seeing Angela connect with up to 60,000 people on the team was very inspiring. She was dedicated to doing a weekly video to talk to the retail employees keeping them in the loop and having them feel closely connecting to the corporate offices. Seeing her impact in moving culture there was so impactful.
Can you tell us about a time that you had empathy for someone and what impact it had on them?
A few years ago when I was working for Nike, we were going through a reorg and a lot of things were changing in the company as far as priorities. That's pretty normal when you are reflecting on the year and where you want to go. There were going to be some changes within the team. I was thinking about how my team was going to feel knowing the changes that were coming. The changes weren't necessarily bad but I just wanted to make sure that they didn't feel abrupt and confusing. So, I was very transparent with my team and taking the time to meet with them knowing that they knew something was going to change and that something was coming. I felt that being transparent with them on the journey was going to help them feel better when the changes actually happened.
What would be the larger impact on our culture if more people practiced empathy?
Empathy is critical to understanding how to give back to the world. Once you discover things beyond yourself you're able to appreciate and unite people in a really special way.
How can we develop our capacity to be empathetic?
In my experience with empathy, I learned it through mentors of mine and family members. To truly acquire empathy, I needed to understand myself and understand why I'm feeling the way that I'm feeling and be comfortable with it. This opened up my ability to understand how others are feeling. There are different forms of how empathy comes in to play. One is just being there for someone, you may not have been through the same things as them you still can feel their pain or their excitement or whatever they might be going through. When you relate to someone on that level it really unlocks a relationship that is super genuine and extremely authentic.
I think there's a lot of ways you can nurture your capacity for empathy. First, I would actually think about yourself and how you can sit with your feelings and be ok with that. And then, you have your relationships and what do those look like? Are you able to be patient with people, really listen to them and not just automatically react? By having control over your emotions internally helps you to be more empathetic.
How do you think empathy can be leveraged in the workplace?
You can't be a robotic person, you break the ice when you show vulnerability with people. Rather than presenting an idea in a way that's just focused on the task at hand with no feeling in it, consider how you can present it in a way that taps into people's motivation. If you are excited about it, you can make it a tough project for something people are excited to work on.