And for us, if we have too much to do, we may not have that time. But that puts us into a vicious cycle, because without revealing empathy, it makes everything harder. Without the benefit of the doubt of trust, it makes everything harder, and then we have less and less time for empathy, and so it goes.
So here’s the prescription: identify where, when and to whom you are likely to offer your distraction. That should trace pretty perfectly to when, where and to whom you are likely to withhold your empathy. And if in those instances, we can come up with a trigger that gets us to look up, look at the people right in front of us, listen to them, deeply immerse ourselves in their perspectives, then we have a chance of having a sturdy leg of empathy. And if you do nothing else, please put away your cell phone. It is the largest distraction magnet yet to be made, and it is super difficult to create empathy and trust in its presence. That takes care of the empathy wobblers.
Logic wobbles can come in two forms. It’s either the quality of your logic or it’s your ability to communicate the logic. Now if the quality of your logic is at risk, I can’t really help you with that. It’s like, not in this much time. But fortunately, it’s often the case that our logic is sound, but it’s our ability to communicate the logic that is in jeopardy. Super fortunately, there’s a very easy fix to this.
If we consider that there are two ways to communicate in the world, and Harvard Business School professors are known for two-by-twos — nonsense, it’s the triangle that rocks. If we consider that there are two ways to communicate in the world, and the first one is when you take us on a journey, a magnificent journey that has twists and turns and mystery and drama, until you ultimately get to the point, and some of the best communicators in the world communicate just like this. But if you have a logic wobble, this can be super dangerous. So instead, I implore you, start with your point in a crisp half-sentence, and then give your supporting evidence. This means that people will be able to get access to our awesome ideas, and just as importantly, if you get cut off before you’re done, ladies. If you get cut off before you’re done, you still get credit for the idea, as opposed to someone else coming in and snatching it from you. You just gave me goosebumps.
The third wobble is authenticity, and I find it to be the most vexing. We as a human species can sniff out in a moment, literally in a moment, whether or not someone is being their authentic true self. So in many ways, the prescription is clear. You don’t want to have an authenticity wobble? Be you. Great. And that is super easy to do when you’re around people who are like you.
But if you represent any sort of difference, the prescription to “be you” can be super challenging. I have been tempted at every step of my career, tempted personally and tempted by coaching of others, to mute who I am in the world. I’m a woman of super strong opinions, with really deep convictions, direct speech. I have a magnificent wife, and together, we have such crazy ambition. I prefer men’s clothes and comfortable shoes. Thank you, Allbirds. In some contexts, this makes me different.
I hope that each person here has the beautiful luxury of representing difference in some context in your life. But with that privilege comes a very sincere temptation to hold back who we are, and if we hold back who we are, we’re less likely to be trusted. And if we’re less likely to be trusted, we’re less likely to be given stretch assignments. And without those stretch assignments, we’re less likely to get promoted, and so on and so on until we are super depressed by the demographic tendencies of our senior leadership. And it all comes back to our being, our authentic selves.
So here’s my advice. Wear whatever makes you feel fabulous. Pay less attention to what you think people want to hear from you and far more attention to what your authentic, awesome self needs to say. And to the leaders in the room, it is your obligation to set the conditions that not only make it safe for us to be authentic but make it welcome, make it celebrated, cherish it for exactly what it is, which is the key for us achieving greater excellence than we have ever known is possible. So let’s go back to Uber.
What happened at Uber? When I got there, Uber was wobbling all over the place. Empathy, logic, authenticity were all wobbling like crazy. But we were able to find super effective, super quick fixes for two of the wobbles. I’ll give you an illustration of empathy. In the meetings at Uber, it was not uncommon for people to be texting one another about the meeting. I had never seen anything like it. It may have done many things, but it did not create a safe, empathetic environment. The solution though, super clear: technology, off and away. And that forced people to look up, to look at the people in front of them, to listen to them, to immerse themselves in their perspectives and to collaborate in unprecedented ways.