Jodi Brandstetter on Empathy and Connection as Business Tools
Jodi Brandstetter is a HR and Design Thinking Expert of Lean Effective Talent Strategies (LETS) and understands the importance of empathy in the work place. She took some time out to share her insights on this topic with The Industry Leaders.
Can you start by telling us about your entrepreneurial journey? What led you to your current business, and what is it that sets your leadership style apart from others?
My entrepreneurial journey began in 2018, after dedicating my career to human resources and talent acquisition. When I founded LETS, my mission was to assist small to midsize companies in creating a hiring process that not only benefits the business but also prioritizes the well-being of the individuals involved. Design thinking is the methodology that perfectly aligns with this vision. It equips me with the tools to be an empathetic and innovative leader.
You've been recognized for your focus on empathy and human connection within your organization. How did you come to realize the importance of these values in leadership, and how have they shaped the way you run your business?
Many individuals commonly perceive empathy as merely understanding someone's emotions, but it extends far beyond that narrow definition. Empathy involves comprehending not only a person's feelings but also their perspective, how they navigate situations, and what motivates them. Whether you're a recruiter or a business owner striving for excellence, it's crucial to understand the needs and nuances of your audience, including candidates, clients, and employees. This is precisely where empathy comes into play. I harness my innate curiosity to gain a deeper understanding of the individuals in my professional sphere, enabling me to tailor my services and solutions to best meet their unique needs.
Can you share an example of a situation where employing empathy and connection as business tools made a significant positive difference in your organization? What were the challenges and outcomes?
In the realm of design thinking, a pivotal stage known as "Immersion in Empathy" plays a significant role. Its primary objective is to gain a profound understanding of how your audience responds to a specific challenge, ultimately leading to the generation of ideas and, subsequently, a solution to the problem at hand. One of the major hurdles in the hiring process is maintaining candidates' engagement and interest throughout. Recognizing this challenge, I embarked on a journey to decipher the type of communication that candidates desired at each phase of the hiring process. Through extensive questioning and interaction with candidates, I uncovered a surprising insight: the critical communication junctures were not necessarily at the end of each hiring step but during the periods when candidates found themselves in a waiting mode. This revelation led to a fundamental realization – consistent communication, even if there are no immediate updates, significantly enhances candidates' commitment to the hiring process. Subsequently, I've been actively encouraging my clients to establish regular communication touchpoints with candidates in the process. Naturally, this can pose challenges, especially when dealing with a high volume of open positions and candidates. However, one concept that has proven exceptionally successful is what we call "Update Friday." On this day, recruiters, HR professionals, or hiring managers proactively reach out to candidates to provide updates on the role and the ongoing hiring process. Remarkably, this simple weekly update has proven to be an effective strategy for keeping candidates engaged and informed.
Empathy can often be misunderstood or oversimplified in a business context. How do you define it in your leadership practice, and how do you ensure that it's applied authentically?
Empathy is about stepping into someone else's shoes. My leadership style can be described as a hands-on approach. I'm eager to comprehend the inner workings of not only the processes and technologies but also how my team operates. By actively engaging and getting my hands dirty in various aspects of the work, I gain a profound understanding of both the intricacies of each process or technology and the individuals on my team.
Connection is not just about understanding others but also connecting with oneself. How do you maintain a balance between personal well-being and fostering connections with your team?
Becoming an entrepreneur has provided me with valuable insights into my own personality and the expectations I place on myself. I would describe myself as a Type A personality, someone who sets high standards and often places significant pressure on myself to work diligently and continually strive to be the best version of me. However, I've come to recognize that this approach can lead to burnout if I'm not careful. To prevent burnout, I've learned to lean on various forms of support, such as my therapist and virtual assistants, among others. These resources have been instrumental in helping me strike a balance and ensure that I don't push myself to the point of exhaustion. It's essential for me to maintain a healthy state because when I'm burned out, it inevitably affects my team. I firmly believe that, to be the best leader I can be, I must prioritize self-care. When I'm at my best, my team benefits from my positive energy and well-being. This, in turn, enables me to be genuine with my team, serving as a source of inspiration for them to take care of themselves as well. In essence, my well-being positively influences the well-being of my team, creating a supportive and nurturing work environment.
In terms of scalability, how do you maintain these human-centered values as your business grows? What strategies or tools have you found most effective?
Scaling a business often presents the risk of sidelining human-centered values. To prevent this from occurring, the initial step is to establish safeguards. When it comes to making decisions about scaling the business, I make it a priority to engage the team in discussions. Together, we assess what actions are necessary to maintain a work environment that upholds our core values and places them at the forefront of our decision-making process.
For those who are new to leadership or are struggling to build empathy and connection within their teams, what practical advice can you offer? Are there any exercises or habits that can be cultivated?
Empathy is a skill that can be strengthened over time. There are simple methods to enhance it, such as reading fiction books, watching movies, and stepping out of your office to spend time with your team, observing them in their natural work environment.
You've shared some truly insightful thoughts on leadership. How have these principles been reflected in your products or services, and what has been the response from your customers?
My services revolve around a core focus on comprehending the audience and employing empathy to guarantee that a business possesses the correct processes, procedures, technology, and overall experience to effectively hire and retain employees. Irrespective of the specific client project at hand, I consistently incorporate coaching on becoming an empathetic leader.