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Ketan Dattani on Empathy and Connection as Business Tools

Ketan Dattani is the CEO and Founding Owner of Buckingham Futures and understands the importance of empathy in the workplace. They took some time out to share their 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?

As is the case with many individuals in the environmental sector, my career path has been influenced by my deep-rooted love for nature and an unquenchable interest in comprehending natural ecosystems. From as far back as I can remember, I have had a fondness for animals, plants, and the great outdoors – essentially anything that can be found in the wild. To put it simply, I've always been fascinated by the natural world. Despite facing challenges within the education system, my unflagging enthusiasm for environmental matters led me to return to education and pursue a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology and a Master's degree in Environmental Planning and Management. After completing my post-graduate degree in 1998, I struggled to find a role within the Environmental sector and so began my career in recruitment. I set up Buckingham Futures, a specialist Consultancy supplying Environmental Health personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis as I identified an opportunity to aid Environmental Health professionals to fill the gap in the employment sector caused by significant challenges to the global economy caused population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy and escalating impacts of climate change. My guiding philosophy is rooted in the belief that environmental considerations are integral the success of my business. Therefore, we consistently go the extra mile to understand the business objectives and operational environments of our clients.

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?

Developing an effective team is a significant and rewarding aspect of leadership. A team that collaborates cohesively to achieve objectives plays a crucial role in a business's success. However, building a successful team involves more than merely assembling individuals with the right professional skills. The core of a team lies in their collective efforts to achieve the company's shared objectives, drawing on their respective strengths, skills, and experiences. A well-balanced team outperforms isolated individuals in terms of productivity. This harmony is the cornerstone for achieving growth, scalability, and overall business success. When assessing potential candidates during interviews, I give priority to evaluating Emotional Intelligence, Resilience, and Conscientiousness. We are all on a collective learning journey, and setbacks are an inevitable part of it. Emotionally intelligent team members provide support during challenging times. Everyone becomes a guiding force, working together to resolve issues and emerge stronger, both individually and as a group.

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 a challenging scenario where our organisation aimed to establish itself in a market saturated with intense competition, we recognized the importance of empathy and genuine connections as invaluable business tools. Our approach involved understanding the unique needs of our clients and customizing our services to meet their specific requirements. This empathetic strategy led to the development of strong, trust-based relationships. The outcome of our empathetic approach was highly positive. We observed a notable increase in client satisfaction, resulting in higher client retention rates and positive word-of-mouth referrals. As a result, our business not only navigated the competitive market successfully but also thrived and prospered. The power of empathy and authentic connections proved to be instrumental in achieving these favourable outcomes.

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?

I regard empathy as a fundamental element of effective leadership. It's not merely about grasping or sympathizing with others; it involves genuinely stepping into their shoes, comprehending their viewpoints, and appreciating their feelings and experiences. For me, empathy entails actively listening and striving to comprehend, fostering an environment where people feel heard and respected. To ensure the genuine application of empathy in my leadership approach, I give priority to open and candid communication. I encourage my team to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, and I attentively listen to them. I make a conscious effort to acknowledge their emotions and experiences, even in the face of challenges or setbacks. This cultivates a culture of trust and transparency, where everyone is aware that their voices hold significance

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?

Maintaining a balance between running my business and personal life can often pose challenges, but it's vital for both my overall well-being and the success of Buckingham Futures. To achieve this equilibrium, I give high importance to spending quality time with my family and delegating tasks when necessary. I establish clear boundaries between work and personal time, and I make a conscious effort to engage in self-care practices to alleviate stress. This equilibrium isn't only about comprehending and connecting with others; it also entails connecting with oneself. By prioritising my personal well-being, I am better equipped to nurture meaningful connections with my team and cultivate a positive 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?

Maintaining our human-centered values as our business expands is paramount for long-term success. To achieve this, we start by hiring individuals who share our commitment to these values and invest in ongoing training and development to ensure everyone embodies them. Open communication and technology play key roles in keeping our team connected and informed, and we regularly seek feedback to inform our decision-making processes. By nurturing empathy, kindness, and hard work at the core of our business, we aim to grow while remaining true to our principles.

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?

For those who are new to leadership or are encountering difficulties in nurturing empathy and connection within their teams, I'd like to provide some practical guidance. Developing these qualities is vital for nurturing a positive and productive work environment. 1. Active Listening: Give priority to authentic listening and promote open communication within your team. 2. Personal Check-Ins: Routinely inquire about the well-being and interests of your team members outside of work to cultivate trust and understanding. 3.Team-Building Exercises: Include activities that encourage collaboration and communication among team members, breaking down barriers and reinforcing connections. 4. Leading by Example: Exhibit empathy and kindness in your own interactions, setting an example for your team to emulate.

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?

In our services, we've incorporated a customer-centric and collaborative approach, driven by our values of empathy and open communication. This has led to positive responses from our customers, resulting in higher satisfaction, loyalty, and word-of-mouth referrals, contributing to our overall success. Our commitment to these principles has improved our work environment and solidified relationships with our customers.

Finally, for our readers who are interested in learning more about your leadership philosophy or your business, where can they find more information or connect with you directly?

I am most active on LinkedIn ( and Instagram (


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