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Transforming Work with Sophie Wade

Nov 20, 2020

Michael Ventura—Founder of Sub Rosa and author of Applied Empathy—discusses his process for integrating empathy practices in work environments. He recommends doing self-work first and attaining sufficient awareness to stimulate and present an empathetic self. For business situations, he emphasizes cognitive empathy which involves perspective-taking driven by inquiry, as well as identifying and unpacking top workplace challenges. For the broader setting, Michael suggests we have conversations to understand, rather than conversations to win. 



Key Takeaways


[00:53] Where the journey of empathy starts.


[03:36] Michael gets encouragement to be brave as an entrepreneur.


[04:00] Sub Rosa’s role as UN translator helping brands connect with their target audiences was Michael’s first empathy-making moment.


[04:42] How Michael’s entrepreneurial ventures have all applied empathy in order to connect with people in meaningful ways. 


[05:15] Generations differ in how they relate to technology. 


[06:28] Defining generations, and the conundrum for those born 1977 to 1984! 


[09:27] The interior work involved in empathy—observation, witnessing, and practice.


[10:14] In his book, Applied Empathy, Michael included self-work practices and how these help us learn about others.


[11:53] What is the most effective way to communicate the value of empathy in business?


[12:30] How we can measure empathy—through its impact.


[13:42] Since March 2020, has interest increased in practicing empathy at work?


[14:30] People have recognized issues communicating and collaborating, but not known that practicing more empathy was the solution.


[15:28] An unintended consequence of quarantine work environments: that employees see more of the ‘whole person’ of their co-workers.  


[17:10] If managers want to support their team better, they need to shift their behavior and manage each person individually.


[19:04] When managers understand more about themselves, they can show up more empathically and be more effective. 


[20:09] We become more aware when we ask ourself questions, recognize and take care of multiple aspects of our ‘self’.


[21:42] Michael finds core issues by asking managers about the biggest rock they are facing. 


[23:04] There is so much on managers’ plates right now, how can their transition be supported? 


[23:58] Michael advocates for manager peer groups for problem-solving and support.


[25:15] How does Michael define empathy? It’s not about being nicer to people!


[26:24] The three types of empathy.


[27:59] The importance and challenge of cognitive empathy - the Platinum Rule.


[29:43] How cognitive empathy is the easiest to demonstrate value generation to an organization.


[30:22] Michael positions empathy as a hard skill—it’s hard to practice and slows things down before it speeds them up.


[31:12] Cognitive empathy is inherently neutral and needs to come with a set of ethics. 


[33:10] How can we apply empathy and help bring people together across the country?


[34:59] Approaching conversations to understand, not to win.


[36:52] Michael shares learnings from conversations he and his wife have had while traveling cross country in their caravan.


[37:44] Practicing empathy is sometimes a slow process. 


[39:26] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: To create a daily practice of empathy, find the benign moment of the day or questions and think about ways to shift them—such as going from an autopilot ‘How are you doing?’ to ‘What’s it like to be you today?’





Michael Ventura on LinkedIn

Instagram - @themichaelventura

The Bridge Generation by Michael Rosa





“If you don’t learn how to get into trouble, you’ll never learn how you will get out of it.”


“Good managers already know, especially in this time, that there is no one-size-fits-all way of managing. You can’t manage everybody the same way.”



“Everyone has a synonym for empathy because we don’t have a shared definition of empathy.”


“There's a big difference between having a conversation to win and having a conversation to understand.”


“Practicing empathy is sometimes a slow process.”


“Find the benign questions or moments in your day where you go on autopilot and think about ways you can shift that.”