December 30, 2021

Empathy is a powerful business asset

When I was a newspaper journalist, I interviewed Bill Gates.

It was a horrible experience.

He was in a rotten mood. Apparently, his interview with another reporter on the flight from Ottawa to Toronto had not gone well.

When he got into the limo, it was obvious the drive to downtown Toronto was going to be long and painful.

After a few tepid answers to questions, I decided to take a different approach. I asked about his interest in bridge and what it was like to play with Warren Buffett.

To his credit, Gates rallied slightly but I was extremely relieved when we finally arrived at his hotel.

In hindsight, I realized the importance of empathy. You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes, whether it’s business or personal, to understand their needs and motivations.

It’s easy to dismiss or blow people off. It’s easy to go through the motions or, worse, decline to participate. It’s easy to say “no”.

But business is a two-sided street and give and take activity. If both sides engage, it’s a win-win proposition.

As we head into 2022, let’s be kind, patient, and empathetic with each other. Stand and work together.

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