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Transcript #41: The Challenge and Skill of Leading with Empathy with Jeremi Gorman, CBO of Snap Inc.

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Episode #41: The Challenge and Skill of Leading with Empathy with Jeremi Gorman, CBO of Snap Inc.

Caneel Joyce:

I’m putting together a little bit of like a framework in my head as I listen to you talk about what it really means to be an empathetic leader. What’s the challenge that people can expect, like the internal challenge they can expect if they decide to walk this path?

Jeremi Gorman:

Well, I think it’s interesting because when I say I am a leader with empathy, that wasn’t something I anointed myself with. It was a common piece of feedback that I’ve received over 20 years. But I know that people were like, “I find myself working harder because you understand me. I find myself wanting to succeed because I like you,” like these kinds of things. And I realized, well, there’s power in that, right, as a boss. That’s pretty cool. I will say that the word empathy in and of itself means that you can feel how other people feel, and you do feel how other people feel, and their pain is your pain, and their joy is your joy.

The more and more people you get when you scale your organization, the more people’s pain you feel. But there are a lot of people in pain right now. And as somebody who cares about them deeply, that is really, really hard. It’s like if I could put it into a picture, it’s like you think of these mosaics, they’re made up of all these people and then you zoom out and it’s one other image. I feel like I’m that image. That I’m made up of these tiny, tiny, tiny tiles of all of these people who are counting on me. That mosaic, if it stays together, looks like something.

Right now it looks like a leader, but it is so easy to break. If you drop a tiny little thing on it and all of those tiles just go into space by themselves and they become individuals again. It’s a very, very fragile place to be. If you really want to feel, like you’re going to feel. And some days, that is so hard. And some days, it’s the best. It’s the best when you can feel a thousand people’s victories. But the middle of the road is the easy road. You don’t get the highs if you don’t get the lows.

Caneel Joyce:

Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Caneel Joyce, and it is so amazing to be able to come here every week and connect with each one of you. Before we begin today, I want to quickly remind you that all of the resources that you are about to hear about in this episode, resources designed to help you become the best leader of yourself, your life, and your work, all of those, all the exercises, all of it’s available for you for free at allowedpodcast.com. These are the same resources I use with my executive coaching clients, and I think you’ll find them very valuable.

So please go there right now and check that out. Now, let’s get right into today’s show. We are in a time of deep change. Not just change like we’ve talked about many, many years in a row, but this is deep change, and there’s actually a technical definition for this. It means that we’re in a kind of change that requires not just incremental shifts, but deep transformation where we don’t know what the end state is going to look like for us, us collectively, us as a nation, us as a planet, but also each of us individually.

It’s going to change the way that we need to show up as leaders, and also in the way that we need to live our lives day-to-day. Today’s topic of leading with empathy is a hugely beneficial conversation for all of us to be having right now. I can’t think of a better day I’d rather be recording this episode. We have our close friend, my close friend, a woman who I’ve known very well for many years, and a truly world-class phenomenal leader, Jeremi Gorman. And she is here with us. Jeremi is the Chief Business Officer at Snap Inc.

There she leads global sales, agency partnerships, customer and business operations, platform integrity, trust and safety, and creative strategy. And I happen to know because the little birdies have told me that she also is a huge influence on people’s mindsets and the culture there at Snap. Before she joined Snap, she was head of global advertising sales at Amazon. And with Jeremi’s firsthand knowledge of being a leader at two hugely successful companies, she brings us some great insight into leadership, from both a corporate, but also a personal standpoint.

So what is so refreshing and inspiring about Jeremi, which makes her so different from many of the leaders that you will often hear about, is that when we’re talking about what topic Jeremi would be the most of service for all of us right now, she was the one who brought up this conversation about the importance of practicing leading with empathy. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a leader of a large corporation to be so passionate about this topic, right? It’s increasingly the case that we’re getting curious about it, but here is a leader who’s living it and she’s doing it with a tremendous amount of success.

And it goes to show us that company values come from the top. So the leaders who practice these company values are leaders that teams that eager to support, teams are thirsty for it. These are the teams that become willing to pivot, teams that are willing to learn and to change not just professionally but personally, teams that stand together during times of crisis, whether we’re dealing with a world crisis or an internal crisis. So I’m so excited to welcome one of my favorite people, Jeremi Gorman, onto the show today. Jeremi, thank you so much for joining us here.

Jeremi Gorman:

Thank you for having me. I felt like I should walk down some runway when you said that, but here I am just in my big echoey Zoom room. Thank you.

Caneel Joyce:

In your big echoey Zoom room. Just for our audience, where are you located today?

Jeremi Gorman:

I live in Playa del Rey, California. My husband’s working in one of these other rooms over here, so we’re trying to keep our noise to ourselves. But I apologize if there’s some echo here.

Caneel Joyce:

All good. So Jeremi and I, we met in college. We were actually in a sorority together. We are Delta Delta Delta’s. We lived together in the same house. We had this tradition. Every year we’d have this thing called Dad’s Day. So Jeremi’s actually met my dad many times and I’ve met her dad many times, and both of them are really awesome, funny people. So Jeremi, I don’t think I’ve ever told you, my dad used to lived like a block away from where you live right now.

You know the part of the hill near you where there’s no more houses allowed to be built for a huge stretch right along the beach in Los Angeles because the airplanes fly overhead. My dad used to live at the north most corner in a house that now doesn’t exist anymore.

Jeremi Gorman:

Oh my gosh.

Caneel Joyce:

When he was going to UCLA.

Jeremi Gorman:

Oh, look at that. Go Bruins!

Caneel Joyce:

Go Bruins! Totally.

Jeremi Gorman:

We call it the ghost town because the streets are still there and the lights are still there and some mailboxes are still there, but there’s nothing there anymore.

Caneel Joyce:

That yellow grass is a good reminder of how much water we are wasting in Los Angeles by making it stay green anywhere.

Jeremi Gorman:

I did not waste water today. I have not showered, so you are welcome.

Caneel Joyce:

It’s kind of a crazy time right now. Jeremi, I’m going to make you really uncomfortable.

Jeremi Gorman:

Okay.

Caneel Joyce:

You told me I was allowed to do that.

Jeremi Gorman:

You’re always allowed to.

Caneel Joyce:

I’m allowed. So I’d like you to brag about yourself a little bit. I know you don’t want to do that.

Jeremi Gorman:

Oh. Okay.

Caneel Joyce:

Because I have been able to watch you from the sidelines for 20 years and our listeners haven’t had that chance. I thought I’d kick you off with a couple of things that I love about Ms. Jeremi Gorman. Jeremi, you built the Amazon Media Group, and I’d like you describe what that group does. From how many when you joined, five?

Jeremi Gorman:

They don’t publicly disclose the number, but it was small to large. It was a pretty exciting experience. I was working at Yahoo. I had been there six years. It’s interesting now in 2020 to look back in 2012, which was when I left and went to Amazon. Yahoo was the biggest website in the world, and it wasn’t even close. It actually still is one of the largest websites in the world, but gets a little less attention than some of our other friends in tech these days. And so leaving Yahoo was kind of a crazy thing to do in 2012 to go to a company like Amazon that clearly had a lot of opportunity, but had a little bit of a rocky road.

I mean, there was an Amazon.bomb. Stock had been to $4. Definitely not a good trajectory by 2012, but it was a little probably riskier to think of that now. I was at Yahoo, and I was running a financial services team, ad sales team, and I got a call from Amazon. And the reason that they called me was that I had formed a really close relationship with one of my clients at Visa. Well, the set of clients that were at Visa. And Amazon was starting this ad sales group and they called Visa and said, “What do we have to do to earn your business?” And they said, “Hire Jeremi Gorman,” which I think is probably the best possible way to find a job is your client recommending you.

So Amazon called me. I declined the offer twice. Again, it feels a little insane right now to say like I declined an offer at Amazon from Yahoo twice. And then the woman who was running the media group at the time, a woman by the name Lisa Utzschneider, who is now a CEO and mentor and friend, she called me. And I remember exactly where I was. I was at the San Jose Convention Center about ready to walk into an Amy Schumer show with a client, which was awesome.

Caneel Joyce:

Wow. Early days Amy Schumer.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah. Early adopter. She was opening for Bill Maher.

Caneel Joyce:

Wow.

Jeremi Gorman:

I was taking clients and my phone rang and it was Lisa. And she said to me, “You don’t have to come here, but don’t stay there.” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Because you’re growing and it’s not. And at some point, that will frustrate you.” I paused. I accepted the job right on the spot, and I realized I want to work for somebody who will talk to me like that. Interestingly, she left Amazon and went to Yahoo, which is like kind of crazy. And so of course, we had really deep dialogue about that. She went over to be the chief revenue officer at Yahoo, and so I teased her, of course.

I was like, “Well, they’re not growing and you are.” The same very sage advice was like, when you get the opportunity to go leave, have a job that big at a company that big, you take it. And she did some really amazing things there and is now a CEO of Integral Ad Science. I think it’s just one of those stories of you find somebody who just kind of speaks to you in a really, really human way, and I’ve tried to take that with me. That was a divergent answer, but when I got to Amazon, it was really small. Not Amazon, but the media group, which is the ad sales group.

There was a team of us, many are from the other large publishers, so Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and we started selling ads. They were boring, kind of untargeted ads on Amazon. Just banners. IMDB had already been ad supported, so we had some learnings that we were able to walk into there. And then it grew into the behemoth that it is today. Again, they don’t totally publicly disclose it, but if you look at the advertising and other revenue at Amazon, that is exceeding $10 billion a year now, just eight years later.

We built an awesome world-class team, and it was an amazing experience. And I’m so grateful for it, and I learned so much. I mean, learning things like supply chain. I know the cost of corrugate, because we were trying to put ads on the boxes, like all this kind of stuff. Just learning all of that there was an MBA every day.

Caneel Joyce:

Amazing. Am I remembering this one correctly? Were you responsible for getting the first ad on a box, which I think was the Minions box? Is that right?

Jeremi Gorman:

There was a team of us, but yes. Yeah, that was my passion project was we had a really great meeting with Universal, which is the studio that put out the Minions movie, and they were talking about, well, how do we do something really big and different and cool? I think this is a really good kind of like how do you work with clients with empathy and listen and think. And one of the things they said was, “Well, tell us about your experience at Amazon,” and this was in 2015 or thereabouts. And I said, “One of the things that’s so interesting about it is every time I tell somebody that I work at Amazon, they respond with, ‘I love Amazon.'”

So I said, “Well, let’s stop and think about that. Why do people love Amazon?” You look for the thing. You pick out the thing. You paid for the thing, and it comes to your door and you’re like delighted with the thing. Why? It’s a gift from your two days ago self. Why is that delightful? Yet it does feel magical. How did they do that? How did they get that to me? How did they have everything? And so we thought about what a cool opportunity it would be for an advertisement to surround that moment of joy. So that was the way that lead to putting the Minions on the boxes because people feel the same way about the Minions.

So it really kind of wouldn’t have worked with any other brand as a [inaudible] because you have to have that same synergy of like, yeah, I want to see this. This box makes me happy. These little dudes make me happy. Because otherwise, it feels like an intrusion. It’s like, wait, get this ad out of my house.

Caneel Joyce:

I’m not delighted with an ad for soap necessarily. But Minions, for sure.

Jeremi Gorman:

Unilever does some great Dove ads.

Caneel Joyce:

They do actually. Those are fantastic. I feel so inspired when I see those beautiful Dove ads. Oh my gosh. Celebrating women. So other things I just want to drop in there. I think of you as a fantastic athlete and a crazy good rhymer. I think you can rhyme anything. If I give you a line, I think you can rhyme.

Jeremi Gorman:

As long as it doesn’t end in orange, yes, probably.

Caneel Joyce:

Jeremi worked at Amazon.

Jeremi Gorman:

And from there, she has moved on to company called Snap, where they really give a crap about values and opportunities and being kind. And it’s a very special place that Jeremi did find.

Caneel Joyce:

Woo! See? Yeah. Okay. So all this, even listening to you brag, it never sounds like you’re bragging. But I can imagine that on paper… To those who don’t know you, you might be a pretty intimidating person. I mean, you just were on Zoom hosted with you, Katy Couric, other big stars, and I think that for the people who were like us 20 years ago coming out of college and entering college, however old we are, they might wonder, how can I ever become like you?

When I met that audience, one of the common questions that I’ve received, and I love you to answer this one, is are there any challenges left that you still are facing, or have you kind of figured it all out?

Jeremi Gorman:

Oh no. No, I have not figured it all out, and I’m also laughing that you called me intimidating after I just rhymed the word crap. Yeah, no. I mean, every day is a new challenge. I think that’s probably one of the things that has led me to where I am. It has been that I love challenges. I love what’s the next thing, how can I tackle it. I don’t know yet how big too big is. I haven’t encountered it yet. I will say some of the things going on in the world right now feel like just really, really, really big. And so right now is actually my greatest challenge, like literally this last three months.

I know there will be more because there’s never not been more, so no. I’m continuously learning. I’m learning even right now as of every single minute over the last bit is how little I actually know. I think not to delve too deep into the civic issues that we have going on, but I thought that intellectually I understood the pain of the black community. And I’m learning every single minute now by speaking with our team members and community members and government officials and everybody else that I have no idea. I had no idea. And I know now that even just this week I have only learned .00001% of that pain.

And I think that’s actually a really, really important attribute in a leader that you never stop evolving, and it’s been really an important period of reflection and needing to lead with empathy, like genuinely just listen right now. It’s only our job. That’s our only job right now is to listen and understand and pivot appropriately. So no, I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning.

Caneel Joyce:

There’s not a single leader who’s not thinking about how do I respond, what can I say, what should I say, what’s the message my company needs to hear. And I just personally completely agree with you that this is a time to listen. The paradox of this is that we think of leaders as people that have something to say and that are going to send people in a certain direction, and they’re decisive, and they’re leading everyone forward. And yet, what you’re speaking to is that in this case, leadership is about listening. I think it’s about listening a lot of the time.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah, I think that’s true. It’s interesting when I think about decisions. And I mean, we’ve had these conversations before both personally and professionally is that my decision right now is to listen. That is on purpose and I think that that is something that as a leader of an organization the size of mine, which borders on about a thousand people, is my clarity around saying that my decision is to listen is very different than not saying that. Because otherwise, it sounds like silence and it’s actually the same…

To them, it’s the same, right? To say I’m choosing to listen is the decision. And as a leader, it is still my job to communicate a decision. And that makes I think people feel a little bit more stable in a really unstable environment. Not like, where is she? It’s like, these are the people she’s listening to right now. The way I’m kind of looking at it right now is, I think I made this up on the fly in a meeting the other day, but I kind of like it, is sometimes you lead from the front and sometimes you lead from the back.

And right now is my time to lead from the back. The front is our employee community that needs to be heard. That deliberate decision is really important.

Caneel Joyce:

So the deliberate decision of from which position to lead. There’s a connection here that’s interesting to the leadership philosophy at Snap. It’s not the only company that has this, but the philosophy is that the leader is actually at the bottom of the pyramid. Unlike the typical organizational structure diagram, which is CEO at the top and board above them, but everyone trickling down. And that positional signaling is really, really meaningful. What’s it been like being in an organization like that? Have you noticed anything in particular?

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah. I’ll speak more to the current experience, and by way of that say that it’s the first time I’ve had the experience. But that’s not to say it’s always the right way or wherever it maybe. Amazon is incredibly successful, so it would be hard to say that anything they’re doing there is incorrect by any means. But I will speak to my current experience, which is my job is to be there for my team. My job is to empower my team. My job is to remove obstacles for my team. My job is to give credit to the team. Not just my team, but everybody who helps achieve an objective.

Jeremi Gorman:

And working for Evan is… Even kind of just jumping back 20 minutes, when you said that I had something to do with the culture, that made me a little bit uncomfortable because I feel like he started it from day one and I got to fit into it. It’s who I am as a person anyway, but I don’t think I ever had seen the structure before. And so just it was really, really natural to me to be like, “Awesome. How can I help people?” Sometimes, by the way, that’s by telling them hard things. That doesn’t mean I’ve come in to be some wimpy leader. That’s like, you need to hear a message that is challenging so that we can improve, or et cetera.

That to me is still serving a greater good. So it’s not like I came in with like lollipops and rainbows necessarily. I just think it’s really important, and I love it, and it makes me feel like… Yesterday, for instance, one of my teams was saying, “We’re under capacity,” because we work with a group in Mumbai and Mumbai just got extended for their stay at home orders, and their stay at home is a little bit different than ours, as you can imagine from a connection perspective and so on. They’re not at full capacity, and one of my leaders was like, “I feel so badly. I’m letting you down. This project is going to slip.”

And I’m like, I feel badly that I’m letting you down. That I didn’t think. Like, of course, Mumbai is going to stay home longer than the rest. I mean, look at the population alone. Nothing else. Of course, in a social distancing world, Mumbai is going to stay home longer. So I ended up apologizing for her and like, “I’m so sorry that I didn’t even think through that you might need resources 90 days ago.” Like duh. That example is the sort of like inverted pyramid example. I’m like, no, I owed you better, not you owed me more.

Caneel Joyce:

Dang.

Jeremi Gorman:

You don’t owe me anything.

Caneel Joyce:

On this show in previous episodes, we’ve talked a lot about what it means to be above the line. By definition, it means that you’re taking 100% responsibility for everything that you can control and impact, whether you know it or not, including the things you accidentally impact. And I love that from the second that she said, you recognized that months ago, there was an opportunity to make a different choice or notice a different thing, be more conscious of something, and you didn’t do it. But I’m also hearing in your voice there’s not a sense of self-shaming or self-reprimanding.

It feels very clear and clean. Just for the listeners, this is such an important thing. I want you guys to actually even rewind it and listen to the way that Jeremi said that and what you feel in your own body, because we so often mistake empathy and compassion with either softness or self-blame, and neither one of those two is leadership. Leadership is I am interested in discovering all of the different ways that I can create impact. What can I be responsible for? I got to own it, right? If there was a choice I had and I didn’t make the choice, I need to own the impact. And that’s conscious leadership. It’s such a good example.

Jeremi Gorman:

I do feel badly that I let her down, but I don’t have a time machine. So okay, what am I going to do now? Kick yourself or learn from it and figure out a way to get ahead of staffing and resourcing issues in the future. That is a refrain I have a lot in my own head, which is absent a time machine, what am I going to do? Because otherwise, you just end up saying, “Oh man, 90 days ago I should have noted the population of India. I was in India on February 28th. I saw how crowded it was. I’m so dumb. I’m so dumb.” And it’s like, what good is that doing them?

Like literally no one, not her, not the team, not the work, not me. It’s like okay, noted. That was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, but how do we get ahead of it moving forward? Nobody could plan for a pandemic, of course, but how do we have better contingency planning? My thought immediately is there now, which is like, okay, cool, so we need to have better contingency planning, not like, “I’m so dumb,” because that’s a waste of time.

Caneel Joyce:

It’s a total waste of time.

Jeremi Gorman:

That’s not what she wants to hear either.

Caneel Joyce:

Straining of energy. Has it always been easy for you to have that empathy with yourself and not feel guilty?

Jeremi Gorman:

I don’t know. I’ll ask you. You’ve been my friend since I was 19. Does anybody ever turn these around back on you?

Caneel Joyce:

Oh yeah, they do. I love it. I don’t think it’s always been this easy for you.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

I feel like I’ve seen you really, I don’t know, grow in that way, because several years ago when you were really traveling your ass off like you did for many, many, many years and just the speed of growth happening all around you at Amazon was so epic.

Jeremi Gorman:

It was.

Caneel Joyce:

It was like an avalanche of success and growth, but with that comes a lot more people, a lot more feelings to impact, a lot more communication. And I have seen that that’s been a part of your journey is finding peace with what you can do and what you can’t do.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

And like stilling yourself.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah. I think that’s true, and I also think that inertia is the enemy of consciousness. And I was operating with a lot of inertia, again, given the rapidity with which Amazon wasn’t growing and innovating. It was like, keep up, sister. If you aren’t on this wheel and you weren’t going a million miles an hour, it’s leaving without you. And I had the energy and the fortitude to do that then, and I’m so glad that I did. And we built a really amazing business together.

But because of that speed, the moments that I could take to say, “I did this well, or I did this poorly, or I said yes to something,” you taught me this, but like I said yes to something I should never had said yes to in the first place and now I regret it, or those kind of stuff, it was just going so fast. I couldn’t even stop and breath and make those choices to say, “I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss living in my own house,” which I did not do for three years because I had an apartment in New York because that’s where I had to be to build this business.

Caneel Joyce:

Brian was living there in Playa.

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah, Brian was living in LA and I was living here, and I was coming back every weekend, which is exhausting in and of its own right. And I didn’t even think about it. It was just like, we’re opening New York office. Okay. Good. Go. Find an apartment. Great. Site unseen. Fine. Sign that thing. I don’t care. Great. Now I live in New York. Ah, crap, I’m in a Trump building. I have to move again. I’ll sign another lease site unseen. It just was so, so fast, and then I would get these moments like with our friends, for instance, where somebody would plan a trip, it wasn’t me, I didn’t have time to do it, and I would go on it.

But I know that there were moments that I would count towards… You get there on a Thursday. I don’t unwind until Saturday morning. I typically enjoy Saturday, and then by Sunday morning it’s like, okay, let’s go then. And I regret that.

Caneel Joyce:

You regret that?

Jeremi Gorman:

Yeah. Butterfly effect I suppose is all the times I left early on a Sunday, I remember being… Which was every time we would go somewhere, I would be really sad because you guys still had one more day and I had to go somewhere else. I think those things I regret them a little bit. On the other hand, they all blend together in a really positive way. And I mean that about weekends with my parents where I would leave early on a Sunday or I miss something. I realize that now even though I wish I had spent more time or been more conscious during those periods of time when I was doing something amazing, I don’t actually remember what I missed either, but in a good way, right?

I’m not like, “Oh man, they had the best Sunday ever and I wasn’t there.” It’s a collection of memories that are all really positive.

Caneel Joyce:

Now you’re grounded. You’re not traveling at all. What’s that change been like, because it’s a really kind of different lifestyle?

Jeremi Gorman:

It is a very different lifestyle. So right now I’m not traveling at all. I had thought that I wouldn’t travel as much in my role at Snap because it’s based in Los Angeles. That turned out to not be true. It wasn’t like they over promised and under delivered. I think I just had hopes that I would travel less, but I didn’t. Right now it’s pretty amazing actually. I think there are things I’m realizing that just had become normal. So for example, I’m a really bad sleeper. I was calling myself an insomniac, and I woke up in the middle of the night all the time. I have to take sleeping pills, the whole deal.

And I realized that I think I was just jet lagged all the time actually that my body didn’t have a circadian rhythm, because I was in so many different places for so long that my body was just confused. And now despite stress being a reason to stay awake, my body gets tired at a normal time, 10:30, and it wakes itself up at 6:00. And all these things that other people talk about, that have never happened to me. So that’s been pretty awesome. Also, I’m realizing this notion of essential travel is really interesting to me because all companies right now, ours included, say only essential travel is allowed.

And I think to myself, well, why would we do it if it wasn’t essential? That doesn’t seem like a good fiduciary decision or a time commitment kind of thing. But then I think back to all the things I did that probably weren’t essential, and I’ll give a real example. There is a new chief marketing officer at Unilever, so I gave her credit earlier, and she’s based in London. And so on March 31st of this year, I was supposed to go to London to have a meeting with her, but I had to be back here on the 2nd because Snap was going to do our Annual Partner Summit on the 2nd, which we were entertaining other clients on the 1st.

I was in India and then I had a couple other trips I was supposed to do. So I was going to fly to London for 24 hours to meet one person, and that felt really normal to me because it was like, well, yeah, it’s a chief marketing officer of one of the biggest companies in the world. Like of course, I’m going. And they’re an important customer of ours, and I genuinely like them. And now that we have these Zoom connections and these kinds of things, I realized actually it’s the definition of essential that’s going to change because that was then business critical.

It’s a very important customer. We are about them a lot. Showing them the respect to go meet their newest chief marketing officer is appropriate. And now I think even they would be like, that’s insane. Why was anybody thinking that that was a good idea to go to London for 20 hours to have one one hour meeting? And so I think that’s the part that gives me some hope is I think everybody is coming to that realization at the same time.

That like it would be fine to do a one hour Zoom call with that woman who I’ve now gotten to know via Zoom and she’s amazing, and then meet her when it’s appropriate because I’m going to be in London or she’s going to be here. And so I think that part is cool, and I can’t…

Caneel Joyce:

And you’re still able to create the connection.

Jeremi Gorman:

I would say mostly. There is still some degree of kind of the after the meeting chatter I find, but like literally walking from the conference room to the elevator or waiting for the taxi or wherever, that can’t be replicated when you just hit a button and log off. But yeah, I think mostly yes. It helps that everybody’s in the same position. Because if our competitors were doing the other and taking people to dinner and getting to know them more personally, then we would be behind doing this. So it does help that there’s a level playing field.

Caneel Joyce:

What about in the workplace with your team? What have you done? The idea that this is the time when you’ve been so focused on connection and connecting emotionally and listening at this time where we are social distanced from our own teams. What have you learned about how to create a sense of connection within your team?

Jeremi Gorman:

Well, I’ve learned that it’s changing and that there isn’t a recipe. So at the beginning, it was how do we make people feel connected? Nobody has been in this situation before where all of your teams and all of your cross-functional partners and all of your friends are not together. And so there was this big sense of let’s host an all hands every week. I want to send a video every day updating people on what’s going on. I want to send an email. I want to open a Google Hangout and just let people cruise in on office hours.

And at the beginning, I think all that stuff really, really mattered. And not long after that, people got very overwhelmed it. Not just me, but by it, everybody. Everybody at our company was like, wow, I don’t need 40 check ins to make sure I’m okay. I want to have the permission to let you know when I need to talk to you, not a pull methodology versus a push methodology of communicating, if you kind of grapple with that concept. And it’s changing a ton. At the beginning, it was a lot. And then in the middle, it kind of became when something important happens. Instead of just sending an email, I’ll do an all hands or something so it’s a little bit more personal.

And then over the last week, as we’ve talked about, it’s been more again. And I think that that’s sort of… Every day we, my leaders, are talking about how do we lead through this. So I think that’s one of the things that we just have to listen to our teams in that regard as well, which is like what worked at the beginning didn’t work in the middle, and what works right now isn’t going to… The emotional exhaustion of what’s happening right now isn’t practical for anybody to withstand and still run a business, so finding the balance of that and ensuring that we don’t forget.

This is not a moment in my mind where we get to go back to thinking like we thought two weeks ago. Not we, Snap. We, society. Now we just have to talk more to figure out what’s that balance. How do we keep this so top of mind and also do our jobs?

Caneel Joyce:

I’m a model person, a framework person. I’m kind of constructing…

Jeremi Gorman:

You look like a model person.

Caneel Joyce:

Thanks, Jeremi. I’m putting together a little bit of like a framework in my head as I listen to you talk about what it really means to be an empathic leader. At the beginning, there’s this distinction of do I want to lead from the front or from the back. And now I’m hearing about how much of my own involvement is going to be supportive versus exhausting. And I think these are really important ingredients because this notion of being empathetic as a leader is I think still very not concrete. It’s mysterious. It sounds kind of squishy to most people. So I really appreciate just you bringing it to life here.

Before we move into kind of your closing words, and I really do want you to give some advice here, but before we do that, what’s the challenge that people can expect, like the internal challenge they can expect if they decide to walk this path?

Jeremi Gorman:

Well, I think it’s interesting because when I say I am a leader with empathy, that wasn’t something I anointed myself with. It was a common piece of feedback that I’ve received over 20 years, that was like, oh, I guess I am that. So I didn’t ever make a conscious decision to be an empathetic leader, so I don’t actually know what it would be take to turn it on. But I know that people were like, “I find myself working harder because you understand me. I find myself wanting to succeed because I like you,” like these kinds of things. And I realized, well, there’s power in that, right, as a boss.

That’s pretty cool. So then I figured out the words to use, the empathetic leader part, but certainly I didn’t consciously choose it. I will say that the word empathy in and of itself, it means that you can feel how other people feel, and you do feel how other people feel, and their pain is your pain, and their joy is your joy. The more and more people you get when you scale your organization, the more people’s pain you feel, and the more people’s joy you feel. So that’s amazing too. But there are a lot of people in pain right now. And as somebody who cares about them deeply, that is really, really hard.

It’s like if I could put it into a picture, it’s like you think of these mosaics, they’re made up of all these people, and then you zoom out and it’s one other image. I feel like I’m that image. That I’m made up of these tiny, tiny, tiny tiles of all of these people who are counting on me. That mosaic, if it stays together, looks like something. Right now it looks like a leader, but it is so easy to break. If you drop a tiny little thing on it and all of those tiles just go into space by themselves and they become individuals again. I just made up that analogy, but I kind of like it.

It’s a very, very fragile place to be. I think that would be my words of wisdom would be like, if you really want to feel, like you’re going to feel. And some days, that is so hard. And some days, it’s the best. It’s the best when you can feel a thousand people’s victories. It’s really, really cool. The middle of the road is the easy road. You don’t get the highs if you don’t get the lows. Because if you don’t care, you don’t care bout their joy either.

Caneel Joyce:

So what advice do you have to give them of how to prepare yourself, how to be strong through that, how to stay centered and heathy?

Jeremi Gorman:

I think you have to give yourself permission to not always be centered and healthy, which is probably…

Caneel Joyce:

So perfect.

Jeremi Gorman:

Oh, I was going to say that’s probably the antithesis of how you train people.

Caneel Joyce:

It’s allowed. The show is called Allowed. Totally. Well, that’s self-empathy. You know? Empathy for yourself.

Jeremi Gorman:

Right now the amount of time and effort and energy I’m putting into the team is too much for me to handle. So I know that I can’t do it at this magnitude forever and ever and ever. But right now, it’s totally worth it, and I will do it as long as they need me to. And so I think that’s where… My piece of advice would be that, would be like pick your moments where it’s going to be too hard. Don’t let it be all of them. Don’t let it last forever and ever and ever because you will do them less service if you are exhausted and if you are sad and if you’re turned inward and these kinds of things.

But if you can be deliberate about when you’re going to let it be too hard, then you also know there’s the end of that period too. I’m not picking a day. It’s more like I will feel it from them, just like I did with COVID-19, which was I feel from them that they don’t need to hear from me every day. I actually feel like I’m annoying them now. So I’m going to back off a little bit and just to be okay with the ebb and flow would be my advice, because it can be pretty exhausting.

Caneel Joyce:

Jeremi, thank you so much. Is there anything else that’s important to know that you’d like to add for listeners?

Jeremi Gorman:

I think the importance of what we have with the women that we’re friends with and the length of time with which we’ve been friends. I mean, 20 years and counting. And every single one of them is a bad ass in their own way. And I think knowing now just many more adults than I knew before, it’s really unique that we support each other in the way that we do, that there’s not jealousy, that there’s not competition, and everybody wants everybody else to win. And I genuinely believe that… And I will only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure most people in our group, our friends feel this way, that I would not be anywhere near where I am if I didn’t have that system.

Next time I come on your podcast, I think that’s worth talking about in terms of finding allies and friends that support you in everything that you do. I genuinely feel like when I win, you guys are happy for me. And I know that when you guys win, I’m happy for you. That’s a big deal.

Caneel Joyce:

Such a big deal.

Jeremi Gorman:

That’s my cliffhanger so that they’ll come to our next session.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes. I can’t wait to have that session. It is the secret sauce. All right, listeners, you are allowed to be the big hearted person that you are. And I know that so many of you are and that’s why you are listening to this show. And you’re allowed to have your feelings. You’re allowed to not do it right. You’re allowed to change your leadership style, and you are allowed to invest in the friendships that truly will be the foundation that allow you to be strong through thick and thin, the ups and downs of the leadership journey that you know that you are meant to be on.

Jeremi, you are a rockstar, and I love you so much. You are in your zone of genius when you are a friend. You are one of the most genius friends I know, and you bring it into your leadership and it’s awesome. Thank you for being here today.

Jeremi Gorman:

I love you too. Thank you for having me. This was an amazing experience as always, and I’m glad I got to open with a rap. Didn’t expect it. I miss you.

Caneel Joyce:

Miss you too.

Jeremi Gorman:

Bye.

Caneel Joyce:

Good luck today. Bye. Listeners, thank you so much for being here today and investing this time in yourself. Please join Forward Fearless. Forward Fearless is my online group coaching program. It’s a program that happens live, real-time with me. We meet twice a month. It’s a powerful experience, extremely transformative. The outcomes are incredible. And there you will really learn to walk the walk of a conscious leader. And we’ll be getting to go deep together.

We’re going to learn together, and you’re going to get to make some really strong connections with a group of people who care about the same things that you do and who have signed up and enrolled to support each other in your growth together. There are some lifelong friendships that have already been built through this program. I really encourage you to go there. You can join the waitlist at this time. And as soon as we are in our next enrollment window, I’m going to reach out to you. We’re going to connect, and you will be able to join us. So excited to meet you and we will see you next week.

 

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