Blog post

Empathy for the Individual

By Mike Rollings | September 08, 2010 | 0 Comments

Transformation

The early part of September is filled with memories.  My deceased aunt’s birthday, my deceased father’s birthday , and my birthday are all in the first part of September.  Every year we would celebrate our collective birthdays on Labor Day weekend with a family barbeque.

Labor Day also has additional significance since my father and my aunt’s husband (my uncle – duh) were both involved in labor unions here in the US.  Each year my father would drive his car adorned with signage in the Labor Day parade.  It was a small parade, but for me (then a young child) it meant riding in my dad’s car and being part of a parade – pretty cool.

IMG_0678 My father was a passionate soul, as was my uncle. He led the barbers and beauticians union; a now defunct union due to laws enacted in the 60’s that led to their decline. He was proud that he was part of the struggle to improve the union member’s plight.  He understood, first hand, how difficult it was for them to make a reasonable living, get health benefits, and plan for retirement.  He maintained his connection by constantly driving through his huge territory (1/2 of Missouri) and talking with members and non-members.  It kept him plugged in to the changing needs of the people he served and their customers.

My father was a design thinker with huge empathy for the individual.  It wasn’t called that then, but he obviously was focused on an external perspective and not just the needs of the institution.  It is a stark contrast to the deficit of empathy within society and organizations that exists today.

Right now I am reading “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy”.  Many organizations are struggling to re-establish their connection with the individuals they serve and desire to serve.  They are also struggling to establish a connection with their employees and inspiring them collectively to make a contribution.  The book provides some ideas for how to reconnect this broken circuit.  It is a worthwhile read.

For me, I’m glad that my father that was ‘wired to care’ and that Labor Day provides an ever present reminder of his passion and the need to focus on the individual.

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