As FourKites grows and matures as a company, we are investing more time and resources thinking about how we want to continue to see our core values – teamwork, trust, winning, agility and fun – come to life in our actions with our customers, our prospects, and with each other. In the coming weeks, we’ll be having more conversations around our newly formulated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy and initiatives, and we’ll be asking everyone on our team to take part in a training session around empathy.
Why empathy, in particular?
Dictionaries define empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. I like the way Martin Luther King, Jr., defined the concept by contrasting it with pity: “Pity is feeling sorry for someone; empathy is feeling sorry with someone.” To me, it’s simply about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and then using the knowledge and insight you gain to solve their problems, and to make them happier and more successful.
Empathy has been embedded in our corporate values from the start, and in my view it’s been a linchpin to our success. Business should be about more than merely transactional relationships. A new generation of workers are, rightly, demanding more from their employers. They want purpose, they want a fulfilling career, and they want their employers to demonstrate values that make a tangible difference in the world.
And while empathy has always been part of our DNA, recent events are an important reminder of why it is so essential – both to us as a company, and to us as compassionate and contributing members of society.
It’s important to me personally that we continue to underscore this important quality going forward – not just because I believe it will continue to help us succeed as a commercial venture (which I do, and I’d go further and say if you aren’t empathetic, you are destined to fail). But I also genuinely believe that empathy leads to greater personal and professional fulfillment.
Here are just a few examples of how we, as an organization, have strived to operate from a foundation of empathy.
First, our customers aren’t just logos. They are real people, many working on the frontlines every day to help keep our shelves stocked and our economy moving. We do everything in our power to make our customers successful. If we do that well, then both we and our customers win.
That effort begins with really getting to know our customers as individuals so that we can understand their challenges and help them reach their goals. This is why we created our Golden Kite Awards – to recognize the human beings we are serving every single day, not just the brands behind those people.
Second, we don’t just innovate in a lab and take products to market hoping to find customers who like what we built. We start by putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes.
When we were developing our CarrierLink app, I personally found great fulfillment in going out on the road and talking to truck drivers so that we could custom build CarrierLink to make their lives easier. Not only did we engineer a better product and enjoy more commercial success than we would have otherwise, but we did the right thing by the truckers, who are the heart and soul of the supply chain, but too often are overlooked and underappreciated.
Our collaborative product roadmap is a great example of how empathy comes to life quite literally in our product portfolio.
And for our employees: I genuinely want FourKites to be a place where you can pursue your passions, advance your career and be proud of the place you work. I’ve left employers myself when I felt one or more of those things was lacking. I want your voice to be heard, so please speak up and let us know how we can help you succeed.
When it comes to empathy, if we are not always striving to do better, then we are not doing enough. I am looking forward to learning and creating personal, team and organizational action items from our upcoming global empathy training. For me, the spirit of empathy is an attitude of, “It’s not about me.” That’s a good philosophy for any time, but maybe now more than ever, after so much disruption and turmoil in the world over the past several months. Let’s all strive to hear people – prospects, customers and colleagues at every level – to respect them, and to help make them successful. If we do, good things will come for all of us.