Welcome to the Eccles Business Buzz Podcast. My name is Leentje Klingensmith, a fellow David Eccles School of Business alum, and your host for our podcast show. We know the Eccles community is only as strong as its alumni network and as I have built relationships with alumni across the nation, I’ve learned how truly remarkable our network is. Our goal is to share alumni stories, perspectives, and voices on topics that are driving conversations around the globe and within our school today. The core values of the Eccles community will underlie everything we discuss here: Entrepreneurial Grit, Continuous Curiosity, Empathetic Global Citizenship, and Impacting Your World.
Today, Leentje chats with two incredible guests and Eccles community members, Heidi Woodbury and Robert "Bob" McDonald.
Heidi joined the University of Utah’s senior leadership team as the new Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Previously, she served as the Assistant Dean for External Relations at the David Eccles School of Business.
Bob McDonald graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the top 2 percent of the Class of 1975 and earned his MBA from the University of Utah in 1978. Before joining VA, he was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G). He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate to serve as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Obama.
Bob and Heidi narrate a little bit about their backgrounds. They share their connection to the Eccles school, how they came to know each other, and the projects they have worked on together.
They share their views on empathy and how they applied it throughout their career. They also explained the role empathy plays in leadership development.
Finally, Bob and Heidi offer their advice to people on finding and discovering their life purpose and Bob shares his infamous leadership tenants that have guided Heidi throughout her career.
What is empathy?
Bob - "(Empathy) to me is an incredibly important leadership trait. (You) really have to be able to put yourself in the other person's position and understand that, not just logically, but viscerally, to be able to provide the proper leadership."
Heidi - "As far as putting somebody else before you or putting yourself in their shoes, the golden rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated. And the platinum rule is to treat others as they would like to be treated. And I think we miss that so often. Sometimes we're not listening to what it is they're trying to tell us. And sometimes, it's just the little things that go a long way."
Empathy on leadership development
Bob - "I can train you in all the behaviors of leadership, their technical behaviors. We can give you the judgment to decide to use them. What I can't train you in is the love you have to have for the people you work with. And it's that love that makes your behaviors authentic. It's that love that leads to empathy. I believe the very best leaders have that love, and that love shows up as empathy."
Heidi - "Most people don't want to fail. We have a hard time accepting failure. I feel empathy is a great way to help people recover. They've got to figure out how to get back out there, and you can't just tuck in and go away; you've got to brush off and figure out how you're going to go back out and try it again."
Heidi on her life purpose - "This university is my purpose. It has been a transformative experience for me. Every day that I come to work, this is a calling for me, and I'm blessed to have that. How many people can say they have a job that has so much meaning to them?"
Bob's advice on finding life's purpose - "Sometimes it takes time, but my suggestion is to look back across your life and look for threads of continuity in your life. As you try to connect those various activities in your life and get in touch with your passion, you try to articulate how that may ladder up to a bigger purpose."