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Heidi Connal and Creating Empathetic Organizational Leadership
December 13, 2021 11:37 AM
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We are very proud to have Heidi Connal with Vast Sky Leadership as a Gravity Speakers exclusive speaker. Her contribution to organizational leadership and development working with major organizations like Salesforce, Bank of America, American Express, and even the United Nations is well regarded. As an executive coach, she understands well-developed leadership can create massive influence on company culture and outcomes. Her ability to humanize leadership for organizational health fills a huge need in the business world today as more demands are placed on executives and employees.


A different approach. When I first met Heidi, I was calling to interview her and before I could ask her about herself she asked, “What do you do?” She instantly took an interest in me and after I told her a little about myself she asked, “How can I help you?” I knew we were about to have a great conversation. Her mindfulness and emotional intelligence were obvious from the moment we started talking. Her balance of business acumen and thoughtfulness gave me a preview of what she was all about and the type of leaders she helps create. This blend of empathetic leadership is exactly the type of approach needed to match the technology-driven change in our world without losing the human connection.

The future will still be ruled by people, not technology. Digital transformation is a hot topic right now. For those who understand the process, it is often not technology that creates failure or success, it’s the culture. Heidi does a great job of grounding leaders to the people they are leading. Everyone in the organization has to react and adapt to the stresses of change. Technology is accelerating possibilities and growth in business, but people within an organization must integrate and utilize that technology to truly get the benefits. Companies trying to keep up with technology end up realizing they have a people problem. Heidi helps organizations become more aware of how this is impacting them.

Change is a people problem. It’s easy to allocate budget for technology upgrades and to deploy them, but it is harder to build and manage an organization of adaptable people. It isn’t about what new technology is available and what it can do, it is a question of whether your culture and organization can adopt and adapt to that new technology and the stresses of that change. In the 2017 Harvey Nash KPMG CIO survey, 43% of CIO’s surveyed cited resistance to change as the top impediment to digital transformation. Executives can’t just manage the technology, they have to learn to cultivate an environment where people are able to adapt to change. A leader who fails to understand what their employees are experiencing simply doesn’t understand their organization.


People are not company assets, they are people. The very words “human resources” point to the vast untapped potential people bring to organizations. The underlying fear in the business world today is technology will replace people, but that is very “functional” thinking. A robot can perform a task or function, but it is very poor at adapting to change. Though people often resist change, the fact remains, people are the most adaptive beings on the planet. It is the stress associated with change that can be damaging to people and organizations. People-focused leadership can reduce stress, and help people overcome issues they are having at work and in their lives. Business and life come with hardships and challenges. Heidi connects the dots for organizations and executives to create connected and healthy work environments with the ability to bend without breaking and adapt to the rising demands of change.


You need your people and they need you. What is it that gives a business an edge in today’s market? Once you get beyond optimizations, processes, technology, and products you are left with relationships, culture, and human potential. We have spent a good couple decades working on optimization and organization, but after businesses are optimized it will be the people and the leaders that make the difference. Leaders must connect with the people they lead. People love to be led by a leader who cares and who truly represents them. This isn’t just about warm and fuzzy feelings, connection and motivation are bottom line issues and empathetic leaders can drive huge results, like employee engagement and retention, in an organization.

Sending Down the Elevator. As Jack Lemmon said, “No matter how successful you get, always send the elevator back down.” I think this illustrates the transformation from old-style leadership which had disconnected leaders on top of an organization, to the next-level of empathetic connected leadership that connects an organization and rides down the elevator to bring everyone up. Leadership requires awareness and empathy for everyone in your organization so you can stop at every floor and connect the whole organization to the top. Heidi works with top executives to help them develop and refine their emotional intelligence so they can holistically lead the organization.


You take care of me, so I can take care of you. In my conversation with Heidi she brought up the concept of the “employee caregiver” and it made me pause and think. Our old way of doing business was transactional, you pay an employee and they perform tasks. This essentially separated the employee’s individuality, and also their additional value, from their work. The reality is who we are and what is happening to us in life spills into everything we do. It’s time we re-imagine our relationship with the people who work for and with us.

Relationships are an exchange of value. We have all seen the job descriptions and responsibilities that organizations give to employees when they are hired, but what is often lacking is the responsibilities the organizations have to their employees. Smart organizations realize when the relationship with a company and the employees are only transactional you won’t tap into the true potential of their “human resources”.

We all have bad days. People, as well as businesses, have “bad days”. If something happens in the market that affects the brand or revenue, organizations are quick to address and solve those problems. In contrast, most organizations are wholly unaware of the issues their employees are going through. To think people will continue to contribute and function as normal when facing big life-altering issues is unrealistic. This creates a huge opportunity for empathetic leaders in any industry to care for their whole organization. Heidi teaches organizations and executives how to be empathetic leaders, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because company culture affects everyone.

Emotional intelligence is the high bar for organizational leadership. Leaders who listen before speaking, who understand before making decisions, and who include the needs of the people they lead in their decision making will create the next generation of adaptable organizations. Heidi doesn’t just teach emotional intelligence and empathetic leadership, she lives it. We are very proud to have her as an exclusive speaker at Gravity Speakers and you will be too when you book her to speak at your next event.

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