September 9

Lisa Earle McLeod on Empathy is a Superpower


Lisa McLeod is the global expert on purpose-driven business. She is the author of five books, including her bestseller: Selling with Noble PurposeHow to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.

Lisa helps leaders around the world increase competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. She developed the Noble Purpose methodology after her research revealed, salespeople who sell with Noble Purpose, outsell salespeople who focus on targets and quotas.

Lisa founded her own firm, McLeod & More, Inc. in 2001.  She works with teams at organizations like Sales Force, Cisco, Roche, Volvo, and Dave & Busters.  Lisa has keynoted in 25 countries and authored over 2,000 articles and is a regular contributor for The Harvard Business Review and Forbes.  She has made appearances on the Today show and the NBC Nightly News, and her firm’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

Contact Lisa:

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Today, I have the privilege of having Lisa McLeod, from the clan MacLeod, author, speaker best selling author of Selling With Noble Purpose. Lisa, welcome to the program.

Lisa Earle McLeod 0:51
Thanks. It's a pleasure to be here. And I do need to clarify, clan MacLeod is a Scottish clan that my husband is a member of so I'm married in?

Umar Hameed 1:00
Aha! Yes, that's true. So we met at the Sales 3.0 Conference, and you're one of the keynote speakers there. And just that sense of we all have a purpose in life. And if you know what your purpose is, it allows you to use that in your sales career and it makes you unstoppable because you're doing something that is worthy of you, something you were meant to do. So tell me how you came to this realization that we need to align purpose with our vocation.

Umar Hameed 1:28
We know a lot of times when you think about sales, you hardly think of higher purpose. But what our research found was sales people who truly wanted to make a difference to customers actually outsell salespeople who are focused on targets and quotas. And when you think about your higher purpose, a lot of people think, "Well, I'm I should be feeding the poor, I should be you know, teaching underprivileged kids," and those things are wonderful. Having said that, when people are in commerce, what we know is, the more you can aligned yourself around improving the condition of the other person and being really sincere and authentic in that, that's what human beings are hardwired for. We're hardwired to want to make a difference to others. And we also know how to read other people better than we think we do. So the salespeople who show up, who earnestly and factually say, "I have a noble purpose, I'm here to improve your condition," will always be a salesperson who's showing up thinking, "I'm just here to close the deal."

Umar Hameed 2:29
Brilliant! Because ultimately, at the end of the day, no matter what you do, there's a satisfaction you get out of it. There's renumeration can't say the word today that you get out of it. But if you could align it with who you are, and what your purposes and it makes your heart smile, right? And. that's where courage comes from. And that allows you to stay strong and keep on going so you have that tenacity that you need.

Umar Hameed 2:49
That's right. Here's the thing that we're seeing, especially now, for those who are listening, we're in the midst of a global pandemic. And if you have defined yourself by money, if you have defined your company's purpose as hitting your targets, if you've defined your personal purpose, by your commissions, you're going to be very challenged right now. And you're going to find that your self-confidence is really waxing and waning. But if you've got something bigger, is not without coincidence, companies with a purpose bigger than money actually outperformed the market by over 350%. Because if your constant is, "I am here to make a difference to my customers," then, the you're going to be able to weather the ups and downs a lot better.

Umar Hameed 3:34
So this is where I kind of disagree with you a little bit. I think we each have a purpose, my purpose is to be a joyful educator. So when I was selling, a part of what I did was I got maybe 30% of my job was educating people and figuring out what they needed and that education part was a joy in what I did. And now what I do for a living is almost 80-90% education, and so it makes me smile. And if I can use that to help the other person that's makes me even happier. So how do you think about personal purpose versus a noble purpose? How do the two align?

Umar Hameed 4:12
That's a good point because they do have to align. And I think about it in three ways, you need to understand what your company's purpose is and it has to be about making a difference to customers. That's the whole reason any businesses in existence. Then you have to understand how your job plays a role in that. But then the third piece is your personal purpose. And your personal purpose needs to be aligned around the essence of who you are as a human being. And I think what happens is people tend to separate the money in the meaning. So they think, "Well, my job is sort of this commerce thing that I do over here on the side. My personal purpose is what I'm going to do with my family, with my church," and what I'm suggesting is, the more aligned you can get the two of those things, the more successful you'll actually be. And one of the things, we do a lot of video content and we've done a lot of courses for LinkedIn learning. And one of my favorites is finding your purpose at work and there's a chapter in there called, Finding The Meaning in the Mundane. And when you infuse your daily tasks with a sense of greater purpose, and the essence of who your soul is calling you to be, you will enjoy them a lot more.

Umar Hameed 5:32
So give me an example in your life, something that's mundane, that you've aligned with purpose so it gives the listeners and the viewers, "Oh, I know exactly what she's talking about."

Umar Hameed 5:42
So one of the things that when we do big consulting projects, some parts of it are really fun, and really great. When we help people sales, people speak to a greater purpose, we help them be more emotionally compelling, we help leaders be more emotional, engaging, super fun. Here's the part that's not so fun, is going through pages and pages of presentations and Powerpoints that are widely, I'm just going to go ahead and say they're really boring. And we have to go through pages and pages and pages of those to find the nuggets. And sometimes I look at these documents and people, "Oh, here's more, here's more," ou know, people think they're helping you by giving...

Umar Hameed 6:27
Oh, absolutely!

Lisa Earle McLeod 6:27
...more documents. And it just sometimes I just want to shoot myself when I look at these. And so one of the things that I did was I changed my frame, instead of going through them and being so annoyed that these are so boring, I said, "You are looking for that magic moment that when you pull it out, you're going to transform this whole sales force. That's what you're looking for, you're hunting for gold, this magic moment." Now I'm still gonna have to go through a lot of pages and boring crap. But...

Umar Hameed 6:35
That has been my mindset, I'm in to it.

Umar Hameed 6:58
I've changed my mindset, so instead of, "Oh, it's so boring is so terrible. Where's the good stuff? It's nothing's good in here." Now, I now I envision not just the magic moment but what I envision is what's going to happen to every single salesperson on that team or every single leader, when I find that, that's going to become the language of their company.

Umar Hameed 7:21
So help me understand this. So let's say you've got a company with 30 salespeople. You work with a company to find their noble purpose. And their purpose is to help nonprofits generate more revenue, so they can help more people.

Lisa Earle McLeod 7:36

Umar Hameed 7:37
Now, salesperson A is a helping sort, and that they aligned with that it's like they're naturally wired that way. Salesperson B, their whole purpose is slightly different, it's not that, like they'll do that. So how do you align the sales team with the company's noble purpose? Because it may not be their individual connection or their purpose.

Lisa Earle McLeod 7:57
It may not be their individual connection, that's right. And so the, there's a key question that we use so we do a lot of work on individual purpose and what's your purpose type. Some people help by supporting some people help by leading, so you got to get clear on what's your secret sauce, what gives you the Mojo? And then what we say is, there's a really key question, and it's so simple, but it's so powerful. Is when you ask a sell a salesperson, how will the customer be different as a result of doing business with us? Which is a very different question, as most people ask.

Umar Hameed 8:34

Lisa Earle McLeod 8:35
Most people say, you know, "What are we going to sell them? How much is it going to be?" when you say, how will the customer be different. And the salesperson starts talking about that ,"We'll be able to do this better, and this better and this better?" And then you ask, and what's the best way you personally can help them with that You totally reorient the call because what happens is, when you are clear that my job is to help this person improve, you go into it with a different mindset. And then when you add to that clarity about what your secret sauce is, it's a game changer.

Umar Hameed 9:11
Brilliant. You saw me take a note, is I'm going to go back to the interview at the 9-minute mark to to listen to that again, because I think it's really important because ultimately, at the end of the day, our superpower is the questions that we ask.

Lisa Earle McLeod 9:24

Umar Hameed 9:25
Because you could tell people all day long and nobody cares about what you have to say. But if you ask them a question and get the Epiphany, that that helps us as consultants, but more importantly helps them go, "Oh my God, that's what it is so," so brilliant, brilliant question.

Lisa Earle McLeod 9:37
We know you asked about doing mundane things, and I'm thinking about something that happened to me about 15 years ago, and I did not realize that it was a precursor to writing, selling with noble purpose. At the time, I was working for a big sales training company, and I was running their programs as a contract trainer. My kids were young, and so...

Umar Hameed 9:56

Lisa Earle McLeod 9:56
...I was a contract sales trainer. 7,8,9 days a month. And that meant I ran the same program lots of times. And it was a good program, I liked it, it's one of the most popular ones out there but when you're doing the same thing over and over again, you can get really bored of it. And so I had flown in the night before, and I had little kids, I'd flown in the night before, the mess up with the flight, the hotel, I mean, I was operating on like four or five hours of sleep and I was finding myself thinking, just get through this damn thing, just, just do it. But I go into the bathroom before the thing's gonna start, and I'm in the bathroom stall and all I'm thinking about is how long is this day and how could I possibly get through this? I mean, the bathroom stall, and I hear these two women talking at the same time and one of them goes, "Oh, I'm so excited to be here, I've been on the waiting list for six months," and another one goes, "Oh, yeah, I had to, you know, hit all my targets before my boss would approve me to come to this." And I'm sitting in the bathroom and I'm just thinking to myself, "Oh, my God, Lisa, you're blowing it. This is one of 100 to you. And you're just trying to get through these people waiting six months for this, get your shit together girlfriend." And so I it was a transformative moment to me because I realized it may be one of 100 to me, but it's the only one for them. And they deserve this.

Umar Hameed 11:19
Right. So let me pause you there for a moment if I may? As best as you can, could you go back in your mind to that moment being in the stall and really see what have you saw is probably the stall door nothing like unless it was cute graffiti there, and then hear what they were saying. And when you do those two things, you get to re-experience what you were feeling when you had that insight. What were you feeling and where in your body did you feel it?

Lisa Earle McLeod 11:43
That is a great question. So where I felt it was, I felt it in my chest, because it was a deep knowing.

Umar Hameed 11:51
Kind of the heart?

Lisa Earle McLeod 11:52
In the heart.

Umar Hameed 11:53

Lisa Earle McLeod 11:53
Because prior to that my whole body was exhausted,

Umar Hameed 11:57

Lisa Earle McLeod 11:58
just exhausted. And that's real, if you're exhausted nothing so it makes sense to you. My whole body was exhausted and I was about standing in front remember eight hours you run a seminar. So that's real, if I could go back to, you know, 35-year old young mother, Lisa, I would say, "Oh, Sweetie," it's okay to feel bad. But when those women were speaking, I could feel this deep resonance of truth in my chest.

Umar Hameed 12:22

Lisa Earle McLeod 12:22
Because I could feel that what they were saying was of profound importance. And I thought about that so many times with so many salespeople, so many leaders, this may be, you may be an event planner, and do 100 weddings a year, this person is doing one. You may be you know, the salesperson who's closing this big technology deal and you're trying to close 10 this month, this is the only time the customer is going to make this decision. And so the the understanding that what you're doing may be one of many to you but it's the only one for them. It's a game changer.

Umar Hameed 13:03
True. And you could tell that to 100 salespeople, and maybe two of them will go, "Oh my God, that's amazing," the rest of them wouldn't. But what you described there is we have anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 beliefs that define who we are, most of those we get by the time were seven. And then those special 5% that we get new ones are moments like that where something profoundly not only changes here, but changes there. And one of those moments for me was this amazing woman called Victoria Labalme and she's...

Lisa Earle McLeod 13:34
Oh, I know her.

Umar Hameed 13:35
Really? Isn't she amazing?

Lisa Earle McLeod 13:36
She is.

Umar Hameed 13:37
And I asked her a question, it's like, you know, some of these speakers out there, they're doing the same presentation, like 100 times, I'd want to get a gun and just shoot myself. And she goes, "Think of not them, think about people that do Broadway plays that last for 10 years, they're doing 1000s of those things. And what they do is they have to relive every moment on stage. And if they relive it properly, it connects with the audience. So if you're going through wrote, the audience is going to know, but if you're experiencing that joy, or that anger or that sadness as an actor, it's new to you." And that was a life changing event. It was like, "Okay, what I need to do is not go on stage and deliver the same program, although it's going to be very similar, but if I actually step into the feelings of each one of those moments, that is super interesting for me, because it's like a new experience and it connects with the audience better, that we're in charge of how we feel and how we connect. And it's those moments in time that can change our lives for the good and also, unfortunately, for the bad. And one of the things I want to talk to you about today, which I think is timely is my hypothesis is, is that after the shutdown, in case people look at this in the future from 30 to 19, it's COVID-19 is what we're talking about, is that when they get back they can be hankering to get back, but I wonder what this is going to do to this psyche, that when they get back, how is this going to make them show up my hypothesis is, it's going to injure the soul of everybody. And as leaders, we need to get people to cross that threshold and get back to being part of a team.

Lisa Earle McLeod 15:17
It is going to affect the soul of everyone. And I'm going to, I'm going to take a different take, I think for the majority of people, is going to expand their soul. And by that, I mean, if you've ever been through a profound experience, and let's just be honest here, people are going to know people that pass away, ther...

Umar Hameed 15:41

Lisa Earle McLeod 15:41
...is going, there is real human suffering. And one of the things that happens, and I've observed this in myself, having been through a few very personal deaths, with people very close to me, is it gives you pause, and you start to think about yourself, and you think, who am I? And why am I here, and you're faced with the fragility of life. And for a lot of people, they might turn away from it. But in my experience, the majority of people lean into it and they do some deep self-reflection. And what's happening here is different than what's happened before. Because what's happened before is, you have this profound experience, you know, when I was in my 20s, my early 20s, I lost my mother and I have this profound experience. But then I go back to work, and no one else has had this profound experience,

Umar Hameed 16:32

Lisa Earle McLeod 16:33
Or you're in New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina hits, and you all have this shared experience, but the rest of the world didn't. And so what's different now is everyone is sharing this experience. And everyone is thinking, "What do I stand for? Who am I, what's important to me, and we're all going to go back to work at some point." And so my hope is that this is very much a spirit-expanding, and I don't want to minimize the suffering and I don't want to say this is a good thing but like, "Here's where we are so we have to deal with it," and I think people are going to have less tolerance for the superficial after this.

Umar Hameed 17:11
So a couple of thoughts on that. Number one, the other major experience for us in the near term was 9/11. And that had a lasting impact. In some ways for a long time but in a lot of ways, after like a year, people went back to the new norm and it changed. And maybe even shorter than that, where it's like, "Hey, you're my brother, and I need to help you. And we came together as a nation." The second data point is, I think there's three versions of who we are for each one of us. There is the version we show the outside world, and I call this the illusion. Look at me, I'm pretty smart, amazing, I'm coping with this virus kind of thing, or some people might call it the Facebook version of ourselves, which the Facebook version of me is happier and better mentally adjusted by the way. The second version of ourselves is the delusion, this is who we think we are. And I think there's a third version, which is the actual us. So be interesting how we navigate those three places, because there's a few people out there that who they actually are, is who they think they are, and who they think they are as who they project in the world. And once in a while you hear people you know, when John's at home with his family is the same person you see, you know, on the runway in Hollywood or whatever. So I think it'd be interesting how we navigate those three, because some people gonna come back to work. And it's like, "Hey, everything was okay, I'm fine family is fine when things may not," so it'll be interesting how we navigate that humaneness has always been there, and I think that's where is the job of the leader. So I'll tell you one more data point and then I'll kind of put it back over to you. I was doing this crazy thing last year where it was rappelling down a building in Baltimore to raise money for a charity. And so it's like 27 storeys up, and when you get to the edge of the building is freakin' scary. And at that moment, I thought, "I don't know these people, but I know the executive director of the charity, it's the Kidney Foundation chapter in Baltimore. And I trust her, and I am taking the trust for her and mapping it over to these people that have my life in the hands. And bringing that all together, I think it's the job of the leader to re instill that trust in them and say, "Look, I've got you, it's going to take a little while to get back to normal." But if people can leverage their trust that the leader has in them to allow them to move forward, I think that's gonna be crucial. So our job as trainers is how do we train our leaders to be that person? So from your point of view, what do leaders have to do when they come back to work with everybody to make people feel grounded and safe and go on this new journey of rebuilding?

Lisa Earle McLeod 19:52
So the first thing they have to do is before they get back to work, empathy, one things I often say is empathy is crucial but in a crisis, empathy becomes a superpower.

Umar Hameed 20:04

Lisa Earle McLeod 20:04
And so one of the things that we need to understand right now is a defining moment. It's a defining moment for every individual leader, it's a defining moment for every parent, it's a defining moment for every company, no one is going to forget how their boss or their company handled this, they're not.

Umar Hameed 20:23

Lisa Earle McLeod 20:24
And so one of the things that leaders need to be doing right now, is you need to hold space for other people's emotions, because the biggest mistake a leader can make right now, whether people are working at home, wherever you are, is to say, "Okay guys, we still got to do this," we said, you're going to get there. But that's not what you need to lead with, leaders need to lead with empathy, and say, "I see you." So for example, the CEO of Texas Roadhouse, donated his salary back to help all his employees get through it, one of the market analysts said, "That's a drop in the bucket, it's like a million bucks, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what they need," and what the analysts was missing was, that the gesture was a gesture of empathy. The gesture was saying, "I see you employees, I am with you, I'm going to do everything in my power to help you," and and the psychological benefit of that was profound. All of those employees are going to tell their spouse, our CEO just gave his salary, it doesn't amount to that much money, but they know he is seeing us and standing with us. And so so in terms of what's what leaders need to do, when they get back, don't wait, start right now, leaders need to say I see you and I stand with you. And then the other thing that leaders can do that makes a huge difference is people are at varying degrees of resilience. And one of the ways that you build resilience is storytelling. If I were...

Umar Hameed 21:55

Lisa Earle McLeod 21:55
...to sit here, and I were to tell you, here's our numbers, here's, here's what we need to accomplish, I'm not going to build your resilience, if anything, I'm going to be wearing it down. So the way you build resilience is you, as an individual leader, need to be telling your team stories, or sharing things about times of people that have overcome and so one of the things I was coaching a CEO the other day, and I said, "You need to go watch a movie, go watch that movie, Harriet, go watch, go read a novel about, you know, the founding fathers or something, just to remind you, that people get through tough times you need something to take yourself out of yourself. And that's what you can do for your team." And so those two things, holding space for their emotions and providing stories that build resilience might seem counterintuitive to getting business done, but they're actually how you create a confident team.

Umar Hameed 22:51
Yeah, and I think the only thing I would add to that is, and I'll tell you a story first, since you mentioned stories, I was at a wedding this past summer, and the priest comes up to the lector and says, "You know, I just want you to know that I graduated from seminary a month ago and this is my first wedding." Because the priests couldn't do it and he was the first guy, and 300 people in the audience applauded him. And the reason I say that is if you try to hide the reality from your employees, and you say, you know, "Hey, I'm really strong, we got this totally covered, we're going to be fantastic when we be okay," sometimes just coming in and saying, "Hey, this is going to be a tough journey coming up, I, for me, personally, this was the challenge I had at home, but the one thing I do know is, together, we can make this happen, and some of you are going to be able to get back on track right away and we really appreciate that." Some people gonna struggle a little bit, if you struggle, put up your hand, and your entire team is going to help you do that. And they kind of lay out, it's okay to be in any one of these groups. And together, we're gonna, this is the vision, this is what we're going to do. That kind of stuff just grounds, what you just said, in bedrock. And I think, and I'm taking notes here, by the way, so I'm going to use this. My employees have two cats, right (Garbled) inspired already.

Lisa Earle McLeod 24:17
That's great. Like, I do think this is a level for leaders to step into true authenticity. And there was a story that stuck with me many, many years ago, that I read in good to great and it was the story of Admiral James Stockdale surviving and being the leader in a POW camp for seven years.

Umar Hameed 24:37

Lisa Earle McLeod 24:37
And one of the principles that Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great took away from listening to Stockdale story was that you have to have the ability to maintain the unwavering faith that you will prevail and look at the brutal facts of your situation. And a lot of people are talking about being optimistic, but, you know, I'm enough myself, but uninformed optimism actually causes you to lose credibility with your team. And so if...

Umar Hameed 25:07

Lisa Earle McLeod 25:07
...you say things like, "Hey, I, you know, I think it's going to be over in two weeks," well, a couple things happen one, your team knows it's not so it or if they believe you, then two weeks from now you have to reset again. And...

Umar Hameed 25:21

Lisa Earle McLeod 25:21
...so you have to keep constantly resetting yourself. But if you say, I know we're going to get through this, there's some version of okay on the other side, I don't know exactly what that's going to look like. And you've got to point your team towards we're, we're here to be here for each other for our families and our customers. Because once you take that focus outside of yourself, you actually make people stronger.

Umar Hameed 25:48
Absolutely. And thank you so much for joining me today. This is like a really great conversation. And I think it'll help a lot of people because what you're describing is coming back to that noble purpose. It's that humaneness of leadership and connection with our employees. And nothing you've suggested is like, super difficult to do is just be authentic, be yourself and care for the people that you lead.

Lisa Earle McLeod 26:11
Lead, empathy is a superpower during a crisis.

Umar Hameed 26:15
Absolutely. Lisa, we're gonna put all your contact information in the show notes. Any last thoughts with our listeners and viewers? Something you suggest they do or keep an eye on before we part company.

Lisa Earle McLeod 26:28
So give you a really funny tip.

Umar Hameed 26:30

Lisa Earle McLeod 26:31
Be the movie version of yourself. About 12 years ago, 15 years ago, I met Erin Brockovich, the real Erin Brockovich. And she said, If you told me when I was going through that, that one day, they were going to make a movie of this, and Julia Roberts was gonna play me, I would have thought you are nuts. And what I took from that was, people are going to look back on how you behaved and whether they make an actual movie of you or whether it's just the movie playing in the minds, and hearts of your people, your family, act like the movie version of yourself, how are you going to want to be remembered in this time? Are you a leader of great purpose, and empathy? You probably want to act like that.

Umar Hameed 27:21
So let me add to that just before we part company, I was working with this salesperson in this organization. And I said, "You tell me, what do you tell your customers? What do you do?" And he goes, "Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring," and it was like uninspiring, it's like, "Okay, do me a favor. The CEO of this company is charismatic and powerful, that articulate," I said, "Why don't you put on the mask, chips mask on for a moment? And then tell me what your company does?" and he does this powerful, elegant, eloquent, this is what we do. And so if you think about masquerade balls, I've never been to one, but people put on masks, and they allows them to act differently, a better version of themselves. And I think what you're suggesting this movie version of you, if you had that on, it's like, oh, yeah, it gives you permission to be different today. And I think thank you for sharing that. Lisa, it was a joy talking with you today, and I can't wait for our next conversation.

Lisa Earle McLeod 28:18
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Umar Hameed 28:25
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro-linguistic programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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