DevOps Institute

[EP63] Leading with Empathy – Dr Gautham Pallapa Returns


On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by Dr. Gautham Pallapa, DevOps Institute Ambassador, founder of Transformity and an executive advisor for VMware. He discusses the human skill of empathy – what it is, why it’s important in DevOps, how to be more empathetic and more.

Learn more about how to empower people through empathy, collaboration and communication from Dr. Gautham Pallapa. Access his course, Leading with Empathy, in SKILup IT Learning.

Gautham is an agile coach, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a SAFe Agilist, and an Ambassador for the DevOps Institute. He writes/talks/works on transformation, elevating humans, helping underprivileged people, and giving back to the community. As the founder of Transformity and an Executive Advisor for VMware, Dr. Gautham Pallapa works with C-Suite and executives at Fortune 1000 enterprise customers in transforming their strategy, processes, technologies, culture, and people to achieve their objectives and business outcomes. His mantra is “Transform with Empathy” and has successfully led several business transformations and cloud modernization efforts in various industry verticals.


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Find a lightly edited transcript below

Narrator 00:02
You’re listening to the humans of DevOps podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 00:16
This is a very complicated topic because people often confuse sympathy with empathy, only because they feel sorry for that person. Empathy is the ability to be truly present sympathy. On the other hand, it’s actually driven by feelings of pity or concern.

Jason Baum 00:33
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Baum, Director of Member experience at DevOps Institute, and this is the humans of DevOps podcast. Welcome back. And thank you for joining us yet again. Hope you had a good week. Over the past few weeks, you might have heard that we’ve been diving deeper into human skills, human issues, especially with how they pertain to DevOps and tech professionals. And this week will be just like those other weeks, we will be discussing the topic of empathy and empathic leadership. And here to discuss this topic with me we’re very lucky to have him as Dr. Gotham palapa. As the founder of transformative and executive advisor for VMware, Dr. Gotham palapa works with C suite executives at Fortune 1000 enterprise customers and transforming their strategy processes technologies, culture and people to achieve their objectives and business outcomes. His mantra is transform with empathy and has successfully led several business transformations and cloud modernization efforts in various industry verticals. Gotham is an Agile coach, a Lean Six Sigma black belt, a safe agile list and ambassador for the DevOps Institute. He writes talks works on transformation, elevating humans, helping underprivileged people and giving back to the community. And his latest book, which just came out on December 9, is leading with empathy understanding the needs of today’s workforce. So I cannot think of anyone we would rather have to discuss this topic, then Dr. Gautham palapa. Gautham, welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 02:12
Thank you, Jason. it’s nice to be back.

Jason Baum 02:16
And I should say, welcome back to the podcast, because you were originally on with Jane back when she was hosting. And so this is obviously a different format a little bit. But we’re really excited to have you and are you ready to get human and talk about empathy.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 02:32
Always, always being human and talking about humanity is one of the most favorite things to talk about for me.

Jason Baum 02:38
Me too. So this should be exciting. So why don’t we just start real quick, with the definition of empathy?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 02:47
That’s a great point to start off with. So my mother had a saying, which said that if you have not done something to improve a human’s life in some way, you have not truly lived. And that is been my guiding factor throughout, to be empathic and to be compassionate with humanity. So for me, humanity is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel what they can see from their points of view, and then imagine yourself in their place. There are various kinds of definitions, Dr. Brene, brown, whose new book Atlas of the heart came out to mean she has a fantastic way of explaining four qualities of empathy, they are the ability to see the world as other people see it to be non-judgmental, understand other people’s feelings and communicate your understanding of that feeling. But for me, my guiding principle has always been this, when you can look at a human being and put yourself in their shoes, understand the pain and stress that they’re undergoing. The and this is most important, right? You can value their happiness about your own and do something about their pain, that’s when you’re truly impacted.

Jason Baum 03:59
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, you know, it’s, we’re taught sometimes about those lenses, right? Seeing the world through your lens, and then we all have that internal bias because of how we see the world. And then you have to remove that right and put on the lens of someone else. That’s hard enough. But then that last piece of what you just said, I feel like how do I make that person? Happier? How do I make that that that person’s experience better? Boy, that’s the difficult one. It is even harder.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 04:31
It is totally right. I mean, as humans, we tend to first think of ourselves before we think about others and think about the environment and the other things that we interact with. And so when you want to channel empathy, you are trying to not focus on yourself but focus outwards and trying to improve things around you and people around you before you do your own. And that’s really hard. For people, it takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of commitment. And it takes a lot of courage, frankly, to be empathic at that level.

Jason Baum 05:08
People who have listened to the podcast, recently, are probably familiar with the fact that I liken a lot of things to parenting. And, you know, I do that because I feel like, well, first of all, my daughter’s four, so I’ve only been a parent for years. But my gosh, what a crash course you get within those first, formative years, and it gives you this new sense of the world. And the topic of empathy I was really looking forward to because I feel like it’s also a crash course in how to be empathetic. It’s the first time where you truly can say, in some instances, unless I don’t know unless you’re really good person, where you’re thinking about someone else’s needs truly over yours. And it’s great to apply it right.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 06:03
It is, and congratulations on being a young parent. It’s a beautiful social experiment. And honestly, it’s a two-way street, the children not only learn from you, you learn a lot. So in my book leading with empathy, my partner in crime is actually my seven-year-old son, we have run a number of experiments, especially during the pandemic, introduce things like lean-agile, and DevOps, emotional check-ins, to improve the emotional intelligence and development of both of him and of his friends around him. So I can really relate parenting is a wonderful way to be empathic and to learn. He’s designed some of the experiments as well with me, and we’ve had a lot of fun on it. So yeah, if you get an opportunity, do that, it’s a wonderful way to get quick feedback. And they will be extremely candid to you and tell you when something’s not going, right, which is, which is such a unique perspective that you can get.

Jason Baum 07:06
Yeah, it helps with listening. It’s not just a one-way street. I mean, the way many of us were raised potentially is like children or should be seen, not heard, you know, those, those are all such old school now, ways of thinking about it. And we are, I would hope as a collective, you know, listening better, and then how to apply a lot of that I think that for me was a true wake-up call on empathy. I used to think I was an empathetic boy, becoming a parent changes your, your viewpoint on that. And like you said, it’s not easy, and it really can push you to the limits and test you. What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 07:46
This is a very complicated topic. Because people often confuse sympathy with empathy only because they feel sorry for that person that they’re looking at or that they’re interacting with and assume that they’re experiencing similar painters are the party. Empathy is the ability to be truly present. It’s the ability to hold a safe space for others to create or to feel their own emotions completely, and to be able to understand their experiences. It’s a way to put yourself in other people’s shoes, feel the stress, you know, and do something about their pain. Sympathy. On the other hand, it’s actually driven by feelings of pity or concern for another person without really comprehending what it feels like to be in that person’s situation. So for example, one can feel sympathy for homeless people, someone crying on the street, or someone who’s painfully hobbling along on crutches on an icy footpath. That’s sympathy. However, empathy refers to the ability to imagine how that person is feeling in that situation. So when you look at someone crying on the street, you try to deconstruct why the person is crying, try to get that emotional connection. And then you take the one step forward to actually do something about the pain. And that’s that slide of the difference between empathy and sympathy. It’s easy to feel sympathetic to others because we are social beings and we interact with them. And when you see someone feeling a particular way, it kind of resonates with you, and you start, you know, feeling or sensing that you feel the same thing, but you don’t actually feel it within yourself and you’re not invested in it. And that’s, that’s the difference between sympathy and empathy. And it’s very complicated. Uh, one of the other ways that you can say is that you know, sympathy creates separation and disconnection while empathy creates connection to the person that you’re looking at. I love

Jason Baum 09:54
that last part. Yeah, cuz you know, it is it’s not it’s not Easy necessarily to be I think sympathy certainly comes easier, right? Because you could feel bad that that person is homeless. The piece that now makes you do work, you know, is the understanding, you know, is the understanding of why I think a lot of times in management, sometimes where I find it’s helpful for me anyway, is to really understand, you know, my, my employees understand, understand on their level what they’re going through and not necessarily just feeling bad about something. Why do they feel what they feel? And that’s the same thing with parenting. Right? Going back to that, why does this why do we feel what we feel? Why do they feel what they feel?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 10:50
Yeah, yeah, I mean, you hit something really important. And again, we started this by defining empathy, but in reality, their empathy is so broad, and we use empathy as an umbrella term for in a number of situations. There are predominantly three types of empathy if you really think about it. The first one is cognitive empathy. And this is where you have the ability to understand what the other person might be thinking or feeling. But you don’t need to have that emotional connection. This is something you know that sales executives or negotiators go through because they want to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think about it. And it’s very rational and intelligent approach. It’s also, you know, aligned to self-serving, or manipulation techniques at times. So you could have positive manipulation like negotiators, but you could have negative manipulation, like sales executives, in certain situations where you, you know, try to put yourselves in other people’s shoes or find it from their point of view kind of thing. So So that’s cognitive empathy. emotional empathy is what we commonly refer to, it’s the ability to share a feeling and have a deeper connection. And this is where you actually affect it affects the way you feel for someone, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. And, for example, and you mentioned management, and when a team leadership is actually based on emotional empathy, you really, a high-performing team will have an emotional impact as a team leader, because they’re bringing them forward and increasing that psychological safety and trust for the team. The third one is compassionate empathy, or affective empathy, where you’re actually doing something about the pain and taking practical action. So not just feeling that connection. And mentoring is a really good example for compassionate empathy, where are coaching, where you interact with the person and you connect with them at an emotional level, and then you try to do something about it. So when you consider these three types of empathy, parenting, I would argue, actually falls within the compassionate empathy, because you’re not only emotional about it, but you’re trying to take practical actions to make sure that they don’t feel that pain. And that’s why it’s so exhausting to be a parent. Now, you’re not just helping build a positive environment and upbringing for young human, you’re also trying to connect with them empathically and mentor them and trying to help them grow. The same thing with teaching, it’s not just about sharing knowledge or information. That’s easy. Anyone could go on, on the web. And a lot of schools now have digital apps, especially over the last two years. Distance Learning additional learning is easy. But that compassionate empathy, where the teacher actually connects with emotionally and takes practical actions to reduce that pain. That’s the beauty of compassionate empathy in my mind.

Jason Baum 13:56
Yeah, and I would even argue that that should never end just with teachers, for example, but great managers, you know, going back to it, I think, our teachers too. You know, I someone said this to me once that the best managers know you’re going to leave someday, and are okay with that. But their goal is to make you the best you that you could possibly be so that you do leave, because that’s building you up. And yes, of course, the productivity is going to go up and you’re going to do some great things for them. But it’s not about that. It’s about the individual and making sure that individual’s reaching their, their best selves that they could be, and that it’s extremely selfless, which goes back to, you know, parenting and goes back to kind of what you were saying, putting yourself aside. And I think that we do you do kind of gain from that, you know, kindness, compassion, I think it does reward in the long term. But I think that empathy is the understanding of why people work what? Why? Why does this trouble me? Why does why is this problem hard for me? Why is you know, I mean, gosh, as parents, you’re faced with it every single moment, it seems it’s just trying to figure out why. You know, and the same thing with managers,

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 15:16
it is it definitely is. And then it if you abstract all the enterprise overlays, and the processes and the interactions and all this, every team is nothing but a tribe, right. And in this tribe, we come down to the core fundamentals of human interactions, which is, we all want the tribe to succeed, we want we need to have trust in the leader, you need to have psychological safety to bring up concerns and share risks. And you also want to ensure that you succeed as a team because you are adding more value. And so, as a manager, that is the core of what you do, you are trying to bring the best out of your tribe, in order to help them succeed. Now, when you’re an empathic leader, you go a little beyond because you’re not only helping them succeed but like you mentioned, Jason, you’re bringing the best out of them, you’re making them the best version of themselves, putting them to a level of discomfort that they probably would never push themselves to. Because unless you have discomfort, no one is going to learn, we are going to fall into that sense of competency and we probably will never grow. And so that’s what empathic leaders do. They know what is the difference between your discomfort level and your panic level. And they make sure that you learn as quickly as you can and as well as you can, with the understanding that you will always move and reciprocate and disseminate this information and this learning to a different tribe.

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Jason Baum 17:52
Yeah, yeah, I one thing that one example, I don’t know, I don’t know if this is correct. So stop me if I if I’m going off the rails here, but it’s the question for my child, for example, like that, that sometimes parents we fall into is, how was school today? And that’s like a question. That’s like, I mean, they’re, they’re taking so much in, they’re out of their comfort zone there. And same thing as managers. You know, give me an update. Just give me an update, you know, what you do this week? You know, that’s some questions sometimes managers throw out there. And that’s like, again, that’s like a question because, well, gosh, I don’t know where to begin, like, what did I do? I mean, I did this and this, but what should I talk about that and for kids, too, it’s the same thing. I think you catch them with deer in headlights? And so instead of asking that question, you, you, first of all, you relate to them, right? You’re like, Well, look, you know, I’m sure you had a long day, I’d love to hear about it when, when you’re ready, or something like that? Or, you know, did you go to the library today and read this book managers, something specific? Tell me about this project? What you know, what were some issues you’ve run into? You know, do you have any questions, you know, like getting specific, I think sometimes is, is better?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 19:12
It? It is it is? And so, it’s funny, you bring this up? Because this is a question that almost every parent has asked their kids at some point or the other, like, how was school today? And invariably, for a lot of children who are, who would have finished school and who are going back either in a car or walking, they’re mentally drained. And so the answers that they usually give is good, good. And that is it. Right? How was your day? Good? They answered they provided the necessary answer to the question, but they didn’t give enough sufficient information. One of the things that I tell others to do and things that I you know, I tried to do myself is, as I’m talking to my child, I ask, okay, so what is one new thing you learn? Today are what is one unique experience that you had today, which tells them that they can’t just limit their answer to Oh, it was a good day, but actually reach beyond and think about the entire day, reflect upon it, and then tell them, Oh, this happened here. And this happened there. And so what I’m doing, there are two things, the first thing I’m doing is I’m signaling that it’s a psychological end of the day because I’ve picked them up, it means that their school learning is over. And the next thing is all going to be intellectual stimulation. So we’re going to talk about it. And so they can relax and say, Okay, there’s not so much of interaction, I don’t have to worry about homework and teachers and all this. And this was something really important when we were in distance learning because it was all zoom meetings at that time for schools. And so it was pretty much jumping from one school, one zoom to the other for people, if it is teams, or if it is children, it is just stuck on one particular stone. So when you start asking them, What is one thing that you learn today, you’re signaling psychologically, that you’re, you’re done with the day. So that’s one thing. The second thing is when they reflect upon it, they will start piecing things together. And even if they felt bad at some situation, or if they, they experienced some kind of bad emotion at some point of time during the day, going through and running through all the other positive things and picking the one thing that was memorable for them actually makes them realize that you don’t have to spoil your entire day, just with a few five minutes. And I call that emotional hijacking. Right? When you feel bad, or when you feel that you had a bad day, reflect upon yourself, did you really have a bad day? Or was it just a bad five minutes that hijacked your entire day, and this is something that I’m teaching my kid to do as well, like, don’t get emotionally hijacked, you want to go beyond that and look at all the positive things? So I love that example that you’re saying. And if you bring it down now to teams, managers, and people who are running like retros, or maybe we have this thing called spin down, which we do at the end of the day, where we ask them, where we talk about things that they accomplished, and kudos for the team, and so on. So that builds, team bonding, increases oxytocin, and, you know, the serotonin and all the other happy chemicals within our lives, and it makes them much more high performing. So those are some of the techniques that you can do to bring in that, you know, like you said, wrapping up the end of the day, talking about what are the positive things and not just being vague about your questioning, but be more prescriptive and deliberate about it?

Jason Baum 22:47
Yeah, I love the spin downs. I think that’s great, you know, at the end of the day, because we all want, we all need motivation. We only and everybody’s motivation is different, and good managers know, what drives you know, each person because everyone is so different. But but but the day, right, that’s the one thing we all have. That’s that similar, potentially. So that’s where you can connect. Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. You know, are there other real-world examples that you might be able to give of, of empathy being applied? Maybe in DevOps?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 23:21
Oh, yeah, definitely. There, there are loads. Especially because over the last two years, we’ve had to rethink and reimagine the way that we operate. And we work and we interact. There’s there are tons of examples, right? I mean, our stress levels and anxiety levels have gone up so much. And we’ve started becoming so over-reliant on technologies, that people assume that everyone’s going to be on it all the time, just because you’re working remotely, or we’re working, you know, you don’t have eight to five and a nine to five timeline that you’re working, you’re now just switching from one video conference to the other and the amount of friction in Malta spin up a new meeting was so low. So meeting overload has gone off through the roof, and that I can talk for hours about that, that that’s actually a big pet peeve of mine conducted a survey where we went through meeting overload and how overloaded everyone was, and it almost is like almost more than 67% of the people like more than two-thirds of our community are actually working more than 40 hours a week. They’re almost working eight, seven, and a half to eight hours extra per week, just to catch up and make sure that they meet their objectives and key results. Are there embryos or anything that have been measured on because you have so many meanings. So one real-world example that I teach and I tried to tell them is first ask the question, do you really need that meeting? Is it possible to have that meeting through some other form of asynchronous way, if you want to get a decision, just post it on your asynchronous messaging channel, and do Roman voting, if possible, or do affinity voting, those are simple things that you can do. Now that we have switched over to hybrid or remote form of working, there are four themes that actually emerge that we need to apply empathy towards and try to improve, especially in a DevOps world. The first one is remote execution, we want to make sure that we can deliver things as quickly as possible and as easily as possible. And that requires a lot of the DevOps tools and toolchains and techniques that we’ve been practicing for a long time, been experimentation, trying to reduce the manual toil that people are going through, bringing in more automation, trying to have systems perform a lot of the mundane tasks, while we, as humans focus on high-value activity is something that’s really important. And that’s something that DevOps has been promoted a prompting us to change for a number of years. So I’m really excited that we’re, you know, really doing something about it at this time. The second one is collaboration. You know, now that we’re all working remotely, all of a sudden, everyone is distributed, how are you going to build a team culture, and how are you going to ensure that they’re all working properly, in a collaborative way. The third one is effective communication. Now, if everything is digital, or everything is video, you suddenly have a lot of noise within our channels. And so this is I call it the signal to noise ratio, the amount of information or signal is being overwhelmed by the amount of noise or the consistent and repeated communication that we’re having. We send the same information in meeting in emails and newsletters and in other bursts of information, and it becomes overwhelming for people. So using that, and the fourth one is enablement. And this is a big tenet of DevOps, where you are enabling people and empowering them to actually add value to the organization and you’re trying to have them focus on like I mentioned, high-value activity. But in all of this, the most important thing that I find beneficial for us is that we’ve started to recognize that what we went through over the last two years, and what we’re going to go through even over the next year is not just remote work from home, it’s actually existence from home, we’ve had life go around us in spite of all these various things. So it’s, it’s unfair to consider this as a grand work from home experiment. This is actually existence from home, and it’s helping us evolve to the next level of humanity, which is exciting.

Jason Baum 27:58
I am so glad that you went to like this past two years in your example because I was gonna ask you about it. And I’m still gonna ask the next question, because I’m just so curious when it comes to empathy. How has going from being in person to behind a computer screen looking at a camera changed our abilities to be empathetic?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 28:28
Um, yeah, that’s, that’s an interesting question. And that’s actually the thesis of my book. So I actually start off my book to talk about the first two, the last two years and how it’s impacted us as humanity, how much it’s increased the stress and anxiety in our life and how we can how we have started to evolve and how we have started to become more empathic. The first thing I’ll say is this. As humans, we’ve always had a serious problem with humanity. In a professional world, I don’t know why it is, we suddenly think that we have to disassociate ourselves from him from being a human and put that artificial facade and suddenly focus on only metrics and measures and things that you’re measured on. forgetting the fact that you’re human, which is impossible to do. And when the pandemic hit, and we all started, you know, working from home or existing from home as I call it, all that went away, we have suddenly invited everyone into our homes into our living rooms into our kitchens. We have our furry friends or our pets coming into video conferences we’ve had our children come in because they want that attention. They want to interact and predominantly if you’re not in the house, it means you were working. And if you’re in the house and that means it is family time, and now all of a sudden all that goes out of the ring Oh, we’ve invited everyone over. So I am. I’m extremely optimistic. And I believe that we have increased the level of empathy within our human society. There are so many examples of leaders and executives going above and beyond and actually understanding how to be empathic. But and this is something what I emphasize in the book, I say, one does not need permission to lead with empathy, one’s actions to improve human quality of life in adverse times is what makes them a leader. And during the pandemic, we’ve seen so many examples of this, we’ve seen people step in and try to help the old and the end elderly by shopping for them and delivering stuff, food bags and trying to help people who unfortunately had lost their jobs because all the stores were shut down in new and sheltering place, restaurants trying different things to help the community. So everyone has done something or the other to step forward and actually be more empathic and share because we’ve had common commiseration around the pandemic and around the economic upturn that we had also around all the various riots and other events that occurred over the last two years. So our empathy levels have actually increased. And also because everyone is working remotely, you can now relate to how challenging it is to be on videoconference day in and day out. And so things like, you know, trying to switch off your giving permission to switch off your camera wherever possible, just to re rejuvenate yourself, or sometimes, you know, picking up the phone and actually calling people imagine that we never really used to use our phones to call people but now we do. Or, you know, increasing the amount of asynchronous chatting and communication. All those things have made us actually closer as the community in my mind. And that’s what I firmly believe. And I think I’m really optimistic about that. I can

Jason Baum 32:14
tell you’re very optimistic. I love it. Because seeing the positive, sometimes it’s hard, it’s sometimes it’s difficult, it takes more work than seeing the negative for sure. And coming out of something that’s been a horrific, you know, experience. For many, you know, with the pandemic, there certainly has been a lot of positive momentum. With connection and the sharing of humanity. I, I love what you said about the fact that we are inviting people into our homes, and for the first time that we’ve actually talked about it on this podcast, with Lonnie Ford. On that episode, you know, we hit on the fact that for some reason, we’re just put up these walls, and she was she’s with the government she was with the government. You know, they’re not allowed to talk about personal, you know, just not allowed. And, yeah, we kind of forget that, you know, we’re not robots. We’re not robots. We’re not here just to do bidding and go Yes, Master serve and go home. You know, that’s, that’s not who we are. We’re human beings. And for too long, I personally believe that, yeah, it’s kind of been, it was too much. And now, the way you move forward is by understanding each other so that you can move forward to gather. And you know, the fact that everyone is different. And as we teach my child, everyone is different. And that’s a good thing. Because it is because if we were officer Oh, my gosh, how boring would it be? And we will how what progress would you ever make? Yeah, I love what you said, how can we be more empathetic? What advice do you have?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 33:58
So the first thing that I mentioned is, you don’t need to have permission to be empathic, or you don’t need to have permission to be a leader. That is the first thing titles are never going to make you a leader. All it does is give you an opportunity to become a leader. Right? So that’s the first thing that I would tell everyone that they need to acknowledge. The next thing that I want to say is empathy is not something you’re born with. It’s not a trait. You can actually learn to be empathic. You can build empathy, you can do it by your actions. A lot of people think, oh, you know, it’s like, you either have empathy or you don’t which is untrue. That is just a limiting belief. You can be empathic and don’t set the bar so high that prevents you from being empathic. Every small thing countable, like a random act of kindness, is We’ll help you be empathic. So here’s a very simple example. Anyone who purchases my book leading with empathy needs to recognize this, a large portion of the royalty from the book is actually will be going to nonprofits that support underrepresented minorities, the underprivileged, and the homeless. So just the sheer act of purchasing the book means that they performed a random act of kindness that tried to improve someone’s life, that they never thought that they would, which means that they’re demonstrating some form of empathy. So it can be something really simple. That third thing is, if you want to be an empathic leader, you want to first be vulnerable, you do not want to have egos, it’s not about you, it’s about your team’s, your success is measured as a derivative of their success. So I work with my teams to modify our embryos and OKRs to align to that thinking. And I encourage leaders to actually do the same as well. The next one is to be approachable. I used to love these things called gamba walks, that is lean construct where you walk the hallways and you walk through the manufacturing plant, you have hallway discussions, you attend stand-ups, you attend spin downs, you know, all those various things. But now, because we had a VR remote, that’s probably not something but you know, there are digital twins of these physical interactions that you can do, you have like hallway and donut and a couple of apps that you can bring in. You want to slow down the velocity and deadlines to accommodate for the fact that they have life going on. You want to factor life into the equation, the stress, and the anxiety. So you want to be much more human, then be more attentive. And this is really hard. Just consider this, it’s really hard for someone to approach you and confide in you. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of stress upon them. So keep that trust respected and give your complete attention to them. be appreciative. This is something that is really important. You want to give that serotonin and to the other people and oxytocin, right, nobody comes into work thinking that they’re gonna do a bad job. So if something happens, there probably is a real reason behind it. So dive in and try to understand what’s going on and try to help if possible, appreciate in public, and give feedback in private. Don’t be over-critical or emotional when you’re giving feedback, because you want to be objective about it. And try not to do that traditional approach of sneaking your feedback, critical analysis between two good thoughts. Right. Have an honest discussion. It’s not.

Jason Baum 38:00
You know, that’s the worst of all

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 38:03
right? Yeah. Don’t just be honest, have a real human-to-human conversation. Be truthful to yourself. And then the last one that I would say is be helpful. And to remember to actually do the things you said you would do. You want to keep your say-to-do ratio as close to one as possible. Otherwise, people are not going to come to you and not going to even consider you as a lead at that point.

Jason Baum 38:28
Yeah, I love what you said about the, you know, doing the random acts of kindness, basically, you know, it’s someone a long time ago told me like, if you’re feeling mad, if you’re feeling like you’re had a bad day, if you’re, you know, going through something, do something nice for someone else. And, and you’ll find how much that makes you feel better. And especially if they don’t know that you did it. And so I would go to it’s so simple. If I could do this, go to Dunkin Donuts, go to a jet at night to give Dunkin Donuts a call that they’re not sponsoring. So forget Dunkin Donuts, go go go to your local bagel shop, donut shop, whatever. And, and by the person behind you in the drive-throughs. You know, and pass it on. One time someone did it to me and I just sent it back. You know, just Could you imagine if everyone just did that. And you start off your day so much better. All of a sudden, it’s just improved it.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 39:25
It totally does. And you know, I’m glad you mentioned that. Because people think that acts of kindness are going above and beyond and probably donating large sums of money and being philanthropists it’s not that if you can touch a stranger in a very small way and make them smile. That’s considered as a random act of kindness. It and as you mentioned, it’s a picker rocker. So doing that early in the morning, we’ll just set the tone for your entire day. The other thing is physical exercise. Just go for a walk or swim, hit the treadmill or your bike. Just walk with people walk your kid to school pool or do something to that effect. You can do gimble walk. So talk, I mentioned that you can talk to people just have a chat, ping someone randomly and ask them how they’re doing. You know, just give them an opportunity and space safe space for them to talk. That is more than enough for us to bring back that humanity and become human again. And it’s there’s such a, it’s such a low bar. But we have these limiting beliefs in ourselves where we think we’ve built upon the concept of empathy or the concept of acts of kindness and think that it’s way bigger than what it is just one bite at a time, man. That’s all it is. Yeah. And

Jason Baum 40:41
appreciation, as you said is so important. I do believe that too, I think and when you’re saying thank you specifics, right? What are you thankful for? And citing it and being so specific and showing your appreciation? Not just for them, but for the specific thing that you are appreciative of or acknowledging you know, what someone did? Did well, really get specific because that means something more than just a blanket. Hey, good job. Good job is never good enough. That’s not Yep. Dr. Gotham, I really appreciate it. This has been fantastic. I feel like this, this is a topic we could talk about for a long time, I’m definitely gonna read your book. And you should too. The book is called leading with empathy, understanding the needs of today’s workforce, where can we get it?

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 41:33
It’s available almost everywhere, you can get it on Amazon, you can get it at Barnes and Nobles target, wherever you prefer. You can also go to, where I talked about the book about the preface, I talk about my journey, I’m vulnerable out there. The book contains a number of personal stories. It’s kind of a eulogy to my mother. She was an amazingly empathic person, and she made me who I am, and always impressed upon me the value of human life. She passed from cancer in 2009. But since then, I’ve always taken it upon myself to emulate her and try to, you know, try to help humanity and try to help them out of adversity. So there are a number of personal stories, I hit upon some hard topics as well, like, racism is one of them that I do not just BLM, but also anti-Asian racism. I talk about the pandemic, the economic downturn, how it’s impacted people, how stress and anxiety actually impact us. But because I’m an optimist, I do talk about the successful patterns that help how you can elevate yourself how you can be an empathic leader. And as I mentioned before, my son and I, we have run a number of experiments. So I’ve shared some of them. He’s super excited. And he has contributed to these experiments. And he’s actually suggested and tweaked them. So we’ve done the entire pivoting and persevering quick feedback, failing fast often achieve and all the things that you know, lean-agile, and DevOps talks about.

Jason Baum 43:16
That’s, that’s fantastic. And you know, my condolences on the loss of your mother, and I’m sure she’s incredibly proud with the work that you’ve done and, and passing it on to your own child. I’m sure there’s nothing greater that probably would have made her smile, you know, is that and the continuation of teaching those principles? And thank you so much for coming on. I really, really appreciated our conversation. And I hope we could do it again sometime, even if it’s not on the podcast, you know, talking about this topic.

Dr. Gautham Pallapa 43:45
Definitely, definitely. This is a passion of mine. This is one of my callings. So yeah, and thank you for having me, Jason, this has been a wonderful conversation.

Jason Baum 43:53
Absolutely. And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast, I want to wish you happy holidays, we’re going to be taking a few weeks off before we kick off the next season. We’ll be back officially on January 18. Until then, I’m going to end this episode the same way I always do encourage you to become a member of DevOps Institute, join the community, get access to even more great resources just like this one. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and most of all, stay human. We’ll see you in the New Year. Happy New Year, and live long and prosper.

Narrator 44:30
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong


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