Elevating the Human Experience: Amelia Dunlop

Elevating the Human Experience: Amelia Dunlop


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This week on the Voices of CX Podcast, we talked to Amelia Dunlop, Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte Digital. She talked about her greatest passion, elevating the human experience in the workplace and how love should be part of that conversation.

About Amelia Dunlop

As Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte Digital and leader of the US Customer Strategy and Applied Design practice for Deloitte Consulting LLP, Amelia Dunlop helps companies develop winning strategies that combine innovation, creativity, and digital strategy.

Amelia received Consulting Magazine’s 2020 Top Women in Technology Award for Excellence in Innovation. She is author of the book, Elevating the Human Experience: Three Paths to Love and Worth at Work.

Amelia leads a team of problem solvers who use human-centered design and customer insights strategy to help businesses shift their focus from the customer experience to the human experience. As marketers, she says we have an opportunity to create more human experiences—earning long-term loyalty and trust in the process.

Amelia loves helping clients tackle their toughest problems. For her, the best kind of problem requires thinking in a new and different way. She enjoys helping clients create solutions and build the organizational momentum to turn the future they imagine into a reality.

She writes and speaks regularly about human experience, creativity, and customer strategy, and contributes to the Wall Street Journal’s CMO Journal and Adweek.  She also serves on the board of the MacDowell Colony, a national not-for-profit organization that creates space for artists.

Born in London, she has lived and worked across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and India. These days she lives with her husband and three children in Boston.

Connect with Amelia Dunlop

Follow Amelia on LinkedIn
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Learn more about the book Elevating the Human Experience: Three Paths to Love and Worth at Work

Pre-order your copy of “Elevating the Human Experience”

Stay in the know with her book on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter.

Amelia’s website: ameliadunlop.com/

Connect with the Voices of CX

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Follow Mary Drumond on LinkedIn
Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter: @drumondmary

About Voices of CX Podcast

The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.

📩Got something to say about CX or want to be featured on the show? Let us know! Email the Producer ([email protected]).


Mary: Hello once again to all of our listeners and viewers. Welcome back to Voice of CX Podcast. We’re on season nine and today I bring you Amelia Dunlop, who is the Chief Experience Officer for Deloitte Digital. Amelia, thank you so much for coming on. It’s such an honor to have you.

Amelia: Yeah, so pleased to be here. Thanks for having me.

Mary: I’ve seen you speak so many times. It’s so familiar to see you on screen. But me being the one asking the questions is, it’s really interesting. I think COVID kind of did that, where we all went remote and spent so much time on video chat that we created a little bit of, I don’t know, it kind of got normal to see certain people up on the screen

I don’t know if you have the same thing at all in your day-to-day.

Amelia: Totally. I mean, I think we probably all have relationships with people who we’d never actually met in person. But yeah, that’s for two years now.

Mary: Absolutely. Well, I’m going to let you kind of introduce yourself. Tell our listeners and viewers a little bit about what you feel passionate about in your job, in your life.

Amelia: Totally. So I think you know this, but I am passionate about all things elevating the human experience. And for me, that’s what it means – you’re going to show up at work. And I know we’re going to talk a little bit about that and what it means to try to show up with our customers, but also in our personal lives.

So I am also a very proud mother of three children ages 16, 14 and about to turn 12.

Mary: That’s great. I’ve got kids myself. My kids are 16 and turning ten. So and that part of being a mom. It’s really great. And it does provide us with a lot of introspection on what it means to have a balance in our lives. I think struggling through that part of, of motherhood and professionalism. Now, one thing that I wanted to mention beforehand, before we got started is I’m so fascinated by the way that you preach in your message, how to show up at work and be the same person that you are at work that you are at home.

And this idea of being your authentic self, and using that as a way to be happy and find happiness. So a lot of people for so long, I feel, felt like they had to wake up in the morning and kind of put on a mask and put on some armor before they walked into the office. And you’re really breaking this down.

Mary: How do people receive this message? Do you have mixed feelings or mixed receptions? Or is this something that really tends to touch people like it did to me?

Amelia: Oh, thank you. And it’s a beautiful question. I do think that there’s a way in which becoming my authentic self itself was a journey. Right? Because I do remember being the 22-year-old showing up at work thinking you had to put it sort of put on professional Amelia, right? Because you’re still a 22-year-old, right?

So I think narrowing that gap between who was actually me and who was professional me, I feel like did take a journey over time. And I think, as you know, I wrote the book, elevating the human experience largely for my younger self and for others kind of like me. But I do have this one experience that I’ll share with you where I was, you know, running, meeting to meeting, as we all do.

I showed up to do a kind of a welcome orientation chat for a number of our new hires. And it happened there was a number of women on that particular kind of Zoom call that day. And one of them said very bravely to me during the call, Amelia, you’re refreshingly authentic. Thank you so much for just answering your questions and showing up exactly as you are.

And I laughed and said it would take me longer and be much harder for me to figure out which version of myself you wanted me to be right now, right? Like, do you want me to be boss lady? Do you want me to be, like, empathetic mom? Do you want me to be kind of management consultant? Or I could just be myself?

And the thing that I have found that I really love about authenticity, you know, putting it out there, and its both with the book and when I show up is, when you show up, people know how to find you. And so I find that, you know, just like you found me and people for whom exactly who I am resonates, I will find and be connected with other like-minded people.

Mary: Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, I’m going to get into a little bit about your book, Elevating the Human Experience. And talk about, just kind of break down what that concept means, because it’s an amazing concept and something that we’ve been talking about for a while in marketing, the idea of doing human to human marketing instead of business to business or business to consumer.

But you were able to almost create a blueprint for how to do this. So it’s a great book. It’s really interesting. I encourage everybody to pick up a copy and read it. But a big thing that really stood out to me being in customer experience was this idea of transcending customer experience into the human experience. So share a little bit about that.

Amelia: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, the way that I think about it is, we don’t wake up each morning as a customer, we don’t wake up as an employee or even as a partner, we wake up as a human. And unfortunately, I think too many times in our organizations, we forget that and we start relating to each other as a personnel number or a customer number or customer identity.

And I think what we’re trying to do with the human experience is just remind ourselves that we are humans first and how can we relate to each other with empathy before we push out some tool or use some data, all of which can be useful, but not to forget that there’s a human at the other end of that.

Mary: Yeah. So when we say being human, from this standpoint that when you wrote your book and everything that you’re saying, what does that mean, to be human? Which part of the human element?

Amelia: It’s one of those things that you use as like we can’t help but be human, right? Like we’re breathing we’re, we are human. Like, that is, I think, what it means to me. And I’d be curious, Mary, what it means to you too, I think there’s something about authenticity, right? Which we already talked about. But I think part of my journey in learning how to be human has meant that equal parts head and heart.

And what does it mean to show up with both? And, you know, with the rigor, with the intellect that I think and the capability that our jobs require, but also the empathy and EQ. So that I think we’re equal parts head and heart. And that’s, for me, what it means to be more human.

Mary: Yeah. I think for me it has to do – and, you know, when since I’m a woman and, you know, I identify as female and all of these things, I feel like human speaking about being human also means being a woman. And what does that mean?

Amelia: And you’re right. Okay, so maybe let’s expand the definition. So it’s the equal parts head and heart, bring your lived experiences and your identities. So that might be another part of what it means to be more human. I think another thing for me is I think about the fact that if I’m not bringing head and heart or bringing my lived experiences kind of only at half speed, but I think there’s something about like the full-throttle, like the full power of who you are tapping into all these different aspects.

So doing the intrinsic work of elevating that human experience, how does that connect to our jobs? How does becoming more human or tapping into our humanity in a certain sense, how does that make us better at work as people? Other than that, you know, the full-throttle, is there an extra little part in there that, when we connect with that side of us, we can do better at?

Amelia: Yeah. No, I mean, I love that you’re making me think about it. So how do I believe that being more human kind of makes us better at work?

Mary: Yeah.

Amelia: Just to kind of – I do think it is about the full-throttle, right? We’re not checking some part of ourselves at the door. We show up at work.

We’re not second-guessing the, Well, how, you know, what does Mary want me to say or think or do in this conversation right now? So we’re not second-guessing ourselves. And there’s a lot of research about the amount of mental energy that members, particularly of historically marginalized minority groups, had to go through, that gymnastics is unacceptable. That’s not acceptable. That’s like literally lost and wasted effort and energy.

That’s exhausting. So I do think there’s something about feeling like you can show up with your whole self working in an organization that kind of respects and encourages that such that you can be your better self because you’re not doing all that sort of mental gymnastics every day to kind of – that is exhausting.

Mary: Yeah. So, you know, you talk in your work about it being kind of a three step journey, there being three specific paths, and it works when all of those things are in harmony or when they come together to orchestrate this whole experience. So I wanted to talk about these three things. So I’ll say what the three parts are, and then we’ll break it down and get into each of them one at a time.

So path number one is a path of self-love, and I love that you use the word love in your message because it’s not a word that’s used in business. It’s not people shy away from that because it seems to be such a vulnerable part of our personal lives. Right?

Amelia: Right.

Mary: But the self-love, the path of self-love is number one.

Number two is recognizing the worthiness in others. So it’s loving yourself, but also being able to empathize with what other people are going through in order to be able to be more productive. And then the third one is the community, the community of work and learning to, I don’t know, perhaps calibrate all of those moving parts within the community.

Is that right? Did I get it right?

Amelia: Yeah! I’m going to say you did a beautiful job summarizing my book. So thank you. Nicely done.

Mary: So that first one where we’re talking about self-love. And I know that this was a personal journey for you because we talked about this and I’ve heard you talk about it. But for the listeners who haven’t, can you describe that a little bit, a little bit of that journey for you?

Amelia: Yeah, absolutely. So I think, why don’t we start first by defining love, right? So you pointed out that love in the context of the workplace, it’s a little risky. It’s a little provocative. And I’m very aware I could have used a different word. Right? We could be talking about respect. We could talk about care, like we care for our colleagues.

But I wanted to use the word love pretty deliberately. And I kind of think more about the Greek word for love, which is dude ammonia, which is flourishing. It’s like this human flourishing. So the definition that I use is that, willingness that we have to make a choice to invest in either our own or someone else’s growth or flourishing.

And then you kind of do that like, oh, okay. Well, in that case, love really is present, I hope, in your workplace. And I could think about how to more consciously grow that love, and I will admit that there there are rooms, there are conversations where I do not feel comfortable using the word love in the workplace… and then there are rooms increasingly where I do.

So I just want to acknowledge that not everyone should be like, okay, let’s go talk about loving our colleagues. Like, I get that there’s a sort of a comfort with whether or not we can even use that word in the workplace. But I’m starting to, and I’m starting to get more comfortable and kind of encouraging others to as well.

So then in terms of self-love, so this first pass, as you know, my book is a very personal journey. I felt like the advice I got was, write the book you want to read, write the book that you need. And I felt like I needed one that was well researched and had kind of the stats.

And so we’ve got the quantitative survey of the 6 people, but also had the personal story so they could connect with it. So I do share my stories and I share the stories of people that I interviewed. But for me, the path of self-love is all about the fact that, you know, ever since I was a little girl, I felt unworthy of love and something always seemed to be off, you know, crooked like the little pinky finger here that doesn’t quite straighten.

And that’s how I start the book with just a sort of, you know, as bold a claim as I can make around, What does it mean to be vulnerable and to recognize the need for self-love? And on this journey, I also had to kind of understand, like, well, what is the difference between self-love and self-worth and self-care? Like, just unpack all these different words – and selfishness too, right?

That’s another thing I explore, which is when we are spending time kind of loving ourselves, are we being selfish in some way? So these are the things I try to explore. And what I have kind of come to is that we can, you know, practice self-care, right? Pick your favorite. It’s a bubble bath, it’s a jog, it’s getting your nails done.

But that’s not the same as self-love. Right? And for me, self-love really comes down to how do we talk to ourselves in our head? That voice that sounds so familiar because we live with it 24-7. But is that voice a voice of kindness or not? And what I found is it’s much easier to be kind to somebody else than it is to kind of reflexively, you know, give ourselves grace and give ourselves a sense of worth.

And I think it really matters in the workplace because, like, imagine all of our colleagues, all of our friends showing up at work. And there’s a lot of negative self-talk. There’s a lot of, you know, lack of self-worth. These are people for whom that struggle to feel loved and worthy is real.

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting because my therapist talks a lot about this, about how we tend to, it tends to be so much easier to show compassion to others and empathize with what they’re going through. And then when it’s ourselves, we do not give ourselves that same amount of grace. And so she says, you know, why don’t you sit down next to Mary and look at yourself from the outside in?

What would you tell Mary right now? You know, if you could sit next to her, if you could sit beside her. And what kind of compassion and love would you show her? And it was a really interesting exercise for myself to practice self-love, right?

Amelia: No, that’s beautiful. And the one that really hit home for me is my good friend and coach right after I’d had some pretty negative feedback in the workplace. This is a couple of years ago, and I like to say that you haven’t worked long enough if you haven’t had challenging feedback.

Mary: Yeah.

Amelia: But I was really wrestling with the fact that I had been told by an older male colleague that I wasn’t deferential enough and that I was haughty.

And it kind of like, it sort of rocks your world, right?

Mary: Yeah.

Amelia: And I get that the feedback may say more about the other individual than it does about me, but I didn’t know how to interpret it. I didn’t know how to kind of process it, and it hurt, it just really hurt. And my friend and coach, she is the one who kind of put me on this path to figuring out, well, what does it mean to be vulnerable?

What does it mean to kind of show up with equal parts, head and heart? And obviously, you know, when she first told me that, I thought, well, you must be wrong because I feel really vulnerable right now, and being more vulnerable cannot be the answer.

But she slowly kind of convinced me that she was right. And similar to the exercise that you did, she asked me to write down the 3 reasons why I’m lovable. At first I was like, Well, can I get my daughter to do that? Cause I think she would do a good job. You know, she was eight years old at the time, and she’s like, No, no, I think you can do it. And so I did.

I did it on my phone, and my list starts with: I am lovable because I have a warm smile.

Mary: Yeah, I like that. You do have a warm smile.

Amelia: Thank you.

Mary: So that exercise, because it’s really more almost about that introspection, that meditation, right? That learning to appreciate the things in yourself that you would normally appreciate in others, right?

Amelia: Right. It’s like, what do you love about Mary? So for me, it’s what do I love about Amelia?

Mary: Yeah. It’s really great. Well, I wanted to move into the second one, which is finding the worth of others. And you talk a lot about the worthiness gap.

Amelia: Yes.

Mary: So and you did some research behind that as well, didn’t you?

Amelia: Yeah, we did. So this is one of the biggest surprises that I found in the research where about nine out of ten people said that it matters for them to feel worthy. And that sort of self-love and that self-worth. But then about half or five out of ten, they struggle sometimes or always to feel that worthiness.

So I call that gap that kind of the worthiness gap. And I say, you know, I struggled with that myself at times. What I try to do in the book is not only what we need to do to help fill that gap for ourselves, kind of like what we just talked about, but then what’s the role that others can play in our lives to kind of help us see ourselves as worthy even perhaps in those moments when we don’t?

And that’s where I think we kind of mirror back somebody else’s worth. And I talk a lot then, and I learned a lot honestly about what it means to be an ally and how to become a better ally at work.

And I think that there’s a strong theme about that. And I used to believe that being a friend or being a mentor was enough in the workplace. But I now really firmly believe that there’s another level of sponsorship using our power for somebody else’s behalf and a benefactor who’s with us for that journey that is something I’ve really enjoyed exploring.

Who am I a sponsor and benefactor to on my team? And then who are the people who do that, play those roles for me?

Mary: That’s really interesting, understanding that.

Amelia: Like to think that you can almost your own balance sheet.

Mary: Yeah.

Amelia: Who are the people that you are cultivating that for and sponsoring in your own community? And who are the people that you’re on the receiving end? Because it’s also really hard to be a sponsor for someone else if you feel like you’re not receiving from others.

Mary: Right. So going back to that worthiness gap really quick, is that essentially what we’re all calling imposter syndrome nowadays?

Amelia; I love that you said that because I’m sort of on a campaign, like a One-Woman campaign, like stop using the words ‘imposter syndrome’.

Mary: Okay, you got your first disciple. I’ll buy into that.

Amelia: But you know what I mean? Like, so I, there’s a beautiful article that was written in Harvard Business Review that kind of debunked it a little bit. Because first of all, it’s often applied to women and minorities who are very talented, right? It’s just the idea of someone who’s very highly talented but doesn’t necessarily recognize that in themselves.

It’s not a medical syndrome. So let’s stop calling it, let’s stop medicalizing what it is and instead of sort of going around, you know, similar to me walking around like with this label of haughty, right? You know, the big “H” on my head, let’s not walk around with a big “Imposter” on our foreheads.

Instead, let’s talk about, What would it take to help you – to help Mary, to help Amelia – feel worthy? And let’s talk about what that sponsorship needs to look like. Let’s talk about what her, what your own inner dialog needs to do. And then let’s talk about what we can do systemically in the workplace to make it feel like your voice is heard, you’re paid equitably.

You have that kind of positional power.

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. Well, so on that topic, let’s move into community and what it means to go down that path. For your community so that, you know, you say it’s about recognizing the community’s assistance, the culture, and also understanding, like you said, these marginalized groups and working on different initiatives of diversity, inclusion and equity. So there’s all of these different things that compose that third path right?

Amelia: Right. Right. And so I think this is the path that in some ways is the most challenging, right? Because it’s the path of systemic change and one of the things I like to think about is I don’t believe it’s our responsibility to lean into the system. I believe it’s our responsibility to actually deconstruct it and redesign it in ways that are much more equitable.

And so I do try to explore in the data just what are some of the ways in which our workplaces are sort of, you know, systems of privilege, systems of misogyny, systems of kind of reinforced kind of dehumanization. And so I just think that our workplaces themselves need to be reimagined. And the way in which I learned a lot about this is we did some research which I share around the Equitable Experience framework, where just understanding people’s lived experiences and doing taking the principles of human-centered design and really deeply understanding that, you know, someone who shows up at the office with all of their identities, whether it’s black, it’s Latina, it’s a different age, you

know, different levels of disability, like their experience at work is going to be pretty different than whatever the dominant culture is. And so what can we do to, first of all, recognize it? So there’s this whole idea be seen yeah. So let’s make sure people don’t feel like they have to hide their identities. There’s a lot of research around people who just want to put their video on, you know, in these kind of zoom times.

So how do we make it such that people don’t have to hide their identities and their lived experiences, but then kind of welcome them and embrace them into the spaces. And then I also talk a lot about how do you create space for people’s voices so that they feel like they can be heard and one of the things that’s been interesting is I do think there’s a way in which our sort of zoom culture has a bit level, the playing field that’s kind of anyone to kind of raise their hands.

Everyone’s got them sort the two-inch square. So it’s not some people are in-person and some people aren’t.

Mary: But like a bigger screen for the CEO and then smaller screens.

Amelia: Yeah, yeah, totally. So I just I think there’s something about being intentional about these systems that we’ve taken for granted. That are, you know, inherently have, you know, some bias and privilege baked into them.

Mary: Yeah. Well, what I like about the Equitable Experience framework is that it is a blueprint to empathy, I think.

Amelia: Oh. Nice! Thank you.

Mary: It shows you like, this is what you need to be aware of. This is what you need to notice in order to get in touch with that empathetic side of you. So seeing people that that first one that’s right in the center, I’m going to share this experience framework in the notes in the episode so people can visualize it as well.

But it all revolves around See Me. But one of the really interesting ones for me was Hear Me. And I listen to Simon Sinek’s podcast, which is called A Little Bit of Optimism. And one thing that one of his guests said in an episode that I heard this week is that when you don’t listen to someone, you’re telling that person that they don’t exist.

Amelia: Hmm.

Mary: So by not listening, you’re basically annulling that person’s existence. You’re telling them that they are completely irrelevant to that scenario. They are irrelevant to the circumstance. And that’s the power of listening or not listening.

Amelia: Right.

Mary: And that stuck with me, you know?

Amelia: No, I believe it. I mean, I think another one of the findings in my research, which really stuck with me was, we asked “Likelihood to feel spoken over in a meeting”. And the thing that was interesting is that for you, you have a hypothesis, right, about how it might be different for men and women. And what was interesting is for our younger population in the survey, the 18 to 24-year-olds, there wasn’t a meaningful difference.

No statistical significance and likelihood to be spoken over. It was pretty high, right? It was a pretty high amount. But then what was interesting was that by the time men are around age 35, it dropped. It dropped pretty substantially, about whether or not they were likely to be spoken over. For women, it doesn’t drop for another 2 years.

Right. So it’s not going to be until age around 55 that there’s a meaningful drop in likelihood to be spoken over. And to your point, having your voice heard, your opinions, your thoughts, your reflections, in the context of the workplace really matters. And what are we doing to create space for women and then also for minorities to have their perspectives heard?

Mary: I wonder if from some anthropological standpoint, it’s because once women reach the age of 5, they somewhat resemble a mother to all of these adults in the room. And now. Now. Okay, now I’ll respect you.

Amelia: I mean, your guess is as good as mine. I mean, I think there may be a point at which I would hope that women kind of grow and –

Mary: And grow confidence, right?

Amelia: And grow the confidence where it doesn’t really matter that that whole, again, that whole formula of like, should I say that? Should I not say this, will I sound stupid, will I sound aggressive? Will I sound too assertive or too meek? Like, that whole inner monologue that I know many women and people have, it’s – that’s noisy.

It crowds out your ability to think clearly and be articulate.

Mary: Yeah, I’m curious about whether that number is going to stay consistent as the current generations rise in leadership.

Amelia: No, I think that’s a great point. And one of the things that my next stage of research I’m really curious about is the role of Gen Z, who are now, just, you know, first couple of years entering the workforce and I’ve been partnering with a colleague of mine who’s done a lot of work on Gen Z. He himself is 22 years old.

And what I’ve been learning from him is that there is, you know, every 18 year old thinks they have an opinion. That has not changed at any generation, right? Doesn’t matter what generation you are. But what we’ve been talking about is that Gen Z is really the first generation that has grown up where their voice mattered. Right?

You can have any number of social media accounts, you can comment on anything, you can get followers, you can get likes, your voice mattered and you had the ability to share. What does it mean when you enter into the workforce? I’ve been thinking a lot about, how do we create space? So that 18 to 24-year-old voices don’t feel like they’re spoken over in the context of work.

Mary: Yeah. When I talk to my kids and I realize how free of prejudice their minds are and how they’re growing up in a world where the ideas that we were raised in are considered old-fashioned. They’re considered antiquated, they’re considered just negative, you know? And they, the truth is that I think we did a really good job, Amelia, in raising really a really loving generation.

And I really am interested in finding out what that love is going to look like in positions of leadership in the workplace. When the leadership of old that’s got that old mindset gets replaced even by Gen Z-ers or even by Millennials, that already have a more of a nurturing mindset, a little bit more of an authentic mindset.

I’m really curious to see how that affects work in the near future.

Amelia: I mean, I love your optimism. I too am an optimist. No, I love it, I’m an optimist. I immediately go to, so I’m a member of Gen X and, like it’s my responsibility. It’s our responsibility for people who are in leadership not to put any obstacles in their way.

Mary: Yeah.

Amelia: Right? Because you and I, we’ve all had the obstacles, right? We’ve all had those experiences of not having a seat at the table, not having our voices heard and you just don’t want that for the next generation to have the exact same obstacles that we might have had. So I think that is the work that I think we still need to do.

Mary: Oh, I’m positive that they’re going to have their own set of grievances and that they absolutely judge us and hate about, you know. But like you said, it’s making sure they don’t go through the same thing. So hey, having different battles, that’s positive. That’s progress. That’s evolution. If they were dealing with the same shit that we had to deal with, that would be a different story.

That would mean we failed in our attempt to make the world a better place.

Amelia: You know, I think that’s true. I mean, sometimes my husband has to remind me that the Equal Pay Act was only passed 5 years ago.

Mary: Yeah!

Amelia: When you kind of do, like, oh, okay. When you think about the pace of progress and you think about the journey that we’ve been on in the workplace and the misogyny in the workplace, like, oh, that makes sense that there’s still people who are leading organizations who will remember a time when that was not the norm.

Mary: Right.

Amelia: And so to your point, the younger generations, I look forward to all the progress that they’ll help us make.

Mary: Yeah. And I have to keep myself in check as well because I’ve been lucky enough to always have a really strong voice. I started off as an entrepreneur, so I was the boss for the first 15 years of my life. And then stepping into a leadership role in this organization, my voice was always heard. It was always respected.

I never had to fight. I never put my foot down, you know.

Amelia: You’ve literally got the microphone, right?

Mary: Literally. But I was always empowered in such an amazing way throughout my life. And I do consider myself really privileged and lucky. But I have to remember that this isn’t everyone’s story. That not everyone was dealt the cards that I was dealt. And just because I didn’t go through it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and it doesn’t mean it’s gone away.

So all I can do is try to be the best version of myself that I can be to show people what women are capable of achieving when we’re given the power to speak up and to be strong and to be outspoken and not feel like we’re going to be interrupted, that we’re going to be cut off, that we’re going to be undermined.

And this goes for every single marginalized or minority group. You know, that’s one thing that you said earlier on that I was going to mention which is, you know, when understanding your self-worth and understanding how much more of this perhaps worthiness gap exist in minority groups, for us to say, hey, you need to find some self-love and bring that to the table. It’s also kind of complicated because they don’t face the same struggles that we face.

They don’t – our path was so much easier in that regard, in so many different ways. So I mean, before we wrap up this conversation, I know that you do a lot of work around diversity, inclusion and equity and all of these things. Do you believe that there are ways that as organizations, we can find means to be more empathetic with individuals who have such different realities than we do? And how can we encourage these people to step up and find their worth without feeling like they’re going to be talked over, that they’re going to be reduced?

Amelia: Right. Well, I think the first thing I would say is, I learned so much because I had hypotheses about different, as I said, different ages, different demographics, gender and other identities. The thing that’s, one of the things that surprised me was in likelihood to speak words of kindness to myself, likelihood to say I love myself. It was almost 3% higher in populations that identified as black or African-American than for white or Caucasian.

And I was like, I need to understand that better. Like, why is that? Because it’s a little counterintuitive at first blush. But then as I dug into more of the kind of the interviews and the qualitative feedback, it made so much more sense. It’s like, Well, hey, Amelia, if the world is not going to pat you in the back, the world is not going to immediately look at you like, you know what? You’re worthy.

Like, let me go and kind of clear the path for you and make sure that it is an easy path. If the world is not going to celebrate you, you’ve got to learn how to celebrate yourself. So I was like, okay. Like, that’s, that’s deep, right? That’s, you know, that’s a real acknowledgment of what it means to have privilege or not have privilege.

And so I feel like, actually, you and I and many people, we can all learn from our black colleagues who’ve had to have this strong voice of self-love and self-worth. And I’ve learned a ton from my dear friends and I think to your question, then to kind of think about, well, what can we do such that that problem of the mental gymnastics, the, you know, the world not seeing you as worthy that we can kind of acknowledge that and kind of tear that down.

So I use the word pretty deliberately, to sort of deconstruct the system. We live in a system whether or not – you know, it’s like we’re the fish, right? We’re sort of swimming around this, the system. And I do think there’s things we can do. For me, it does start with seeing people and their lived experience and curiosity about what is their lived experience and how are they.

How might it be different? That my own experience is not the same. So I think that curiosity is important. And then I think the strongest thing that we can do is really around allyship. To the extent that I have any power, both personal power or positional power, how am I using that on the behalf of people who may not be handed that power?

And I think that’s what we’ll start to see making a difference. And so that we sort of and I can almost I’m very visual. You can I will start to see changes in in the system when more and more people feel like they look above and see someone like them in a position of power. That makes a real difference.

Mary: Yeah. Well, to wrap up this incredible conversation, I want to be able to apply this in a sense, because while I believe these concepts are beautiful and so very important, how do we connect them to what shareholders want to see, to what the board wants to see? How do we connect this to growth?

Amelia: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. So I think – I’ve definitely done some of the research around the way in which when we feel like we can show up with our whole kind of self and more human, that the organizations that focus on that human experience are twice as likely to outperform their peers over a three year period.

Like there is both, you know, to your point, intuitively this is what kind of workplace I want to be a part of. Sure. But also that we do know that the kind of workplace that gets to the better results. I think also knowing, you know, I tell a board members or CEOs, if you want to counteract the great resignation, if you want to deal with burnout, you want to deal with this lack of well-being, you want to attract your Gen-Z audience, you’re going to have to figure out how to make them feel worthy and loved.

And there’s a way, without being crass about it, there’s a way in which it’s the new currency I think, around that empathetic kind of leadership style, that authentic leadership style that we kind of need, that we’re all a little bit bruised and hurt over the last couple of years.

Pick your favorite reason. Like, there’s a lot of reasons, both personal and societal. And I think we all need a little bit more empathy in our workplaces.

Mary: Yeah, that’s interesting. A couple of years ago, all companies had to do was throw some Patagonia swag in your direction and, you know, put a ping pong table in the meeting room and like, “welp, we’re good to go”. And nowadays, it’s so much more, it’s so much deeper. People want to be seen. They want to be recognized. They want to be able to bring their authentic selves into work.

I was telling my team about this earlier today. The idea – you spend so much time at work, we spend the best 8 hours of our day at work.

Amelia: Well, I mean, actually, I’ll take that one further. We spend more time at work now than any other culture and any other time in history. So that’s also where we kind of worked at home and lived at work.

Mary: That part is terrible. But if you cannot be yourself when you’re at work, if you’re not allowed to be yourself, then your existence is a sham. And nobody wants that, you know? So, I mean, here’s to –

Amelia: Yeah, no, the one thing I will say, because I feel like it’s about this part of the conversation where I do feel like I need to talk about those healthy boundaries, like recognizing that, yes, showing up authentically doesn’t necessarily mean that, you know, you kind of bring in all your dirty laundry.

Mary: You’re going to smoke pot in the restroom.

Amelia: Right? No, exactly. So I do think there’s a part where this is the part of the conversation we talk about healthy boundaries. And then I also think there’s a part of the conversation you know, and friends have pointed out, like, I’m not sure I really care whether or not my, you know, the pilot flying my plane is feeling loved and worthy right now.

I just want to know that she is going to do a good job up and down, right? Or our surgeon is like – okay, I get it. That there may be different roles, different times when how we feel at work as more or less important. So I don’t I try not to have a sweeping generalization and recognize that there are moments where it’s like, just do your job.

Like, that is what you’re being asked to do. Get the plane up. Get the plane down.

Mary: The last thing you want is your pilot being all emotional over the speaker. You know, “Hey, I just want to say that I’m having a really bad day, y’all.”

Amelia: You and I might say that to our team like hey, I’m at maybe 75% right now. I didn’t sleep last night. My kid is sick like that at the doc, but I’m not about to do open-heart surgery on my team, you know, like they can know that I’m at 75% speed.

Mary: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is such a great conversation. Before we sign off, is there somewhere that people can get your book, is there an easy link? We’ll add a link to Amazon to buy the book in the footnotes. But where can I invite people to get to know more about you and your material?

Amelia: So I would definitely send people to my website. So it’s just ameliadunlop.com, super easy. And obviously, you know, wherever you buy and love books, I encourage people to go. I think the other thing I wanted to share just before we wrap up is I always like to make sure I’m giving people something they can take away and literally do this afternoon to take with them to work tomorrow.

And I feel like there’s a couple of things I wanted to just share, both for ourselves and then what we can do for another. And one of the things that I think, I already talked about the 3 reasons why you’re lovable, so that I encourage you to do. For the other things for ourself, this is something that I learned a while ago. It’s called the 1% rule where, it’s this idea that – and for me I learned about it when I had just come back from my second maternity leave and a mentor of mine said, okay Amelia, you’ve got a lot going on, family, work, you know there’s a sort of chuck it all go become a goat herder, 180 degrees.

It’s like, well, can’t do this anymore, right? Like just time out – and he was very, very wise. He said, Okay, before you get to that point, I want you to make a 1% change. Like what? What do you mean? It’s like, okay, well, 1% is, you know, it’s a couple of hours a day, it’s 2 hours a day that you make sure you’re giving back to yourself.

It’s 6 minutes an hour it’s more than a little over half a day a week. It’s how do we kind of just throttle back by 1% so that we don’t feel like we’re living on an edge or we’re trying to do so much both at home and at work. So I find myself going back to the 1% rule all the time.

I find myself telling others and sharing that I feel like I wanted to share that with you and your listeners as just another one of those things to kind of kind of be thoughtful about. And then in terms of what we can do to kind of demonstrate love and worth to others. There’s two things that I love.

The first I call micro affirmations, where we all know what a microaggression is. And I’ve been in situations where I’ve literally sat down with the team, said, Okay, great, now we’re going to talk about what are micro affirmations are. And the micro affirmation, instead of getting side-eye on somebody with a presentation, it’s calling out, noticing, catching people in the act of doing a good thing and making sure in those tiny little ways. It’s the high five on Zoom.

It’s these ways in which we just feel seen and affirmed. But they’re tiny, right, they’re really, really tiny. There might be slivers throughout the day. So I like to encourage people to kind of start spreading the kind of micro affirmations out there. And then one of my favorite things in the heat of the battle, so to speak, where I am aware that a lot of things I talk about are actually incredibly hard to do consistently.

But one of my favorites is just a simple do-over, where that didn’t go as well as I wanted it to. It probably wouldn’t help if you and I rehashed exactly, well, you said this and then I said that, and I assumed this and you didn’t have this context and then you disrespected me here. None of that is going to be very productive.

But instead, I value you. I care about you. Can we just have a do-over? And I’ve literally had do-overs of entire meetings.

Mary: Wow.

Amelia: I was like, whoa, that didn’t go well. We’re gonna do that one again tomorrow. And the simple practice, because it gives grace, gives grace to the other person. Like, yeah, they really were kind of a fill-in-the-blank during that meeting. Or, you know what?

I get a little cranky. Like, you kind of got cranky, Amelia. And that wasn’t super helpful either. So we’re going to have a do-over after everyone’s slept on it.

Mary: Sure.

Amelia: So those are some of the things I like to leave with people to kind of really put the practices of love and worth into action.

Mary: That’s great. That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Amelia, for coming on. And I’m going to end this episode with a little micro affirmation of my own for my team, Ashley and Steve, who are on this call listening in the background. Thank you so much for everything you guys do. I couldn’t do this without you. And with that, I invite you guys to join me again next time for the next episode of Voices of CX.

Thank you so much, Amelia, it was such a pleasure having you.

Amelia: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.


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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.



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