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Warby Parker CEO: Why Empathy Matters
 

Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker, says it's important to teach your staff to be aware of others. Here's why.

Illustration by Jimmy Turrel

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"I want our managers to care deeply about the people who work for them."-- Neil Blumenthal

It's so important to see things from the other person's perspective. When I was at my nonprofit, VisionSpring, I would be in a village in rural Bangladesh, with a community of weavers. I knew they had vision problems, but not one was wearing glasses. I would say, "Raise your hand if you have trouble seeing." No one would raise their hand. 

So I said, "Raise your hand if you have trouble threading a needle." And everybody would raise their hand.

You have to know the right question. I'm starting a workshop for first-time managers. I'm going to lead it myself, with my co-founder, Dave Gilboa, because developing people is our most important job. I want our managers to care deeply about the people who work for them, to know a lot about each person individually and what motivates them.

When Lyndon Johnson was leader of the Senate, people used to say that he could meet somebody and immediately size the person up and frame how he would lead based on what motivated him or her. I want our managers to do that. 

When you have an inexperienced team, people may not know what they want to do. It's part of the manager's role to help people discover what makes them happy and they are great at.

Neil Blumenthal is co-founder and co-CEO of the upstart eyeglasses seller Warby Parker, which is based in New York City. 

From the June 2013 issue of Inc. magazine

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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