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Empathy: Leading With The Heart with Claude Silver | Ep. 172

BDD 172 | Empathy


How do you turn your people into champions? Core values differ from one company to another, and that is expected. Leading by example is one that is proven effective, but leading with empathy is absolutely something that will move mountains. In the end, people need people that will listen and then do something. Claude Silver, the Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia, gives us a glimpse of their workplace culture as she emphasizes diversity, empathy, and positivity. Known as the right-hand woman of Gary Vaynerchuk, Claude provides insight on the importance of giving feedbacks and creating that safe place where people feel emotionally and physically secure.

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Empathy: Leading With The Heart with Claude Silver

I am fired up to welcome the Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia, Claude Silver to the show. Claude has helped grow VaynerMedia into a world-class media agency with employees all over the world. She’s built a culture on caring and empathy and simply believes business is all about how you make people feel. She’s inspiring the way business should be done. Claude, I’m honored to have you on the show.

Jesse, it’s great to be here.

We’re going to have some fun. Gary has made a name for himself. It’s showing the brand. The brand can’t grow if they don’t have a great culture. What you are building is simply impressive. How many employees are you up to now?

At VaynerMedia, we’ve got about 650. At VaynerX, which is our umbrella, we’ve got close to 910 in total.

That’s in the last few years, it’s probably almost doubled, correct?

I came aboard May of ‘14 and I was employee number 89. We’re more than double now. It’s incredible. Every day here is a delight because the people that want to work here, the talent that we are able to attract, they’re some of the greatest minds. More importantly, they have such big hearts. It excites me daily.

I love that you say what you do and what you believe in. I take a lot of pride in that with our company being Fans First Entertainment and our mission is fans first entertainment always. Our biggest fans are our own people. You are living it. That’s what’s inspirational. Gary says this all the time, “We want to build the single greatest human organization of all time.” That’s a huge amount of pressure for you as the Chief Heart Officer and the number two there. How are you doing this? Maybe give us a little bit of context. As Gary comes to you and says, “We want to build this,” how are you doing it?

Let me go back in time a little bit. I started May of ‘14. I was here for eighteen months. I was Gary’s first senior vice president that he hired. I was living in London. He moved me over here. I was on the account strategy side. I ended up resigning, which is not easy to do to. I knew I wanted to move much more into the people space and not be as involved in the advertising. I resigned and four months later, we had breakfast. He said, “You’re coming back. You’re going to be Chief Heart Officer.” I knew exactly what that meant because it’s who I am and it’s in my DNA. I said to him at that breakfast, “How do we know if I’m successful?” He said, “Your remit is to impact every single employee and infuse the agency with empathy.” I had to figure out how to do that because there’s no job description.

That’s an enormous target for me. The wonderful thing here about VaynerMedia and I believe my job is that there is no roadmap. It only allowed me enormous amounts of runway. There’s no ceiling in particular to try different things, to get a sense of what the people needed by listening. To answer your question in a simplistic way, I went about it in a macro. I looked at what this org was about who wanted to create the greatest human organization of all time. How are we going to go about doing that? I concentrated on the well, not the faucet, not the minutiae of details of whether or not we had the right coffee in the coffee can. I wanted to make sure that people were gathering to drink coffee, not to bicker about whether or not it was this roast or that roast.

The faucet versus the well is such a great analogy. A lot of people focus on the negative details as opposed to the overall goal of the organization. This person did this, this person did that. How is the whole organization doing in catching people doing things right as opposed to catching people doing things wrong?

It’s so easy to talk about what’s wrong. Unfortunately, it comes easily to us as humans. The muscle that we’re building here is talking about what’s right and talking about how to stand up after you fall down. That’s the optimism here. That’s the sense of possibility and positivity that is being cultivated from the ground, not just from Gary and not just from Claude.

It’s so inspirational the fact that you have it defined clearly. You say the definition of a great culture is about how you treat each other, how you make people feel. It’s that easy and it’s that hard, which is such a great quote. You look at it from a macro level. I get inspired by that because it’s about how you make people feel. I know for many people it’s like, “What does that look like?” That’s why I’m intrigued. As we met back at the Vayner offices, I said, “What are some of those practical things that you’re doing to make people know that you care about them, that you’re there for them?”

The first thing is I talk to them. I find out what makes them tick. Gary does the same thing. We teach and instill in our leaders to do the same thing with people on their team. When someone starts at this company, we send them out with a list of ten to twenty people to go and find, talk to and have coffee with. Why? That person is meeting with a smattering of people, not all apples, not all oranges, to find out what makes them tick. Why they are choosing to be at VaynerMedia, what the culture is all about to them. That right there introduces differences. It introduces variety. It introduces uniqueness to that one employee, which I love. It’s not our way or the highway. It’s everyone’s way.

Another example is we put every single employee through a four-day orientation, which starts on a Monday and ends on a Thursday. That means if you are a junior copywriter, you could very well be sitting with an SVP or with the CFO or whoever is starting that day. It immediately removes the barriers of hierarchical structure. It levels the playing field. These are two things in particular that are extremely helpful for lowering the barrier to entry because when you start a new job, you always feel different. You always feel like, “How am I going to provide value?” The fact is you are providing value by showing up, bringing your whole self to work every single day and getting involved, being a part of this engine and not being on the outskirts.

That’s a great transition, bringing your full self to work. Everyone is talking about your whole self because many employees or many people can’t wait until the weekend so they can go out and have fun. If you’re spending most of your time at work, why can’t you be pumped for Monday? I’m crazy, but some entrepreneurs are the same way. Monday is my favorite day. I can’t wait to get back to the office and hang out with our people. How do you create that whole self to work? You’ve scaled so much. You have Gary who’s larger than life personality out there. He’s telling everyone what we believe and how they are. You’re trying to get other people that aren’t like Gary, that don’t have a gregarious personality to bring their whole self every day. Is it as simple as talking to people and letting them feel connected and have relationships? What happens?

It is that simple. We’re human beings. We have to remember that there are differences in this world. How do I minimize someone feeling different in a way that’s going to not make them feel safe? That’s what I need to figure out. What we do is we take great pride in how we hire here. We’re looking for culture additions, not culture fit. Right there tells you that means we’re going to be looking for diversity. That means diversity of everything, race, creed, color, ethnicity, sexuality and political views but also a difference of values. We’re interested in having people be here that have values in the same zip codes. Show me how you exemplify empathy. It doesn’t have to be how I exemplify empathy. We don’t want the same. Our hiring techniques are extremely important. Creating that safe place where people feel emotionally and physically safe to bring it every single day is my job.

I’ve heard many times you want to hire people that believe what you believe to an extent. You want to get everyone pulling forward. I can see that because if you have people that have completely different beliefs, they won’t fit. There has to be a little bit of this in the same zip code. How are you hiring that is like saying, “We want you to be this. We want you to be who you are?” What are you doing in that interview process? People in our interviews want to try to impress and try to get that opportunity to have a job. How do you say, “No, you be you?”

We say, “You, be you.” That’s exactly what we say.

You got to prove it though. I believe it’s not just saying the core values and your core beliefs like, “This is who we are.” You’ve got to have stories that back it up.

[bctt tweet=”It’s so easy to talk about what’s wrong. Unfortunately, it comes easily to us as humans.” username=””]

You have to have stories. You have to have proof is in the pudding without a doubt. We don’t want people that look like Gary. Gary looks like Gary. We don’t want people that look like Claude. Claude looks like Claude. However, we do want people who will come here with an optimistic attitude and with a mind that sees possibility rather than scarcity. It’s a mind that is curious and wants to be moving the puck forward. Show up with that and the rest is a blank canvas.

I love the curiosity because one of our core beliefs is we look for growth and hunger. It’s hard to teach hunger in people but with hunger is curiosity. Are there certain questions or certain things you look to see if they are curious? Are they going to look to grow and find unique ways to build themselves and build the company?

You ask certain open-ended questions in interviews to see what that person is coming up with. You want to see maybe what they’ve done, but more than anything, I want to see where they want to go, what they want to build. Oftentimes, I will say, “Here’s a blank canvas. Paint for me how you would structure this team. Paint for me how you would create a unified team when you walk into a team that is upset with one another,” things like that. I want to hear how people dream. If you’re dreaming, you’re obviously a curious and creative person.

One of the things we started doing was a future resume to see what they want to be and what they want to do. Everyone that we’ve done it with said, “I’ve never even thought about that.” I’m like, “We want you to be thinking about that” What we started doing, which is very scary, is we’re starting to ask our people who’ve been here three years, “What do you want to do when you’re done with the Bananas?” That’s such a hard question to ask because everyone is trying to build your employees to be with them for life. I get it, but what do you want to do next? If you can open up that conversation, you can help them. It’s not this scarcity or, “Am I going to be here forever or do I get to hide and take two weeks’ notice?” That’s what’s happened. We’ve realized that people are looking for other opportunities without telling you. With that many employees, you’ve had a turnover. What have you learned from the turnover that you’ve had and what new practices are you doing to either move forward in a better direction?

It’s something that we’ve been tackling at this moment. How do I learn why people are leaving? The most important email I get on any given day is an exit interview. Why did that person leave? What we’re now doing is we’re creating stay interviews because when that person leaves, I’m already on the back foot. We couldn’t get to them. We couldn’t surround them with whatever it is that they thought that they were lacking. People stay in places because of the people. People leave places because of managers. We need to have a deep dive into that. Stay interviews, what we’re going to do is we’re going to go out to everyone that is on their 60-day, 120-day and sixth month.

We’re going to be checking in with them because the first year can be rough anywhere. You want to provide value. This is a company that’s changing all the time. We are unique. We are not like any other agency you’re going to find. You might feel like you get us at 30 days. You may feel like you get us at 90 days. You’re not going to sink in and be able to relax probably until your nine-month, twelve-month mark because we are a different place. It’s different in a good way. It’s different in the way that you can go have time with Gary Vaynerchuk, different in the way that your C-Suite is accessible. He wants to get into the weeds with you and tinker around. That’s very different.

These stay interviews, have you started it already or is this going to be put into work soon?

We started formally having them. Having one-on-ones with people is, in essence, a stay interview. However, I might not be that person that they want to talk to. I have people on my team and I oversee what’s normally called HR. We call it people and experienced team. I have people on my team go out and do these stay interviews one weekend and it’s very promising. It’s going to bring some joy into the ecosystem in terms of, “You care about me 60 days in.”

You want to make people feel not scared. I would think some young people would be scared to talk to you or scared to talk to Gary. How do you get them comfortable enough to say, “I’m frustrated with a few things?” That’s how you pull off the splinter and you start moving forward. I love that you’re doing that. We have a small team of fifteen people. Every other week we’re doing walks with our people around the stadium and just talking. There’s no such thing as the annual review. It should be constantly talking weekly. You should never get to a point where you talk once a year and say, “You did a good job or you didn’t.” With a smaller team, it’s easier. It sounds like you’re able to now scale back because everyone’s going to be on that. What about the people that are there for three years or four years?

We want to do frequent feedback. It doesn’t need to be formal. Let me know how I’m doing on any given day. It shouldn’t have to be scary or this thing of like, “You’re going to drop a bomb on me.” If you’re talking to me often and giving me feedback, I should know what’s about to come out of your mouth. I shouldn’t be surprised because we’ve been talking this whole time. Feedback is a gift. It is a way to show that we care about someone’s growth and development. As leaders and managers, if you’re not giving someone feedback, you are unconsciously manipulating their growth and development. It’s too much power.

BDD 172 | Empathy
Empathy: Talk to your employees. Find out what makes them tick. It’s not “our way or the highway,” it’s everyone’s way.


What’s the challenge that you’ve had in the last few years with VaynerMedia? What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

I would say marrying the honey with the empire. That is marrying our incredible priority and the energy that we put into our people here with the fact that we are running a business. How do you make sense internally? How do you make sense with the people around you? That means that because we love you, it doesn’t mean that you might be right. Just because we love you, we need to trim some fat. That’s a tough one for people especially when they’re looking at Gary, myself and others and saying, “You’re a people first organization.” Yes, we are.

How do you set that tone? That’s such a good point because some people are going to have to be let go because they’re not a good fit for the organization. It’s not a good fit for them either. If they don’t see that, they see you as you’re letting them go. You’re ruining their dreams. How do you set the tone in the beginning to say, “This may not work out, we want it to,” and still have that empathy and love?

We rely on something called the alumni group here. That means when we know we’re going to let someone go. If we’re going to let Sally go, we know ahead of time, it’s not just that day. We help her network on the out. We know that Sally is interested in influencer videos. We’re going to help her reach out to YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Vox Media, all of that stuff via Gary’s network. It might not be the place here, but in that same conversation, we’re saying, “We’re going to help you land that next job. We can’t promise you that we’re going to get you a job, but we are certainly going to help you get in the door.”

What does that look like? Let’s give a timing example. You decide that once one person is not going to work well in your team. You meet with them and you let them know that. Do they stay with the company for a certain period of time while you help them get the job? What does that look like?

It depends on the person and the role they’re filling. Most of the time, if you’re going to let someone go and then you give them four weeks at work, they might not bring their best at work. What we will do is most of the time, we give them the option of coming to work for those next 30 days like a working notice. That’s up to them or we let them go that day still with the promise that, “You’re going to hear from Gary tomorrow. Have a look on LinkedIn and let us know what jobs are out there that you might be interested in.”

I’m sure there are many employees and there are so many movements. Does he speak to the person the next day?

You’re not even going to believe this. He emails or texts them on that same day. Every single person that’s let go, he gets a text message from someone on my team with who they are, their photo and their phone number and/or personal email. His email says, “How can I help you?” That’s unbelievable that a CEO would do that now.

Most people would look at the CEOs like, “You’re letting me go. I’m leaving your team.” To come back and say, “How can I help you?” I wonder how those conversations then go move forward.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re dreaming, you’re obviously a curious and creative person.” username=””]

We have a unique situation here. You’ve been here, so you know who Gary is. He’s not your run-of-the-mill corporate CEO. He is a very altruistic CEO. He has his hands in so many different cookie jars. Why wouldn’t you want to team up with him? He’s a great guy. He cares. His actions speak louder than his words. That’s what people pay attention to. How do you make me feel? That’s the most important thing. How are you making me feel, whether or not that’s on the first day of work? Are we creating that safe space for them on their last day of work? Are we still making them feel like they are a worthy human being? I hope so.

When you keep it that simple, I think that’s great. Do you have set core beliefs? Do you have a mission? Do you have your why laid out or is it this simple?

It’s fairly simple. It’s people first. It’s leading with empathy. It’s understanding that speed is a KPI for us. It’s seeing the possibility. It’s seeing optimism and humility with a dash of curiosity in there.

Are those all pretty much your core beliefs and what you stand for?


Have you ever codified your why? I heard Reed Hastings of Netflix. He goes, “We’ve tried to figure out what our why is, but we just make people happy.” Have you ever tried to codify that?

No, we haven’t. It’s been something that I’ve worked on for a few years. I’ve had many focus groups here where I bring a random smattering of people into rooms. We do values exercise on who we are at VaynerMedia and what our beliefs are and our why. I present some of the findings to Gary. We have a conversation about it. It’s nothing that you see on the walls here. We live and breathe it. That works for 98% of people. The other 2% needed something written down, but that’s okay.

You know the intention. You said before, “Find moments to make an impact.” Size doesn’t matter, but intention does. If the intention is how you make people feel the empathy, then having your clear and spelled out why isn’t always the most important but the intention does. Let’s get into the practicality of it. You talked about speed. I want to know how are you focusing on that because a lot of times, speed can go against making people feel. They said, “We need to get this done. We’re moving quick.” That might not be about making sure you’re there for the people or making sure they feel good about it because you’re trying to push. How do you balance that with your desire for speed?

Everything starts with the team. The Alpha and the Omega is leadership. It’s who you got running that team. Are they the person who is going to put people first or are they going to put the client first? Our number one thing that we focus on here is our employees. Our number two things are going to be the end consumer. The number three thing is going to be the client. Clients are always going to want it yesterday. They are always going to want a bigger and bolder. It is a balance for sure. I’m not trying to paint a utopic photo. However, you need a leader that’s going to know how to connect people together and build trust with one another. When you build trust, you start to feel for people. Once you feel for someone on your team, the sky is the limit. That means I’m going to be in the trenches with you. That means I’m going to take a bullet for you. That means I’m going to stay late with you. That builds a sense of longevity, accountability and resilience. That calluses that we need in this day and age when you are working with Fortune 10 or Fortune 50 companies.

Is there anything in particular that you’ve done to make sure this culture for speed is moving forward at a very fast degree?

BDD 172 | Empathy
Empathy: As leaders and managers, if you’re not giving someone feedback, you are unconsciously manipulating their growth and development.


We have to make sure that speed is our KPI along with how we treat people.

How do you measure speed?

You measure speed in a number of ways. You measure speed in terms of the team and the way that the team has come together. It’s a funny way to measure speed, how the team has come together. Are they a team or are they splintered and bifurcated? Certainly, what you get to market in terms of how the consumer is adapting to it, working with it, purchasing it and what gets out the door is another. What do we get to see here? How quick can you get a video idea from brainstorming into our production studio and out the door? That’s actual speed. There are different ways to measure speed. We don’t think of speed as you need to stay thirteen hours a day in order to get the job done. That’s an antiquated way.

Is there any story that stands out for you? Something that you have done or a foreign employee or something that builds your brand on what you are?

We celebrate our anniversary all the time here, our Vaynerversaries. We celebrate each and every person’s Vaynerversary. Whether or not that’s their one year or their nine-year Vaynerversary. In doing so, we celebrate the company’s Vaynerversary. One year, we took every single employee to summer camp for the day in Pennsylvania. We had summer camp activities like you have when you were twelve years old, with a basketball tournament with Gary, tennis courts, egg toss, rope things, rock climbing walls. This was a weekday. You had to tell your clients you were off the grid. To see us all playing together was incredible. It was so much fun.

Everyone traveled down there. Would you have buses and stuff? You went down there for the day and they came back later that afternoon?

That evening. Not only did we get busses, we did a barter deal with a company so that we got our sign on the bus.

I love to barter. I’m guessing you had a big barbecue lunch or something for everybody.

I get up there on stage and I kick it off. We’ve got all kinds of food. It’s a good time. Gary does maybe a little chat. One year, he did a two-hour long chat. One year, he did a half-an-hour chat. It depends on his vibe also. Sometimes we’re having a great time so we don’t want to disrupt that. Other times, he can feel like it’s time for, “I’ll get out there and I’ll say a couple of things.”

[bctt tweet=”People stay in places because of the people. People leave places because of managers.” username=””]

I’m fascinated because you guys put out everything. You don’t share a lot of the videos and stories about the culture. Is there a reason why?

No, we have been, for the most part, a company that has gone under the radar in many different ways. We have a very outspoken CEO. He’s done a lot of communicating about the culture and about leadership and this and that. As we move into 2019, 2020, it is a priority for us to do more sharing of the people that are in here and those people that are cultivating the culture and what they’re all made out of. We do have an Instagram account where we showcase our folks, but it’s not coming out in Inc. Magazine.

What is that Instagram account?

It’s @VaynerMedia. It’s our social media handle. Every single week, someone from the creative team will take it over. They might be someone that lives in Chattanooga or they might be someone that lives in Los Angeles. They might be someone here that takes it over and is a person that identifies as LGBTQ. They will share about that affinity group that they’ve created or that they’re a part of.

Being a true human company, people are buying from humans. It’s not talked about much because Gary got out there. People buy because of Gary because they see him. Many companies market the corporate brand, but they don’t mark the people or the hands that are doing the work. It sounds like your initiative is, “We’re not going to showcase Gary, we’re going to start showcasing other people that are making this company what it is.”

It is the people here, not machines. It is the people that are putting two and two together and coming up with these incredible campaigns. Incredible ideas that were then able to get out into the market.

You’re tremendously inspiring me because I’ve been the showman, The Yellow Tux Guy out there. We’ve had a few of our people. How do you get them? Are they going to be on video? What are you going to do to showcase them in a way that lets people know these are our people?

That remains to be seen because we’re entering into it. It is the second conversation I’ve had about it. I imagine we’re going to get a lot of the top agency marketing press to meet with a lot of our folks and to be interviewed, to have them on more podcast, those types of things. Alongside, showing their wares and showing their crafts, we’ll have them interviewed. That’s going to be a great way to get to know people at scale.

EntreLeadership has done a pretty good job of that, with Dave Ramsey and a lot of the characters and people that he’s shown a part of his organization. I’m intrigued to see what you do. We’re going to go to a game. It’s called flip the script. You are now the host of Business Done Differently and you can ask me any question.

Jesse, I have a question for you. Why yellow?

BDD 172 | Empathy
Empathy: You measure speed in terms of the team and the way that the team has come together.


I get asked that question a lot. It started because I realized what business we were in. We were not in the baseball business. We’re in the entertainment business, the experience business, and the people business. If we’re going to be putting on a show entertaining and having fun, I realized that at our games, I couldn’t be just dressed like everyone else. I first chose a black tuxedo with tail, similar to P. T. Barnum, one of my biggest mentors. It was 100 degrees the first night and I almost melted. I looked online for a lighter color. Our team at the time, the guests, the Gastonia Grizzlies, had yellow in their color. I found I bought that first tuxedo and it took off from there.

I became the Yellow Tuxedo Guy. All of a sudden, we became The Savannah Bananas, so it’s a fit. I believe everybody has something that makes them stand out. We talk about being your whole self. This is me amplified. I am crazy and I’m outspoken like Gary. I bring a lot of energy and Yellow fits me. I would love if everyone had a unique accessory, not a yellow tuxedo, believe me, don’t do that. Everyone has a unique thing that represents them that they showcase. That’s who they are because it opens up people to be their whole self. I went on a wild answer from that yellow, but there’s more to it than just wearing a yellow tuxedo.

It helps me stand out a little bit and helps our brands. As Gary does, you got to be out there. I know when anybody sees New York Jets now, they’re associating the New York Jets with Gary, which is wild. We go on this, question time. If you want better answers in business, I believe you need to ask better questions. We’ve talked about some of the questions you asked, but what are some of the best questions you are asking, either your people or anyone that you’re working with these days?

I ask a lot of why questions because I’m curious. I also want to see where that person is coming from, like where their head is. I’m fascinated with young entrepreneurs. I’d never been around many entrepreneurial minds in one place. The fact that we’ve got nineteen-year-old, twenty-year-old kids here that have been making money since they were thirteen on eBay, Amazon, YouTube, is blowing me away. I ask them like, “Where did you even get this idea? How did this even come across? At thirteen years old, you’re not out there playing soccer?” “No, I’m playing World of Warcraft. I created a World of Warcraft cheat on YouTube channel and I monetized it.” I ask a lot of questions about why and how. I’m fascinated with humans. I’m absolutely fascinated with how they get from Point A to Z, not just A, B, C.

That’s a great thing that all leaders should do is keep asking, not just what are their dreams are? Why are you doing this? How did you get here when you did this? What did you overcome here? It’s a learning experience, not only for you. It’s also learning experience for them because very few people are constantly seeking clarity in why they’re doing what they’re doing. Let’s go to some more fun questions. It’s tool time now. What’s the most important tool you have in your business toolbox?

My ears is number one. My heart and my soul, the fact that I want to make someone’s life better. I’m not a person that’s going to say to you, “My analytical mind or my ability to do work and excel.” That’s not who I am.

Most people go into things that they use like calendar things and different apps. You went into that, which is so awesome. I thought you were to keep going like, “My heart, my ears, my smile” because you said before, “Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.” I absolutely love it. It’s so funny how far a smile can go, but people don’t think about it. Every day when they’re walking into a room, are they bringing a smile? How are they walking into that room?

People are sizing that up or giving some unconscious or conscious bias or feeling or vibe for you within less than a 30th of a second.

I want to go to another quotable from you because I love this, “The way you see people is the way you treat them and the way you treat them is what they become.” What does that mean to you?

[bctt tweet=”Feedback is a gift. It is a way to show that we care about someone’s growth and development.” username=””]

It means that we as human beings have an enormous amount of power to influence. That’s what it means. Let’s be very mindful of how we treat people because people are watching us. We want to turn people into champions.

What’s your favorite part of your morning routine?

I have a four-month-old daughter, so picking her up, telling her she’s the tallest little girl in the world and seeing her smile is the best part of my day. That’s part of my morning.

I have a ten-month-old. When they started smiling, it’s like game over. Now he’s maverick and he’s laughing every day. I’m like, “I don’t want to be anywhere else.” Favorite way to unwind at the end of the day?

I’ve gotten into cooking. I am loving it because it’s a blank canvas. I get a bunch of different ingredients and I see what I can drum up and 75% is edible.

You’re in New York City, which obviously is a foodie galore. What’s your favorite restaurant?

I like ABC Cocina in the Flatiron. ABC Kitchen, I love the vibe. ABC Cocina is their Mexican wing. They have a killer Bloody Mary. I’m from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I grew up eating incredible Mexican food and they do it well.

That’s what I call service. I think about this all the time, the best service experiences. When you think about a restaurant, you think about the service. Has there been any place that’s stood out for you for their service? Something they did or how they made you feel.

SoulCycle, it’s a hospitality company. If you go into any SoulCycle in America, they’ll treat you the same. You have the same smile. They ask you the same questions. You know exactly what to expect. There’s nothing that throws you off guard. You’re about to go into an exercise class. There’s a little bit of intimidation there. You know exactly what you’re going to get. They make you feel like, “I am here for you. The next 45 minutes are going to change your life.”

How do they do that? How would they greet you? What do they do? I’ve heard so much about them. That’s powerful.

BDD 172 | Empathy
Empathy: When you are invited into a room, you’re there for a reason to take up space. Don’t sit in the back row. Sit up front.


They greet you with a smile. That is one thing I can say. They always say, “Welcome. Good morning. Good afternoon.” That’s the first thing. They look like they want to be there. Most importantly for me are the instructors and the type of the championing. I don’t even know the word. They hype me up. They’re talking to a group of 60, 70 people in that class. I sometimes think like, “They said that for me.” They are making me feel something that I need to feel, which is why I go there before I even knew I needed to feel it.

That’s a great symbolism for leadership. It’s how can you encourage people to be better than they even are at the current point. They made you feel that you are the champion. It sounds like you’re going to win the day because of your workout.

They lift something off of my shoulders.

What’s one thing that you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?

I have always tried to make my boss’ day and their job easier. That is in my DNA. It’ll be written down someplace. I’ve always, whether or not he’s Gary or other bosses I’ve had, I want to make their lives easier.

I love the simplicity because if you’re a leader on top of your business, then your job makes the day easier for every one of your employees. If the employees have that same mindset, then it’s game over for your organization.

What you see is what you get with me. There’s nothing that’s complex.

That’s what’s key. That’s why you’re growing so much. If you keep things simple, you can move mountains as Steve Jobs once said. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s to be big in the room. When you are invited into that room, you’re there for a reason to take up space. Don’t sit like a wallflower. Don’t sit in the back row. Sit up front.

[bctt tweet=”When you build trust, you start to feel for people. Once you feel for someone on your team, the sky is the limit.” username=””]

Finally, how do you want to be remembered?

For having an extremely generous heart and for making people feel worthy and valued.

That is one of the biggest things that everyone should take from this interview. It’s how to simplify what matters most. When you can be very clear on your intentions, how much you care and how you make people feel, it makes everything else easier. We didn’t go through a ton of the details because you don’t have to focus on the details if you know what matters most. Claude, I can’t thank you much for inspiring me. Where can people learn more about what you’re doing because it’s amazing?

Thank you so much. Find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I respond to every single person that writes to me. It might take me a few days, but I absolutely will write back. Please reach out.

You are a rockstar. I can’t wait to be back in your office to see you again and your team.

I hope that’s soon, Jesse.

Me too. Claude, thank you so much.

Thank you.

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About Claude Silver

BDD 172 | Empathy

I’m an emotional optimist, coach, manager, and mentor. As the first ever Chief Heart Officer it is my great honor to lead at VaynerMedia. I work for 800 Humans, and I am in touch with the heartbeat of every single person in the company. My role is to infuse the Agency with Empathy. It’s my purpose.

Culture is a texture. It’s a vibe. A feel. And culture is alive. It’s definitely not one or two-dimensional—I think culture is very three-dimensional. Culture is, in a nutshell, the heartbeat for me. It is something that absolutely lights up an entire system — if it is in place, and if it is thriving.