Boet Brinkgreve on Building Empathy in the Workplace

The President of the Ingredients Division shares how true human connection can elevate our workplaces.

It is important to speak about your own experiences and your own vulnerability. I must have done something wrong in my previous life because I always get into challenging business situations and it’s difficult to maintain your well-being under tough circumstances. You need to be resilient, and I have the privilege of having friends and family, playing sports, and having my team around me for support. I try to focus on many aspects of well-being, but my main focus is sports, nutrition, and sleep. I also take care to surround myself with people that give me energy, rather than take it away.

It’s difficult not to have your team around you in these times, but I still feel their virtual presence with me. What really touched me was when people from support functions asked if they could help in the factories when we couldn’t close during COVID. That partnership and camaraderie makes all the difference. 

Sports have also been a great way to connect with my team. It’s something we can bond over or chat about that’s not related to work. I also enable my team to take distance from the day-to-day and make more balanced decisions. Sometimes we need to “digest” the big challenges. Not everything needs to be resolved the same day.

I want to get a little bit better every day and work on continuous improvement. Wanting and having to perform on the highest level in sports forces me to go the extra mile. When I achieve at the highest level in athletics, I feel that much more empowered to bring that focus and success into other areas of my life.

We can work for any other company tomorrow, but the reason I am still here is because this company has a soul and we have great people. I really believe that. It’s the link between the people and the friendship that makes a difference. Talent gets you into the room, but empathy keeps you in the room. It’s the link with the people that truly does make the difference. Let’s try to bring back that soul. Let’s make sure we reinforce the soul of the company by looking after each other and enjoying working together.

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