“You can’t be too busy to show people they matter to you. As a leader, there’s nothing more important.”

Danielle Burd is an Executive Vice President in commercial banking. After an early-career crisis of identity, Danielle traveled to Calcutta, India where she learned from Mother Teresa the power of unconditional, compassionate love. Danielle has taken these life lessons all throughout the corporate world where she continues to transform lives and companies one encounter at a time.

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How do you love your coworker?

Love looks different for all of us, but I believe there are a few common traits that can help all of us. One of these is to simply listen, not just for what they’re saying but how they’re saying it as most communication is non-verbal. As I take time to listen and hear people’s stories, I find ways to engage their story and look for moments of vulnerability where I can pour out God’s love. At one point, I had a coworker tell me that as a child, he had desperately sought “Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots” and never received them. I was able to find one. After the man receiving it, he cried as he felt loved and cherished. As people begin to feel heard and seen, they begin to discover their own worth and greatness.

Love interrupts. I’ll always take the time to say hello, particularly if someone looks like they’re having a rough day. Trust is not established by what you say. Sincerity, and kindness are established by smallest moments every day. Somebody is always watching you. When someone knows they’re sincerely cared for, that trust is deeper than any bond you can create by sharing mission statement/vision statement. Take the time to acknowledge every person in your organization and get to know their passions and hobbies.

How do you create a culture of love?

You create a culture of love by caring for people every single day. It’s not what I or anyone else said but rather what we did again and again on a daily basis that created our culture. To give an example, there are about 500 employees in our corporate building. I make a point of emphasis to know everyone’s name and a few key facts about them. If you want to see a culture of love, you must culture that love within you every single day. Kindness and love are a lighthouse, and people will be drawn to you. Above all, be consistent with the way you care for people.

Another key aspect to creating the right culture is handpicking the right leaders. I believe this is the biggest responsibility of a corporate executive. I don’t ask ever about their faith, but I will always ask how they would receive and give compassion to others. I also often ask potential hires to reflect on a book I would give them just to hear what kinds of values and points of emphasis they would be drawn to.

One other way we facilitate this culture is through our “motivational moments” Every day at 8:45am we have a 15 minute activity led by one of our team members. There are no rules to whatever activity the leader selects. They could be fun, aerobic, trivia-related, reflective, and just about anything you can think of. These 15 minute bonding moments help create a culture a culture of love where we get to know each other’s quirks and passions beyond the day-to-day work cycle.

Finally, I would say celebrating accomplishments is incredibly important. What you don’t celebrate you won’t replicate. Celebration for the little and big wins helps foster a community where people are recognized and excellence is encouraged in a healthy way. At times, I’ll take celebration a step further and surprise my coworkers with a unique costume or surprise element.

How do you balance time between caring for people and getting “work” done?

Kindness and compassion do not need to take away from your “work.” Rather, in the long-term, they usually creates efficiencies as there’s less office politics and gossip that can hinder your team. Hour long meetings become 15 minutes when you’ve learned to trust one another and work with one another. By spending most of my time caring for people, I’m able to help bring out the best in the people around me for the betterment of the organization as a whole. People are far more productive when there’s no fear of failure or excessive sense of competition between one another.

How do you approach constructive criticism with employees?

I believe in the greatness of people. When people are failing, there is often a root cause that goes deeper than the surface level performance issues. I’ll take the time to listen to their stories and see if we might be able to uncover any challenges such as family issues or poor fit that may be keeping that particular person from excelling. I’ll direct any constructive criticism in positive way to call out the best in people. For instance, “you did a poor job on the last project,” could be refrained as “That’s not who you are. That’s fear of failure. I believe you’re able to do this.” I don’t seek to use conversational formula. Rather, if love and compassion are the lens through which you see the world, these kinds of conversations become second nature.

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