"Listening is a superpower"

with Mimi Nicklin, Author and Empathy Advocate

Show notes:

Mimi spent almost 20 years building her international advertising career when she was challenged on her leadership style, ‘is it intuition or is it empathy?’

Just arrived to a new country with her small daughter in tow, Mimi realised she had been mis-sold a job and faced the challenge of trying to rebuild a failing company. She realised that listening, and most of all empathy, was a superpower and used it to not only turn the business around, but become a best selling author along the way.

I learnt so much from my conversation with Mimi and from reading her book, I’ve already started incorporating some changes into my business. I loved her approach to balance – it doesn’t exist, so stop chasing it. Mimi uses her position as CEO to set the tone for her team, ‘life first always’, which is definitely something I’m encouraging more in my life and for my team.

We also spoke about pursuing our passion projects – her empathy research, for me the podcast. People might ask why, question whether the audience is there, whether people even read any more (!?) but we have to make something. And it doesn’t have to change the world, or make us loads of money, but why not use our creations as a way of marking our progress?

Resources mentioned:

Netflix documentary, Blue Zones




About Mimi Nicklin

Mimi Nicklin is a Bestselling Author, CEO, Empathy Advocate, Podcaster.

Building a career around Training Listening Led-Leadership and creating more empathy, everywhere with 12,500 students globally, Mimi had a 18 year career in the advertising industry before founding Empathy Everywhere Academy -the worlds first training platform to use empathy led leadership to drive transformational change in workplaces and our world.”

Mimi’s book Softening The Edge was a bestseller before it even reached the shelves.

Her breakfast show, hosted from home during lock down, reached 85,000 people and her social following is growing at 150% month on month. People want to listen to her message, Mimi wants to listen to their stories.

Mimi is a mum of one, a global citizen currently in Kuala Lumpur and her career within branding and storytelling agencies led her to become an Empathy advocate – having read her book myself it opened my eyes to the Empathy deficit and how we can play a small part individually in changing thi

Mimi Nicklin’s Links:




Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:05):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business owner. I am so pleased to welcome Mimi Nicklin. Mimi Nicklin is a bestselling author, CEO, empathy, advocate and podcaster, building a career around training, listening led leadership, and creating more empathy everywhere. With 12,500 students globally, Mimi had an 18 year career in the advertising industry before founding Empathy Everywhere Academy, the world’s first training platform to use empty led leadership to drive transformational change in workplaces and our world. Mimi’s book, Softening the Edge was a bestseller before it even reached the shelves. Her breakfast show hosted from home during lockdown reached 85,000 people, and her social following is growing at 150% month on month. People want to listen to her message. Mimi wants to listen to their stories. Mimi is also a mum of one, a global citizen currently in Kuala Lumpur. And her career within branding and storytelling agencies led her to become an empathy advocate. Having read her book myself, it opened my eyes to the empathy deficit and how we can play a small part individually in changing this. So thank you Mimi, and welcome. What an intro and what a job you have.

Mimi (01:40):
Thank you. What an intro. Even when I listen to you say it, I mean beginning of the year and I listen to you and I think, oh, I’ve done, okay, that sounds quite good. Thank you.

Caroline (01:52):
Everyone should do these podcasts just to have an intro written about them because I’ve done some podcasts where they get them to intro themselves, but I find, I dunno what you think, but as women, we can sometimes downplay what we’re doing and I feel like, no, this is my opportunity to let you know what you are doing and tell, help you tell your story a little bit, although you’re an expert on that.

Mimi (02:12):
Well, thank you. It was nice to hear it.

Caroline (02:15):
Thank you so much for coming on today. What has been your career journey? I mean, starting way back that has led you to follow this path of empathy?

Mimi (02:31):
Yeah, I mean it was definitely not a plan, shall we say. I mean, certainly becoming an author was, I don’t think I ever thought about it ever before. I think I still don’t think about it actually even a couple of years on. But I worked in advertising my whole career. My dad was an ad man, one of the first in that very kind of Mad Men era. If any of your listeners ever watched
Mad Men.

Caroline (02:53):
I’m such a madman fan, was he creative or account side?

Mimi (02:58):
He was creative, but he became a founder and CEO. So he was both, I guess a bit like me, and it was real Caroline. That is literally how they live their lives. So I think I grew up with this just amazing commitment to working in that industry. And advertising is one of those industries that people mainly fall into. There’s not that many of us who kind of grow up saying, I want to be in advertising. And I did. So that was my path. That’s amazing. It was amazing actually. So my dad only ever gave me two pieces of advice. One of them was don’t go into advertising. Clearly, totally ignored him. The second was, if you do, you should start in London on a Proctor and Gamble piece of business. And that one I did do.

So I grew up with this commitment to going into the industry and I researched at such a young age when I look back now, but I guess in my late teens, which agencies in London of the big global agencies had Proctor and Gamble, PG business, and there was a handful at that time of big ones. My dad had told me that if you work for those really big guys, you are going to learn.

You’re going to learn and you’re going to fly faster. And I think him and my mum knew from four years old, this girl is not going slowly. So he gave me that advice. I looked all around London in my late teens. I found the agencies that had this particular big client and then I applied. I really remember being in university and sitting on a bed with a digital camera. I guess we must have had phones, but we weren’t really using them for video and stuff then because I had to do a video application and now you mean I could do a video application in a minute, but then I remember thinking, this is impossible. I wish I could see that video. Maybe it’s in an archive somewhere.

But I made this video of, I can’t remember what, but something, I got the job and there was 9,000 applicants, I think for 11 jobs or something. So the video worked and then I spent the next 18 years, more or less in advertising, in advertising agencies. I travelled the world. So I only worked in London for about four and a half years out of university. And even though I’m British, I have never been back since other than to visit. So those 18 years were spent predominantly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I’ve been over here in this side of the world and in 2018, just sort of pre pandemic life, I got a job in Dubai and I moved with that job. I was a single mom at the time. She was one, so she was like a babe in arms. And I moved to Dubai and started this regional CEO role again in one of these big agencies.

But this time the job description and the reality that they had sold me was entirely different to the reality that I arrived in. So I turned up in Dubai, and anyone that knows Dubai today, that city has come a phenomenally long way in six years. I mean, it was not a bad place before, but I mean it has evolved so fast and it’s one of those rare places that Covid has just sped it up. But in 2018, it was a very different market. I arrived just before Ramadan. It was like 52 degrees heat. It was quite an overwhelming reality. And the business was basically bankrupt, but they didn’t tell me. So I left everything I knew and moved with my baby to a city where I knew nobody at all at the time to take over a business that was bankrupt, that had no real clients.

I can’t talk too much about it. I’m always quite sensitive about what I say, but it was extremely difficult. And Caroline, I was totally unprepared. I had none of the skills to deal with that. So I guess the last minute of that story is that in that time, so I had come from very corporate advertising all of those years. And now I was supposed to be an entrepreneur overnight. I was supposed to fix all these things and I was used to having big 20 people in finance and people around me, but in this business, they weren’t there. So I went to see a business coach for lunch, and in that lunch she asked me about my leadership style and I was talking about intuition and I was saying, well, I am a very intuitive leader and I use my intuition for X, Y, and Z, which I had been believing and saying I guess for however many years I’ve been a leader, 10 years at that point. And she said, Mimi, can I stop you? Is it intuition or is it empathy? And I was like, no, no, no. What’s empathy got to do with anything, particularly the business world. But I left that lunch, I went away and researched it. I discovered the empathy deficit, which you mentioned in your introduction, and my life changed. So that’s where I began.

Caroline (08:33):
That’s incredible. And I’ve got so many things to ask. I mean, going to Dubai for a new job, which even though yes, you were sold a different job too the one you are actually getting, what do you think that’s in you that made you, especially as you’re a new mom, 2018, so it sounds like we had our children quite close together. So I’m thinking back to me in 2018, I can’t imagine, especially on my own, moving across the world away from everyone, do you think, is it your passion for the industry or did you just know that this was going to lead you to something else that was right for you and your family?

Mimi (09:08):
Yeah, I did it twice again since then, move for this phenomenal young girl that lives with me in my life. I think it’s passion. No one’s ever asked me that, Caroline, but I think it is passion. And back to my point around intuition, although I have now reframed my understanding of leadership and certainly discovered empathy, I think in my life choices, I I’m quite intuitive and it’s probably a bit of both what you said. Was it passion? Yes, because what I was being offered, I wanted to solve. I’m very ambitious, but did it feel right? Yes. I wanted that for her. And every decision I make make with my family in mind, but somebody has to lead, right? So I think that’s that balance. And I think when I speak to all my friends in the UK that I grew up with, really none of them, none of them have done what I’ve done for that exact reason. They’re like, Mimi, you’re mad. But I think for people that don’t do it, it is a lot. But for some reason, because I’ve always done it, I dunno, I just keep doing it, right? I love it. I love culture. I love to go to new places for me and for her, right?

Caroline (10:27):
Brilliant. Yes.

Mimi (10:28):
Yeah. So yeah, I just love it. But now I’m going to stay still. I’ve been in Kuala Lumpur for 18 months and I just am in love with the city so much more than anywhere I’ve ever lived. So I dunno, call me back in three years. But for now…

Caroline (10:43):
Let’s see where you are in three years

Mimi (10:44):
I’m staying

Caroline (10:45):
When you’ve written your next book.

Mimi (10:48):
Book, yeah, exactly.

Caroline (10:49):
Let’s see. I have to say there’s something, because you talk about in your book about how then you used empathy to basically turn this business around and turn around the culture of the team. And that’s where it started from and how you were talking with your clients and speaking with your clients. And this is especially as I think it’s really relevant for what we’re talking about is motherhood and business. I think of myself when I had my first child and also other friends I’ve seen, and actually me and my friends were talking about this recently about how I think there’s so much you end up with no capacity for anyone else. And I think that really affects how you can give others empathy. And I’ve experienced it but also seen how I’ve been unable. So it just really amazed me how you had all this empathy and how you managed to lead like this whilst also figuring out your early years of motherhood and how you approach that. And I dunno what my question is from here, but I did think that was quite amazing. So you definitely had this skill of empathy, but you talk about a lot how you can build your empathy and it’s a skill to build.

Mimi (11:59):
It is definitely a skill. And I think if the guests that join us today, if they take one thing away, that would be my dream for this show is to understand that empathy as a skill set. And the more you use it, the better you get at it. Also for interest, the more empathy you use, the less burnout or exhaustion you experience. So the more connected you are to other people, actually the easier things get. And you are right. Empathy has two enemies, like kryptonite to empathy, one is low time and the other is high stress. So what you were explaining earlier, maybe those early years of motherhood or actually any years of motherhood, when you’re trying to balance it all, you kind of have this feeling that I can’t maybe use my empathy or give any more to anybody else too busy and I’m too exhausted and I’m too full already.

But what you’ll find is the more open you are to listening to people, which is fundamentally empathy, the more energy you get back, the better you feel. So showing empathy can be a really small thing. So I went to the coffee shop before we had this meeting, this call, and I do this wherever I go. I lean into people, so I always ask them, how are you? But I do it in a way that they know I’m actually asking. I make them stop, not like, hi, how are you? I’m fine, how are you? Can I have a latte please? I actually say, hi, how are you? And I stop and I look at them and I’m asking, I really want to know how are you? And what that does is it encourages people to speak to you. Of course not if they don’t want to, but most people do.

And you’ll have a short discussion. It can be like 30 seconds with these people. And you’ll find when you get that latte and walk away, you will literally feel better from that interaction. Because as humans, we are social animals. We are meant to connect. Communication is our medium of growth. So you didn’t have a specific question, but my answer to some of those thoughts that you were having is however tired you are, the more you listen, the more you connect with other people, the less tired you will be. It will build them and build you. And it’s this magical skillset that we have. It’s built into your prefrontal cortex. You are born with the ability to empathise. And because of that, as you said, Caroline, the more you choose to use it, the better at it you will get. So you should give it a go next time you’re tired.

Caroline (14:19):
That’s a really helpful sketch you, because I think, and using coffee is a great one, I guess every mom with their child will at some point be going to get a coffee. And just maybe that’s a really helpful tip you’ve just given them is like, use your morning coffee as a time to try giving something to someone else. And it is only a short interaction. So you’re not sitting down with a friend who really needs help. You are just offering something to someone. And what I’d love to know was actually thinking about this because obviously my business is completely virtual and I do this podcast virtually. Do you have any tips on how that could translate on a zoom call when you’re trying to get more from someone?

Mimi (15:00):
Look, I think people ask me this question or a version of it all the time, does social media ruin our empathy? Do virtual meetings stop us empathising? And I think the reality is all these things are platforms and there are people behind those platforms. And obviously in this case it’s us two on a screen. And I hope that at the end of this interview, you won’t go away thinking, oh, she wasn’t really listening to me, right? Because just because we’re not in the same room doesn’t mean that you can’t create connection. I’m really interested in being here with you and I’m trying to make eye contact with you through a screen, and I’m using my hands and it’s natural to me. I like you do this every day of my life. So the answer’s no, zoom doesn’t kill your empathy or stop you connecting with people. But you do have to be a little bit more conscious of that because if I did sit back and did that normal media thing, it’s move my sleep back. That media training will tell you you’re supposed to have this much between you and the ceiling. And if I sat here very formally and answered your questions like this, and yes, immediately this entire zoom room feels different with me sitting in this position.

Caroline (16:04):
That’s so interesting. You look so different.

Mimi (16:08):
The minute you come back and you’re like, hey, I’m back, I’m here. People are like, oh, I want to watch these ladies, I want to hear. So you have to be a bit more conscious I think, of how you use your space. And of course it’s not the same as being in real life because there is a tangibility to human energy to who we are. It feels different when you sit with someone, but I don’t think that it stops us empathising or stops us creating. And we should make sure people know that because otherwise, the more virtual we become, which is every day, the less connected we will be. And I dunno, that’s not acceptable for me in our world because we need to be connected.

Caroline (16:48):
And I love this because you keep saying that’s what humans are, and it automatically, I’ve been thinking about this a lot in an AI driven world, and I’m in the virtual assistant industry, so a lot of people are like, just keep asking me about it. And I think that’s a lack of understanding of what VAs are as human beings as well, and how we can support our people we work with, but also represent them with other people and the human as we bring to it. And do you think this is going to, well, you obviously do because you work in empathy, but such a conversation about what makes us human and maybe more of an understanding for the emotions of a human being and everything we bring to what it means to be human.

Mimi (17:29):
And I mean fundamentally, at least from my perspective, the two most simple things that make us human is that we need to be seen and we need to be heard. And when there have been studies done on infants, so if they look at two infants that are born with, they’re two equally sick babies. The one that gets more empathy, that is seen and heard more as an infant will live longer. So that life expectancy changes. So fundamentally, we live longer when we are connected. And if you or anyone listening in has watched the Blue Zones recently on Netflix, it’s a five-part documentary if you haven’t watched it. Oh yes. Watch it tonight.

Caroline (18:11):
I’ve watched a bit of it, I think. I keep meaning to watch it properly.

Mimi (18:16):
So I recommend it to everyone that hears this show. Truly, truly, it’s life changing. And the purpose of that show is to report back on what the blue zones are, which were established about 25 years ago, which are the parts of the world where there’s the highest proportion of centennials, people that live past a hundred. And in our westernised world where we’re constantly saying we need to do HIIT classes and triathlons and take supplements, and all of this stuff that we live with, what the blue zone show that whilst diet has a role, of course it does. And diet has a role. Fundamentally, life expectancy is impacted by connectivity. So belonging, happiness, multi-generational homes. So having grandparents and parents and children together, connection to your community, laughter. And this is all scientifically proven over a very long time. So that’s why I say for me, what it means to be human is to be seen and to be heard.

If you left this call, and I know you work virtually, but if you imagine for a moment you walked into a meeting room, a physical meeting room, and nobody looked at you, nobody saw you, nobody said good morning. You just kind of walked in. Research shows that within 60 seconds you would start to doubt yourself. You’d be like, what’s going on? Immediately you’re like, why couldn’t no one see, is there something wrong with me within a minute? Because as people like the baby data, like the blue zones prove we need to be seen and heard, which is why this movement or this discussion to increase our empathy in the world is so critical for our workplaces and the sustainability of our health in the workplace, but also for our world. We need for civility, for peace to solve wars, we have to learn to listen to each other because that’s what binds us. So yeah, I think in a world of VAs, and you touched on that there really having an understanding as to who these people are, what they need and why they do this job to be a VA or a pa, is this phenomenally attentive, committed role, what’s the motivator? What do they want from it? Why do they do it? What gives them that joy, that oxytocin moment in their day? So there’s so much you can do, but understanding is where it starts, really understanding who those people are behind the screen.

Caroline (20:40):
I’d just say that actually really hit home when he talked about walking in a meeting room and knowing, acknowledging you, and for any personal assistance to this that have walked into a room and no one acknowledged you while you are delivering something or bringing something to the meeting that’s really hit home. I think that might be a piece where it starts, but I think so well timed as well. I saw a video the other day about how workplaces and teams are getting angrier, especially in the UK apparently. And that’s interesting. And immediately now, because read your book, just thought of your book, and it’s like, is it because they’re not feeling connected? And I love your thoughts on this. You’ve mentioned it a few times. If you are not connected, you are going to feel angrier at other people. Do you think, is there correlations to that?

Mimi (21:28):
For sure. I mean, we have a loneliness, endemic or epidemic. So 52% of us statistically are lonely. That’s over 3 billion people. We have 400 million people with depression. So emotional or mental illnesses and another highest burden to our healthcare cost worldwide. So our world is not in a great state. So I don’t know the data you are referring to, but it doesn’t surprise me because anger or short temperedness, these types of emotions, they tend to be a reflection of another reality. I mean, obviously sometimes there is a thing that makes you angry, but if you find in your workplace or in your personal life, you are getting more and more angry about things that didn’t use to anger you, there is probably another reason for it that it could be your health, it could be your immune system, it could be how tired you are, how well you’re sleeping.

It could be your emotional state. It could be many, many things. But it probably talks to an imbalance of something because we are not meant to walk around being angry all the time. And as I said, often you can notice a shift. And I think I also talk a lot about self empathy, which is the ability to understand yourself. And I think if you are in a workplace where there’s a lot of anger, or even if it’s you, you’re just short tempered and you wonder why it’s a real opportunity to use that self empathy to reflect and work it out because the answer is there. But if you carry on running on your schedule, you’ll never find out you have to stop. You have to slow down. And I often think that’s the solution. I often think that the solution to many of these difficult environments is to slow things down. Slowing down can help you speed up, but if you don’t slow down, you can’t define the problem, let alone solve it.

Caroline (23:10):
Yeah, I guess what you’re saying is also you could apply that to a workplace as a person. You can be like, yes, I need to stop. I think as individuals, you hear a lot of this, I need to stop and slow down. But then businesses where they’re chasing revenue, chasing clients, chasing growth, they don’t. And that’s where I can see it hugely. I think I’ve experienced the workplace exactly like this. They were chasing growth, chasing revenue, and they needed to stop and they couldn’t. And I think it just would always lead to challenges within the team. That makes huge amount of sense. And speaking of loneliness, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but for me, if I’d moved abroad with my child that young, I think coming from somewhere when I was the first of my friends to have kids, I hugely experienced loneliness in my first, for the first year or so and pregnant and not having the people I’d grew up with or and knew really, really well relating to that. And so while I wasn’t lonely in the sense I was around people, I was isolated in that sense. Do you think your work with getting a coach in Dubai and how you invested in everyone in your team stopped you then from experience loneliness, moving to somewhere across the world?

Mimi (24:22):
It’s a great question. I think let’s start with the definition of loneliness. So loneliness is not the absence of people, but the absence of connection. So you can be lonely in a full room, you can be lonely in the workplace, you can be lonely in a, I don’t know, a co-living environment. So I think when I hear your story, and it resonates with me because so many women feel that that loneliness when they have a child, either because they’re the first or maybe because they’re the last, so they’re having a baby and everyone else’s kids are already eight or 12 or something, and they’re like, oh my gosh, I’ve got to go back to Pampers. So I think the first thing is to find those connections around you, people that can connect in that way. And yes, probably for me, because I’m so connected to people everywhere all the time, I don’t think I ever feel lonely.

I think it can be overwhelming. I think working from home alone, and as you know, I want to play a lot as any entrepreneur will resonate, and it’s such a stereotype, but it’s so true. You have to do everything. And that can be really overwhelming. And I think when you have a team around you, it’s easier to share that with the person sitting next to you or your team at the coffee bar or something like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? But you don’t necessarily want to call someone to say that your colleague and be like, Hey, listen, I’m just calling you to have a moan, right? So in that way, I think that I guess that overwhelm or that anxiety that can happen on those crazy days can be quite lonely because everything stacks up on you. And the only person, I’m sure you resonate, please, I hope that’s not an assumption, but the only person that can solve everything is you. And you’re like, I just need somebody else to solve a problem for me. It’s too many things to solve.

Caroline (26:10):
Ultimately, it stops with you. And then when you add motherhood to that and everything, and we know there’s still the imbalance of, in a lot of homes, not in all homes, but a lot of homes, the imbalance, which I know our listeners do relate to with the imbalance in the home where it’s on them. And I think that’s where, when you’re also the career one, that can be really tough, can’t it?

Mimi (26:30):
Yeah, and I actually put a LinkedIn post about this. It’s actually very good timing, just on Friday night saying, I don’t believe in balance. What I do believe in is integration. And why I say that is balance as a word, insinuates some type of equilibrium. If you think of a visual of balance, it would be scales, right? For me, in my experience as a working mom, there is no such thing as balance. What there are, in my opinion, are choices. So you have one hour right now, you can fill that one hour with whatever it is, doing a podcast, attending to your clients, interviewing a new team member, reading the 17th email from your kid’s school or spending time with your child or your children or making dinner or whatever. But all of those things take one hour. You have to choose. Life is a working mom is constantly about choice, and that doesn’t come without consequences, but they’re choices and you have to make them.

And we make a million choices a day. And I think that for as long as we try and aim and strive for balance, in my opinion, you will keep disappointing yourself because it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as balance. There is just choice. And you can integrate really well. I was a single mom for the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life, and I’m not anymore, but I was for a long time. And that’s just the reality, right? You have to choose this hour, I choose to be with her, but the next hour I choose to, I dunno, write another chapter in my book or attend a call. I think Caroline, for me, again, it’s about self empathy, but it’s also empathy for others and just working out who needs rot from you when and how to create that system to enable that. Does that make sense?

Caroline (28:14):
It’s so true. I actually have a mentor myself who’s always called it integration rather than balance, a working mom herself.

Mimi (28:21):
There we go.

Caroline (28:21):
And it is, yeah, balance makes it sound. I mean, have we ever heard men talk about balance in that way? I think they’d probably refer to it more as choice, and I think also the reframe, because sometimes you think you have to do stuff, but there’s that reframe when you say choose as well, I guess. Like, oh, I choose to do the school run today rather than I have to do it, but I made it that choice.

Mimi (28:45):
Yeah, that’s a choice. Exactly. Yeah, that’s really nice.

Caroline (28:48):
And for the first four and a half years then, did you travel a lot or was that when travel pulled back, you kind of had to make that choice with your daughter?

Mimi (28:56):
No, well, it was covid. It was covid.

Caroline (28:59):
Oh, okay. Yes, of course. We’ve just come out for a pandemic.

Mimi (29:03):
Yeah, minor two and a half years of our lives! But yes, that actually helped, I guess in that way. I think also, so first of all, I couldn’t travel, but second of all, I think if Covid hadn’t have happened, I never would’ve worked from home. And now I never would work from anywhere else. Because what I’ve realised now, and you and I touched on this before we came on air, is I can’t imagine, I cannot even get my head around the thought of having to commute on top of everything else. So what I know now is my daughter comes home from school every day at four. She has a nanny who brings her. I live in the east, so that’s far more easy for us on this side of the world than it is in western Europe. So I’m very lucky. I have a phenomenal woman who picks her up for school from me because it would be very hard for me to leave my office function at four in the afternoon, which is 12 o’clock in Dubai, the middle of the day.

So we created a structure, a choice that, so I will take her every day without fail, unless I’m on a plane. This other lady picks her up. I know that she comes home at four 10 ish by the time she’s got here. And so I always try to block in my diary like four 10 to four 30 because I know when she opens the door, and if she does it every day, she opens the door, mom and I can always say, Hey baby, I’m always here. So the thought of not being here, the thought of only getting home at eight o’clock, because that is the reality that so many working moms have. I can’t even imagine it. But if covid hadn’t have happened, it would’ve been my on. You would’ve just carried on. Of course. I would’ve just carried on. That was the only world I ever knew.

There’s nothing I could never have imagined doing any differently. So I did stop travelling for a few years because we did move to Sri Lanka after Dubai. So in the middle of the pandemic we did move as you do to a desert tropical island where nobody, so that was another adventure. Amazing. And we did a lot together. My little girl, we’ve really done a lot of interesting stuff together. Now she’s six and a half, and I try to leave her home more because she can, and she’s happy. She has a stepdad in her life now and a full structure here. So she’s happy. She’s like, bye mom. And she tells me, Caroline, she says, as long as you only choose the meetings that earn you lots of money, I’m okay. I’m like, cool. This one’s worth a lot of money, babe. She’s like, okay, bye. She knows.

Caroline (31:42):
I love that. That’s fantastic. Do you think it’s really true, I know friends who’ve worked in agency that it’s still very hard for women once they get to a certain point in life in that industry, because you’re still expected to work that way and women choose not to or can’t?

Mimi (32:00):
I do, and I am forever grateful that I’m the CEO of those businesses. So I can set the balance of time for other people in my team and the expectations, and I am the one that gets to say no. That doesn’t mean that none of us ever work an evening or a weekend, but it’s rare actually. Now if I think about it, I don’t think we’ve worked a weekend for a long time. So amazing. Yeah, I think it’s a very difficult industry, but there’s many of them. I don’t think it’s the only one. I think if you’re a doctor, if you’re a lawyer, there’s many of them finance. But yes, I think it is finance, all of them actually. But I think the big ones, but pretty much any job you choose to do. But yeah, it is a difficult industry because you are sort of managing client expectations.

But I think, as I said, I’m in the fortunate position that I’ve been able to found that business. So I’ve made it so that it works. And I always say to my teams life first always. So life is just more important. So if you have to go to the vet or the doctor or the school play, or I dunno, whatever it is your husband’s graduation go, we are not unfortunately solving cancer. We’re making pieces of work. So it is a difficult industry, but yeah, it is about perspective and everything can wait most of the time. Maybe not your children, but at work, everything can wait.

Caroline (33:23):
That’s great. I just feel like speaking with someone in advertising, that’s something I couldn’t brush past because I know I have had friends who found it difficult or were in the industry and thinking, I need to get out before I get to this point in my life and go in-house somewhere. And so you spoke to your coach and they were like, is that empathy? You researched it and you did this. Wait, people need to go read your book and discover about how you managed to turn this business around and what you brought in. There’s actually things I’ve brought in when my business to do a music and things like that, that I was like, how can I recreate this in my team? But virtually, so we are trying music Fridays here. I thought that was something I could do virtually for the team. So how has this led? When were you like, wow, I can write a book on this?

Mimi (34:10):
Gosh, never. Even now I’m like, did I write a book on this? No. Look, I think that that process was, as I said, it was incredibly difficult. I met with the coach, I had this kind of epiphany around empathy, but it took a few months where I had to research it. And before I knew it, I wanted to write about it, not a book. I just wanted to write about it. And I guess it was quite therapeutic for me because I was able to write down some of the things that I was seeing and learning and how that might apply to me. And then I went away for a weekend and I came back and I had 35 or 40,000 words, and a friend of mine said, well, why don’t you write a book? And I was like, me. I was like, I can’t write a book. Surely the only people that write books are like John Grisham and a Harvard professor. And she was like, no, you can write a book. So then I just got a real bee in my bonnet and I was like, okay, right, I’m going to write a book. And I went and got a publishing deal, and the more I wrote, the more I wrote. And today it’s been three and a half years since I wrote that back, I’m now writing the second.

Someone asked me last night at dinner, why are you doing that? Surely nobody reads books anymore. And I was like, well, I think they do. But even if they don’t, I have to write the second one because I have learned so much in these three and a half years that I feel it is time. I did the first one, but now I have to write the second one because I have so much more that I’ve learned travelling around the world all these years doing this in businesses and meeting organisations. And yeah, it’s evolved. It evolves all the time. The world is a different place for obvious reasons since 2019 and 2020 in such a short time. That’s why I wrote it.

Caroline (35:58):
And that is such a good point. I love what you said about that. Someone saying, why write a book? No one listens to books. And I think that is something I’ve experienced. I’ve not written a book, but about the podcast, why are you doing the podcast? Who’s going to listen to it or who’s going to do this? And I think so many women will be listening to this who have a drive to do something that doesn’t look like something immediately you’re going to make loads of money from, or it’s going to make you rich. And they’re like, why are you doing that? And especially when you’ve got a kid or kids, it’s why kind of thing. And I think it’s because it’d be interesting to discuss this because that their own limiting beliefs coming out on you and it makes you question why you would do something.

Mimi (36:37):
Yeah, but I mean, I feel like you love it. Do you love it? You love this podcast. I feel like you do.

Caroline (36:43):
Yes, I do. I get to talk to people like you, Mimi, and I’m learning and bringing stuff in my business thanks to stuff I’ve learned. So it’s quite selfish, really, this podcast.

Mimi (36:52):
Well, I dunno maybe, but I think most of us, most of the time, if you’re doing anything that is above and beyond what you have to do, you’re doing it because, well, at the very least, you like it, right? But most of us love it, whatever that is, whether that’s your, I dunno, workout routine or it’s a podcast or it’s a side hustle business, or you become a coach. And I know loads of coaches who don’t charge for their coaching. They actually have a full-time job, but they qualify as a coach interested in it, and then they just do it for free. They see three people a month. I heard from someone, a gentleman this morning who I spoke to on WhatsApp, he said, yeah, I’ve got another three clients. I know he doesn’t charge them, he just does it. He loves it. But people could say to him, Danny, why are you doing that?

You have a job and a family and a life. Why are you coaching people for free? But he’s doing it because he loves it and because it fuels him as well as them. So yeah, I think there is a huge part of that, Caroline, which is why write another book? I just feel like I absolutely have to, I just want to continue on that. And is it going to make me any money? No, because to any aspiring authors, FYI, there is no money in books. Unless you are aforementioned John Grisham, then you’re probably okay, right? But for most of us, I think a book is, it’s about progress or a podcast will be the same. Any asset that you make, it’s about progress. It’s like a marker in the sand that you’ve reached 10 episodes or 20 episodes or whatever you’ve done with your podcast.

It creates progress, it creates a marker or success. It creates some level of trust and credibility. So for sure, particularly in this side of the world. So I work in Asia and the middle East, when people hear you’re an author, they’re like, okay, that’s cool. And then when they hear you’re a bestselling author, they’re like, oh, okay, now I want to talk to you. Which is ridiculous, but it’s just one of those things, people like to have this credibility. They think, well, if other people have listened to your show or read your podcast, read your book, listened to your podcast or read your book, I should too. So there’s something in that. Also, I think if we didn’t have those things that we make, whatever it’s could be cakes, could be podcasts, could be a book. Life just goes by, right? It’s January, 2024, what happened to 2023 and 2022? I dunno. I dunno. But at least you have some things, right? You look back and you’re like, oh, I did that last year.

Caroline (39:12):
And that’s so true actually, I do not bake or cook or make anything, so I have to make something

Mimi (39:17):
Exactly right. I also don’t, I can barely make toast, let alone anything else. So yeah, the book will have to do.

Caroline (39:24):
We have that in common. We make different things.

Mimi (39:27):

Caroline (39:28):
And I’d love to talk about your platform that you’ve made about empathy led leadership, and so empathy Everywhere academy it’s called. So what does this entail? Who is this for? And what’s this building as well in your journey of empathy?

Mimi (39:44):
Thank you. Thank you for asking and I know you’re asking to help me in the world as well, so I appreciate the question. I guess for three and a half years, this journey, this empathy journey has been and remains to be, but has just been a passion project. And I never really expected it to earn me any money because that wasn’t the goal. I wasn’t doing it to make money. And to a certain extent, I’m still not. But what happened in those three years was, as we discussed, the book became a best seller, and all these things happened. These markers in the last three years happened, and suddenly I had corporate clients, and now I have this unbelievable client list of clients like Coke and the Metropolitan Police Service and government. So six countries and all these amazing people.

So what I realised, and for a long time people asked me to do workshops and I was like, no, I don’t do workshops. And then in 2023, I was like, maybe I can do the workshop. So talking about limiting beliefs, the reality is I had managed or led rooms of people my whole career, but the word workshop made me feel like, oh, no, no, no, I can’t do that. I can’t lead a workshop. Even though actually I’ve been doing that my whole career. So eventually I got over that limiting belief and did my first workshop. Not that long ago, I had done lots of keynotes, but workshops are different. So probably in April last year I finally did it and I did a half day workshop, which felt like a big thing because normally you go on stage, you speak for 40 minutes or an hour, and then it’s done.

To hold a room on your own for four hours is a thing. You have to worry, do I have enough content? Was there too little content? How long should the coffee break be a different skillset? Once I’d done it, I was like, oh, that was fun. That was great. I loved it. And then obviously I went on and did more and more of them in the second half of the year. And where that led me by the end of the year was to say the challenges now, and probably for many of us as entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs in this case, is you can’t scale yourself. So I can’t be on stage in Belgium and Dubai and Kuala Lumpur all at the same time. So if I can’t scale my own time, what can I scale? And then I thought, well, the courses are something I could legitimately prerecord and put my heart into and put them out there, because apparently millions of people take prerecorded courses.

So that’s what we did. I got together with some people that agreed to help me produce it and do that. And I dunno, the step to rebuild my website, which is happening at the moment, to build a fully fledged course website. We also have a store on there, and the site is separated into professional growth and personal growth. The professional growth is very much around listen led leadership and transformational organisational empathy and these types of things. And those courses are slightly more high ticket items. These are like six module. You would go to university and do a course, and actually it’s going to be accredited by university in Asia, so you will actually get accreditation and a certificate for that, and it can be done virtually or it can be done in your organisation. We also took the step to create a faculty of coaches within empathy everywhere, so that when you take those workshops, you can then get access to coaching to activate that training. Because what I realised is you go in and you create such amazing energy and people are like, yes, I want to listen more. I want more empathy in my team. I want to be a listening leadership experts. But then they leave and go back to the day job.

Caroline (43:29):
Yes, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are creating change in various ways, and then it’s like they do the workshop and then everyone’s like, how do we apply this now?

Mimi (43:36):
Exactly. So we decided to build a small faculty, hopefully one day it’ll be a big faculty of coaches who can then specifically coach you around the course content. So you can ask questions and say, yeah, listen, I’m totally in with this course, but my boss isn’t. So how do I manage that? So that’s the one side of the site and the academy. And the other side isn’t personal growth, which is more around the self empathy. And I have a community called Open Room, which is a free WhatsApp based community. We’re about 200 people now. And I realised, again, this is talk about not trusting your gut or something. I mean, they ask me all the time for all of this kind of personal growth help, and I keep looking around, are you asking me? Why are you asking me? I dunno. But apparently I do know.

So I started to systemize that and apply all of this empathy thinking to us, not just the workplace, but to us as people in the world and some of the, we won’t go into politics now, but some of the things going on in the Middle East in the last quarter of the year made me think we need more action in our personal lives as well to help people have skills to represent themselves or self empathy and to listen to others in our personal lives. And what we know is that when empathy is low, all of the isms are high racism, ageism, nationalism, all of them. So I decided to build the personal growth part of the website into there, and we’ll have some courses around confidence and speaking up and professional speaking and those types of things, which fundamentally are connected to the professional side because there’s skills that make you better at your work or better at your job, but they’re far more affordable, shorter, like 45 minutes or an hour.

Also connected to the coaching Academy so that people can come into empathy either way, either with a business goal and perhaps a business budget or just more money to spend or these smaller modules, which they can also get a lot of through the open room community as well, which is free. So don’t tell everybody because then I’ll get it all for free there. But either way, we’re learning from the community and then replicating that on the academy. And I don’t know Caroline, we’ll see, because it only goes live in Feb.

Caroline (45:49):
And I loved what you said there about the personal development going with the professional. So true. So as I’m a people business owner and I listen to podcasts from others who are like, I would never do that again. They really struggle with the people side of things because always something, I think sometimes when people say become solopreneurs and then they scale, they don’t think they’re going to be doing all the work, and then it’s just another piece of work that you’re doing. And it made me realise it just would love your input on here, how much of this is route awareness of empathy and listening led leadership is the fact that people are struggling with other people that aren’t like them, and maybe doing that work themselves will help them deal with people that aren’t like them. Because I know it has for me, that’s for sure.

Mimi (46:33):
Yeah, I mean, I think the key thing around being able to listen, you have to be able to suspend judgement . You have to be able to give up the right to be right all the time, right? Because to listen, you have to actually hear people. And if you’re so busy waiting for your opportunity to respond, you’re not hearing them. So I think, and it’s not our fault, judgement is always seen as a really bad thing. We have to make judgments because as humans, we need to judge our safety every day, every second of every day for our children, for ourselves, is it safe to cross the road? Should I eat this food? There’s a million judgments we have to make in a day. They keep us alive as humans. So it is natural that we make judgments about the people that we surround ourselves with, particularly when the world is so complex right now, and we are all basically living in a fear state all the time, whether it’s politics, whether it’s war and peace, whether it’s violence, whatever it is, we are living in this very anxious state.

And we touched on that earlier from a mental health point of view, that makes us even more judgy because we’re scared. You may not know you’re scared because it’s living in your subconscious, but you are right. You are living in a fear state. And that’s for many people, it’s been the case since covid. So to be able to listen better, to be able to understand people that aren’t like you have to be able to suspend judgement enough to listen, which means just hear them. Doesn’t matter if you like, it doesn’t matter if you agree, just hear them. But to suspend judgement , you have to work on yourself because that’s the only person that can do that is you. So yes, it is very cyclical. Our ability to listen as a society relies on you making a decision to listen as an individual. And that can be difficult.

You can be in an environment where you feel threatened, you can feel like there’s stereotyping going on, or that you are at an unfair disadvantage or frightened. There’s a million things you might feel that stop you from listening and judge the person and their behaviour. But to be able to connect with people like us, we have to be able to move beyond that, at least for a certain time period, to hear them out. So many conflicts when you talk about conflict negotiation and you talk about communication, we forget that 50%, maybe more actually of communication is listening, not speaking. So we can solve conflicts, we can solve arguments and all these types of things if you listen. So there we go. That’s my message to the world.

Caroline (48:52):
I think that’s a lovely message to the world. I was about to ask for any future founders, leaders here listening who are also mothers and just interested in finding out more how they could support the people around them and their teams. If you had any tips, and I think you’ve just ended on it, really. It’s listening.

Mimi (49:11):
It can solve so many of the world’s problems, so many of your problems, to every one of you listening, if you just give it a go again, I mean, you can find loads of this on my Instagram page at Mimi Nicklin, you can join the community. We give it every other day. We post on the community and every other day we give tips on this. We give downloadable PDFs and models and all kinds of stuff to help people listen more. But the minute you do it, you see a difference. So it can change our world, but it would also change your world with your husband, with your kids. Can you imagine how many broken marriages we could change? Or how many difficult parental teen or parental toddler for that matter, pretty sure they’re the same thing, but parental teen relationships we could fix if we were able to listen. Or can you imagine if leaders were judged on how well they listen versus how well they speak, how we could change things. So I would just encourage anyone to really try it, try to listen more than you speak as a leader, as a mom, as whoever you are, wherever you are, and see what happens. Because amazing, amazing things happen.

When you start to listen to people, you learn miraculous things and you see things that you’d never seen. If you have a commute, or even if you don’t, you take your kids to school or whatever you do every day tomorrow, when you do it, try and look at it different. Try and listen to that commute differently. Hear it differently. See the same coffee shop at the same Costa and the same number 10 bus or whatever it’s you’re doing right differently. Honestly. Please, can someone DM me and tell me you did it? Because it just amazing. It changes your outlook on everything. So yeah, listening is a superpower. You just perhaps underutilizing it.

Caroline (51:00):
It really is. And I know from someone who comes from a place of not being a good listener that things like This podcast helps me do that. And it’s, once you’re aware of it and can judge your listening skills, we can all do better. Thank Mimi. That was so inspiring. Thank you. And so when people are DMing you to tell them about what has changed, how well they listen, my son to DM you and tell you how much his mommy’s done better at listening, but where can we find you to connect with you?

Mimi (51:33):
So you can find me at Mimi Nicklin, that’s @miminicklin on Instagram or actually basically everywhere. I know TikTok and all those platforms, but fundamentally I really live on Instagram and LinkedIn, which is /miminicklin or via my website, which is Empathy Everywhere.

Caroline (51:53):
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much Mimi. I really appreciate it in Kuala Lumpur. I think it’s really late there, so our time of recording. But no thank you and I look forward to hearing more about what’s next for you and your second book when it’s out.

Mimi (52:07):
Well, I want to thank you because you are not a bad listener at all. You are a brilliant listener and I really enjoyed it and I want to thank you for inviting me and also for taking time to read the book because for every person that reads my book, it is just a great gift. Like, well, it was worthwhile. So I really appreciate it and for all the women that listen to you, thank you for doing it. I know as a podcaster how much work goes into this and it was an absolute joy, so thank you for having me.

Caroline (52:34):
Oh, thank you. That’s very kind. Thank you.


Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.