When I was growing up, we moved around frequently due to my father’s work. I knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, so when I saw the kids of the nomadic gypsies travel through my town and show up at school for brief periods, I didn’t think twice about talking to them and asking them to play. Often, they were rejected or picked on for being different. I saw how my parents opened our home to them, offering access to water and help as needed.
Years later, as a teen, I was picking my little sister up from school and heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw a girl about my age with tears in her eyes. She said, “You’re Blandine, aren’t you?” I nodded. “I remember you from grade school and wanted to thank you for always making us feel welcome. You were the only one who didn’t reject me.” She said that our family was known in their tribe for being a family they could trust—a family who wouldn’t judge them.
Her words touched my heart, and as she walked away, the experience solidified for me the belief that everything we do counts and that we are all interconnected. This human connectedness—or human centricity—is expressed in being open, asking the right questions, treating people with respect, and removing barriers. By doing this, we invest in the relationships around us, both personal and professional, and reap the rewards—which are far greater than we could ever imagine. This has been my experience.
I have been called idealistic and a dreamer more than once. My answer to that is to say, “Look at the results.” By prioritizing values centered around human centricity, we all win. This is not a dream. This is the fact of my life, both professionally and personally.
Personally, this approach has enriched my life beyond measure. I fell in love and found myself with four stepchildren. Even though I wasn’t their biological mother, I welcomed them into my heart as if they were my own. The effects of divorce on children are difficult to bear. It is a confusing time with torn allegiances, and we had our fair share of difficulties. I practiced human centricity by putting myself in their shoes and always treating them with respect. By being patient, open-hearted, and always giving them the benefit of the doubt, we weathered the difficult times. When my marriage ended, I stayed close to two of the four children.
A friend of mine once asked my now-adult stepdaughter, Bronte, what it was like back then, and she allowed me to share this with you: “Our father demanded a lot from us with school and grades, and sometimes it felt like too much. Blandine taught us patience and how to break things down so that they were manageable. She didn’t judge us. It helped me later in life and is one of the reasons I want to help people in the work that I do professionally. I see the impact that it can have.”
I don’t mention this to brag but to show the concrete results of a human-centric approach. By investing in all our relationships, the world around us benefits. It’s not idealistic; it’s not impractical. It’s the opposite.
I bring the same principles and core values to work. Leading a team into entering a new market, full of challenges and uncertainties, I had to ask a “volun-told” results-driven sales team to stop what they were doing for a hugely successful portfolio and switch focus to a business full of daily curveballs and uncertain outcomes. This ask was not received with a lot of gusto, but whether it’s work or at home, I practiced the same approach: I listened. I asked questions. I gave people the benefit of the doubt and I treated everyone with respect, whether you’re cleaning toilets or leading teams.
My belief is that every person is an essential piece of the puzzle. If one piece is missing, we’re unable to see the big picture, and in today’s competitive corporate environment, you must be able to see the big picture—and the picture, for me, is serving our customers. So, how do we do that?
We practice human centricity. This means going beyond generalized market research, and instead, putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes. We practice deep listening, empathy, and understanding. We uncover our judgments and biases and learn to deal with them.
The good news is that we are actually wired for this. This kind of connectivity, in an environment of safety, brings passion and loyalty. We eliminated the silos. We built open office spaces. We merged sales and marketing teams so they could speak each other’s language, and we essentially created a village. Our business venture went from one that was stigmatized, one many did not want to work on, to one that continued to overperform original projections. Everyone was committed to our big picture, and everyone had a part to play.
I asked my good friend, former VP of National Sales for this business, Lynn, what her perspective was. This is what she said: “The culture shift happened because people’s hearts were engaged, and the right questions were asked.”
This is the power of a human-centric approach, but then Lynn paused and added, “I used the same approach with my daughter.” My heart skipped a beat. This is what I mean about being interconnected.
She continued, “I had my assumptions about why my daughter was doing what she was doing, but I decided to ask different questions, and it resulted in a completely new understanding.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t have done that had we not been doing that type of work with our patients every single day.”
So, when someone says that I’m a dreamer, these are the results I point to, and I say that my dreams are firmly anchored in reality. They are born from experience and they manifest in concrete, real-world benefits that have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact.
How do you define human centricity and apply it to your life?