DUBAI EXPAT STORIES. Mimi Nicklin: Sounding the alarm on the growing empathy gap

“We have seen 48% decline in our empathy levels over the last 30 years, and the impact of this has a devastatingly powerful effect on our connectivity, our cohesion and our health. We are more disconnected now than at any other time in history and it is leading us to live and work within a loneliness endemic globally,” says Mimi Nicklin, CEO of Freedm, described as the world’s “most free advertising agency, which aims to empower creative talents without boundaries or bias all over the world, and offering clients far more than simply the solve to their brief.”

“I think people become indifferent when the culture they work within or leadership they work under don’t understand and empathize with them, their outlook and their opinions. As human beings we thrive when we are together, we do better when we are connected,” she said.

“The three decades of declining empathy have led to increasing levels of workplace anxiety, burn out, disconnection and low morale. We are seeing high levels of absenteeism and low motivation.  I write a lot about being ‘lonely but not alone’ – we so often find disconnection and misunderstanding while being surrounded by our teams physically. These are all facets that can be turned around if we only commit to doing so,” Mimi further said.

Mimi created global waves in the business world after releasing her book, “Softening the Edge,” which describes how we all need more empathy, and how business leaders can balance humanism and capitalism. 

The creative entrepreneur, keynote speaker, podcast host and leading empathy advocate is set to cause a paradigm shift in global business thinking with the launch of the world’s first organizational empathy platform, Empathy Everywhere, which manifests her authentic passion to drive better business via deeper understanding of the science and art of empathy, communication and human understanding.

Asked about her plans, Mimi said: “To disrupt the advertising industry, as we know it, to redefine our business as truly people first. To prove that humanism and capitalism can be balanced and that we will grow our creative product and ourselves by doing so. In the years ahead I will passionately continue to inspire and coach organizations on how to do this in their teams, cultures and creative work.”

She said “Empathy Everywhere” offers organizations the opportunity to train their staff and infuse their culture with empathy for the growth of their people and their profit margins.  It offers training and workshops to clients to both educate and inspire on the power of humanity’s oldest leadership trait, she said.

Mimi, who completed her degree at Birmingham University in England had simple beginnings.

“I grew up in the countryside in the south of Britain with a sister, two dogs and a very grumpy cat. My life was a quintessentially country life; living in a small village where we bought our food locally, went to school down the road and grew up knowing our neighbors. 

“My father was an adman and I was destined to follow in those footsteps. And so I did! I have been in advertising my entire career working for WPP and Omnicom, and have been an expat for 14 of those years, travelling the world with my work and being based in cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Cape Town, Dubai, Colombo and Madrid,” she said.

Dubai, she said, is a city that “rewards those who look below the surface.

“It is full of people with a dream of bigger, newer, brighter and it is entirely up to you to find them!” 

One particular life lesson stands out so far: “ To never accept a meeting request before asking the location of the office! I once unknowingly accepted a meeting on the 122nd story of the tallest building of the world (Burj Khalifa) while being afraid of elevators! (I made it, just!)” 

Her advice? “Everything in life is easier said than done, but I have learned that the fear of failure is always worse than the failure itself. In failing we learn, and in learning we grow. 

“Ultimately as humans, we were born to thrive and to continue to grow; without this we bore, lose momentum and lack in inspiration. Balancing the potential for failure against the potential for stagnancy makes you realize that the risk of potentially failing is the far less scary option.”


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