Gary Vaynerchuk ignites Picatinny Arsenal with ‘Empathy’ and ‘Kind Candor’

By Eric KowalApril 20, 2023

Entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, -- known in social media as “Gary Vee” – spoke with military and civilian personnel here about how leaders and employees can apply empathy, humility and accountability with “kind candor” during a U.S. Army Garrison Picatinny Arsenal leadership speaker series event here on April 17.
Entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, -- known in social media as “Gary Vee” – spoke with military and civilian personnel here about how leaders and employees can apply empathy, humility and accountability with “kind candor” during a U.S. Army Garrison Picatinny Arsenal leadership speaker series event here on April 17. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, -- known in social media as “Gary Vee” – spoke with military and civilian personnel here about how leaders and employees can apply empathy, humility and accountability with “kind candor” during a U.S. Army Garrison Picatinny Arsenal leadership speaker series event here on April 17.

Vaynerchuck described to those attending in the Lindner Conference Center as well as and those watching live via broadcast on MS Teams how employees from the lowest levels, up to those in senior scientist and executives service positions can employ empathy. As he spoke, an image of his recent book, “Twelve and Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients for Business,” was displayed in the background.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, something that Vaynerchuk, who has more than 2,000 employees globally, had to develop over time.

“Empathy is not really something that is talked about and is not really a word that I heard the first 20-25 years of my life,” he continued. “For the journey of everyone in this room, one of the things I want you to think about is having empathy for the person above you (in leadership).”

“When you are working on something as an engineer, or a physicist here for say seven years and you finally have it working in real life, not just in a lab, and then in one-hours’ notice you are told ‘we are shifting strategy and you are no longer doing that,’ there is enormous frustration,” Vaynerchuk said.

Military and Civilian personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal listen to entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk during a presentation in the Lindner Conference Center on April 17.
Military and Civilian personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal listen to entrepreneur and best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk during a presentation in the Lindner Conference Center on April 17. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL

“You are in the trenches and somebody in a board room somewhere is making a call. You are frustrated,” Vaynerchuk continued. “Why? Because it is as that exact moment that the people in this room employ empathy to those above them. If you think about being frustrated with your boss or supervisor, or your boss’s boss, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but everyone has a boss. No matter what your position looks like, everyone has a boss.

“I know the framework of a lot of people’s professional careers in this room and I know that disproportionately the quickest way for them to get happier day-to-day is to put them in the boots, or the shoes, or the sneakers of the people above them, parallel to them, and below them,” Vaynerchuk said.

“Below them comes naturally. There is a sense of ‘this person is reporting to me.’ That comes naturally. But above you, or six rungs above you, that comes hard because you think they should be working for you.”

Vaynerchuck continued to elaborate, explaining that many people are mad at others without even thinking about where they are coming from. Too many are judging new ideas or opportunities without doing research or understanding the larger context.

“Empathy can change all of that,” he said.

Gary Vaynerchuk (on stage) listens as a member of the Picatinny Arsenal workforce asks a question of him during a presentation on April 17.
Gary Vaynerchuk (on stage) listens as a member of the Picatinny Arsenal workforce asks a question of him during a presentation on April 17. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL

Never having served in the military, and or in a government position himself, Vaynerchuk’s leadership processes, on paper, may seem as if they would only work in a corporate setting. The reality is that in both business and military settings, the influence that leaders have on their employees can drive results and how goals are met or not met.

“True leadership is based on humility,” Vaynerchuk said emphatically. “Do you have the humility to know you work for them? It’s easy to do it for the flag because it is a theory. It is not a human being. When it becomes a human, it becomes harder. It becomes more real. Suddenly you must care on an individual basis. Every person, left, right, below you, is different. The accountability of being able to deal with what is hard, is the game.

“The quickest way to for every person here, whether you are dealing with something professionally, or with a loved one, leisure, friendship, life, the quickest way to be dramatically happier the second you leave here is to fall in love with accountability. Whatever the issue is, if you can go 100 percent into accountability, you will be stunned at how quickly your life will turn around.”

With accountability comes the realization that employees can and will be held responsible for their actions. Vaynerchuk then described a hybrid term that he coined called, “kind candor.”

“By adding kindness to candor, we can become better operators and leaders, we’ll have more secure, accountable employees, and the office will be a much healthier, happier place to work,” he said.

Aside from his leadership lessons on empathy and kind candor, Vaynerchuk also touched on the use of social media to influence, and the emerging benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will a normal reality in the not-too-distant future.

Vaynerchuk spoke for approximately an hour before taking questions from the audience.

“I learned from an early age, when you are fortunate to be in the same room with an influencer make sure you start a conversation,” said Jeanie Fortunato, an employee assigned to Project Manager Close Combat Systems.

Fortunato asked Vaynerchuk a question about how to speak to her 17-year-old son who is graduating high school but has not yet identified which direction he wants to head in either academically or professionally.

“Gary not only reminded me of my parenting responsibility, ‘that my son needs to know that it is okay with me that he doesn’t have direction right now and I am 100 percent good with that. But also, he needs to know that I will not financially be supporting him, that he is going to work,’” she said.

“By the end of Gary’s guidance, I found myself with a sense of calm and that everything is going to be alright,” Fortunato said.

Following Vaynerchuck’s presentation, students enrolled in the Television Production Program at the nearby Morris Hills Regional School District, showed the attendees their film, “Fireside Chats,” that was comprised of interviews about leadership with Picatinny employees.

Amy Gopel, Picatinny Arsenal's Employee Assistance Program coordinator and Substance Abuse Program manager, speaks during  a presentation from Gary Vaynerchuk, April 17.
Amy Gopel, Picatinny Arsenal's Employee Assistance Program coordinator and Substance Abuse Program manager, speaks during a presentation from Gary Vaynerchuk, April 17. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL

Amy Gopel, Picatinny’s Employee Assistance Program coordinator and Substance Abuse Program manager, said her team collaborated with the school district’s production and media department to provide the high school students an opportunity to participate in a high-profile speaker event and to encourage them to pursue positive career goals and aspirations. The students also me with Vaynerchuck privately after the presentations were complete.

Gopel invited Vaynerchuk to the event to boost morale and raise awareness of the leadership strategies and techniques that are detailed in his book, as well as foster community collaboration to improve work environments that have a high level of responsibility.

“A workplace that has leaders who practice emotional intelligence will establish happier and healthier work environments therefore preventing additional support services associated with mental health and fitness challenges such as burnout,” said Gopel.

Vaynerchuk runs multiple business documents his life daily as a CEO through his social media channels, which have more than 34 million followers and garnishes more than 272 million monthly impressions/views across all platforms. As a five-time New York Times Best-Selling Author, and globally top-ranked podcast host, Vaynerchuk is also a highly sought after public speaker.

“We are grateful for the time Gary spent with our workforce,” said Lt. Col. Alexander Burgos, Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander. “The leadership discussion and his conviction to making people better was evident in how he engaged our workforce and his presentation. His willingness and openness to all that spoke to him was incredible. We all learned something today, we all got a little better.

“As part of the Leadership Speaker Series, we believe he embodied the qualities that will be impactful for everyone to learn from and be accountable for as they engage with others throughout their organization. We look forward to the others we have lined up to speak to the workforce and learn from their leadership experiences.”

Picatinny Arsenal garrison leadership will continue to hold the leadership speaker series throughout the year. Announcements will be sent to the workforce via email and will allow for both in-person and virtual attendance.

Military personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal pose for a photo with Gary Vaynerchuk (center).
Military personnel assigned to Picatinny Arsenal pose for a photo with Gary Vaynerchuk (center). (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Jesse Glass) VIEW ORIGINAL