The Power of Empathetic Leadership with Pets Are Family Author, Erika Sinner

appreciation for employees authentic life catalyst podcast petition clarity in agreements company policies empathy-driven leadership employee challenges erika sinner grief support inner wisdom leadership qualities of women pet bereavement pet bereavement leave pet grief discomfort pet health issues pet loss pharmaceutical companies unmanaged grief Apr 22, 2024


This week on Leadership is Feminine, we're diving deep into a subject matter that isn't often discussed - the emotional toll of pet bereavement, and how that affects our businesses. Our guest, Erika Sinner, a valued client and female business owner, shares her personal journey of dealing with the loss of her beloved pets and how this sparked her to author a book, Pets Are Family. This episode unravels the societal discomfort around discussing pet grief and the need for empathy-driven leadership to manage such situations.

Erika talks about moving beyond traditional norms and choosing to be a dog parent with her husband to four beloved shar pei dogs. She shares her journey of health issues and loss she has experienced with her dogs. And it is through these experiences that she saw the need for pet bereavement leave and which also gave her a new perspective to see the emotional dynamics prevalent in our work cultures.

Kris Plachy emphasizes the importance of clear agreements and expectations within organizations, alongside acknowledging and validating employees' emotions. They touch on the significant productivity cost of unmanaged grief and stress the need for larger corporations to understand and accommodate employees' emotional needs.

Channeling their experiences into thought-provoking discussions on empathy, authenticity and feminine leadership, both Kris and Erika agree that nurturing emotional intelligence in the workplace can result in a healthier work environment.

This episode is a call to action for anyone in a leadership role to foster a more understanding, compassionate and emotionally intelligent workspace. It's a candid conversation you won't want to miss!

"When we allow our inner wisdom to guide us and dare to pursue our dreams, we embody the power of living an authentically empathetic life, which in turn, inspires others,” – Erika Sinner.

Key Takeaways From This Episode

  1. Introduction to Erika Sinner: CEO of Directorie and author of Pets Are Family

  2. Advocacy for pet bereavement leave in the U.S: Emphasis on validating feelings and understanding the impact of pet loss

  3. Need for clarity regarding values and expectations: The balance between understanding and business requirements

  4. Employee Appreciation and Performance: Showing appreciation for employees, while also holding them accountable

  5. Impact of Pet Grief: Advocacy for understanding and supporting those experiencing pet grief

  6. Emphasizing the Unique Leadership Qualities of Women: The unique leadership attributes that women bring

Guest Bio

Erika Sinner is a CEO, a compassionate advocate, and the guiding force behind Directorie™, a company dedicated to propelling life science organizations forward in bringing vital products to market. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Erika's innovative spirit has fostered successful teams and elevated brands within the pharmaceutical industry.

Erika's unwavering commitment to reimagining possibilities extends far beyond the boardroom; she's a woman of action, unafraid to confront societal gaps head-on. Her determination to foster empathetic solutions shines in both her professional and personal life. Erika stands not only as an exceptional CEO but also a devoted wife, a passionate lover of animals, and leading organizations with compassion.

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Kris Plachy: Hey, everyone. I am so excited to bring you this episode of the Leadership is Feminine podcast. This week, I am conducting an interview with one of my clients, Erika Sinner. Erika and I have worked together for several years. I actually don't even know how many years it's been now that I'm saying this, but the growth that I have seen in her in the time that I've known her has been incredible.

And honestly, that's saying a lot because when I first met her, I was like, "Who is this young woman?" She was such a dynamo already when I met her. She just has that- you can just tell like, the world's going to be better and different because she's been here. And she has proven that to be true.

So at a very young age, she built her own very successful business.I think that when she and I met, she was just around her first couple to $3 million a year in her business. And now she has more than doubled that in annual revenue, but also just an impact in the work that she does. And she had a real crucible moment in her life. Last year that we spent some time talking about on this podcast and how that crucible really like, birthed such a passionate message and resource and direction for her personally.

And so I think it's so important that we honor that out of people because that's where our magic is. And sometimes the most difficult moments in our lives end up becoming part of the gift that we give back to the world, right?

So I'm, I'm just actually so honored to bring you this conversation to share Erika with you, and I really hope you'll share this podcast with others. I think once you realize the depth of our conversation and we're talking about pets and grief and love and the importance of honoring all of that. And also building a life and a business that creates space that you need, and that your team needs, to go through the challenges that we all go through in our lives.

Please enjoy this podcast. Please go get her book, and I hope you'll spread the word and share it with everyone. Let's get started.

Why don't we just begin by you saying a few things about yourself and to everybody listening and welcome Ms.

Erika Sinner.

Erika Sinner: Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here. So my name is Erika Sinner. I am the founder and CEO of Directorie. We're going on six years. Just awesome. It's been a ride. Thank God I've had you by my side. And in the last year I've turned into an author. So I now have a book too.


Kris Plachy: That's so exciting.

So let's talk a little bit about Directorie. Because I do think there's a very real correlation between that business and where that business is, and then why you were able to write a book right about such an important subject. So tell us a little bit about your business. How did Directorie even get to be a thing?

Erika Sinner: Great question. So Directorie, what we do is we help small to midsize pharmaceutical companies bring their medications to market. So we come in as their commercial teams. We help them make sure their brand plans actually get executed, and that patients are able to get the medications that they have created.

So it feels important. It feels impactful. I always said I wanted to help people and I knew deep within my soul, it was not in the healthcare space and the traditional way you think about it as like a doctor or nurse, or, you know, somebody actually helping someone from a like, health perspective. So this was my entry point in is being in the pharmaceutical space and helping from medication standpoint.

So I spent, I grew up in pharma. I started my first position at 21. I did it for 11 years, made it through the brand team, lots of different brand launches, lots of different types of conditions I got to work on and learn about. And then I decided to go on my own, consulting for a few years, because the pharma mecca is not in St. Louis, Missouri.

So I did some consulting and it was really, it was amazing because I felt like I could do the things that I really love to do. I'm really passionate about my job, my work, the things that we do, but I'm also, I love - whether you get it or not - the Midwest, I love St. Louis.

So after a few years of consulting though, on your own, And what you call it a solopreneur it's hard. It's really hard to be responsible for everything; invoicing, expenses, booking travel, but also trying to take on clients. And then how do you do business development? And how do you make sure you're going to keep having clients coming back?

And so after a few years, I realized if I could- you know, other people start businesses every day. If I could do it, then could I actually be helping more companies with more brands that need to reach patients? And so Directorie was born.

Kris Plachy: I love it. Yeah. And when you say you just decided to go out on your own, like that's a big decision. What did you believe about yourself? That made you think, "Yeah, I can do that."

Erika Sinner: If I'm being really honest, I don't know if I had had my position here in St. Louis be stable and continuing on that I would have ever made the decision. You know, the company I was working for moved from St. Louis to New Jersey. So lots of pharma is in New Jersey, New York, Boston, North Carolina. And so they offered me a package to move.

And the day that I found out was also the day we were closing on our house.

Kris Plachy: Interesting. Yeah.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. So, and I fell in love with our home. I, you know, I talked to my husband about it and just, I was heartbroken and he said, "You know, we could move if you want to move. I'm open to it. You know, we could do that. This is your career. This is what you want to be doing the rest of your life."

And so we considered it for, you know, a good, maybe hour, but then he said, "We could also bet on ourselves. I believe in you. I, you know, you have a big network. You're really good at your job. You know, I trust in what you're doing. And he said, and I also work. So if something were to happen, we're a team, we'll figure this out." And so we decided let's, let's gamble on ourselves. And can we do it?

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And here you are.

Erika Sinner: And here we are. I'm so glad.

Kris Plachy: Yeah, it's such a, you know, it's one of the things that's so cool about the work I do is meeting all of you all and all these interesting businesses that exist, right? There's so many ways to be successful and to generate a lot of revenue. Jobs and opportunities for people to work and really healthy environments, and also to establish your own wealth and all of those things, right? I just think it's fabulous.

So, okay, so fast forward. Now you have this thriving business. How many people work in Directorie?

Erika Sinner: We have 23 full time employees, and then we have a whole dozens of contractors that are part of our team so that we can help, you know, more companies, but every day is different. And I'm so grateful for the thought work we've done over the last few years to get to where we are. Because now I feel like the engine is well oiled and we are now in full on expansion mode, which is something I've been dreaming about for years.

And it's, it's really here. It's really happening.

Kris Plachy: Yeah, and you've really been able to build the leadership team to help you do that, too, which has been super fun to watch. Yeah, so good. Can't do it alone, right? The dream really is in the team.

Erika Sinner: Yeah, 100%.

Kris Plachy: So cheesy, but it's true. Okay, so then now let's talk about your life.

You're a dog mom.

Erika Sinner: I am.

Kris Plachy: Proudly, proudly stated regularly.

Erika Sinner: Yes. Yes.

Kris Plachy: Okay. So tell us all about you and Chris and those cute puppies.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. So Chris and I have been together 10 years, married nine. And what I love about my husband is he is very pragmatic about life, right? In his mind, he's not going to just do what everyone else does. He's not going to follow along societal norms. And when we decided to get married, he sat us down and was like, what kind of life do we want to have? Like, what do we want to be doing? And we, that's, I think for both of us, I still wasn't sure. Human kids were not for me until really sat down and thought about what do we want to be doing?

Are we ready for our life not to be about ourselves or careers or like, what we've got going on? Like, let's be honest with ourselves. And then it just became really clear where, you know, there's a lot of ways to give the love that you have out into the world. It doesn't have to be that you have human kids. And so that's what we did. We decided we were going to be dog parents. And so we ended up with four Sharpei as our children

Kris Plachy: And they're all different, right? They're all from different litters and none of them are biological.

Erika Sinner: Nope, all different colors. 3 of them are brush coat. One of them is a bear coat. He actually looks like a little bear from the wild, but I'm sure as many of your listeners also probably feel, as a woman CEO, woman founder, it's not the norm. It's also not the norm to just not have kids. So it's my 1st, I think, start to, you know, people would ask. How come you don't have kids, but you'd be such a good mom, but, but why not?

Like there's probably IVF treatments. It's always been interesting to answer the question and say, "No, actually we just chose this life." And it's, it's wonderful.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. It's, it's quite an assumption. I think, right. I think that we'll see what happens with kind of the generations that are coming up after us, because I think a lot more people are making more conscious decisions about what they, what they want instead of just sort of- like, I know for sure, like, I'm thrilled I have kids, but I also just was like, okay, I think it's probably that now is the time.

Erika Sinner: Is the time. Yeah.

Kris Plachy: Now we should have kids, right? So I think it takes a lot of courage to sort of choose what you want. And of course you can always choose again, right? Whatever. I think that's also super cool. And interestingly enough, and you know, Sage CEO, I think we have like almost like a pretty good balance between women who have kids and women who don't. And so I love that that tells a great story. It doesn't, you can have and create the life that you want and the success that you want in your business regardless.

Erika Sinner: It is really beautiful to see Sage CEO and see other women making decisions that are not the norm or what's expected and find, you know, it's like you found your tribe to say, okay, I'm not, I'm not different.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. Not the only one in here. Yeah,

Erika Sinner: exactly. Exactly.

Kris Plachy: Now. Why Sharpei?

Erika Sinner: Oh, my gosh. That's all my husband. That is all my husband. He was a cat person and I've always been a dog person. So when my Motley passed, she was 18. Actually, she was 19 when she passed. It was time for us to really decide. Okay. So what are we going to get? Again, back to what fits in our lifestyle? Do we want a lab so we can run? Do we want like, what type of energy level?

He just came to the table with, you know, I need to convince you about these Sharpei, which I have learned are the cat dogs of like, they're the cats of the dog world.

Kris Plachy: Interesting. Interesting.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. They don't come for treats. They don't wiggle their tails. They make a lot of decisions whether they want to feel loved or not.

Very stubborn.

Kris Plachy: Okay. Fair enough. Yeah. Well, they're certainly stinking cute, right? They have a lot of health issues though, right? That's something you guys learned as, as they've all gone along.

Erika Sinner: They do. They really do.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And what are their ages?

Erika Sinner: They range from six to nine.

Kris Plachy: Okay. All right. Yeah. So now we're into almost a year ago?

Erika Sinner: Yes. Back in May.

Kris Plachy: Isn't that crazy? Holy smokes.

Erika Sinner: I know. I know.

Kris Plachy: That was like, because Hawaii was, right, you came to Hawaii and you got really sick. Yeah. But that was April.

Erika Sinner: That was April.

Kris Plachy: But that was kind of when, yeah, you kind of kept having-

Erika Sinner: The year kind of changed for me.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. A lot of, a lot of things happening. Okay. So let's take it from there because this is now the crucible moment in your life. There's a, you know, there's a really good book. I think you've probably heard me talk about it by Bill George called True North. And he talks about that great leaders are, when we look at, at why they chose what they chose to do in the world, it was born out of crucible moments, these life defining moments that nobody saw coming.

But then when we look at the work that they do, the expression of the work that they do, it always stems from one of these crucible moments. And that's kind of the way that I see what you went through and then what you made it, what you made with it, right? Yeah.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. Yeah. So in, in May, it was a Monday. My entire leadership team was flying into St. Louis for a full, week long, full packed agenda of work we were going to do. And that Monday morning, as they were all flying in, Kingston was not doing well. And like, so badly. I mean, it was very, it was very obvious. And so my husband and I decided to take him to the emergency room and immediately, I mean, they, I actually thought it was kind of irresponsible for them to say it as quickly as they did where, you know, they said, "There's something really wrong here. We're talking days. We're not talking weeks."

And and they hadn't even done like the full exam. It was just based on quick, you know, the heart rate, seeing how he was walking, the symptoms we described before we came in. But they still said there was this 5 percent chance that it was, it was something else. So we were just holding on to that it was, it was the 5 percent chance, and it ended up not being.

He had a heart tumor and his heart was continuing to fill up with fluid. And so they told us we have three, three times that we can drain his heart. And then after that, you know, it's too much stress on his body.

And here I am working in the healthcare space. I'm like, what about open heart surgery? What about

Kris Plachy: Is there a pig's heart somewhere?

Erika Sinner: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that week was really hard. But it was also a week that I really took everything that we've put into practice, and what we've done through the Sage program around honoring your feelings and validating yourself and saying, "I recognize my entire team is here. I am not going to be present this week. I need to be at home with my family."

And this is the work we do, right? That you set up your leadership teams in the way that they need to run so that they can operate in your absence. And I'm so grateful that we did that early years before. I don't know that that would have been possible.

Kris Plachy: Well, it might have been that you could have, you would have taken the time. But you don't know what you're going to go back to, right? That's the issue. Yeah.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. Yeah. So we lost him on May 22nd and I've always had pet bereavement leave in our policies. I just knew I was going to need it, especially after losing Motley. Although with Motley, she was 19. I had her since I was 11. I could understand. It would just like losing a grandparent. Like, I understood why what was happening. It still was really hard. Which is why I knew I needed pet bereavement leave in my policies. And my employees can take advantage of it too.

But something curious happened to me while I was taking leave, even though all of my team members understood, I got notes, I got text messages. I still did not appreciate how much shame I would feel and actually taking the time off. Would people understand? Would they think, "It's just a dog", like, can't you get it together as a woman CEO?

You also wonder, like, am I showing up the right way? Am I doing a good job? Do they think I'm a good leader? Am I too emotional, in your day to day that this felt it just felt like a complete departure from where I was as I was showing up as a CEO and leading and moving things forward. And here I was completely at a standstill. So yeah, I mean, it was, it was interesting that I felt that way, but after the leave, I went back to work and then, you know, 21 days later, Edmund, our blue Sharpei was diagnosed with cancer and we spent the whole summer fighting cancer.

And it's so wonderful to be able to stay. He's right here with me. You can see him right there.

Kris Plachy: When you told me that, I was like, come on, what are we doing? Right.

Erika Sinner: Yeah, it shut me down. That was, it was, it was a lot. And so I did take some more time off, while we were, you know, we had to go to U of I. So it was three and a half hour drive each way.

And there was the treatments and the radiation and the immunotherapies, all the things, the surgeries that we had. And so throughout that time, I think for me, I always have to feel like I'm a contributing member of society. I have to feel like I'm processing something or I'm doing something. So I started to write. And that's when I wrote my book because I really feel this responsibility around creating this space for other people.

I feel so lucky that I do own my own company that I did have pet bereavement leave and I could take the time off and I know I wouldn't have been okay if I hadn't. So now I feel like I want to be able to advocate to create that for other people.

Kris Plachy: Right? It's so important. Yeah, I love I love that you mentioned, you know, that there's this kind of even you right felt this sort of shame in the process, because that gives you such insight. I think for our listeners, that's such good insight too, that even if you offer any kind of leave, honestly.

But when it comes to pets, the relationship that I have with my pets is, is so personal that then for me to make that choice and it affects my work or affects my presence. It could feel like I'm feel like I'm being you said, like, right, like, yeah, You know,

Erika Sinner: We're all super comfortable with sharing cute photos or, "Look what he did today," but it's not as comfortable to talk about how much it hurts when they pass. And I think as a society, grief is just hard in general. It forces us to look at our own mortality. And even when we lose human beings, I think we all just want to get back to being better, which is hard. But

you talk about crucibles and that was my moment. I think, you know, not choosing to have human kids and have a marriage where we don't have them. And that's just our life was something that we talk about and people have interesting reactions to, but I, I, like you said, I think more are starting to have, you know, families that look like us.

And then also to be a woman CEO is also different, right? There's only 2% of us that are doing what we're doing, which pat on our back. It's incredible, but it still is different. And so this though, normalizing, talking about pet grief and how much it actually hurts really just feels like we haven't really started that conversation enough. And I feel really proud to be able to do it.

I still find myself sometimes wondering, am I taking this too far? Is, am I, am I being silly around it? And I always just have to go back to, you know, how is like, take myself back to that space where I really needed it.

Kris Plachy: Well, I want to, I want to understand the book a little bit more here and have you share, but I, I want to share with you and the listeners, there's a really good book. You've probably heard me talk about it, Erika, because it's one of my favorites. It's called The Dream Manager and it's by a guy named Matthew Kelly. And it's an older book. It's a parable.

Basically the dream manager, they, this company hires a person to help its employees achieve their dreams. It's like a version of Wendy from Billions, but you know, not a creepy weird one if you've watched that show, but nonetheless.

It's like but basically the hypothesis that he asserts in that book is that in order for an organization to be, and become the best version of itself, it has to help its employees be and become the best version of And so what I love about the way that you think about this and now the advocacy that you're really standing for and frankly, the movement you've begun, because you really are leading a charge of and a movement. I mean, you're on TV shows and radio shows and writing articles, right?

You're doing because what you have to say is creating such an honoring space for the importance of holistically looking at all of the challenges that employees go through and not like super overindulging them, but treating them with balance. Like, grief is grief is grief is grief is grief. Like, I don't feel different grief based on different people in my life. Grief is grief, right? Yes. So I just, I just. I love that.

So, because when you told me you were writing, look, if you were in the middle of all of- you're driving him to his cancer treatments, I'm like, "Okay, of course you are," like, but, but what a great way to channel so much.

So what's the premise and point of the book. And what is the name of the book?

Erika Sinner: Good- I need to do a better job of talking about it.

Kris Plachy: I could do a better job asking.

Erika Sinner: It's Pets are Family, It's As Simple As That, is the title. The front cover of it is is my family on our last family photo with Kingston together.

And the whole reason I wrote the book was speaking to two different types of audiences. One is, those who have lost a pet to say everything you feel is real. You're not broken. Nothing's wrong with you. Yes, it really does hurt this badly.

And then the other is if you love someone who has lost a furry family member, because they are family, they just happen to be furry. And you don't understand because you yourself have never had an animal, you know, let me let you into my life and you can follow our journey and at least appreciate what your loved one is going through.

And a lot of people, I think, say it's hard when somebody, a human being passes to know what to do. But we still, as a society, have like funerals and obituaries and you send food. But I don't, not a lot know what to do when you've lost a pet.

And so part of the book too, at the end, talks about here's some of the things that we received that we really appreciated. Here's text messages. It doesn't always have to be a gift or money or showing up with your time. It's even just sending a text message to say and mentioning their name. You know, "I know you're going through a really hard time and you miss Kingston. We miss them too." It just validates again that the feelings are real and someone else understands.

So it's both of those. It's bringing both groups together and then saying, what can we do? So I think we all can agree when a pet passes, it's really sad. And when somebody is willing to open up about it, we both, we all get sad. You see, like, you know, even men on TV or are talking about it and they're going viral. But for me, it's always been, how do we get ahead of it, which is providing space? It's pet bereavement leave. So let's not just be sad with somebody, but also like give them a moment to breathe.

But to your point earlier around, like, it is a balance, there's a balance that like, how do you, that your employees and your team, you are a team, you're not a family, you're a team. And you've, you know, you're, you have an agreement on how you're contributing to the organization. At the same time, you know, being there for your employee and recognizing that their life outside of work is going to impact their life in work, and it's going to impact their productivity and the quality, and they're actually representing your brand in in every interaction that they have clients.

So, how do you balance the financial health of your organization while also showing up for your employee? And pet bereavement leave for me is is the entry point to then talk about there's lots of ways we can really think about it, without over indexing on, you know, giving in on everything right now that we stopped to have a successful business, but there's a there's a way to do it that has balance.

Kris Plachy: Well, I think, you know, one of the kind of core truths I believe about hiring in general, bringing people into a company is your ability to build a high performing successful team is always contingent on the clarity of the invitation and the clarity of the agreements that we mutually make to one another from the beginning.

And unfortunately, what most companies do, and then also what most employees do, is companies hire people for a job, and that's it. Like, here's your job, here's your benefits, go. And there's not really any agreements to, like, our behaviors, our values, you know, to be a part of this, you know, I use the word queendom, right? To be a part of my queendom, this is what the exchange is. This is your contribution. This is mine. Right.

And then also, employees can then just be like, well, this is just my job and I get paid this much and this is my job and my title without really agreeing, really understanding what that invitation was because it wasn't made to the extent.

But if you invite me into your organization and you say, you know, "Welcome to Directorie, we'd like to extend an invitation to you to be a part of our organization. These are the agreements that we make. We agree to these terms, right? One of them is pet bereavement. One of them is maternity or paternity leave. One of them is these benefits. One of them is this. And what we also expect in those agreements are, you are here in a role to deliver results. We will honor our agreements as long as you honor yours."

And when that, it's so mature to me. But what we end up with this, this immaturity from leadership and from employees, frankly, is this goes all the way around leaders like to blame the team and team members are blaming you.

So listen, everybody's participating, right? Instead, if I work for an employer like that, and I have to take my five days of bereavement leave or whatever it is for my pet, I understand that that is an impact to the organization. I'm grateful for the time. And I also know I have made a commitment to deliver and I will do so, but for you to trust me and honor me as a human makes me more inclined when the agreement was clear.


Erika Sinner: Yes. And I think I mean, it's, it is mutually beneficial, not just for the site around productivity or quality or all of those things, right? I mean, the CDC reported it's like $222 billion is the productivity cost to organizations with unmanaged grief.

Kris Plachy: I saw that. You posted that on Instagram. Say that again? $222 billion a year. A year, right? A year, yeah, a year. Yo. It's like a lot of money. If you would just, how much instead if we just gave him three days off.

Erika Sinner: Yes.

Kris Plachy: Like just pragmatically just look at that. Yeah.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. Yes. And, and, but beyond even just the cost, I think this idea around if you can show up for your employee in a moment like that, they're never going to forget it. They're in one of the hardest moments of their life, and they at least feel validated, and they might not even feel comfortable enough to talk to their family or their friends around. It's just their dog, right? I put that in air quotes.

But here you are signaling in a black and white policy, this agreement, right? You now have this agreement of like, these are the tradeoffs for you working here, but also the results that you have. I think it's just really important to just think about, like, how can you, how can you show up for your employees in a way that does let them know that you appreciate that? And then also be able to have a mature conversation around what are the results that we need to have as an organization so that we all continue to have jobs.

Being able to have those conversations I know is difficult, which is why I need your program as much as I've had. And it's made it really healthy at work to do that. I have talked to some companies who, you know, they are, they say, "Well, my employees, we're not, we don't have clients. We don't have, they're not salaried. They're, they're literally working at checkout line at the store. Can't just offer this, right? Like they're full time, but I can't just give them time off."

And for me, it's. It's really saying, Okay, well, if it's not a day off, can you, at least when they come back in, if they were a smoker, I think you legally have to give them like breaks every 15 minutes, like every hour, 15 minutes, every hour. So maybe that's what you do for a few days. You go in and you let them know every hour you're checking in. Do you need to go take a walk around the store? Do you need to go take a take a moment to be outside again? It's just signaling to that employee that you understand what is going on in their life and that you are validating their emotions.

And then for them, as they're processing their grief, when they're, when they're feeling better, and they're coming back, they're, they're feeling like, "Wow, they really cared for me," or "They understood". To me, it feels very like from, from just a human being empathetic standpoint. It just makes sense.

I know in the US we don't require federal mandates for bereavement leave. 5 states have it where you, you must have bereavement leave for employers. And I don't think that the government should be dictating what we do as businesses because depending on the size of your business, right? You might not be able to offer things right away. You might be aiming towards or there will be a time when you can get there. It's just about business leaders really figuring out how do you strike that balance with your with your team?

Kris Plachy: It's humanity. Yeah. And it's trusting. And I think, unfortunately, a lot of a lot of employers have a pretty jaded perspective that everybody will take advantage of it. Everybody will do this. And to anyone who has those thoughts, I challenge you to this question, which is, there is no way anyone could take advantage of it if you were holding people accountable for their performance. Yeah. But because you don't hold people accountable, you get wrapped around the axle about this stuff.

If we could just solve that problem where everybody just talks to everybody, "Hey, listen, you made an agreement to do this and you didn't do it. What's going on?" But the players aren't doing that either. And that's why they think people are running away. They are running away with your policies because you're not holding them accountable to anything. So anyway, that's another call and another podcast..

Erika Sinner: No, I'm with you. I mean, they also leave it up to their line managers. Right, to just "Well, they'll figure it out." And there's not enough training for those managers.

Kris Plachy: No, they don't know how to do that. Yeah. And then the really nice ones will cover. Really not nice ones are the ones who can't, won't cover and then it depends on which manager you get.


Erika Sinner: Yes, that's why I think it's so important from a policy perspective and from an overall like company initiative, not just with bereavement leave, but as you said, like the values and the policies and the way that you operate your business. If you can outline it in black and white, whether it's your handbook, and then how you are communicating with your leadership team, how they're communicating with their managers, everyone really has to be aligned because this is your business. Like this is your culture. This is your livelihood. This is your baby.

But it is now, like you say, like, it's outside of you, right? It's a living, breathing thing. And you don't want to just leave it up to chance that the employee experience is going to be changed because of a manager when here you've worked so hard to create this environment.

Kris Plachy: Absolutely. Yeah. And that does happen, which is true. Okay.

So Pets Are Family is a book for people going through it. People who, who would like to understand it better. And then tell me a little bit about what you're doing around literally the initiative of advocacy for more focus on pet bereavement, et cetera.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. So the book is mainly for both of those. And at the very end of the book, I have resources and the resource resources are you know, if you don't, if it's, it's not my story, here's all the data and statistics supporting what I'm saying.

And then also, if you're an employee and you want to advocate for pet bereavement leave in your organization, there's tools for that as well, coming from an employer standpoint. And it is even the emails when you come back and it focuses around what you said in this agreement term of, "Hey, I'm coming back from grieving from from bereavement leave. I know these projects are important. Can you help me prioritize? Because I want to do a good job," right?

It's the employee acknowledging to I have these deliverables. I also recognize them really struggling. So help me figure out what's what order to do them in. There's also gift guides, text messages, examples, all sorts of things back there.

And then from a broader sense, you know, the bigger, I am advocating for pet bereavement leave overall. I have a petition as calling on business leaders of the United States to to do the right thing. Because even from a brass tacks standpoint, right? Like it, it's mutually beneficial.

And so, for me, my entry point is that frequently when I talk about my overall goal around empathy driven leadership, I think women-run companies are just different. I think there's things that we think about. There's things that we care about. There's ways that we lead teams that are just different. And I want to also advocate for this empathy driven leadership, even for men to say, it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to show up as your full self. It's okay. These are the things that we, we should be thinking about, right?

I'm doing a lot of. interviews, publications, podcasts, just talking about it. I really feel like you can't normalize something unless you talk about it. So here we are.

Kris Plachy: Here we are.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. Here we are.

Kris Plachy: I think it's so interesting, you know, it's a little Sage, sagey, more version of our conversation, right? Because this is such the, the sage's journey for you, right? As you continue to gather more knowledge, literal knowledge and intellectual property, but it's all really coming from wisdom. It's a deep knowing that you have, that is beckoning you to speak.

And, you know, I know that's also been a little bit of your story is to be seen and to have this voice. And so it's so fascinating. It's also almost makes me want to cry. You had to have the thing that you could feel this powerfully strong about and passionate about to move outside of your own story about yourself and see how this experience, while so painful, has now become like so powerful for so many people who needed an advocate.

And I think a lot of people who deeply feel pet grief don't know that they even needed the advocacy for it. Do you know what I mean? Because I do think it's just the thing we tuck in.

Erika Sinner: Yeah. You feel like I just, I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow. I'm supposed to be there. It's uncomfortable to talk about. Yeah. Or even if you, if you have, if you have pet grief and you're talking to somebody with human kids, you almost feel like you have to ask permission to say, "It hurts this much. I know it's not a human kid, but for me, it hurts."

But yeah, I mean, I agree with you. I will always remember my very first Hawaii trip with you years ago. I did struggle a lot with, is my voice really the one that needs to be heard? Who am I to be the one out speaking? I was brave enough to start a company and do these things, but it was behind the organization, was behind the medications that we were launching. And you pushed and you kept pushing to say, like, you have a knowing within you and you just have to figure out what it is that you want to say to the world.

And I think through the Sage program, it's even taking it beyond, like we were no longer just talking about Directorie and the things going on at work, but it's like, what are your dreams? What do you want to be doing? What do you want to be focusing on? I'm so grateful it all happened the way that it did, because I don't know if I would have gotten there last year.

Like maybe I would have written the book and it would have just been a manuscript that just got saved in a folder somewhere. But because of all of the work we've done, I felt confident enough to just say "I'm doing this. And if it's not for everyone, that's okay. Because for the people that it is for, I'm going to help them and that matters."

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And no, it's a change movement that will impact there will be, there is already there's impact, right? It's just a great example for all of us who are listening that we all have a wisdom that's different. Wisdom is different than intellect and knowledge. And we know that it's wisdom because it whispers over and over and over and over. It's very relentless.

And that doesn't mean it's a book and it doesn't mean you become some person who's on TV or all the things. It just means that that is something you, you were given. And I don't know what that even means. Listen, all I know is it's true. And I've seen it too many times over and over and over again when women allow it, when they create space to hear it, right? And then it's so gorgeous. Like, what a gorgeous legacy. If you did nothing else ever in your life, you're so young, like there's so much more to do.

Erika Sinner: And now I'm excited, right, for all the things. Where before it was, I was playing small and, and who am I, but now I just feel having the space to think about it and even being prompted with the questions to dream and also being reminded that it is already inside of you. The magic is already there. Just do you have the courage to see it? And then once you see it, it's really hard to, you know, you can't let it go now.

Kris Plachy: And then look at what happens, right? Like,

Erika Sinner: It's beautiful.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And we do have to create, I read this somewhere or someone said it to me that we have to really be willing to create our magic, our art, our expression, whatever that is that you, right? If you write, if you paint, if you sing, if you, if you speak, if you think, like, whatever it is that you do, we have to do it for ourselves first, without the consideration of the judgment of everybody else, because then we'll never really plant and step into the magic that it needs to be.

Erika Sinner: Oh my God. All of that.

Kris Plachy: I think that's what's so true about that book that you wrote is that you wrote it just, you didn't write it with like, "I'm going to be on podcasts and talk about it". That was not what you were doing. You were just doing it to move, let it move through you.

And, and that is when we come out on the other side. And now, right, you have stepped into a level of your sage presence, right? A sage is well known, right, for something, right? She has a, there's a knowing about her, but she always knows. There's more to know.

Erika Sinner: Yes. Yes. And to your point around what you've said earlier, it doesn't have to be a book. It doesn't have to be on podcast. It doesn't have to be on the news. I think for me, even just having the decision to not have kids, I had friends to look to that also don't have kids, or if you choose, I'm not getting married or whatever it is, that you decide you want to do by having the sage wisdom to say, I'm doing this for me and I have the courage to just move it forward, or an inspiration and example for other people of they can live their own authentic life moving forward. It doesn't have to be all of these other things that alone is powerful because of the ripple effect.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And I think especially for women, you know, and we're in a really interesting time right now and I'm worried. I say this on a lot of my podcasts. I'm very concerned, and I just want all of us as women to whatever, whatever that place is that you said, like advocacy for other women, supporting space where other women are growing.

Women do build and lead companies differently, that's why this podcast is called Leadership Is Feminine, right? But, and also we also know there's statistically speaking, we tend to perform better. Women run companies actually get better results. And that is because we bring humanity into our culture.

And so this is the time where all of us need to be rallying around one another, and finding ways to help advance each other's voices in whatever way we can. Because we have gotten to a place where we now have a voice. Presence and voice and we cannot lose that ever. So yes, like, well,

Erika Sinner: We need the reminder, yeah.

Kris Plachy: So that's why I'm doing, right, this whole series is to feature all of the clients that I've worked with who have written books and had have published thoughts in the world. Because my frustration has been, when you go into the airport bookstore, or even on Audible, all these books are written by men.

Like, let's get busy. And I know I got chastised too. So I have another book coming out, which is coming soon. Anyway, it's very short, but it's good. Anyway, I'm excited about it.

Okay. So I know you have a couple of places people can go. You've got your fun Instagram. So tell us about that.

Erika Sinner: Yes. Instagram is Erika with a K underscore sinner.

It is sinner. I post lots of things on there and I let everyone into my life and then also pets or family info. So that's where the petition is. I have the resources on my book in a PDF format, and then you can also order the book. I would, you know, I get a notification for every order or every newsletter.

It's amazing. I like squeal every time my phone goes off.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. And one of our clients, right? One of our other Sage clients, she bought the book for her entire team.

Erika Sinner: She did. I cried that day. That was like ugly cry day.

Kris Plachy: It was so cute. And she implemented a pet bereavement or did she already have one? But she's a big,

Erika Sinner: She put one in.

Kris Plachy: She has a real, she has three or four or 12 dogs. I know she has a lot of them.

Erika Sinner: Yeah, and for her, it was, she was, she would have let her employees off for that time, but it just wasn't in the policy and it was just an aha moment to say like, oh, we can make this clear. Yeah,

Kris Plachy: Well, you know, when it is your company, allegedly, you can do whatever the F you want, yeah, I can have a pet bereavement policy. I could have, I could have, I could do whatever I want.

Erika Sinner: Yeah, we have paw-ternity leave now.

I mean, it's only a day, but still, I like those little babies come in with their shark teeth and you need, you need a day with the chaos.

Kris Plachy: Oh my gosh. And more than that, the puppies and that's what I feel like is coming again. And I work from home, so I am puppy parent for sure. . Yeah. But I'll figure that out.

So, okay. So thank you for sharing your work and thank you for just being who you are and how you keep stepping in. Again, you keep, just like you are like, wait, I need a minute. Then you and I also think that's really great and if you follow Erika's Instagram, you'll see like she, you're doing, like, you've changed your title, right? To chief empathic officer.

Erika Sinner: Yeah.

Kris Plachy: And teaching sort of how to hold space for yourself, how to hold boundaries on days that you really can't take any more in, and how to respond to people when that is true. I think there's, there's a lot of beautiful things that you're posting out there.

So for those of you who, who are interested, I would certainly suggest you find Erika and follow her and buy her book and give it to a friend.

Erika Sinner: Thank you, Kris. Thank you for helping me find my voice. I know I found it, but thank you for helping me get there.

Kris Plachy: You just had to believe it was in there. That's all.

Erika Sinner: Yeah.

Kris Plachy: Yeah. All right. Love. Thank you for being here. Appreciate you.

Remember that I asked you to be a part of my Catalyst podcast event, where I'm inviting you to become a visionary Catalyst, share the podcast link with women that you know. And as soon as you hit 20 shared links, clicks on those, we can measure that. I'm going to give you one of my bonus digital courses.

Go to Get yourself registered. Grab the podcast link. Super easy, and please share it with women that you know that are leading in the world, because I'd love to be able to impact 20 million women. I know that when women feel more confident in who they are as leaders. It changes who they are in their lives.

Let's help women live and lead on their own terms. I can't wait to see how many clicks we get. Let's get it.

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