Teammate Spotlight: Kristi Sellinger, Chief Financial Officer

Riley Smith
Content Contributor
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Empathy can not only help build relationships, but it helps handle life’s unexpected challenges.

Kristi Sellinger is the Chief Financial Officer and primary HR representative for UviaUs. She’s also a straightforward, empathetic person who has mastered the sometimes challenging art of putting others first.

We sat down with Kristi to talk about her role at UviaUs, active listening, and how we can all build our empathy mindset.

Can you tell us more about your role at UviaUs?

I’m the Chief Financial Officer. Because we’re a small team, my position encompasses all oversight of financial activities as well as HR, payroll, and benefits.

What have you noticed that’s different about UviaUs?

UviaUs is so unique! It’s one of the most unique companies I’ve ever worked for.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all company. They’re always changing, and there are always different ways to advance professionally.

As a marketing agency, they stand out from other agencies. I’m always inspired and in awe of the creative team, and the direction and dedication of the entire company.

How would you define empathy?

Empathy, to me, is about cultivating the ability to understand and really feel another person’s emotions. Understanding their feelings and their circumstances.

It’s about putting ourselves in their shoes and trying to see from their perspective. I really think empathy is such an important quality to cultivate, because when we display empathy, it helps us to connect, and those connections are priceless.

When we show empathy, we connect because we’re altering our emotions and our feelings to reflect the other person’s.

With that in mind, how does empathy help you in your role?

I think it helps in any role, no matter what you’re doing! Both professionally and personally.

In my role, empathy is especially helpful with HR duties. It helps me be a better listener with my teammates. On the financial side, it helps me be a good listener with our clients and vendors.

As human beings, we’re all unique, with different skills and talents and backgrounds, different stories and weaknesses, but we’re all striving for the same things. We all want happiness and success.

When we take the time to step back and think about others, it improves our relationships in both the workplace and in our personal lives, and that in turn improves our own personal, internal happiness.

Can you share a particular time when empathy helped you in your work?

Most of my interactions with clients are not so much on the project side, but I deal with them a lot regarding invoicing. That does require empathy and understanding, because different companies have different processes.

You have to understand that other companies will have a different way of doing their invoicing than you do. Empathy helps you work with them.

For instance, maybe you do Net-15 invoicing, where they have fifteen days to pay an invoice. But their financial group doesn’t work that fast. So empathy helps you understand that and reach out to work with them on terms that work for both of you. “Okay, you can’t do Net-15? What about Net-20 or Net-30?”

It’s helpful to start from that place of, “Okay, I understand, can you work with us to find something that will work on both sides?” instead of “This is the way things have to be done.”

So would you say that flexibility is a part of empathy and what makes UviaUs special?

Yes, we can be flexible to a point. We understand not all companies have the same processes as we do.

It helps internally as well. You need a listening ear.

Is active listening the first step to empathy?

I think so. Along with really thinking of the other person, not yourself.

How has empathy helped you in your personal life?

Empathy helps us connect, so it’s definitely helped me personally. It’s helped in my marriage, my friendships, and family relationships. It’s really improved all of that.

It’s how you connect and understand another person’s feelings, and that grows your bond and brings you closer.

As far as a personal experience where it helped me, about two years ago, my husband and I had the privilege of fostering a seven-month-old baby.

We had never talked about doing that, ever. It wasn’t something that we ever entertained or mentioned to one another, or had an urge to do it. But the circumstances presented themselves in front of us.

We saw a helpless baby who needed caring for, and also, we saw the parents. We saw and understood that they were trying to care for the baby, but they had their own struggles, and they were unable to do so.

Empathy motivated us to step in and take on that role. We’re already parents, so we had a place to start from as far as understanding them: you want the best for your children.

Empathy helped us put ourselves in their place. If we were struggling, we would want a family that we could trust, people who would want to treat our child as their own.

We had him with us for about a year. It was very challenging, and then even more challenging to have to give him back!

I would do it all over again. I cherished it. It molded not only myself, but my husband and my daughter. It was a great experience.

Would you say that empathy not only helps interpersonally, but helps you adapt to, perhaps, unexpected situations like that one?

I would say so. Because when you’re trying to develop empathy, and looking for opportunities to express it, a wider variety of situations will pop up for you.

And then you can think, “What would I want if I was them?”

It’s the Golden Rule. How would I want to be treated?

It helps you step in even when it’s uncomfortable. Understanding other people’s feelings and stepping into their shoes can really be uncomfortable.

But in the end, it helps mold us into well-rounded people, and more compassionate, caring people, and that helps us with the next challenge.

In your life, what has taught you this skill?

I think everyone has an innate, natural degree of empathy. But you have to work at it. Even for myself, I know I need to work on it more.

I was fortunate to be raised in a big family who are all good examples of caring, support, kindness, and empathy. Today, I have a big circle of friends who are like that, and I’m still supported by my big family and my husband’s family.

They all demonstrate empathy, and I’m fortunate that I can observe and learn from their compassion and love for others. They make me want to be more empathetic.

I would say if you want to build empathy as a mindset, you should make sure you are around people who already exemplify it.

What taught you to be a better listener?

The majority of us feel good when someone asks us a personal question. When someone wants to get to know us, we feel valued and important.

So it’s important to listen, because if we feel that way when someone listens to us, we want to be that person to somebody else.

It’s the only way, really, to cultivate a friendship. It’s a two-way street. You have to toss the ball back and forth.

If someone wants to build their empathy, what should they do?

Always have the mindset of putting others before yourself. Think of others. Be observant. And stay open to listening!

Keep those things at the front of your mind when interacting.

What do you think the biggest obstacle is for empathy, and how can we overcome it?

The biggest obstacle is our own imperfect tendency to focus on ourselves. We live in a world where we’re surrounded by that mindset.

Social media is so “look at me.” Everything we see in advertisements or TV is trying to appeal to our desires.

I think that’s the biggest obstacle. Our own imperfect nature and the desire to put ourselves first.

You have to remind yourself, almost like a mantra, to put others first. But it has to be a balance!

Consider how much time you spend on social media or TV or whatever you’re doing. It’s like work-life balance. You’re giving of yourself for work, but you also need time for yourself. We need time for ourselves, too.

But it’s so important to give time to others, because that’s what truly makes us happy.

So consider how much time you spend on your own desires, and how much time you spend putting others first. Find that balance.

What is your favorite thing about your role?

I love working from home. It’s very flexible. I homeschool my daughter, so that’s very helpful.

The other thing is, even though we’re a small team, it’s such a fun, loving team. They’re such wonderful people to work with!

Join the conversation

We’re diving even deeper into Empathy on our podcast, REACH, where we explore the mindsets of high achievers and then seek to apply the lessons to life, business, and marketing.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to listen to the podcast, please visit to listen through your favorite podcast provider.

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