Betty’s Backstory

“If we listen—if we put ourselves in their seats—we can act in ways that lift those burdens. We can, together, uplift people in their virtual workplaces so they thrive.” ~ Betty Johnson

Betty was born and raised in North Carolina. At an early age, she had a precocious desire to understand human behavior.

7 year old Betty Johnson was already on track for her profession

One morning on a family car ride to church, she announced to her parents, “I want to be a psychologist.” She was seven years old. When her mom asked, “Why, honey?” she said, “I want to figure out why people do what they do.” While her father looked skeptically at her in the rearview mirror, her mother simply said, “If that’s what you want, we will find a way to make it happen.”

Sure enough, some years down the road, Betty graduated with BA from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte and stepped into what was a spate of dream jobs in performance improvement — from a stellar sales leader to practice leader to senior executive.

All the while, her motivation to understand people’s behavior grew bigger. Despite all the years of gratifying professional roles and figuring out on the fly why people do what they do, Betty was still looking for the greater meaning she’d sought since a kid. She wanted to know: why do people follow some leaders and not others, and what leadership behaviors change the equation?

An uncommon event brought her the epiphany she was looking for, and it happened in June 2009.

US Army Security Seminar

Betty saw first-hand how empathy is an essential skill set for great leaders during her participation in an immersive program at the U. S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA. There, alongside senior leaders from American, Latin America, and Asia militaries, she experienced how people learn to practice empathy by modeling others who exhibit it well. She observed how those savvy military leaders shined a gentle light on others’ biases and challenged one another’s assumptions while maintaining a psychologically safe environment. Their doing so led to better group understanding and cohesion, better decision-making, and fostered relationship bonds that last throughout a career.

This topic — the role empathy plays in human relationships and their improvement — became a springboard for Betty to launch her consulting company and future academic work. Her scientific fascination with empathy led to her academic study of it. She came to fully see it as a performance enabler, a conflict diffuser, and the ultimate bridge that makes the difference in the workplace.

Her drive toward her life-long goal of understanding why people do the things they do, amplified by her insights about the power of empathy, led Betty to pursue a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, where social justice is the mission. While in the middle of her dissertation research, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After crashing to the sofa from a long day of back-to-back video meetings for work, Betty thought, “what is it about them that makes them so exhausting?” She pivoted to a new research topic: the significant relationships between video meetings, stressors, and cognitive coping. She blazed a fast track to complete and defend her dissertation only months later. While fulfilling her academic requirements, she stayed true to her pragmatist roots: she provides the scientific and business community with specific, results-focused recommendations for leaders to improve what they do.

As founder of Bridging the Difference, LLC, Betty Johnson, Ph.D., and her team of experts apply scientific research-based practices, real-work practical lessons, and an empathetic process to help leaders accomplish more while having better relationships.

Book a call to see how Dr. Johnson and her team at Bridging the Difference® can help your organization.