Amy Cuddy has written at least three very profound books:
- When They Trust You, They Hear You: A Modern Guide for Speaking to Any Audience
- Leadership Presence – Part of HBR Emotional Intelligence Series (14 Books)
- Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
Amy says the first two things people want to know when they first meet you are:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively.
Warmth is not measured on corporate evaluations
I often run an experiment with teams where half the team gets a list of characteristics found in a fictitious person. The other half of the team gets a similar list of characteristics on another fictitious person.
Both lists contain words such as:
- As well as a few other descriptions
There is one (and only one) difference in the two lists:
- One list contains the word “Warm”
- The other list contains the word “Cold”
I then have the whole team vote on characteristics such as:
- generous vs. ungenerous
- unhappy vs. happy
- reliable vs. unreliable
- frivolous vs. serious
- imaginative vs. hardheaded
- dishonest vs. honest
- There are 16 total comparisons
(Remember that the lists are identical except for the words warm and cold.)
The group that has the word “warm” in their descriptor attributes the more positive characteristic to their fictitious person.
The group with the word “cold” in their descriptor attributes the more negative characteristic to their fictitious person.
Is a person warm or cold? This one factor will set our expectations for that person and can be the difference of our trust factor! Be a warm person. It pays rewards.
Respect or Competence
In the book, Speed of Trust, author Stephen M. R. Covey lists four characteristics that need to be present before we trust someone. This list has often helped my consulting when there is obvious (at least to me) mistrust on a team. However, when I ask the team if they trust each other, the answers are almost always a positive yes.
But when I break down trust to this subset of characteristics, there is usually one where people have a concern. “Yes I trust the person but….”
The list is
- Integrity – Is the person always the same person no matter who they are talking with or what the circumstances are?
- Intent – This one usually revolves around the issue of what is best for the team or company vs. what is best for the individual. Is their intent focused on the best for others or the best for themselves?
- Capabilities – The person may be sharp and accomplished but do they have the experiences necessary to work through the situation they face? Are they capable?
- Results – Has the person actually produced positive results.? Often people talk a good line or more likely have a list of reasons why something didn’t work. Did they actually produce results in spite of the difficulties they faced?
When you break down the question of trust into these four components, it’s easier to deal with and identify.
Is trust more important than competency? Or is competency the supreme measure of success and reliability? If you think competency is the superior measurement, you need to read a chapter from Deep Change by Robert Quinn. The chapter is titled “Tyranny of Competence”.
Amy Cuddy says “But while competence is highly valued, it is evaluated only after trust is established. And focusing too much on displaying your strength can backfire”.
Be trustworthy first! It’s the only way your competency will have value.
I was at my computer at 6:00 am this morning. Three and one-half hours later I was stuck! I was facing a difficult client meeting and it was requiring extreme concentration and creativity to deal with the issue in a constructive way. But, I just got stuck. So, I got up and took a long walk.
Fortunately, I was in a location where I could walk in solitude on a very quiet path through the woods. I took a 45-minute walk. Let me break that walk into thirds for you.
Conscious of my surroundings.
The first third of the walk I was totally conscious of the sounds of my steps, the slight breeze rustling through the trees and the few jays that loudly proclaimed my presence. Nothing else. All my work thoughts were subconscious.
Over the next 15 minutes, the concentrated work I had done that morning began to blend with the solitude of my walk. I can’t fully explain it other than my mind began to produce some very high-level understandings. In that 15 minutes, it became clear how I should organize, structure and present the materials.
Blended Experience – Organized Plan
The last 15 minutes of the walk was spent enjoying a little bit of both. I once again became conscious of the sound of my footsteps and jays, but at the same time, I began to see the structure for the meeting, the key points to be emphasized and the steps to success.
Upon returning to my computer the next half hour of work was just incredibly productive. I took all of that thought process from that deep 15 minutes of understanding, put the structure together and began filling in all the pieces. Moving from being stuck to a very satisfying completion with some deep work in between.
Getting past Stuck
When we find ourselves stuck after 3-1/2 hours of concentrated work, most of us will stick with it, stay at the computer, keep hacking away, work until we get at least what feels like a conclusion. And yet, walking away is likely to be the most productive approach. Not to our email. Not to the break room. Not to our news feeds. Just getting up and walking out. Walking through nature in complete silence for 30-45 minutes. That’s when the deep work happens.
Word of Caution
Please understand. I did not decide to spend 15 minutes on each phase of that walk. What I’m sharing with you is my reflection on how I moved from being stuck to some very satisfying work. I didn’t plan to take a walk to solve my problems. I planned to take a walk. Taking a walk lead to some very satisfying productivity.
Deep work! That’s the key. A good walk in the woods. (Note: the book Deep Work by Cal Newport is a great resource.)
I like Pharrell Williams. His music is great to my ear and while I couldn’t pull off any of his fashion statements, somehow it looks really good and natural on him.
Jacob Gallagher interviewed Pharrell for The Wall Street Journal. It was titled “20 Odd Questions”. Some of them may have been odd but I found most of them interesting.
- Favorite places in the world
- Favorite art gallery
- Who would he want to work with
These were some of the questions and categories. But the one topic that jumped out for me was:
The most important life lesson I’ve learned is:
Pharrell may be one of the most recognizable people on the planet today. Fame. Fortune. Wealth. All the things that much of the world seems to be clamoring for. So, what was his answer?
“The importance of humility. You want to shine but not so bright that you burn everything in the room. As long as you’ve got your light, people will see you and it’s all good.”
He expresses a clear understanding of humility. It doesn’t mean to stay in the background. “You want to shine…”
It doesn’t mean that you don’t lead the way. “You’ve got your light…”
The original meaning of the word means complete power under control. “Not so bright that you burn everything in the room.”
Humble leaders shine. They light the way. People know who they are and what they stand for. They just don’t burn out everything (and everyone) in the room. Others shine brighter in their presence.
Are people basking in your light or putting on dark sunglasses to keep from burning out their eyes? Be a light. Don’t be a torch.
I’m continuing my series on an in-depth look at a wonderful little book that’s twenty years old this year. The title is Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson. You may want to consider dropping back and reading the previous posts about ABSURD! I think it will put each new one in great context.
Most of us know Abraham Maslow from his Hierarchy of Needs. However, I’ve enjoyed his work called Eupsychian Management: The attitude of self-actualizing people to duty, work, mission, etc. This was written when he was working as a management consultant.
Farson has also picked up on this work as he devotes much of this chapter to Maslow’s concepts around the meaning of complaining. Here’s what Farson learned from Maslow:
Abraham Maslow advised managers to listen not for the presence or absence of complaints, but rather to what people were complaining about. Here he unpacks a hierarchy of needs, of sorts, in an organization:
Least healthy organizations
You can expect to hear low-order grumbles – complaints about working conditions, about what he called “deficiency needs.” (“It’s too hot in here.”, “I don’t get paid enough.”, etc.)
Healthier organizations would have high-order grumbles – complaints that extend beyond the self to more altruistic concerns: “Did you hear what happened to the people over in Plant Two? They really got cheated.” Or “We need better safety standard around here.”
Very healthy organization
A healthy organization would have “metagrumples” – complaints having to do with needs for self-actualization: “I don’t feel that my talents are being utilized.” Or, “I don’t feel that I’m in on things enough around here.”
There is the absurdity. Only in an organization where people are in on things and where their talents are being utilized would it occur to someone to complain about those issues.
Absurd as it seems, the way to judge your effectiveness is to assess the quality of the discontent you engender, the ability to produce movement from low-order to high-order discontent.
The paradox is that improvement in human affairs leads not to satisfaction but to discontent, albeit a higher-order discontent than might have existed before. Why is this phenomenon important to understand? Because the motivation for continuing change and growth comes from the development of higher-quality discontent, then moving on to the solution of more important issues.
This observation by Maslow and Farson has served me well many times in my consulting career. Many times, the leaders I work with just don’t seem to understand why people are still complaining after periods of great success for both the individuals and the company. When I ask them the question “What are they complaining about?” We begin to see tremendous growth taking place because people are now complaining about much higher-level needs.
People will always find something to complain about. They’re on a journey and they haven’t arrived yet. It starts at a very young age when you kids start asking “Are we there yet?” twenty minutes after your journey began.
I like Farson’s closing remark, “Pity the poor manager who can’t imagine how a well-intended action led to such grousing.” What are they grousing about? That’s the question that will clue you in on your leadership journey’s progress.
Elle Kaplan, the CEO & Founder of LexION Capital recently published an article titled “How To Use The Reading Habits of Billionaires To Radically Improve Your Intelligence and Success”
I’ll let Elle explain the science and research behind the correlation with intelligence and success but the two quotes that captured my interest were from Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Old school, new school if you will.
“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” —Warren Buffett
When asked how he learned how to build rockets, Elon Musk simply said “I read books.”
I can’t guarantee that reading books will turn you into a rocket scientist, but I do know it radically increases your knowledge and gives you great new frameworks and perspectives, helping you understand the world around you better. As far as the success part, I’m not sure but it does make you happier and science does show that if you’re happier, you are more successful (but that’s another blog post coming soon).
If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know that I have a reading section with quick summaries of the books I’ve been reading. But like many things, it’s good to look back over the year and reflect on what you’ve covered and enjoy the accomplishment.
Besides the 20 novels, and other non-business non-fiction books that I’ve read this year, here is a recap of the business-related books read in 2016:
- Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions
- Think to Win: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking
- The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
- How Adam Smith Can Change your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
- The Future Arrived Yesterday: the Rise of the Protean Corporation and What it Means for you
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way you Lead Forever
- Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help
- Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate and compete in the knowledge economy
- A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of Quick Fix
- The Drama Triangle and Break Free of the Drama Triangle
- Bo’s Lasting Lessons
- Presence, Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges
- Idiot Brain: What your head is really up to
- Life in half a second: How to achieve success before it’s too late
- The Management Myth: Debunking the modern business philosophy
- Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived joyful life
One of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you think up such good questions?” (Another book you’ll find in previous years is A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) People find power in the ability to ask good questions that spark new perspectives.
Actually, I don’t think up good questions. Good questions are a result of reading, thinking, contemplating and wondering, not spur of the moment ideas. Curiosity is a very powerful leadership technique. I find the more I read the more curiosity I seem to have.
Read more! It will likely increase your intelligence, it may increase your success and it will most assuredly increase your happiness (which we know scientifically will increase your intelligence and success!)
Some people I’ve worked with have what we might think of as that victim mentality. The Leadership Style instrument I use (LSI from Human Synergistics) measures two areas titled Dependent and Avoidance that collectively describe a style that starts with the assumption that they are the victim in most circumstances. Some of the descriptions include:
A tendency to be easily influenced, not taking independent action
A strong tendency to deny responsibility or accountability
A passive attitude
Feelings of helplessness and/or guilt over real or imagined mistakes
The presence of rapid change or traumatic set-backs
A lack of self-respect
Extreme fear of failure
Someone asked me the other day what was the opposite of the victim mentality. That ignited a lively dialogue which came to the conclusion that Creativity is the opposite of victim mentality. Isn’t that a great picture? If we eliminate policies, procedures, governance, or leadership styles that create or assume a victim mentality, we unleash creativity. Although my work is focused on leadership within corporations, the first thing that came to mind was our law makers. Start evaluating all of the bills that are coming through congress (or ones that have been part of the landscape for many years) and begin to evaluate them in terms of “Do they create victims or do they instill creativity?” Many of the laws of this nation seem to start with the assumption that you are (or should be) a victim. And then they tend to perpetuate that belief. Our only opportunity in this rapidly changing global economy is to be creative and innovative. Shouldn’t we stop passing laws that push us toward or assume we are or should be victims?
But, closer to home, can you evaluate your or others leadership style on this victim-creativity balance beam? It’s always easiest to see it in others but the first step in great leadership is self-awareness, self-assessment, and humility. Have a discussion with your team. Maybe start by evaluating the group of people that work for you. Do they behave as victims or creators? What about our leadership style is causing that? How do we change the way we lead to increase the creative nature of our company?
My wife and I recently had the opportunity to listen to Condoleezza Rice when she made a speaking engagement in our home town. During the question and answer period one of the first question was “How did a young person of color from Birmingham, Alabama make it all the way to Secretary of State?” The first words out of her mouth without hesitation were “We were never allowed to be victims!”