In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, habit #2 is to begin with the end in mind. On the surface, it sounds like he is talking about setting goals, but what he talks about is more fundamental that that.
Begin with the end in mind means that you must have a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish in order to get there. That seems pretty straight forward, but it is actually very nuanced. The problem is, a lot of us aren’t self aware enough to really understand what it is we are aiming for. We may have a general picture in our mind and we may think of it every once in a while, but we aren’t consciously designing our outcomes.
Let me give you an example from my life.
I got my degree in accounting and I worked in an accounting job for maybe 5 years of my entire career. I eventually figured out that what I wanted to accomplish had nothing to do with accounting. I was moving forward in my career – just not in the one that was right for me.
That was back in the early days of my career. Once I got onto the right path, my career has been a consistent accomplishment toward the vision I had of my goal. Then, about 4 or 5 years ago, I started to see a new vision. The objective was shifting and the picture has gotten clearer, although I’m still refining it. Starting this podcast is part of it.
Covey talks about all creations being created twice.
The 1st creation is your mental image of it.
The 2nd creation is the physical manifestation of it.
If that 1st creation isn’t made consciously, you aren’t the one driving the objective.
For me, I went into accounting mostly because it was what everyone around me was doing. I knew in college that I didn’t want to be an accountant. I liked business and I was good at a lot of the skills I needed for accounting – so that’s the direction I took. I didn’t know enough about the real business world to define my outcome any other way. So, my 1st vision for my career, although perfectly legitimate on paper, turned out not to be the right vision once I translated it from my mental image into a physical career.
Although I thought I knew what I wanted to accomplish, I was wrong. And, I think this is natural. I don’t feel like I failed because I didn’t stick with accounting. Once I got out into the business world and saw what other jobs were out there that could use my skills, I was able to see a different vision for myself. Once I saw a new vision, I was ready to start moving in that direction.
I think the important lesson is to look up every once in a while and ask yourself if the world you are creating is actually the one you want to be creating.
This is going to require a lot of self awareness.
Self awareness is something we talk about a lot on People Move Organizations because it is so foundational to a successful career.
Self awareness is knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions.
The reason it is important that you have self awareness is that you have to have a good handle on yourself in order to be able to set a goal or a vision that will be fulfilling for you. It is so easy to fall into a habit or a pattern where you get up and go to work every day and do what you do.
Whether it brings you joy and fulfillment or not.
If you aren’t absolutely miserable, you aren’t likely to think about your vision. Defining the end state is about knowing yourself well enough to know – well, not just know – to really take positive action toward, to be motivated to act toward an end goal that will bring you fulfillment.
Daniel Goldman summed it up nicely in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, “Self awareness is a building block of commitment: if you don’t know you own guiding principles, you may not recognize when something is or isn’t a fit.”
As you become self aware, you start to see where something isn’t a fit and you can start to create a new vision for yourself. Again, Habit 2 is: begin with the end in mind.
When was the last time you spent time thinking about your vision for yourself?
Without the vision for where it is you are trying to get to, it is impossible to take the next step – which is making progress toward the goal.
Begin with the end in mind is for processes too
Do you have a problem at work that you are trying to solve? A process that isn’t working well? Before you can fix it, you’ve got to be clear on what end state you are trying to get to.
Just this week, I found myself spinning my wheels on a problem. I feel like the process we use for forecasting our staffing levels isn’t working as well as it could. I was trying to figure out why it isn’t giving me a result I could trust and I found myself with 10 spreadsheets open and 10 partially completed analyses – none of which gave me an answer. I was in analysis paralysis. So, I literally said out loud to myself “what exactly are you trying to accomplish?” I had lost track of the end result and had to remind myself.
Whether you are using Habit 2 for big life changing decisions of for thorn-in-your-side tactical problems at work, make sure you regularly step back from the daily grind and ask yourself what are you trying to accomplish?
Before you can actually accomplish anything, you’ve got to have a vision for what it is you are moving toward.
And, don’t beat yourself up when you vision changes over time. It is natural for your priorities to change and therefore your vision to change as well.
I find the social science of the brain to be a very interesting topics, which means I read a lot of books about it. It is a fairly new science, and scientists admit that there is still a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take what is known and apply it to the way we work.
Work, by its definition, involves other people. So, the more you know about how other people think, the more you can tailor your work in a manner that will be more likely to be positively accepted by the people you work with.
Our social connections are necessary for our survival – not just at work, but in life. If you think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the lowest level is the physiological stuff, and then comes safety, and next is social. Without social connections, you can’t move up into the hierarch where you get into esteem and self-actualization.
Default Mode Network
And the science supports this idea. There is a region in our brain called the Default Mode Network. This are of the brain becomes active whenever you think about people and your relationship to them. Science shows that 2 day old babies have this Default Mode Network. They don’t have social networks yet, but their brain is already wired for them.
When everything is going well, there is nothing to worry about. But lets be honest – most of us don’t go for very long without running into some kind of social pain. A fight with a spouse. A misunderstanding with a co-worker. Feeling like someone else is getting credit for something we did. Somehow, we don’t always give this the same amount of weight we give physical pain. But, the science proves otherwise. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between physical pain and social pain.
When you have a stomach ache or a headache, you attribute them to a specific part of your body. But, we know from hundreds (or more) of examples that placebos can treat these physical ailments which means that the stomach ache was really in your brain, not your stomach. So, just because social pain doesn’t have a physical spot on your body that you can point to, doesn’t mean it isn’t as real to your brain.
So, keep this in mind the next time you get into a tussle with someone. For both of you, the pain felt is as real as if you had stubbed your toe. Give yourself the grace and space to deal with the pain. Give the other person the same.
Your Brain Determines Your Tolerance For Pain
Science also shows that there is a genetic reason that some people seem to be able to deal with pain better than others. We all have a mu-opioid receptor that determines how we feel and handle pain. Depending on which receptor you get, you will be more or less sensitive to pain. Its funny because I think humans have known this for a long time even though we’ve just recently gotten the science to prove it.
Have you ever heard someone say “I’ve got a high tolerance for pain?” While someone else may say “I’ve got a low tolerance for pain?”
I’d bet if we tested those two people, we’d find that they have different mu-opioid receptors. I think they key takeaway here is that if someone else has a lower or higher tolerance for pain – which includes social pain – you should remember that it is genetic. No different than the color of their eyes. Rather than spending time judging them, recognize the difference and understand that we are all genetically driven when it comes to tolerating pain.
Theory of the Mind
Another area that brain science has made strides in recently is the development of a concept called Theory of the Mind. Theory of the Mind is this thing that happens when we realize that other people have their own thoughts that drive their behavior. We can understand that what another person believes is driven by their own experiences and beliefs. So, for example, when you are in a small store and you walk up to the counter to pay, you understand in your mind that the store employee will interpret you standing there to mean you are ready to check out so they will stop stalking the shelf and come over to ring you up. Neither of you had to tell the other what you were thinking. Your Theory of Mind allowed you both to draw conclusion s about what each other would conclude.
The interesting thing is that we aren’t born with this ability. Scientists have conducted a study to prove this. Sally and Anne are in a room with a basket and a box. A 3 year old is observing. Sally puts a marble in the basket and walks out of the room. Anne moves the marble to the box, and then Sally returns to the room. Where will Sally look for the marble. You and I would say she will look in the basket since that is where she left it and wouldn’t know that Ann had moved it. That is Theory of Mind at work. You and I can separate what Sally is thinking and how she is likely to behave from what we know to be true. But, when scientists asked the 3 year old, they say she will look in the box. Since they know it is in the box, they can’t separate the action they would take from the action Sally will take based on her experience.
It is fascinating to think about how much of our social interaction each day is driven by Theory of Mind. Start observing when you are using Theory of Mind to recognize when another person’s behavior is being driven by beliefs that differ from your own or that don’t line up with your reality.
And, lastly, closely aligned with this is the idea of mirror neurons. This is some of the newest science and is still really being disputed in the scientific community. But, what current studies are showing is that we all have an area of the brain called the mirror neurons. When you pick p a peanut, this area lights up. The interesting part is tha t if you see someone else lean over and pick up a peanut, the same are of the brain lights up. Scientists think that this is why we might wince when we see someone else stub their toe.
Theory of the Mind allows us to imagine what the other person’s reaction will be and our mirror neurons mimic that reaction. This whole process allows us to better understand the experience – something like empathy – which results in a better social connection between us and the other person.
So, you might be saying – this is great scientific information about the brain, but this is a business skills podcast – what does brain science have to do with business skills?
Well, there is a lot of scientific evidence that our brains work to ensure our social interactions with others. And, of course, a large percentage of our social interactions with others occurs at work. Your success in your career is going to be somewhat dependent on how well you can execute these social interactions. If you are a developer, your career success will be heavily dependent on your ability to code software. If you are a marketer, your success is heavily dependent on your ability to get leads in the door. But, if you are good at those career-specific skills, but not good at getting along with your coworkers or clients, then you ultimately won’t be as successful as you could be. We need to be able to execute our unique job-related skills within the bigger context of social interactions. Business is wholly dependent on social interactions.
So, understanding how our brain works in these social interactions is important. How we use this knowledge at work can help us build deeper relationships with our coworkers. It can help us influence others and understand why a coworker might behave the way they do.
And, anytime you can improve your interactions with others, you will be more successful in your career.
If you want to learn more about these topics, I recommend the book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman.
If you aren’t clear on you priorities, it will have an impact on almost every other aspect of your life. We commonly refer to work – life balance when we are talking about priorities. But, it isn’t just about what you do at work and what you do in your personal life. Your priorities have an impact to many different aspects of your life. Its all inter-twined.
If you just think about your work, you can think about how productive you are during any given week. Are you as successful as you could be or as you want to be? How can you be more productive or successful in the - air quotes – 40 hours you spend at work each week?
Now, expand beyond work and consider your family life. I will include friends really – you social life, which includes family. How fulfilled are you in your personal life? Are you accomplishing what you want in this area? Do you feel like you are giving it the attention it needs?
Lets expand again. Now, what about your community life? When you think about everything you want to accomplish outside of work and our social circle, do you feel like you have a handle on it? Are you happy with the contribution you are making?
And finally, let me expand one more time. What about you personally? For yourself? What are your goals? Do you have hobbies? Is there a hobby you want to pursue that you haven’t?
It’s a lot to keep track of.
What do you want to accomplish at work, at home, in your community, and for yourself? How on earth do you balance it all?
How do you ensure that each and every week you are taking actions that align with these goals?
How do you balance your personal set of goals with other important people in your life?
You really can’t set your priorities without taking your bosses priorities into consideration. If you are in a relationship, you can’t set your priorities without taking your partner’s priorities into account. It can get overwhelming very quickly. That is exactly why so many people just ignore their priorities and let their life unfold the way it unfolds.
When you let life unfold, it has a tendency to be driven by the urgent things – regardless of how important they are.
North Star List
There is a tool that I use to help me keep track of it all. It helps me keep an eye on my priorities so that I can feel confident that I’m always acting in accordance with my priorities. I call it the North Star List, and although I’ve talked about it a lot on this podcast, today we are going to deep dive into it. My goals is that you leave this week with a North Star List of your own.
The way I describe the North Star List is that it is the job description for your life. Just like a job description outlines what you should be spending your time on at work, your North Star List outlines what you should be spending your time on in life.
As you think about the different areas of your life – work, social circle, community, and yourself, you are going to write out a description of what you want it to be for you. Don’t feel like you have to cover every scenario. Your North Star List is going to change over time because – well – your priorities change over time. Let’s just take work as an example.
When you first start working, you may have a priority to find a good solid job that has good potential for growth. Or maybe that has good potential to learn a specific skill you want to pursue. Then, over time you may decide that what you really want out of work is a certain title or a promotion and climbing the ladder is your top priority. And, if you are like me and you’ve been working for nearly 30 years, your priority ay move from climbing the ladder to just maintaining a paycheck because your priority is shifting from career to retirement.
Obviously, the same is true for your social circle. When you are young, your priority is likely a circle of friends. As you get older and start a family, it is likely your immediate family – your spouse and children. And, as you get older and your kids move out, it is likely going to shift back to friends.
So, as you can see, the priorities in each are of you life are going to shift over time. There will be times when your work/life balance is completely focused on work, and times when it is completely focused on life, and everything in between.
What the North Star List does is it helps you think about your priorities and ensure you are acting in alignment with them at all times.
So, let’s put together your North Star List. When you think about your life, what is your job description?
Start with your work. If you were writing a job description for the role work plays in your life, what would it be? Is it the central responsibility you have? Is it an important part of your job, but not the most important thing? Or is it one of those nice-to-have things that they always put in the last section of a job description? How would you describe the role your work has in your life?
My current North Star List has work listed as “provide for my family through a job that pays enough to provide the lifestyle we desire.” What does that tell you about my priorities? There is nothing in that statement about doing something I love or enjoy. There is nothing in that statement about a certain title or achieving anything other than – honestly – a paycheck. This is because I’m at the stage in my career where I’ve done everything I want to do and my job is no longer a focus for me. Don’t get me wrong – I still have to work and I still want to enjoy what I do, but as far as my priorities go – it doesn’t go beyond the paycheck. Practically speaking, what does it mean? It means that as I make my way through my week and I have to make decisions about my limited time, I let this priority drive those decisions. I don’t put a lot of overtime in because my priority isn’t to climb the ladder. I used to make decisions based on what might be good for my career. Now, I don’t because it is no longer such a priority. It is a subtle difference, but is so helpful in providing direction when I’m faced with decisions.
Ok, so lets turn to your social life. This includes family and friends. The next line in your job description should describe what you want this area of your life to look like. Knowing that you have to balance work with your social life. What is the priority for you when it comes to family and friends?
For example, my North Star List says “support my family by being present as a wife, daughter, sister, and friend.” That means I show up in meaningful ways for those people I love. Since I don’t have kids, there is no need to talk about the kind of parent I want to be. Your focus may be a lot more narrow if you are in a new relationship or have young children.
Next, think about the wider community. What role do you want to play in your community?
It may be that your answer is none. And, that’s ok. Again, over time, our focus changes. If you are young and have a new family and new career, you may not have any time for the wider community. There was a time when I very consciously called out my community involvement was limited to supporting organizations or causes I cared about financially because I could easily write a check, but giving my time was a much bigger challenge.
You can see how having this outlined in my North Star List made decisions easy. When I was asked to volunteer for something – having the North Star List to refer back to made it easy for me to say no because it wasn’t one of my priorities.
My current North Star List says “support my community by using my strengths too benefit organizations that serve missions that I believe in.”
Finally, it is important that you don’t forget about yourself. In your life’s job description, what is your current priority for yourself?
How do you take care of yourself? What is the top priority for yourself?
It may be tempting for you to say something about your work or family. Don’t. You’ve covered those already. It may feel selfish at first, but just do it anyway. If you don’t put yourself on your priority list, I can guarantee you won’t give yourself permission to do whatever it is that is important to you. And, that will lead to burnout.
For me, it is my podcasts. What will it be for you?
Navigating the corporate world means you are always negotiating. You may be negotiating with a coworker about a project deadline. Or, with a client about how to resolve an issue. Or, you may be negotiating with your boss about a promotion or a raise. Whether you think about it consciously or not, you are always negotiating. And, because our goal is to help you be successful in your career, we want to spend 10 minutes with you this week teaching you one component of negotiation.
The concept we are going to be covering is called BANTA. It stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.
Negotiation always involves at least two people, and you are always one of them. Chances are good that you and the other person involved in the negotiation have different priorities.
This doesn’t even have to be dramatic. Its really only natural that 2 people will have different priorities. You both have different interests as well. They don’t necessarily have to be competing interests, but if you are negotiating with someone, you are really, by definition, in a place where you don’t currently have agreement.
Entering the Negotiation
So, as you enter into any negotiation, you should be aware that, at the start of the negotiation, you have a gap to close. There are two parts to closing that gap:
As you think about your personal priorities, you are going to come up with a list of your demands:
You need to be clear on these things so that as you get into the negotiation, you can remain more calm. You will have already thought through the possible outcomes and you aren’t having to think on your feet when the heat is on.
BANTA takes you to the next step
Again, BANTA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. It is your best course of action for satisfying your interests if you can not reach agreement with the other side.
It is about being clear in your mind about what action you will take in the event the negotiation does not go your way.
The reason BANTA is important is because it is the emergency exit. When you don’t have an emergency exit, you panic.
You make rash decisions.
You may dig in.
Your mind shuts down and you lose your ability to think creatively. And, because you can’t think creatively, you rely on the goals and objectives you had identified as the only possible options.
BANTA is your exit plan. If a negotiation doesn’t result in the outcome you were looking for, you need to know how you’ll exit.
Having BANTA in your toolkit will help you reach a new ability to negotiate because it will help bring clarity to your negotiation.
If you are a Scale My Skills subscriber, we’ve sent you a worksheet to help you plan your negotiation, including your BANTA. If not, you can sign up here.
Every single one of us has a lot to learn. You may be an expert at something, but a complete novice in another area. Or, maybe you have only been out of school for a short time and you are pretty much a novice at everything. So, whatever your situation, you are going to be put into a scenario where you are not the most knowledgeable person on the topic, and you are going to need to rely on the advice or feedback of someone else. When this happens, one of the most important things you can do is accurately assess how much weight you should give to their advice.
Assess How Much Weight to Give Advice
How do you do that? By considering how much experience the person has and what their track record is on the subject. So, someone who has been working in sales for 20 years and has won top sales person over and over is very reliable when it comes to topics related to sales. But, you may not want to take tax advice from them. For tax advice, you will go to someone with a CPA who has 20 years of experience doing tax returns.
It seems pretty obvious when I use those examples, but in day-to-day situations, it isn’t always so clear cut.
If you want to improve your ability to make good decisions, you need to evaluate your decision making process. When you make a decision, who are you relying on? Are you taking into consideration the advice you are being given weighed against the person’s experience and expertise? Not every person is right for advice on every topic. Someone who is super smart in one area can still give you horrible advice in another area.
You must be able to distinguish the person’s believability when it comes to the topic. What most people do is they give equal weight to everyone in the room. Or, they may give weight based on likeability or how long they’ve known someone. But, even in those cases, they are usually doing it unconsciously.
Consider Experience and Track Record
When you are trying to make a decision about something and you are involving others, you must consider their experience and track record when weighing the impact their opinion will have on your decision.
When you are considering someone’s advice, ask yourself:
This 3rd point is really important. A lot of people have opinions they are willing to share, but when you dig into it, you find out it is not based on any personal experience. Many times, it is based on something they’ve heard someone else say. A person’s believability is tied to first-hand experience. If they don’t have 1st hand experience, then they aren’t the right person for you to be getting advice from.
Separating your respect for someone from the fact that they aren’t believable in certain areas is an important skill. In order to do that, you need to ask yourself if they have a good explanation for their advice. If not, you should consider how much weight you give it.
What Role Are You Playing?
The other thing to think about when making a decision based on other people’s advice is the role that you are playing in this specific instance. When considering your relative experience to the other person’s – are you a student, a teacher, or a peer?
If the other person is relatively more experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of student and you should be asking questions in order to gain understanding.
If the other person is relatively less experienced than you on the topic, then you are in the role of teaching. You should be explaining the process and experience that led you to your conclusion.
And, if you and the other person are relative peers – have a similar level of experience, then your role is to debate. To balance open-minded exploration of the experiences that led your colleague to his opinions while also being assertive in explaining your own experiences and opinions.
If you have signed up for Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, you received a matrix to help you assess your role and the actions you should take when you find yourself in each of the roles.
“What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can not hear what you say.”
Do you work with someone that you don’t trust and so, no matter what they say to you, you don’t believe it? Who they are is blocking out everything they say. No matter whether what they are saying is true and genuine – your interpretation of what they say is going to be colored by your opinion of them.
I once had a boss who would spend a good portion of every conversation bad mouthing someone else. Whether or not I shared his opinion about the other person, the only thing I could think of what “how much time does he spend bad mouthing me when he talks to others?” Regardless of the fact that he would tell me that he thought I was doing a good job – I couldn’t believe that he genuinely thought that. How could it be that I was the only person he thought positively about? I didn’t trust him, couldn’t trust him, and it didn’t matter what he said, his actions drowned out the words.
By the way, I didn’t work for him for very long. I knew that there was no up side for me in that relationship. Only downside.
Today, we are going to talk about paradigm, and how it has a profound impact on your career.
A paradigm is a model, theory, or frame of reference. It is the way you see the world. Each of us has a different frame of reference because each of us brings a different set of experiences and values to our perceptions of the world. This fact has really come to the forefront recently with the global discussion that is going on about equality in the world.
It isn’t a political statement to say that my paradigm as a white, middle-to-upper class woman is very different than the paradigm of a black middle-to-upper class woman. It is simply a fact. Her experiences and my experiences are different and as a result, we bring a different frame of reference to our interactions.
My paradigm is influenced by the fact that I grew up in the restaurant business because my dad owned restaurants. Chances are good that you don’t have that same experience.
I grew up with a stay-at-home-mom, which gave me another piece of my paradigm. I went to public school, and was in the band. I’ve never been robbed or broken a bone. All of these things combine to make my paradigm – my frame of reference - different than yours.
Recognizing, and being conscious of the fact that you have a unique paradigm is important because it colors everything you do.
Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “to try and change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigm from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.”
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are – that we are objective. But, this is not the case. We see the world not as it is, but as we are – as we are conditioned to see it.
If everyone you interact with throughout the day is seeing the world as they are conditioned to see it, what does that mean for you?
It means that you can easily be misunderstood, or your actions can be misinterpreted. Whether the other person realizes it or not. Whether you realize it or not.
It also means that you can easily misinterpret or misunderstand someone else. Before you react to something, stop to consider if the person may be using a different paradigm than you.
These different paradigms could easily be seen as a problem. If everyone is walking around misunderstanding each other because of different frames of reference, how will we ever get anything done?
But another word for these paradigms is diversity. This diversity helps form better solutions to a problem because when everybody comes to the table with a different frame of reference, you end up with more insights and a more complete solution is the result.
Embrace the different paradigms
The key skill that I want to help you develop this week is how to embrace these different paradigms. As I already mentioned, the 1st step is to recognize it.
Spend some time thinking about the paradigm that you have. What circumstances and life experiences have you had that have an impact on how you view the world? Get comfortable with the fact that everything you do is done through the unique lens.
Next, you need to become cognizant of the fact that everyone else is coming to the party with their own lens, and you are likely never going to know all of the things that form the lens.
For instance, I’m never going to know what experience led my old boss to a place where he thinks it is ok to spend so much of his time bad mouthing others. Somewhere in his past, something occurred that allowed him to form an opinion that this is ok behavior. My guess is he doesn’t even recognize that he is doing it. But, it is certainly part of him and definitely colors everything he does. I will never know how that came about.
So, recognizing the fact that we each have our own paradigm is step 2. The reason it is important is because, when you find yourself in a tense situation – either you are having a disagreement, or it doesn’t have to be that dramatic – maybe you are working through a problem at work and seem to be getting stuck – not making progress toward a solution. When you get into a situation like that, it can be helpful to kind of take a step back and say – ok what is it about our paradigms that are contributing to this situation?
This will help because it automatically makes you more curious about the situation. Curiosity is not confrontational. It is open and starts to engage other parts of your brain that will start making connections to things that may have been previously unrelated.
For example, I’m a rule follower. It is part of me and although I don’t really think about it, my natural tendency is to follow rules. Worse than that, I tend to impose rules that aren’t even really there. The result is a lot of times, I don’t think of options for solving a problem that others see. I may overlook an option because it is going to cost money and I have this rule in my head that you shouldn’t spend money unless there is no other alternative. So, I’ll ignore a solution and search high and low to find another solution. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone else I’m working with says “well, if we just bought this thing, it would solve the problem.”
My paradigm about spending money colors the way I solve problems. When someone else comes with a different paradigm, I automatically start to think more creatively because a whole new set of options become available to me.
Another tool for getting the most out of differing paradigms is listening. Now – this ain’t easy folks! Especially when you are dealing with something highly emotional.
Let’s say your manager comes to you and says your performance is not meeting expectations. You think you’ve been doing a great job, so there are obviously 2 different paradigms here. Once you get over the initial shock of it, you can recognize that you and your manager are coming to your interaction with 2 different world views.
You can get curious “I wonder what her perspective is and how it can be so different from mine?”
And then you can listen. Really listen to her point of view. Don’t judge. Don’t defend. Listen. Listen to understand. Listen to empathize. See if you can understand her world view. See if you can recognize how all of her life experiences have added up to a different perspective than yours. Look for areas where your world view may be limited by your experiences and behaviors. Ask yourself if your world view could use an update as a result of this experience.
So, back to Emerson. “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can no hear what you say.”
Your homework for this week is to get to know your paradigm. Think about how you show up, and what lens you bring. Because to be successful in your career, people need to be able to hear what you say.
Willpower is a funny thing. We all have willpower – we just all have it in different areas. Improving your willpower obviously helps you in life, but it will help you in your career as well. Understanding willpower can help you influence others, which can also help you in your career. So, there is a lot to be gained by better understanding it. There are a lot of different topics we can cover related to willpower, but today, we are going to focus specifically on the concept of social proof.
Social proof is the phenomenon that when the people around us do something, we think it’s the smart thing to do.
Do you think that because you are an adult, you are past peer pressure? Well, you’d be wrong!
When everybody else is doing it, we want to do it.
In California, researchers put door hangers on 371 homes that encouraged people to conserve energy*. Some homes got a door hanger that focused on the impacts to the environment. Others got a door hanger that appealed to their impact on their grandchildren. Others got a message about how much money they could save. And the last group got a door hanger that said ‘99% of the people in your community reported turning off lights to save energy.”
Each house received the same door hanger for 4 weeks in a row. Energy usage was measured at the beginning and end. The only message that resulted in reduced energy usage – you guessed it – was the message that ‘everybody’s doing it.’
Logically, you know that using less energy is better for the environment, your grandkids, and your wallet. Just like logically, you know that eating more broccoli and less chocolate cake is better for your health. But, for some reason – and psychologists call it social proof – the biggest motivator is what those around us do.
Kelly McGonigal, in her book Willpower Instinct says it well, ‘Social proof can strengthen self-control when we believe that doing the right thing is the norm.’
So, if you want to improve your willpower, the best thing you can do is find a group of people for which the things you aspire to is the norm. If you go to the gym everyday, you are going to be around people who consider daily exercise to be the norm – no willpower needed. Pretty soon, you start to think that way too.
If you want to get your customers or coworkers to behave in a certain way, you need to look for opportunities to help them feel that your desired way is the norm. Similar to our California door hangers, I can picture a client newsletter that you send out that says ‘99% of our customers never need to call the help desk because they found their own answers in our online knowledge center.”
Ok – that might not be the best idea.
But, how could you encourage your customers to believe that the behavior you want to encourage is the norm? The same with employees. If you’ve had more than one job, you’ve probably noticed that different companies have different norms. At first, if the norm isn’t what you are used to, it is a struggle, but eventually, you fall in line so that you can fit in and before long, you forget that you ever used to do it a different way.
If we look at the other side of the coin – what happens when you feel rejected from a tribe? Well, it’s a fast way to lose your willpower. Once the tribe has rejected you, you think to yourself – “well, why should I even bother?” And, you’ll give into your willpower right away.
So, it turns out that the tribe that you surround yourself with is very important to your ability to stick with your willpower. And, you have an influence on those same people. Their willpower is influenced by you. What are the norms that you’re telling yourself are ok because everybody else is doing it? Are you late to meetings because everybody else is late so its no big deal? Do you not follow through on commitments because you see others around you do the same? Do you gossip about coworkers behind their back? If that is the norm for your tribe, then you better believe that they are talking behind your back too.
Recognizing that you are influenced by peer pressure and that you are the peer pressure that others are influenced by can be a life altering paradigm shift. Be diligent about recognizing what your tribe is telling you is normal when deep down you suspect its not. Recognize that you can find other people to surround yourself with who have a different definition of normal. Recognize that you can and do influence others with your definition of normal.
Want your coworkers to show up on time? Make it normal to do that. Want to get people to follow your process? Let them know that everybody else is doing it. There may be 100 logical reasons why doing your process is the best option. Just like turning off your lights is good for the environment and saves you money. But -logic doesn’t always get people to change their ways. You are more likely to win your bet when you bet on social proof.
Your homework for this week is to identify an area where you feel your self-control isn’t where it should be. Are you surrounded by people who are making this unwanted behavior the norm? Are you telling yourself that its no big deal because everybody’s doing it? If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, then you are probably not surrounding yourself with the right people. Or, think of a role model who you can call to mind if you can’t change your tribe.
*Energy Conservation Study – Nolan, JM “Normative Social Influence is Under detected” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2008
I was recently talking with a friend about the process for dealing with customer service calls at a food service delivery app company. When you get on one of these apps to order food from a local company, what are your expectations? What would lead you to call the customer service department of the app?
Let me tell you something about myself before we go any further into this discussion. I personally have never used one of these apps. Now, you’ve probably formed all kinds of ideas about me in your head because of this admission. I’m ok with that. Before these apps came into the mainstream, I rarely ever ordered carry out. It just isn’t a habit I have. I either cook at home or go out to a restaurant to eat. I don’t and never have, ordered carry out. It just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. So, when the apps came along, I just never had a reason to use them.
So, back to my conversation with my friend. She works for one of these app companies and had called me because they were having some growing pains in their customer service department. I had asked her to give me some examples of reasons people call them for support. She said, “well maybe they get their order and the drink is missing.”
Ok – now hold on a second.
I was totally confused. Why would you call a software company about a missing drink in your order rather than calling the restaurant?
This is a concept that makes absolutely no sense to me. The software company has developed an app that facilitates a connection between you and a local restaurant. That software company, and its customer service people could literally be located anywhere in the country – in the world. You’ve ordered from a local restaurant. Presumably within around 10 miles of your house assuming you want your food to still be warm when it gets to you. They forget to send your drink. They are local, and responsible for messing up your order. But, instead of calling them, you call the app. I really can’t get my mind wrapped around that logic.
I wonder how many people called the phone company back in the day before the internet when the only way to get food delivered to your home was by telephone. Hello? AT&T? Yes, I’ve just called and ordered a pizza and now that its been delivered, I see that it is missing black olives.
Today’s episode is about the false conclusion effect. You see, the fact that this makes no sense to me is irrelevant. Obviously, a lot of people think about this differently than I do, or else my friend wouldn’t be getting these calls. A lot of people obviously think that it is the software company’s job to fix the missing drink problem. They’ve reached a different conclusion than I have. The false conclusion effect says that we tend to believe the world at large shares our beliefs and point of view more than they actually do. We tend to use our own perspective as a proxy for the likely perspective of others.
The false conclusion effect is pervasive in companies. Not because of any bad management or nefarious intentions, but because of good old fashion human nature. We are just naturally included to think that other think the way we do and if we don’t exercise some self-control, we can really miss important inputs into our process. Why is self control important here? Because it takes self control to set aside our perceptions in order to look at things from other perspectives.
Once I became aware of this idea that other people come to the conclusion that the correct course of action when a drink is missing from your order is to call the software company, I needed to shift my perspective. This was an eye opener for me. I was immediately faced with the fact that I don’t have the only world view on how these things work. There are two primary reactions that we have when we are faced with the false conclusion effect. We can either reappraise or we can suppress.
Reappraisal means that we reconsider our approach given the new perspective we have. If you get fired from your job, reappraisal is at work if you tell yourself it was a horrible job anyway and you are now free to go do what you want to do with your life. We know from scientific brain studies that reappraisal engages the region of the brain responsible for self control. But, more importantly, it is engaged early in the episode.
The other possible reaction to being faced with a new perspective is suppression. Suppression is when you control your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language so that others can’t tell what you are thinking inside. Suppression will make it look to others like you aren’t distressed, but your mind is substantially more distracted because of the energy you are putting into maintaining your calm exterior. People are not going to enjoy being with you while you are in this state, and it is more likely that you will forget portions of the event. The self-control region of the brain is engaged later in the event when you are in suppression mode.
Why is reappraisal & suppression important to understand? Because we trust people with self control more than we trust people without it. Trust is the foundation of social interactions. And, without it, you can not be successful in your career – or life. In the book Social, Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman, he says “self control is the price of admission to society.”
We’ve talked a lot about how self control is an important part of self awareness on this podcast. Emotional Intelligence requires us to understand how we interact with society. Understanding this concept of the false consensus effect – and more importantly, recognizing when we are in its grasp - is important in allowing us to recognize our biases with society.
Having a bias doesn’t make you a a bad person. My bias toward thinking that it is logical to call the restaurant rather than the software company when my drink is missing doesn’t make me a bad person. We all have biases. Recognizing that this is true and then managing your response to it is what leads to improvement.
Once I was able to recognize this other point of view, I was able to incorporate it into my understanding of the issue being faced and provide a better suggestion for solving the problem. Any solution I gave without this expanded world view would have been inadequate.
This is why it is important to get a lot of varying inputs into your process. Talk to others about their experiences. Dig deeper into their thoughts. Ask a lot of questions. But always with the understanding that you are a victim of the false conclusion effect – we all are. Becoming aware of this alone is making you better at your job.
Episode 39: Self Control
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A job search is a stressful time for people. Even if you have a job, it is stressful. If you don’t have a job and the bills are looming, there is another level of stress – a bit of urgency added to the mix. On today’s episode, we are going to talk about managing your mental state during a job search. These are practical tips about actions you should be taking, or skills you should be focusing on during your job search. Although a good dose of positive attitude or positive self-talk may also be necessary during this time, I’m going to let other podcasts give you those. I want to give you some actionable business skills that will help you though the process.
Let me start by saying that a job search is a time that requires a high level of emotional intelligence. We talk about emotional intelligence a lot on this podcast because I believe it is a fundamental factor in success. Emotional Intelligence is defined as: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Its always important, but even more so during a job search.
First of all, you are under a lot of stress and stress will uncover any weakness you may have when it comes to the building blocks of emotional intelligence. Second, a job search can put you in a very vulnerable spot. If you’ve just been laid off or made redundant, you may also be dealing with feelings of betrayal or grief. If you lost your job for performance reasons, you are likely dealing with confidence issues. And, if you’ve made the decision to look for a new job while still employed, you may be dealing with stress that your current manager may find out, or feeling that you may being letting your current team down. You may also lose motivation to keep working for your current job. I know that I go through a stage of disengagement from my current job once I’ve decided it is time for me to move on.
So, for many different reasons, a job search is a time of high stress, which can be really challenging for even the most emotionally intelligent. Because of this, I think it is important to have a set of skills that you remind yourself about regularly during the time of a job search.
So, let’s dig in. Here are some tools that can help you maintain your mindset during a job search:
Set Appropriate Expectations
Every employee of the hiring company has an edge on you because a company is likely to fill a position with an internal candidate if they can. An internal candidate who is a known quantity, even if they don’t have the exact experience is hard for any hiring manager to pass up. Another thing you have working against you is networks. Any candidate who has a connection at the hiring company has an edge over you. You recognize both of these things are true when you look at it from the company’s side. As an employee, you would expect your employer to give an internal candidate or a candidate referred from an employee preferential treatment over someone off the street that nobody has any experience with. But, when you are that candidate, you don’t think about it that way. You look at the job description and your skills, identify a match and figure ‘why wouldn’t they hire me?”
Think about what you need to do to keep you mindset from letting the rejection turn into an excuse for inaction. When you get a rejection, what are you going to tell yourself about it? Thinking about this before you need it will help you separate the head from the heart when the time comes. For example, one of the things I tell myself is, “they must have had a referral from an employee that was a good fit.” Do I know it is true? No. But, it is not only possible, it is likely and if it is true, there is nothing I could have done differently that would have gotten me the job.
Look at it from the Hiring Manager’s Perspective
People with high emotional intelligence have the ability to see things from several perspectives. This skill is important when looking for a job because if you can see the job from the perspective of the hiring manager, you may be better able to position yourself for the job.
First, keep in mind that hiring is, for most managers, a painful activity that requires a lot of their time during what is usually a stressful time for them. They’ve likely just had someone vacate the role unexpectedly, they are having to pull double duty while they fill the role – or someone on their team is having to fill in. They want to get the role filled as quickly as possible, but at most companies, the process for getting jobs posted and candidates identified is usually frustrating. Interviewing takes a lot of time out of your day job. They need to find the right candidate because everyone they hire ultimately reflects on them.
So, when you are preparing for the interview, think about these things. Bring empathy to the conversation. Think about how you can make the process as painless as possible for the hiring manager. Think about how you would feel under the stress and realize that they are likely coming to your interaction in something less than the best version of themselves. Where possible, become someone who is helping them solve a problem.
I fully believe that an interview is as much about you ensuring that the job and company is right for you as it is about the company figuring out if you are right for them. Too many people approach an interview as if they are the commodity in the equation.
Of course, there are times where your situation or the economic situation dictates that you can’t be very picky when it comes to your next job. Sometimes a paycheck is more important than a job that is going to fulfill you. I get that, and recognize that you don’t always have the luxury of putting yourself on equal footing with the hiring manager.
But, when you are not in that situation, you need to remember that it is just as important for you to be interviewing the hiring manager as it is for them to be interviewing you. Of course you are selling yourself – your skills, your assets, your ability to get the job done. But, this isn’t a on-way street. If you are going to work for and with the people you are interviewing with, you need to be assessing them as well.
Activate Your Network
Lots of jobs get filled because of referrals. Your network is going to be critical during your job search. You are going to need to set aside time to reach out to people in your network and let them know that you are looking and what you are looking for.
I also find it helps to remind them that they may know someone in their network who has a position to fill. By reminding them of this, you are not only activating your network, you are activating their network. For example, you may be in finance. Someone in your network may be in education. It would seem like they couldn’t help you because they are in such an unrelated field. But, what if their next door neighbor is the head of Accounts Payable at a local company? You just never know what connections people might make. But, I find that you have to trigger people to think about their network. Just to tell your friend in education you are looking for a job isn’t enough. He may think ‘that’s nice, but my school isn’t currently hiring for any finance roles.” But, tell him that you are looking and though he might have someone in his network that is looking to fill a finance role and he’ll think of his next door neighbor, and bring it up on Saturday when they are both out mowing the lawn.
The other thing you need to remember about your network is that you are not the center of their lives. They may remember you are looking for a week or two, but eventually, they will forget. They’ve gotten on with life and the fact that your job search is a really big deal for you doesn’t mean it is top of mind for them. If your job search goes on for a while, your mindset can start to take a turn toward the negative and you can start to feel like your network has let you down. In order to keep your mindset positive, remember that you may need to remind people that you are looking. Don’t be a pest about it – but, just because they didn’t know about anything at the time you originally reached out doesn’t mean they won’t know about something now.
There are a lot of different ways that we look at personality types. The reason we have all of these different categories is because it helps us to understand ourselves and others. Why we behave the way we do. Why others behave in ways we can’t understand.
I’m an introvert, which means that I get my energy from being alone. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get energy from others, but because I understand the idea that there are other personality types, I can recognize an extrovert as an extrovert even though we have a fundamental difference in personality.
Different personality type indicators have different focus. Today, I’m going to introduce the Enneagram Types. I’ve also covered Myers Briggs if you want to listen to that episode as well. Its episode 17.
In this episode, we are only going to be able to cover the Enneagram at the highest level because there are 9 personality types and you can’t cover them all in a 10 minute podcast. Enneagram is primarily concerned with your instinctual motivators. Another way to say it is to talk about it in terms of habits. We all have an instinctual way we interact with the world based on our underlying motivators. Someone who is motivated by fear is going to react differently than someone who is motivated by shame.
Enneagram starts by lumping the 9 types into 3 triads, each of which is defined by its underlying motivator:
The Instinctive Triad. The 3 types in this category are driven by anger. They respond to life at the gut level and are typically very honest and direct. What sets the 3 types apart within the triad is how they manifest the anger.
The Feeling Triad. This group of people are driven by feelings and instinctively motivated by shame. They develop habits that help them cope with their feelings of shame in different ways.
The Thinking Triad. This group of people are driven by fear or anxiety. They relate to the world through their mind and plan carefully before acting.
The reason you should become familiar with Enneagram types is because it helps you understand your overall patters and behaviors. If you understand that you are fundamentally driven by shame, it helps you understand why you make some of the decisions or take some of the actions, or react to others in the way you do.
It also helps you understand that not everyone has the same motivation as you. We all have a tendency to assume others react the same way we do. Logically, we know this isn’t true, but in the moment, as we work ourselves through the day and week, we fall into the more comfortable, or maybe more expedient mental approach that our way is the only way.
But, if you can recognize that your coworker, who has a talent for seeing potential problems and dealing with them before they get out of hand is a Type 6 – and is driven by their fear and anxiety, you can better understand that you and he have a different filter on life.
I’m a big believer that anything you can do to better understand yourself and others is worthwhile. You will be more successful at work the more self-aware you are. Getting to know the Enneagram types will help you identify your coworker’s motivations and filters. It helps you understand the unique way they relate to others, what their perceptions and preoccupations are, and what their values are and how they impact the way they relate to life.
As I said at the start, there is no way for me to cover each of the types in detail, but there are extensive resources that you can use to learn more. Here are the ones I covered in the episode:
Episode 17: Understanding Myers Briggs
The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile
Discovering Your Personality Type Don Riso & Russ Hudson
I teach people how to thrive at work. Let's connect on LinkedIn
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