When Change “Gets to You”

Real change is never easy. Witness the couple made famous this week for brandishing guns in front of their five-story mansion in west St. Louis. A stream of Black Lives Matter protesters are walking to the mayor’s house nearby. It’s anger meets anger, and fortunately nobody got hurt.

Now, I admit that when I first saw the media coverage, I half-wanted to laugh. The guy reminds me more of Ned Beatty’s hapless suburbanite character in Deliverance than he does a stalwart Burt Reynolds. So I expected to find fear on the guy’s face. But make no mistake about it, the man and his wife are both mad. Eyebrows lowered, mouths tight, they’re determined but not equally irate. Her eyes are glaringly wide and her mouth is tighter, more defiant than her husband’s. It’s probably good that the wife was carrying the lesser weapon of the two. When I watched the guy on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show, I was surprised to hear that he’s apparently a Black Lives Matter supporter.

All of this just goes to show that when change comes – no matter how warranted – human beings are unlikely to take it well. This is true for work and home life, too. Truly embracing change is the topic and expertise of this week’s guest on my podcast. For her book, she conducted research that found that when companies re-organize to address a changing marketplace (think “needed” change), one-fifth of all managers qualify as worried skeptics. Could that number be higher? The St Louis couple’s reaction suggests that change can “get to us” in alarming ways, even when needed change comes to our own neighborhood.

Amid Change, What Type of Employee Are You?

Released today: episode 8 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast, featuring Charlene Li, the author of The Disruption Mindset:Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail

IdeaPress Publishing 2019

What does it take for a company’s culture to enable ongoing growth?

Li is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership, and is also the co-author of Groundswell. She is the Founder and Senior Fellow at Altimeter, a research and consulting firm, as well as a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Five kinds of employees, and how that that model feeds into the four archetypes of disruptive leaders: steadfast managers, realist optimists, worried skeptics, and agent provocateurs.
  • How mid-size companies can avoid the “permafrost” layer that limits the flexibility of larger companies. 
  • How is the challenge of being a disruptive leader different if you’re female or a minority member versus being a white male?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the President of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Anger Management: Emojis Cloud the Picture

Want to send a mad-as-hell email, but you’re not sure which anger emoji to use? Welcome to chaos. My quick study of over a dozen anger emoji options reveals ambiguity and errors. The two most common depictions of anger show widened eyes combined with downward, inward pinched eyebrows. But that pair of facial muscle activities conveys fear as much as it does anger. Also commonly shown: an open mouth that suggests the presence of surprise and fear rather than anger.

Probably the worst anger emoji belongs to emojidex. After all, a distorted mouth depicts feeling sadness and disgust, not anger. What’s the most accurate anger emoji? The one from OpenMoji. Besides the usual eyes wide and eyebrows down combination, it alone shows a mouth with the lips pressed tight together. The second best anger emoji comes from Facebook. The company has added vertical wrinkles between the eyes with lowered eyebrows. That visual detail emphasizes a specific version of anger, focused concern.

Oddly, none of the anger emojis I reviewed had all of the most reliable tell-tale signs of anger. There are three of them: narrowed eyes, a jutting chin, lips pressed hard together (the opposite of an open, gaping mouth). Time to head back to the drawing board for graphic artists seeking to depict anger.

Anger’s Anatomy – A Deeper Look

Harnessing the Power of Perceptions

Released today: episode 7 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring Emily Balcetis, the author of Clearer, Closer, Better:How Successful People See the World. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Ballantine Books 2020

How can we improve our productivity by literally seeing the world differently than before?

Balcetis is an associate professor psychology at New York University. She received her PhD from Cornell University and has authored over 70 scientific publications in addition to being a TED speaker.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What are the four general perceptual shifts that research suggest make a huge difference in improving our odds of success in tackling projects and other initiatives. 
  • Which emotion or emotions may best fit or spur on each of those four strategies.
  • Of all the research studies that went into this book, which one is Balcetis’s favorite. Why did this optical “trick” lead to double-digit growth in the likelihood of making progress.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Who Are You? Branding Yourself Distinctly

If you’re old enough, you may remember “To Tell the Truth” – a TV game show in which three contestants all supposedly had the same identity so celebrity panelists had to ask questions to figure out who was THE person with that name and unusual occupation or experience. Well, I guess you could say that my parents didn’t brand me clearly! And that’s a problem whenever you’re engaged in a new enterprise like the podcast series I’m launching today. These guys are all Dan Hill. The first is easily the most famous: a Canadian singer-songwriter whose biggest hit “Sometimes When We Touch” peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and #1 in Canada in 1977. The middle Dan Hill depicted here is a British digital designer and urbanist, and the third Dan Hill is a women’s head soccer coach in Oklahoma.

Check out my new podcast!

My new podcast series, Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight appears on the New Books Network, which gets nearly one million downloads monthly. I am honored to be a part of this high-quality group. Below is the link to find all four podcasts.

https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/eqspotlight/

Let me know what you think!

Mark Zuckerberg’s Emotional DNA

Mark Zuckerberg's emotional DNA

Next up in my series on the celebrities I analyzed for Famous Faces Decoded is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, born on this day in 1984. Which two emotions most distinguish Zuckerberg from the 173 celebrities I facially coded for my book?

The people I surveyed said happiness and joy. The truth is, yes, joy distinguishes Zuckerberg – as shown here. With a true, joyful smile, the muscle around the eye tightens, creating a sparkle that can’t be readily faked. Think of joy as the equivalent of drinking champagne, which Zuckerberg can afford many cases of at this point in his career! In contrast, what is Zuckerberg’s second most characteristic emotion? It’s anger; should you doubt me, check out his appearances before Congress in April of 2018. As to Zuckerberg’s least characteristic emotion, it’s fear.

Who Are You Negotiating With?

Negotiating with owl-eyed Mitch McConnel

U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is known as The Grim Reaper. The guy made headlines recently for suggesting that states hit hard by Covid-19 declare bankruptcy rather than look to Washington, D.C. for aid. The opposition had a field day. States can’t legally run deficits. Bond markets would suffer. More schoolteachers and police officers will be furloughed, if he has his way. Hypocrisy is alive and well thanks to McConnell securing budget-busting tax cuts in 2017 for the rich but now, in a crisis, he denounces the idea of “borrowing money from future generations.”

True. True. True, and, yes, audaciously true! But hypocrisy doesn’t change the fact that Democratic leaders must still negotiate with The Grim Reaper. It happens to all of us; consumers and everyone in business must haggle with a difficult person from time-to-time. 

In those unwelcome moments, size up your opponent. In McConnell’s case, he’s like an owl given his characteristically alert, on-guard big-eyed look. Clue #1 is that McConnell won’t let anything slip by him. Clue #2 is that he frowns more often than he smiles. He’ll accept opprobrium on behalf of getting his partisan way. Nobody needs to be happy in the process. Finally, clue #3 is how often McConnell’s chin thrusts upwards in a sign of sadness, anger and disgust. There’s a proud defiance to McConnell, most evident in how he refused to even give Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. So, how do you negotiate with somebody like McConnell? Turn the person’s strength into a weakness. How are owls most vulnerable? They’re fiercely territorial by instinct and can get in foolish fights with fellow owls even when no food or mates are involved. Watch a troublesome opponent over-reach and then let their self-inflicted wounds make them pull back to an acceptable compromise.

Loaded Logos: Brands in History’s Shadow

Native American Logos

She almost died a quiet death, and certainly the Minnesota-based farmer cooperative known as Land O’Lakes would have preferred it that way. But when the Minnesota Reformer ran a story about the Land O’Lakes company retiring the Indian maiden who has appeared on its packaging for nearly a century, the story blew up on social media and elsewhere. Soon the retirement reached The New York Times and Fox News, leading U.S. congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) to denounce politically correct “millennials” supposedly taking over the co-op.

Now on the surface, the maiden mascot re-designed in the 1950’s by an Ojibwe Indian artist, Patrick DesJariat, may not seem anything other than benign. What’s objectionable about a young Native American woman kneeling by the side of a blue lake, holding a 4-stick box of butter? Her smile is pleasant enough – but that’s where the problem starts. That’s because the image of a happy Indian maiden evokes tales of U.S. cavalry troops stationed at reservation forts engaging in what they euphemistically called “squaw-chasing” and what we should acknowledge was coerced “seduction” or worse. Being portrayed as sexually available and subject to conquering isn’t desirable. Now, the smile alone might not get us to such a sinister reading of the Land O’Lakes logo. But add in the maiden’s kneeling, compliant posture, and the fact that for years people on social media have practiced the “boob trick” of revising the logo’s image so that the maiden’s knees are chest-high instead, and you can begin to see why the co-op finally, wisely, decently enough decided that the time had come to stop trafficking in Indian stereotypes.

The truth is that lots of logos exist that should be retired. Perhaps the worst prominent use of Native American imagery is in baseball: the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo. His eyebrows are raised and his eyes are wide open, fully alert. His smile is intense, too, and fierce. Taken together, the Chief’s beady eyes and all those teeth showing suggest how, when the mouth pulls wide and taut, the emotion being revealed is vivid anger, like a dog growling because its bone has been taken away.

Some offensive imagery has been retired; until 1991 a Mexican armed robber, the Frito Bandito, was used to sell that snack. Other vile brand logos remain. There’s a long history of African-Americans being made into caricatures, resembling the grateful, obsequious house servants in Gone with the Wind. I’m thinking of Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima and Mars’ chef, Uncle Ben, for instance. The recent modified versions of those logos are certainly more upscale, sleek and less servile-looking, but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn: get rid of them.

Free to Die: The Rise of Anti-Lockdown Protesters

Reopen America Protester with anger disgust

“To be, or not to be” . . . that’s the famous question asked in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Our version today in America . . .  whether to follow the stay-at-home approach advocated by medical experts, or ignore their guidance. The photo above captures the two opposing perspectives. A Denver protester is snarling in outrage: “This is the land of the free. Go to China!” A calm medical worker blocks her path. This is not an isolated incident. Across America, gun-toting, MAGA-hat wearing, anti-lockdown protestors are agitating for the economy to be opened immediately . . . or else. Most Americans agree it’s a false choice. We need both our health and our jobs, but in that order – lives ahead of livelihoods. So what is really going on here?

The answer is emotional manipulation rooted in getting supporters to deflect blame and anger. People are hurting, hence the need to turn their anger away from The White House to scapegoats like China, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Democratic governors, or reporters for asking why Donald Trump has been so slow and inept at handling this crisis. Such manipulation is a survival tactic meant to protect just one person: the President and his re-election prospects. Trump is gambling, as usual. In this case, not with creditors’ money on behalf of his casinos and hotels but with our lives, by taking any chance he can to get the economy rolling again. And why not? That’s Trump’s modus operandi. The situation brings to mind this anecdote about risk taking. As Adolf Hitler was preparing to invade Russia in 1941, his henchmen Hermann Goering begged the Fuhrer not to take such a big, foolish gamble, to which Hitler abruptly replied: “I always gamble.”

Trump has called the protesters “very responsible people.” A White House economic advisor, Stephen Moore, has compared them to civil-rights champion Rosa Parks. Never mind that some of the protestors come to these shoulder-to-shoulder, social-distancing-flouting rallies waving Confederate flags. In politics, anger and disgust have their own internal, intuitive logic. Anger means you hit out (verbally or otherwise) at opponents, the “vermin” you’re disgusted with. Will the driver of the aptly-named RAM 1500 vehicle slam into this scrub-clad medical worker, as happened to counter-protestors in Charlottesville? No, no violence occurred this time around, thank god. But if virus history repeats itself, then forget the anger and disgust that divides us as a country. Those emotions are distractions. What we need to feel is fear given what happened in 1918, when the second wave of the influenza pandemic was deadlier than the first.

Spotting Bullies at Work

Narendra Modi as Authoritarian Bully

As a kid, I learned the value of spotting the bullies on my elementary school playground. One bully liked to sit on kids, squashing them with his weight. Another bully wore cowboy boots and, boy, did it hurt if he managed to kick you in the shins. But how about at work: assuming nobody is physically assaulting anybody else, could bullying be playing a role in destroying productivity and morale? How might you nip that in the bud, if you find it? The answer would require knowing what to look for, emotionally speaking.

The surest signs, I believe, consist of a larger-than-usual volume of a pair of emotions, often shown in tandem: anger and disgust. I came to that conclusion by studying world leaders for my book Two Cheers for Democracy. Analyzing the facial expressions of world leaders and correlating the results to how Freedom House ranked the degree of “civic openness” in countries across the globe, I asked the question: which emotions most reliably signal a tendency toward being a dictator—a bully–instead of being democratically inclined? The answer is anger and disgust, along with a relative absence of happiness. A case in point is India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. Note on the Time magazine cover how his upper lip is flared in disgust, while his eyes are narrowed and lips are pressed together in anger. Recently, Modi sought to have the country’s Supreme Court require the media to publish only his government’s official accounts of how the covid-19 pandemic is impacting India. While the Supreme Court didn’t rule in favor of that demand, media stories about the Modi government’s “inspiring and positive” efforts on this crisis are increasingly all that can be found, as harassment of “naysayers” builds in severity.

In holding a private counseling session with an office bully, remember that anger revolves around a desire for control, to have matters unfold in a manner of that person’s choosing. Disgust, in turn, can signal that a bully finds someone else’s ideas revolting (and a revolt against the bully’s own preferences). Wherever their presence exists, what additional emotion does anger and disgust tend to develop in others? The answer is fear, as people freeze because nobody dares to move on their own accord. Regrettably, that reaction can allow would-be dictators to orchestrate the outcomes they alone want. There is, however, an antidote to the most destructive qualities of anger and disgust. Find a gentle way to “drop” into your conversation with a bully the fact that research indicates the value of happiness. Genuine happiness, as opposed to official happy talk, can lead to superior solutions arrived at more quickly, when we all stay open to brainstorming better options.

How to Spot Talent?

Brayant Duncan Garnett 3 New NBA HOF Members

These three NBA legends headline the newest class of superstars now in the league’s Hall of Fame. In terms of their accomplishments, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett need no introductions. But what are their signature expressions, which can provide a deeper sense of who they were as players? Bryant nicknamed himself the Black Mamba, the code name for the deadly assassin in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie “Kill Bill.” And true to form, if I had to choose an expression that best defines Bryant as a player, it’s when his eyebrows would lower (and his eyes narrow) in anger as he focused on his next jump shot, ball-steal, or bullet pass.  In Duncan’s case, his eyes would go wide and eyebrows lift as he took in information, sizing up the court and an opponent, often with a wry, half-smile. That look best defines a player so consistently stoical and coachable. As to Garnett, this photo is at best a half-truth. Yes, Garnett could burst into one of the biggest smiles on the planet, with the muscle around the eyes simultaneously tightening to create eyes that gleamed with elation. But mostly, the guy was a fierce competitor. The opposite of Duncan, with Garnett the emoting was all-out: mostly happiness or anger – along with at times a look of huge, feigned surprise (mouth agape) for being called for a foul.

All NBA head coaches would have loved to have any of these three players on their team. But what if you’re a manager or small-business owner hiring a new employee after we dig out of the current crisis? What should you be looking for emotionally in somebody you might add to your team? First, understand that for most people happiness (to hug) and anger (to hit) constitute about 70% of their emoting. An employee’s delight in winning and determination to succeed are worthy signposts. A smile can indicate openness to collaborating, just as compressed facial muscles can indicate the constructive drive required to push through barriers – so long as the anger is properly proportioned and wisely targeted.

Years ago (as a small business owner myself), I received in the mail one day a HR workshop flier that showcased 11 types of employees you would rather not have on staff. They were office worker caricatures of who would go into the opposite of a Hall of Fame. One was angry: the rude Antagonist type. One was sad: the Whiner type. One was contemptuous: the Insubordinate Subordinate. But of the other eight types, actually the single greatest shortcoming evident, emotionally speaking, was basic indifference. These are the disengaged workers, those who don’t emote much and aren’t motivated. The flier had the Tortoise, the Thumb-Twiddler, the Early Retiree, and the Clock-Watcher all on display. Now, none of this is to excuse the need for bosses to pitch in and be emotionally literate themselves as well as good detectives when it comes to observing human nature. Remember: that as is true of Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett, the way a person emotes is a good clue as to how they’re wired or if there’s a fatal disconnect lurking somewhere.

Ghosn Goes Wild!!! Nissan Boss a Fugitive from Normalcy

011020-01 Mr Bean & Carlos Ghosn

Even on his better days, the deposed head of the Nissan-Renault alliance has always reminded me of an ill-humored version of the British sitcom character Mr. Bean. That’s because Carlos Ghosn’s eyebrows live in a state of constant arch-regard for himself (and nobody else). What have been Ghosn’s better days? I imagine he might point, for instance, to holding a Marie Antoinette-style party at Versailles for his second wife’s 50th birthday party. Talk about royal privilege, the kind of excesses that landed Ghosn in trouble in with American regulators, French officials, and finally the authorities in Japan.

011020-02 Mr Bean & Carlos Ghosn

All of which brings us to one of Ghosn’s worst days: his first, (two-hour-plus) press conference since skipping bail in Japan by flying to his native Lebanon on the lam. New billboards put up by Ghosn’s supporters in Beirut proclaim: “We are all Carlos Ghosn.” Let’s pray otherwise.

011020-03 Ghosn Sweating & Shadow

What happened this past Wednesday? Lashing out at former colleagues and Japanese prosecutors alike, Ghosn went on a wild, sweat-induced tirade peppered by occasional swearing. The crime of his being portrayed as a “cold, greedy dictator” incenses Ghosn. The optics at Versailles were cringe-worthy. On Wednesday, they weren’t any better – as the lighting ensured that Ghosn’s shadow was, at times, literally bigger than the man himself (indeed, nearly as big as his ego). In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing that Ghosn’s accomplices could find a box large enough to spirit him out of Toyko.