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.

History Simultaneously Made & Un-Made

Things started in my home community of Minneapolis-St. Paul with imagery too disturbing to show here. Odds are that you’ve seen the video of police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee clamped down on George Floyd’s neck. During that agonizing 8:46 sequence, one moment, one image, gives us our clearest look at Chauvin’s face. You may be surprised to hear that fear and surprise are part of Chauvin’s emoting then. His right eyebrow is cocked upwards, deep wrinkles across his forehead. But the narrowed left eye, the glaring right eye, and the mouth showing a taut hint of a smile suggest anger and happiness–even pleasure–in defying the calls of witnesses to let Floyd catch his breath.

Elsewhere since Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement has become the catalyst for a wider social-economic critique of what has transpired historically and, therefore, what needs to change. Slavery isn’t just an American sin, of course. The left image shows the statute of English slave trader, Edward Colston, after getting retrieved from the harbor in Bristol, England. His claw like hand reinforces the menace of a mouth pulled tight in controlling anger. Washington Post photo

The right image shows both reform-minded protesters (like those in Bristol) and members of the so-called “New Mexico Civic Guard.” The guys with the angry, lips-pressed look are part of a right-wing militia group objecting to the removal of a statue in Albuquerque, New Mexico celebrating Juan de Onate: a cruel 16th century colonial governor whose reign feeds into a history of Anglo dominance across the state. New York Times article It’s a truism that history is written by the victors. Maybe just maybe we’re witnessing the miracle of history being unwritten so it can be rewritten, or at least co-written, by those who have been subjugated instead. 

Boom, Slump, Crash, Bail: Our Fragile Economy

Released today: episode 6 of Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight podcast series, featuring Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth, authors of Angrynomics. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Agenda Publishing / Columbia University Press (2020)

How are we going to address inequality and put the economy on a sounder footing? 

Lonergan is an economist and macro fund manager in London whose writings often appear in The Financial Times. Blyth is a political economist at Brown University who received his PhD in political science from Columbia University.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • An exploration of how the emotions of anger, fear and disgust animate both the long-term economic stresses in society and those brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.
  • What the differences are between moral outrage versus tribal outrage. 
  • Descriptions of three, potentially viable and game-changing solutions, including among them a “data dividend” and the creation of national wealthy funds like those in Norway and beyond.

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

Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight: How Trump Happened

There are two currencies in life: dollars and emotions. For the past 20 years in running my EQ-oriented market research firm Sensory Logic, Inc, I’ve tried to help clients achieve more “bang for their buck” by ensuring they create the greatest degree of emotional connection possible with prospects and existing loyal customers.

Every Thursday we will be dropping new episodes (including the first four, released last week), highlighting my conversations with prominent authors across a wealth of topics that include all aspects of business – from the marketplace to the workplace – as well as conversations about world events, culture, sports, psychology, and more. I’m hoping you’ll listen in, and if you like what you hear consider subscribing to my series as well as giving it positive ratings and reviews. Every little bit helps in launching an enterprise or project, as I’m sure all of you know well!

Here is a short excerpt featuring Steven Schier, co-author of How Trump Happened: A System Shock Decades in the Making

Introducing my new podcast: Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight

There are two currencies in life: dollars and emotions. For the past 20 years in running my EQ-oriented market research firm Sensory Logic, Inc, I’ve tried to help clients achieve more “bang for their buck” by ensuring they create the greatest degree of emotional connection possible with prospects and existing loyal customers.

Every Thursday we will be dropping new episodes (including the first four, released last week), highlighting my conversations with prominent authors across a wealth of topics that include all aspects of business – from the marketplace to the workplace – as well as conversations about world events, culture, sports, psychology, and more. I’m hoping you’ll listen in, and if you like what you hear consider subscribing to my series as well as giving it positive ratings and reviews. Every little bit helps in launching an enterprise or project, as I’m sure all of you know well!

Here is a short excerpt featuring Joe Pine and James Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money.

How Our Face Masks Fail Us

Ever wonder how much a mask hides in terms of your possible facial expressions? The answer is a lot: almost 75% of the variety of ways in which you might emote. For instance, the area around the eyes is great for picking up surprise and fear, but without the nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin, the possible presence of contempt and disgust won’t get revealed at all.

Starting on June 4th, I will be launching a podcast series called “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” on the New Books Network platform. The show can be found here:  https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/eqspotlight/.

I’ll be chatting with prominent authors across a wide range of topics, teasing out the emotional intelligence angle of their subject matter. Interviews run between 30 to 45 minutes an episode.

Open to Sorrow vs. Open for Business

Empathy in Presidents Bush and Obama but not Trump

First, the overwhelming statistic: an American died from Covid-19 every 42 seconds in April. Now for the underwhelming statistic: over the course of three weeks of daily coronavirus press briefings in April, only four minutes of Donald Trump’s 13 hours of remarks directly acknowledged the pandemic’s victims. In other words, verbal mourning only took up about 0.05% of Trump’s time and even less of his emotional energy.  Note his smirking smile as he uses the daily briefing to preen and joust with reporters.

 Contrast that lack of empathy with this photo of George W. Bush offering somebody a consoling hug after 9/11 and of Barack Obama openly weeping after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Reliable signs of sadness are that a wince creases our cheeks and our inner eyebrows rise, creating a puddle of wrinkles across our foreheads. The difference between Trump fervently wanting America “open for business again” while being so un-open to the sufferings of anybody other than himself couldn’t be greater. We’re enduring a marathon of unknown length with a leader who, in terms of compassion, has barely crossed the starting line.

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.

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.

Monetizing the Presidency

Tump Store cherry blossom White House

Last spring, Donald Trump launched his “Cherry Blossom Collection” available online at his Trump Store, complete with images of The White House appearing below the branding: Trump Hotels. Now for his encore performance, Trump has delayed the release of the Covid-19 economic stimulus checks so that his name can be added to the checks’ memo section. This break in protocol led me to imagine he might want a currency bill of his own. Which national leaders featured on U.S. paper bills would most compete with the highly-emotive Trump? There are two.

Jackson and Franklin on currency with facial coding

First, Trump’s favorite president, Andrew Jackson ($20) wins the sadness sweepstakes with eyebrows both raised and pinched together, creating waves of wrinkles across his forehead. Jackson’s mouth also shows sadness with left corner of his puckered mouth drooping. Second, Benjamin Franklin ($100) wins the defiantly on-guard award. His eyebrows are arched, his eyes wide, and his drawn-up chin collides with firmly pressed lips that hint at a smile while a smirk crowns the left corner of his mouth. It’s quite the feat: surprise in Franklin’s upper face, while his lower faces mixes together anger, disgust, and a hint of a smile overshadowed by contempt (i.e., the smirk).

Let’s imagine Trump really, really, really wants to win re-election. What might that take? My suggestion is that he substitute his characteristically angry, sad and disgust-ridden face for Woodrow Wilson’s tight-lipped look, and re-release the $100,000 gold certificate that was briefly in circulation amid the Great Depression. As unemployment skyrockets, I can’t think of more apt symbolism than that right now.

041620-03 100k Bill

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.