Teamwork Versus a Noose

NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.
Joy - the muscle around the eye tightens, creating a twinkle in the eye
happiness - broad smiles, cheeks raised
NASCAR buddies: a joyful Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty share a laugh.

Yes, there are people who consider happiness a “trivial” emotion in the business world. “Back to your desk and get to work.” Those might be the words of a domineering, old-fashioned boss. But truth be told, happiness is essentially about embracing others, yourself and new ideas. It’s an emotion that grows the pie. I’ve been thinking about the power of happiness this week because the country’s boss-man, Donald Trump, decided it would profit his campaign or simply his id to attack NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace in a tweet. Wallace’s response: “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”

The noose found in Wallace’s stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama by his race team led to NASCAR in general and racing legend Richard Petty in particular embracing the sport’s only full-time black driver. Due to Wallace’s cap and Petty’s sunglasses, I can’t say for sure. But given their expansive, inviting smiles, I would bet big-time that both guys are actually exhibiting joyous, true smiles, whereby the muscle around the eye tightens and creates a twinkle in the eye.

Happiness is also on my mind this week because, for my podcast, I interviewed a cheerful Caroline Stokes. One of her book’s best ideas is that a new hire would benefit from a small support team meeting at the end of that person’s first week on the job, and again at the 50- and 100-day mark, to help the new hire navigate without “crashing”. Such assistance made me think of Wallace and his 43 team yet again because doesn’t a support team function in effect like a NASCAR pit crew? Change the tires, refuel the tank, and you’re quickly on your way. If only the Trump administration’s response to covid-19 could function half as well.

Getting Up to Speed in a New Job

Released today: episode 9 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Caroline Stokes, author of Elephants Before Unicorns. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode. And if you like what you hear, please subscribe, and give a rating and review on iTunes.

Photo of guest author Caroline Stokes and her book Elephants Before Unicorns, on Episode 9 of Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast "Do You Want To Be an Ostrich?"
This episode covers on-boarding, diversity and more.

How does avoidance of conflict ultimately create more conflict in the workplace?

Stokes is the CEO of FORWARD, and the podcast host of The Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter. She is an award-winning leadership coach and thinker, partnering with global leaders throughout their career and leadership cycle.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The emotions that inadvertently inspire the behavior of both push-over and bully bosses, and the likely emotional responses of their direct reports.
  • How the risk of employee disengagement can get short-circuited before it happens.
  • What are steps that can ensure a better on-boarding experience for the new employee, including CEO’s (whose turn-over rate is 50% within the first 18 months on the job).

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

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!

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.