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.

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.