Pete talks with Nicole Lipkin, author of What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, about the challenges of leadership. They talk about the qualities of a leader, whether you are a business owner or manager with staff, or an entrepreneur managing a remote team.
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Leadership with Nicole Lipkin
Dom Goucher: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of PreneurCast with me, Dom Goucher, and him, Pete Williams.
Pete Williams: Hello, hello, hello, Dom. And hello to everyone else.
Dom: Indeed, hello, everyone. Welcome back to the show. This week, got a very interesting conversation between Pete and Nicole Lipkin, the author of What Keeps Leaders Up at Night. We’ll get to that in a minute. But Pete, you’ve been busy again on the new site, haven’t you?
Pete: Yeah. It’s been a focus of a bit of attention from the team. In the last couple of months, in the background, while I’ve been developing the new site, the nice, responsive design, which should look beautiful on your iPad and your iPhone, your Samsung tablet, and your Galaxy pad, and everything else that you might have to check out PreneurMarketing.com.
But I’ve been on a bit of the content-creation mode as well, working with some editors and some writers, and a few bits and pieces, to get some cool content out there. So, we’ve got the Never Break More Than One Law at a Time book that we spoke about, I think, on a previous edition of the show.
That’s there. And I’m in the process of doing a whole new series about the email platform that we’re now using to run our autoresponder and our business. We’ve gone away from the AWebers and the MailChimps of the world for the information side of the business.
We did a lot investigation of why we moved away from that and what platform we’re going to move to. Had the team turn that into an internal report that, I think, is 10,000 words or something like that. It’s something crazy. And I’m going to post that on the blog in the next week or so.
You can come and see the whole science behind the email platform we chose, and what could suit your business. There’s a whole bunch of other cool stuff in that series coming down the pipe. Just released a couple of days ago my VD Report. My personal VD Report was posted on the site.
And we’re not talking any sort of diseases here—it’s a Venn Diagram Report. Basically had a session with a consulting client a while ago, and drew a Venn Diagram on the whiteboard of stuff that was on his website at that point in time, and stuff that was wanted by his clients to be on his website.
The whole idea of the Venn Diagram is to work out what intersects, and what was on his website that people wanted and what should be on his website. The only thing that crossed over in that whole Venn Diagram was his business name. There’s a whole bunch of other things that were on his site which were completely irrelevant and not helping conversions.
But the things that need to be on his website were nowhere to be found. So, I worked through that at a session with him one day, and then got this bit of inspiration to sit down with a pen and paper and write something (which sounds a bit incongruent with me being the productivity guy that I am.
But I do like to get a pen out every now and again). And when we were in Florida together last year on a few occasions, you saw me with my pen and paper quite a lot, just scribbling notes and doodles, and planning. So, it does happen occasionally.
I’ll sit down and write a lot, and this is one of those times. If you look and check out that report, you download it, no opt-in or anything like that. It’s there to be read and downloaded from the site. There’s a whole bunch more cool stuff coming like that to PreneurMarketing.com in the near future.
Dom: Cool. That VD Report, it covers a very, very common thing, a very common occurrence, this idea of what is on your website, which is usually what you think should be on your website, but very few people do, that analysis of what people want to see on your website.
It’s a great report and I think, maybe, we’ll talk through it on the show at some point. Becausel it’s one of those big concepts that is important for everybody to take note on. But definitely, pop over to PreneurMarketing.com, because, as Pete says, no opt-in, just go get it.
Just to remind everybody, what we’ve done is we’ve basically consolidated what was PreneurMedia.tv, which was the home of this podcast, into PreneurMarketing.com, just to make everything in one place and easier to find. So everything that Pete publishes, all these new reports that he’s doing, we should be doing a lot of these.
There’s going to be a lot of them coming down the line. Plus, everything to do with the podcast, all of your comments, the transcripts, the show notes, the links—everything—they’re all going to live on PreneurMarketing.com. So, pop over there. We do have lots of new stuff. Pete and the team have been doing a great job updating our site.
Looks great, as well, and a lot cleaner, a lot easier to find stuff. Do pop over and have a look. With that said, let’s get into the conversation, Pete, that you had with Nicole Lipkin. Now, I’m sounding like a stuck record with this, but a book called What Keeps Leaders Up at Night was not my first choice.
If I walked past that on a bookshelf, wouldn’t have picked it up, certainly wouldn’t have gone, “Oh, yes, must read that and talk to the listeners of the podcast about it.” Because we’ve got this audience. We’ve got a very wide-ranging audience. But a lot of our audience are entrepreneurs, small business people with small teams or remote teams.
And so, initially, I wouldn’t have thought to pick this up. But, having listened to you talking to Nicole, and Nicole’s perspective on being a leader—and I’m working with people just in general, whether it’s working with your customers or working with your team—it was great.
I did my usual, walking with the dog, I’ve got it on my headphones, and I’m typing away, making notes as I’m walking, trying to keep up with it because there’s so much good stuff in this. It was a good find by you, and a great conversation between you and Nicole.
Pete: Awesome. I love hearing feedback from you after you get a little bit skeptical up the status on some of these conversations that I get together and organize, but it’s always nice to hear that you had faith in the delivery after the fact.
Dom: Absolutely. I say this a lot. You have this ability to find the value in everyday stuff, and you also have this great way of spotting this opportunity for learning for the audience. I just love the way that you’re bringing these people up. So ,with that said, even though I say it every time, let’s get into the conversation, and then we’ll chat with everybody afterwards.
[Pete’s conversation with Nicole Lipkin starts]
Pete: Nicole, thank you so much for your time, and for joining us on PreneurCast.
Nicole Lipkin: Thanks so much for having me, Pete, I really appreciate it.
Pete: Awesome. So the book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night—love to get your 30-second synopsis of the book, and we can jump into that context.
Nicole: Okay. Well, Pete, it’s really a fun book. It’s looking at the way we screw up as bosses, as leaders, as managers, as business owners, and it’s touching on these nagging issues that we all deal with and the way we all screw up. It’s looking at the psychology and neuroscience and group dynamics behind those mess-ups.
My philosophy is unless you really understand why you’re doing the things you’re doing and why other people are doing the things they’re doing, like a psychology on how your brain is operating, then you can’t really make the changes you need to really make in order not to do it again. So, ultimately, you’re trying to gain self-awareness in the long run. But, yeah, it’s dealing with all the things that we all face, and the ways we all mess up.
Pete: Yeah, absolutely. This is a big thing, I think, for so many people. As their business grows, they’re about to start out as a one or two-man operation. You see, as you grow you need team members. Whether they’re in your physical office we have in our telco business and stuff here in Melbourne, or whether they’re virtual staff members, a lot of these absolutely apply to people who are virtual employees, for sure.
So it’s definitely a fit for a lot of people as their business grows. You need to mentor that staff member, because, if anything, I say a lot when people talk about the business, I refer to my role in the business as more of a babysitter than anything else now, because the business is eight, nine years old.
We’ve got staff, and that’s what really drives the business now. It’s the staff, and you need to know how to manage that and manage your staff, because they’re the face of the business. They’re the engine room, really.
Nicole: Absolutely. And Pete, in my opinion—and I’m not just saying this—I think managing people might be the most annoying thing on the planet to do, and the most difficult. Obviously the most rewarding, but when we—I’m an entrepreneur, and I have a couple of businesses.
There’s something that I just didn’t sign up for, that I didn’t expect when it came to managing people when I went into this. And I’m supposed to be very patient. I’m a shrink.
Pete: Well, I think it sure is for a lot of people, and this is where I’d love your experience, your educated advice on, is that from my opinion—I say there’s so many people that go ahead and start a business because they have really good mechanics. They know their tools—graphic design, they start a great design business.
They are a mechanic, and they start a car manufacturing or support business, or whether they’re consultants or accountants and they start an accounting firm. At some stage, when they start the business, they start the business with the mindset, “I’m really good at the tools. I’m going to start a business, I’m really good at that.”
But, to grow a business, you start hiring staff members. But the skill set at managing staff is completely different to the skill set of the actual delivery of the business. And I think that’s a big problem for people. They never take the time to learn and develop the skills required to manage the people that is the business at that point once it grows. What’s your take on that?
Nicole: Absolutely. And that’s across the board. That is down from small businesses to the largest companies that we know. People are constantly getting promoted because they’re really good at what they do, but managing people or leading people is, like you said, a completely different skill set.
It’s really sad when you have a really great employee and you promote them, or you start a business and you’re really excellent at what you did, and then you realize that you’re really not good at this other skill set. It can be so defeating, and that’s how you really lose and disengage either yourself or other people.
So it’s so true across the board, because we don’t often spend the time looking at what’s at the core of management leadership skills. In my opinion, at the core of it is emotional intelligence. Everyone has different opinions on that, but when I think about the people in this world that I’ve been most influenced by, or have really wanted to follow, or have wanted to be managed by, they’re people that are self-aware.
They’re self-managed, they recognize the social dynamics going on in a group, and they have incredible relationship management skills. That’s at the core of emotional intelligence. It’s not technical skill. I don’t really need a boss or a manager to know all the ins and outs of my job. What I need is someone to be able to handle conflict well with me.
I need someone to be able to influence me, I need someone to be able to accept a vision if we’re talking about leadership. And also strategy, and also help me with some details. I need someone who can really handle their cool when it’s a stressful situation, and not micromanage me, and manage their own stuff. That’s leadership. That’s not technical skill, and, like you said, it’s a completely different skill set.
Pete: Yeah. I think too—you mentioned it—reading between the lines, and this is some advice I’ve got because I could sit here for an hour and share stories of great employees that we have lost over the years because of terrible management on our behalf. And I was torn at that.
But, when you start a business, and you start hiring people, generally the first people you start to hire in a business are people who complement your skill set. You might be really good as a graphic designer, but you need somebody who can sell, so you hire a sales person. You hire an accounting person.
So you can’t help them technically, as you’re alluding to there. You can’t give them technical advice because they joined your team to complement your skill set. But you still, as a boss, need to give them something, and that is that emotional support.
Nicole: Exactly. Exactly. You should be hiring people that complement you. But, then again, we all make that mistake sometimes that we like to be around like-minded people. We like people that stroke our egos over and over again. So, a lot of times, we make huge hiring mistakes based on our own ego issues.
It looks like both of us can talk hours and hours for our own mistakes that we’ve made. But we might hire based on feeling bad for someone, or because we like how that person makes us feel, and they’re really not the right person for the job. I personally think the hardest thing in the world is firing someone.
Pete: Yeah, oh, yeah. No fun. The only solution is really mismanagement until they quit.
Nicole: I’ve been guilty of that so many times. I really like taking a backdoor with that. But the worst part about it is admitting. And the reason why I wrote this book with the inspiration, my muse, was I had a very hard, difficult employee that I dealt with, and it was totally my fault.
I was the worst boss in the world. I wasn’t managing the situation well. But when I look back at it, the thing that was hardest was admitting that I made a mistake, and being reluctant to change.
I personally find that science and psychology behind change, and why we’re so resistant to it, so fascinating in how much it can trip us up and get in the way of us being—like running our businesses or being great leaders or being great bosses. That, I find the most fascinating. But that’s the hardest part of firing people is admitting that you really made a mistake.
Pete: I want to get into, somewhere you talked about—on your book about productive versus unproductive busyness and the fine line that we managers face. But, before I delve into that, I’d love to go back to that emotional intelligence angle a little bit. Just to get your take on what are the some of the skills or areas they need to focus on around emotional intelligence so they can give their staff, their team members, the right support. What’s around that, you think?
Nicole: Well, that’s a great question. When you’re talking about emotional intelligence as a definition, it’s the four areas I was talking about. The big overarching categories are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
So, if I’m going to break them down, when I think about self-awareness, what I’m talking about there is understanding what your own personal strengths and weaknesses are. And I know we shoot that around a lot, and, oh, yeah, I know what my strengths are, and I know my weaknesses are.
The truth is, the majority of us are way too busy and way too wrapped up in so much else, we rarely do take the time to think about what we’re really good at and what we’re really bad at. The other thing is our views of ourself are so skewed, they’re so off that most of the times, we really don’t know unless we have someone else helping us realize that.
So, it’s about understanding your strengths and your weaknesses, but also really importantly, understanding what makes you tick and what makes you ticked off, and what your personal derailleurs are. I know that there are certain personality types that when I’m around, the best does not come out of me at all.
And again, that’s a challenge, and I have to be good at dealing with all personality types. But I know that it’s something that ticks me off. But being aware of that is one thing, and then making the adjustments you need to make. We’ve all maybe had those romantic relationships where the person is very self-aware, and they know they have an issue they need to change, but they don’t know how to change it.
That’s the worst offense when you’re a boss. So self-awareness is understanding your personal derailleurs and your strengths and weaknesses, what ticks you off and what makes you tick, what makes you excited. But then, self-management, once you have that self-awareness, it’s then doing something about it.
It’s like, when you think of emotions in self-management, it’s the difference between—like on opposite ends of the spectrum. Those people that when you’re around them, their emotions seep out all over the place, and they’re like absolutely nuts. You know what I’m talking about?
Nicole: Versus the people you can’t read at all that creep you out.
Pete: They’re the worst ones, in my opinion.
Nicole: Totally. It freaks me out. Self-management is understanding—first by being self-aware, and then understanding how to operate in different social situations. And different, like with your clients, with your employees, whatever. Just when you’re out on the street, whatever it might be.
Pete: Can I ask you one quick question? Sorry to interrupt you, but you talk about becoming self-aware. You mentioned that so many people are very deluded in their own self-assessment. So how do we become self-aware? Is it simply going out and doing a Myer-Briggs type checklist questionnaire?
What’s the process so people can start thinking about as they’re driving to work right now, or they’re out running and things like that, to start understanding what they need to do to become proactively self-aware?
Nicole: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. Things like the Myers-Briggs are pretty helpful, and they’re fun, but that’s going to be the surface. If you’re willing to make the commitment, and it’s something you want to do, coaching is phenomenal. Or engaging in leadership development—incredible.
But if that’s not an investment you want to do, it’s about opening your ears and asking people for feedback. Because the thing is, a lot of us are so uncomfortable with getting constructive criticism, like it literally makes our skin crawl.
But learning—if you’re an entrepreneur, you own a small business, whatever it might be, if you’re a CEO, whatever you are—the most valuable information you will ever receive is someone being honest with you about how you’re coming off and how you behave.
The thing is, when you’re the boss, most people are kissing your butt, and they might be sugarcoating what they say to you. So creating an environment where it’s comfortable for people to tell you, and seeking it out—not only from employees that you know will give you feedback, but also from your peers, your colleagues, your parents, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your spouse, whatever it might be, all different.
I always suggest seeking it out from different parties. Because everyone is going to—your mom is going to see you differently than the way your spouse sees you, who’s going to see you differently from the way your employee sees you. But all of that is imperative because you behave differently with different people, whether you think you do or not.
So I think starting to create an environment, create relationships where you are seeking feedback. And the thing is, when you start making that shift and asking and being sincere about wanting feedback, people can sometimes be suspicious about how you’re going to use it.
If you’re using it against them. This is not something that they know you to be. But framing it and the idea of, “Look, I’m really trying to be the best I can be or really trying to prove certain skills, these are some things that I know I need to work on. I’d really love your opinion.
Because I think you have a different perspective that can really help and please, nothing’s held against you. I really want this honest truth.” So I think asking other people is the best way, and how you use that information is the next step, of course.
Pete: Something popped into my mind as you were talking now. I’d love to see if you can help articulate the bridge between what I’m about to say and what you just said. Hope there’s a fit there, is there? I was speaking to Michael Port recently for the show, had him as a guest too. Wrote Book Yourself Solid, a fantastic book.
We spoke about this concept that any problem you’re having in business right now is probably a personal or emotional issue that hasn’t been resolved. So if you were bad at doing something in your business, it’s probably a personal thing you’re having battles with anyway. And that ties back in, I think, to what you were just saying a little bit.
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely.
Pete: I don’t know how it’s relevant, but it was just something that popped into my head, which I thought I’d share with people, and maybe they’d want to check out that conversation with Michael. I also wrote down—and again you touched on it before when I was reading the first part of your book—was, every successful manager treads this fine line between productive and unproductive busyness. I thought it was a really cool statement that I wrote down as I was reading it. I’d love your take on that.
Nicole: Yeah, well. So you’re in Australia, I’m in Philadelphia. I don’t care what culture you’re in, or where you’ve grown up. It seems like we value busyness. And we really look at lazy people as dysfunctional, and bad, and disgusting and whatever adjective you want. We grew up with busy’s good, lazy’s bad. Yet, when you look at busy people, most of our busyness is really unproductive.
Nicole: I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing or creating a presentation or speaking—whatever it might be—I spend a lot of time getting distracted by Facebook. Or I have the little pop-ups that I have a new email, or my phone’s ringing. I have so much unproductive busyness going on, and the clients I work with have so much—look around—people walking around like zombies, bumping into each other, looking at their phone.
No one knows what’s going on anymore. We’re so overwhelmed and operating in that unproductive busy place. And I relate that to being too busy to win—being too busy to win. And that I see as being one of the number one personal derailleurs, that business owners, CEOs, leaders have.
I relate it to this sense—if you think about it, if you go and buy a shelf at a store, and that shelf, when you’re putting it together, says you can only put 50 pounds on the shelf. We throw out the directions and we start piling books on that shelf. And we’re at 55 pounds because we’re ignoring the directions.
The shelf starts to sag. It worked 60 pounds and it starts sagging more. And then, at 70 pounds, that shelf snaps and breaks, and then we get mad at the shelf, that it was a cheap product. We’re ignoring that said you can only put 50 pounds on. The same thing happens with our brain.
We have these senses—touch, smell, vision. All these things are coming in to our eyes, our nose, our hands, our skin. Our brain serves as a filter. It serves as that 50-pound shelf, and it keeps some of those sensations out because, if we had all of that information coming in, we’d literally be insane, we’d be crazy.
So our brain helps filter that. The thing is that we don’t recognize the signs of sagging. We ignore those signs of the sagging shelf in our brain. And those signs of the sagging shelf are irritability, not being able to concentrate, when you’re saying a sentence and you can’t find a word, you sound like your grandma almost.
When you are starting to snap at people, and you start engaging in really meaningless tasks, like making five To-Do lists instead of one, those are the signs of a sagging shelf in our brain, that we’re about to snap. And then we snap, and we’re wondering what went wrong.
Well, we’re not paying attention. And that’s unproductive busyness. We’re allowing our non-focus to be all over the place, when productive busyness is really a short period of time for most of us during the day. And if we can just recognize when we’re not paying attention and focus on the things that distract us, because our brains are basically saying, you need to take a break.
Maybe you need to take that Facebook break and spend 15 minutes or so. Maybe you need to go for a walk for 10 minutes and get away from your computer. The thing is, we fight against that. And so many of us operate in this constant state of unproductive busyness, and we value that busyness because, in our cultures, busy is good and lazy is not, even though most of us secretly really envy the lazy.
Pete: Yes. Well, one thing, do you think that unproductive busyness, and which obviously caused the shelf to snap and you to snap, is one of the primary drivers of being a jerk as a boss? When you do snap immensely because of your own issues, then you then take it out on other people. Is that one of the primary drivers of being a jerk?
Nicole: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Again, I think in that first chapter, where it’s like, ‘I Think I’m a Good Boss,’ I don’t remember the chapter titles.
Pete: I’ve got the book in front of me, and we’ve got some books to give away too (like we often have with our guests). So, everyone, keep listening until the end of the show so you can find how you can grab a free copy of the book. But Chapter 1 is, ‘I’m a Good Boss. So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One?’ I love that one.
Nicole: Thank you for promoting me and me not even knowing that first chapter title. Anyway—but yeah, that’s one of the main reasons. I have three derailleurs right in there: being too busy to win, being too proud to see, being too afraid to lose. Those are the reasons why, when we’re really good bosses, why do we become temporarily bad.
All of us are susceptible to it, but being too busy to win is a huge one because when your shell is about to snap, there is no way that you can engage in optimal relationship management. There’s no way that you’re acting with complete self-awareness because you’re not even recognizing your signs and symptoms.
Pete: I was going to say I absolutely agree with that. And I think you were touching on before about the too proud, and that you’re asking your staff for feedback and being open with them about where you are emotionally, I guess, inadequate, for lack of a better term. What about too afraid to lose, where does that fit in?
Nicole: Well, too afraid to lose, I think that—it’s really interesting, and I’m sure many of us have faced this. A lot of us associate—especially entrepreneurs, actually, probably, a little bit less entrepreneurs—but a lot of us associate making a mistake or screwing up with failure.
When you start doing that, because obviously you’re going to make tons of mistakes in your life, and you’re going to screw up a lot throughout your life, especially when you’re running companies. But when you start associating that with failure, then you become less likely to make the decisions that you need to make.
You become less likely to take the risks you need to take. And you don’t force yourself into things. When it comes to team dynamics, you might be micromanaging like there’s no tomorrow, or looking over peoples’ shoulders, or really thwarting other people’s work because you are afraid.
You don’t want to lose, you don’t want to make a mistake. The thing is, that comes down to self-efficacy, just like confidence and self-esteem. And you could be the most confident person in the world but, if you are faced with a new task you have no experience with, for some reason, you have lost your mojo, and you don’t think you can do a good job, well.
That’s when you become too afraid to lose. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a very confident person. Having a lack of self-efficacy can really stand in the way, or stand in your way from making the right decisions and taking the right chances. And the being too proud to see, that one, actually, I find the most interesting. I relate it back to what I was saying before.
That has to do with not being able to change and not being able to take other people’s advice or see other people’s opinions. Because we get too stuck in our own ways. So it does relate to that perspective thing, but it also relates so much to that crazy psychology and our crazy cognitive biases that are wrapped up in change.
Pete: Awesome. You’re listening to PreneurCast and the conversation with Nicole Lipkin, author of the great book What Keeps Leaders Up at Night. Now, Nicole, in another part of the book, you talk about the seven types of power. Again, the awesome chapter title this is from is, ‘Why Don’t People Heed My Sage Advice?’ I love that.
Sage is a word not used enough, I think. Love to chat about the types of power and how this affects your leading people, leading teams, and getting the buy-in from these team members, as well.
Nicole: That’s a great question. Power is so interesting because the thing is, power in itself is not intrinsically good or bad. We personally ascribe meaning to power, and we make choices about how we’re going to use it, or how we’re going to react to its use by others.
So ultimately, power’s a responsibility. And it totally exists 100% as a function of the individual, one’s followers, and the situation at hand. I wrote this in the book—I think the best example of this is the relationship between a child and a parent. Because children—and you probably see it in supermarkets all the time—children are only as powerful within their family as their parents allow them to be.
The child may be loud and demanding, or throw temper tantrums to get attention. By itself, a temper tantrum doesn’t confer power to the child. The child’s power 100% depends on how the parents respond to that child’s power. And if they respond by letting the child get his or her way, the child does exercise power with them. If the parents do not respond, then the child does not exercise power.
Like I said, it is a function of the individual and the followers, and the situation at hand. And there’s tons of different types of power. But the one that increases—when you were talking about buy-in and influencing others—it’s really important to think about power because influence is shaped between the unique relationship between power and credibility, which exists within a relationship to have influence, to have buy-in.
You need to have a relationship. So the power, the type of power that will increase the chances of strong buy-in is Referent Power. Referent Power depends on—it’s compared to things like Coercive Power, which is do as I say or else, or Reward Power like I hold your salary raise or your bonus or whatever.
So Referent Power depends on personal traits and values such as honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. And people with high Referent Power can influence people who admire and respect them, so the effective use of Referent Power involves developing a number of important and not easily acquired skills.
I say that because, if you look at salespeople, it stems from building rapport with people, but real rapport—and I call it more of a relational philosophy. You could Google ‘rapport building,’ and you have thousands and thousands and thousands of how-tos. And you know when someone has read those how-tos. They repeat your name a lot, they stare at you really awkwardly. It’s got weird awkward rapport-building.
Pete: That’s mechanical. It is, Nicole, yes.
Nicole: Yeah. I’d like to thank you for mentioning my name. So, people that have real Referent Power have mastered skills like managing boundaries, which is very hard, maintaining a strength of character, which is operating with integrity not just doing things right, but doing the right thing.
They make really compelling presentations, they adapt their communication to the listener, meaning they can read people. They do the tango with people, they forge trust. They display empathy, which is not something that everyone has, and it’s hard to develop.
So when it comes to the quality of influence between two people, it all weighs on one of the basic tenets of human nature. We like listening to, and are willing to follow those people that sincerely respect and value us, and whom we also respect and value.
Not only is it psychologically attractive to us, it impacts us neurologically because it releases the bonding hormone, which is oxytocin. So it does something to our brains, and it makes us want to do that dancing somewhat. So Referent Power is so imperative. But, again, it’s not something you build overnight, it’s not something you read in a book.
It’s something you work and that’s that emotional intelligence thing. It’s something you need to start from scratch. You need to start with that self-awareness and understand what you’re comfortable with—where you’re strong, where you’re not, and start working on that and getting that feedback.
Pete: You also talk about Expert Power, Informational Power, and Connection Power, I think it is, as all forms of informal power as opposed to formal power. I’d love you to just differentiate those two a little bit for the listeners as well.
From what you’re talking about, it seems to me, and also from reading it, informal power tends to be a lot more long-lasting, a lot more relationship based. Whereas, the formal power stuff, as you said before, that coercive power and reward power tends to be the old carrot-and-stick top approach. Is that a fair assessment?
Nicole: Yes, exactly. Because informal power, you have to work for, versus being just given, like you are the CEO of a company, and you’re a jerk, that’s what you use it for. Informal power you’ve had to work for it. You’ve had to build relationships, or you’ve had to build your credibility and have that information or something like that. So, yeah, it is compared to the carrot and stick.
Pete: I guess, if you think long-term, as well, is that you have that informal power skill set and relationship with your employees. Inevitably, people are going to move on for various reasons. So, if they move on to a different role, and you’ve had that informal power, that’s going to stick with that relationship.
They might go to your supplier. They might go and work for one of your clients. And still having that relationship can be influential and helpful for your business. An example I would think of in our business is we’ve had a number of our employees who, funnily enough, for whatever reason have gone and moved on to work for our supplier.
So going and working for the supplier of the phone systems we sell. Which is a great thing for us because they become our reps, our actual sales reps. Having that informal relationship or informal power with them could be quite helpful for future negotiations, and having to get strings pulled and things moved so we can help our clients out.
Whereas, if it was formal power we had over these staff members, when they left, they’ll be like, well, now I have the power, I’m going to stick it to you. So it’s really important I think to have that relationship and build that informal power relationship because it has a life beyond the walls of your business.
Nicole: Absolutely, absolutely. What you just said, I ditto that. I cannot stress that enough. It’s imperative, it’s not just important.
Pete: There’s something else that I think I’d love to get your take on, as well. It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a lot in a whole range of circumstances, particularly in the marriage area of conversations—active listening. And you’re talking about active listening a little bit. Can you explain that in the context of the book, what keeps you late at night?
Nicole: Yeah, sure. And again, we think about listening, we’re like, well, we all know how to listen, of course. Listening is a really, really, really hard skill. And if you pay attention, give yourself 24 hours and think about how frequently you don’t listen, you will be shocked if you start paying attention to it.
Active listening is a skill and a technique that—and I’ll go through the stages, and again, it sounds contrived and weird—but it’s something you have to practice to get down. I’ll talk about the benefits of it after. But active listening is, when you’re with someone and they are sharing their point of view.
It’s about fully hearing them and suspending your judgment, which you will have because we all do, and suspending your thinking temporarily as they’re talking to you. Now, the reason why that’s so hard is because we fill in the blanks for their minds. If we didn’t fill in the blanks, again, that would be another reason why we would all go crazy.
So we fill in the blanks, and we also base our responses on our previous experiences, our perceptions. And like I said before, we’re terrible with our perception, we don’t really see reality. No one really sees reality. So it’s about suspending your thinking and your judgments, letting the speaker talk.
And then, after you’ve let the speaker talk without looking off in another direction, or mouthing like you’re trying to say something, which we all do, it’s then paraphrasing back what you think you heard the speaker say. Keeping in mind also what you saw, the non-verbal behaviors, their body movements, their facial expressions, any other things.
Because, a lot of times, when people are speaking, their nonverbal and paraverbal behaviors—which is tone and inflection and, obviously, nonverbal body language—might not reflect what they were saying. So paraphrasing back—and the reason why you paraphrase that is, because I heard that you were saying you were having difficulty with the assignment I gave you.
Does that mean I’m hearing that correctly? It’s just to make sure that you’ve heard them correctly, and to give them the opportunity to add anything that they may have left out or anything that you misunderstood. Once they’re done clarifying, then—then it’s giving your point of view, or what you want to say, or whatever it might be. Not in a defensive way, but this is my thinking of the situation.
So when you do that, and you paraphrase, and you make sure you heard what the person said, what it does is it allows the listener to know that you have heard everything that they’ve said. Versus—because you know when you’re talking with someone, and you know they’re thinking about what they want to say to you—they’re absolutely not listening.
When you have to paraphrase back, it’s telling the listener, no, I really did hear everything you said, and now here’s my response. What you’re doing there is you’re strengthening your relationship. Because probably the biggest disengager in a relationship is when you know someone doesn’t care about what you’re saying and isn’t listening to what you’re saying.
So, psychologically, it allows you to move forward with that person. Now, if you did that all the time, you would become a very annoying person. You don’t want to paraphrase every sentence someone’s saying to you. But using it at times, especially when it’s difficult—a difficult conversation, or when there’s a conflict—it’s very powerful.
And, also, using it in meetings is very powerful because it helps the group start modeling how to sum up and how to hear one another versus talking over one another. It also teaches people how to keep meetings organized because you’re summing up and paraphrasing and saying, okay, this is what I heard, where are we going next with this? In relationships, it’s a lifesaver.
Nicole: There’s nothing like being heard from the heart by being heard by your partner.
Pete: Very true. Listening to that, what I take away from that is that by rephrasing and stating again what you heard, it also helps ensure that you’re both on the same page. So you, as a leader, when you’re trying to give advice, make decisions to move forward, you’re looking at the problem through the right frame.
You’ve got your own—I think—your term in the book, if it is a term, is community biases—is that you want to make sure you are on the same page and looking at the same problem in the same way. Because a two or three-degree shoot in a slight different direction can cause a huge gap in terms of the implementation or suggestion of that support you’re giving as a leader. Does that make any sense at all?
Nicole: Oh, absolutely. As a business owner, as an entrepreneur, you’re busy enough. You don’t need to waste time cleaning up misunderstandings. The more you do this in the appropriate venue, the less likely you are to have misunderstandings, and to make sure that your team is on the right page, so absolutely.
Pete: Careful, careful. Well Nicole, I really appreciate your time. Let me ask you the one question that we ask every guest here on PreneurCast when we finish up the conversation, and that is, what’s the one question I didn’t ask you that I should have?
Nicole: You know what, I think, to talk about the emotional biases that impact our business decisions the most.
Pete: That is a great topic, absolutely. So do you want to expand that a little bit and talk around that for a moment?
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely, because I think this affects everyone. I personally think it can just destroy—if you understand this, again, talk about self-awareness, you start seeing it in action. I think the most powerful cognitive bias that nabs us all from time to time is confirmation bias. And this nabs us in our personal life, too.
So confirmation bias is, I’d like to think of it as the glue that keeps us comfortably stuffed in our own happy place in our heads. Basically, this bias causes us to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. And all of us do it. It’s the thing that we love to do with our significant others, it stems from the very, very normal human need to be right.
What we do, whether we realize it or not, is that we naturally cling tightly to our beliefs. And then we look for information that confirms our beliefs. Well, there’s surrounding information that contradicts them. So when you watch political debates, for example, even though both sides might have a point, you often see politicians claiming to the information that supports their view while completely dismissing the other side.
And they look stupid in the process of doing so. So, if you think about that in business, that can wreck havoc when we’re managing other people because it prevents us from making accurate and effective judgments and decisions. It interferes with our ability to gather all sides of an argument, consider all possible points of view, and weigh a situation with a cool depth of mind. Basically, it diminishes what psychologists call situational awareness.
There’s a million other biases—and huge biases that interfere with decision making. But this is the one that I think is the easiest to catch. And the way to catch it—and this is probably a terrible recommendation—but I suggest, even though people always suggest don’t talk politics and don’t talk religion, either watching two people do so.
Or getting into a religious or political conversation and seeing what happens, because you always know. Again, like I’m saying, once you see it in yourself, then you’ll start seeing it all the time and seeing it in other people, so you can step back with that self-awareness and start engaging in self-management.
But what you’ll see when confirmation bias is happening, you’re not listening, you’re talking over people, you can’t hear the other side or other point of view. You’re starting to make a fool of yourself.
And again, we’ve all had these topics or these issues that we engage in with confirmation bias. It’s a self-protective thing. But, once you start seeing it, then you can start managing it. And it’s a fun thing to do, to start to help yourself see it.
Pete: Beautiful. Well, Nicole, thank you so much for your time. What Keeps Leaders Up at Night is a book, available at all good bookstores. Thank you so much.
Nicole: Thanks Pete, take care.
[Pete’s conversation with Nicole ends]
Dom: So, Pete, as I said at the beginning, you know there’s just so much good stuff in there. Nicole talked quite a lot about what was in the book, and you did a great job of putting it in the context of our audience. Some of the things that stood out to me were those qualities of a leader, she talks about that, which are relevant again.
As I said it before, they’re relevant to everyone, and the big focus in there was that emotional intelligence, the idea of this self-awareness, self-management, and so on. And she talked about so many things that were relevant to us. And the big thing that I think you resonated with was that unproductive busyness and the issues arise from that.
Pete: I think a lot of stuff that we spoke about are really relevant to anybody where they are: a leader of an organization like a CEO or an MD. That even, as you’re leading yourself and maybe your small outsourced team at all, definitely relevant and important to be aware of.
Dom: Yeah. The one thing that really, really stood out to me—this is a personal thing, is this: as far as self-awareness and self-management that Nicole talked to you about, she talked about the most valuable feedback that you can get is how you come across to other people. It was all part of the idea of building rapport and so on.
And I’m going to do that thing that you do, which is I’m going to now bridge and link to something else. Because we ask every week, on the show, for feedback from the audience. We ask for people to go to—right now, it would be PreneurMarketing.com, the new site, where you can give us feedback on any show, just leave it in the Comments.
You can also go to iTunes and leave us feedback. And we do look at this. Now, Nicole pointed this out, but when you’re honest with yourself, when you’re honest with people, and you genuinely ask for this feedback, then you’ll learn an awful lot. And there’s been a couple of instances. You know we play this feedback on the show.
People have left us audios here and we play this on the show. But there have been a couple of instances where people have come right out and gone right to me. We get a lot of positive stuff, I mean a lot of positive stuff. But, if you look hard, there’s some negative, as well.
Some of it is constructive and some of it is just a bit blunt. And I remember, right back at the beginning of the show, there was one person and he was writing his comment, they said, this is a great show if you want to listen to Dom repeatedly say ‘Um.’
And they made some nasty comment about my accent and things like that. And that actually, that was quite hard for me to deal with, but I learned from it. I’m very conscious of it, I listen to every show, I’m listening to those verbal ticks. I’m sorry, it wasn’t ‘um’, it was ‘you know,’ because I just said ‘you know.’
Pete: And you said ‘um’ again.
Dom: I just said ‘um’, as well. Which I’ll possibly try and edit out. But it’s all about the feedback, and somebody, somebody sees that. Now we ask for the feedback, we want people to pay attention and so. And recently, someone else put quite a blunt comment about my interview technique.
Because you do these conversations, and you do so well. you build a great rapport with people on the show, whoever they are, authors like Nicole, all the way up to Tim Ferriss. I mean, I remember the Tim Ferriss interview, and Tim Ferriss said that you’d asked some great questions. I say, I think you asked some great questions, but Tim Ferriss said you asked some great questions.
And folks, do listen to that interview, great interview, but in fact, all of them are great. I have no negative issues with your stuff, but I don’t do these very often, and I’m learning to do them. And so there were some quite harsh comments about my interview style during one of the interviews, left by that.
But it’s all feedback, it’s all learning, and it’s the important part of this. It did speak directly to me when she talked about asking for that feedback, but it’s relevant to anybody in any business, I think. As the comment was that I talk too much, I’m now going to shut up.
Pete: Oh, well, guys, again, thank you for being a part of the Preneur Community. Listening to the show, conversing with us in iTunes comments as Dom referred to, or over at PreneurMarketing.com. We do appreciate every single one of you, so make sure you come and say hi and let us know that you listen, because we do reply. We do say hello back personally. And again, talk to you all in Episode 112.
Dom: Actually, I’m going to jump in for one last comment. And that is that if you go over to our competition page at PreneurMarketing.com/Win, Nicole has given us two copies of her excellent book to give away. So PreneurMarketing.com/Win, jump over there, and enter the competition.
And don’t forget, if you’re listening to this in a couple of weeks’ time, or you get around to it whenever you get around to it, that competition page is going to be there, and you can win whatever the current prize is. So always keep checking back, and we’ll see you folks next week.
What Keeps Leader Up at Night – Nicole Lipkin
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Previous PreneurCast Episodes:
Episode 103 – Staying Booked Solid with Michael Port