Business Development During And After COVID: On Employee Developments And Retention With Lynn Thomas

The way business was done in the past is no longer relevant in today’s world. It’s all about employee development and retention these days. Businesses need to stop hiring new people because that takes time and money. Businesses need to start pumping up development with their employees and clients. There is so much untapped purpose in that. Join Dr. Diane Hamilton as she talks to the CEO of Thomas ConsultingLynn Thomas, about business development during and after COVID. Also, join Dr. Diane Hamilton discuss the importance of perception. Learn how to respect different cultures and appreciate where other people come from. Strengthen your perspective of others today.

TTL 883 | Business Development


I’m so glad you joined us because we have here. Not only is she a lawyer, but she has vast experience in all kinds of work in hundreds of diverse company industries as a consultant, tax attorney, private banker, you name it, this is going to be a fascinating show.

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Business Development During And After COVID: On Employee Developments And Retention With Lynn Thomas

I am here with Lynn Thomas. She is the CEO. She’s an experienced, accomplished, dynamic, energetic, and deeply caring leader. You have probably seen Thomas Consulting or her book, which was a bestseller called Wow! Your Way to Profit. I am excited to have you here. Welcome, Lynn.

I’m delighted to be here.

Thanks. You were able to make it. This is going to be interesting. I’m tongue-tied for some reason. Everything is not coming out as well as it usually does. I did see you are a JD, and it always drives me crazy that we don’t call JDs Doctor even though you’re the Doctor. Why do you think that is? That’s fascinating to me.

Doctors, Attorneys and physicians probably wanted to stay separate. It’s the first thing that comes to my mind.

It’s like a PhD to me.

It stands for Juris Doctorate. If you want to call me that, that’s fine.

I will. You deserved it because that’s tough. I know a lot of attorneys, and I can’t get over what you guys have to go through. You’re not a practicing attorney, are you?

No. I started at Arthur Andersen after law school and was there for a number of years and then left. I went to the bank of Boston as a private banker, which I loved. I was the change agent. During that experience is where I got my inspiration for my own consulting business. I still practice on the side a little bit with friends or family and getting my ideas and thought.

People will say, “How would you think about that?” How could you ever guarantee our work 100% to 300% return on your investment within a year or we will refund your money? People say, “How could you do that?” I said, “I’m a tax attorney. I know which needs the bottom line. I know which ones won’t. You tell me the metrics you want to measure. I’ll make sure it’s the bottom line.”

I love quantitative people because I can deal with that.

[bctt tweet=”70% of a person’s purpose needs to come from their job.” username=””]

I can be quantitative and I can be qualitative. Whatever people want, I do my best to deliver it in spades.

Your book was super successful and you do much consulting now. You deal with purpose and meaning. I love that because it ties into my work with curiosity and perception well. We both have a commonality in that we’re trying to keep people within the organizations and engaged. Why does purpose and meaning important right now?

If you look at who are the most coveted employees, they tend to be the Millennials and the Gen Z’s. They’re most technologically savvy. They’re very agile, which is what’s needed for the future. For them, since some have lived through 9/11, The Great Recession, and now COVID, they don’t have a view that the world is safe. They don’t have to do something to increase safety or make sure it gets better. When I grew up, everything looked just dandy and I had to do my part. For them, they don’t want to work eight hours a day, or whatever number of hours a day or week it is, unless it’s somehow helping the world. It gives them purpose.

It’s somewhere around 70% of a person’s purpose needs to come from their job ideally. You could be doing IT or working for waste management. There are many ways if you feel like you’re wanting to clean up the planet. If you want to help in many different areas. Some companies allow people to take time off and work on with charities or bring charities in. I would not want employers to be distraught and saying, “They can’t find me here.” Talk to your employees. What’s meaningful to them? Most of their meaning comes from their work. They will be there passionately for you. They’re the best to take you forward.

That ties in a lot that my research with curiosity. Sometimes it’s the fear of asking questions, and we don’t, because we don’t know what’s coming. You have to deal with what you hear from that. A lot of leaders, like what worked in the past. They’ll stick with the status quo, but then you end up like Kodak and Blockbuster. You have to ask questions and become uncomfortable to get to the next level of innovation, don’t you think?

Absolutely. One of my newsletters was Uncomfortable as the New Normal, not embracing that 100%. I’m pretty uncomfortable most days too, because I’m in new territory for myself in some ways. Would you say, curiosity is a keyword for all people to hear is, if you want to give feedback to somebody, if you have questions, just say, “I’m curious, why did you do that? How do you see it that way?” Be genuine about it but it comes across as caring about the person, and that’s the cure. Curiosity is high on my list of qualities that are important for all employees to have. I would say, especially for leaders.

It’s going to be that way for the foreseeable future from where I’m sitting. Companies need to make decisions with less than perfect information. What you’re saying is the way the business was done in the past, if you do that now, you’ll be much less effective. If you continue doing that over a period of time, you may not even be in business.

I want to work with companies that want to thrive and want their employees to be jazz, excited, stellar, and to be masters in whatever you do not be mediocre or so so. I have a high bar for myself and for the clients that I work with. I talk a lot about the untapped potential. I started out as a tax attorney, and I could have stayed that, but it wasn’t good to have the contact with clients that I wanted on for 5 to 6 years. That just didn’t work with me.

The World Economic Forum says that half of all employees will need re-skilling, not just upskilling by 2025 and that’s four years from 2021. Half of the employees need new skills. We need to pump up development, that’s one of the key things that will keep employees. You’re invested in their development because we all want to be employable, 2, 4, 5, or 7 years from now. Since none of us know the future, the best thing anybody can do is keep your employees on the leading edge of the skill set that they need to be highly successful.

That’s important. A lot of what you’re talking about is retaining great employees. You also deal with retaining great clients. A lot of the skills that we’re talking about are going in a couple of directions, especially curiosity. If you build that sense of empathy for the other person to give others, your employee or your client, you’re able to provide what they need. I’m going back to the quantitative aspects. The impact of a 5% increase in client retention, what does that have on the company’s bottom line?

That’s one of my favorite questions, Diane. It goes back to 1990, which could sound like years, decades ago, and it was decades ago. Frederick from Bain & Company, and Earl Sasser from Harvard Business School, and did research on the impact of increasing retention, client retention, as well as by 5%. The impact will have on the profits of a company that achieves that is anywhere from 25% to 95%, which is huge. A friend of mine used to work at Bain and I said to him, “I know that’s true.” I said, “You think I should deviate?”

He goes, “Lynn sticks with retention. It always works. If clients, do it, it will work.” That’s not even the top clients, the 20% that generate 8% of the revenue, but just all clients because the cost of replacing a client and employee is huge. Those are correlated employee and client retention. There’s a strong correlation between those two. For the client, you have to replace the client. The longer clients are with you, the less price-sensitive they are, and the more that they’ll buy. They have a lower cost to serve because they know how to work with you. There are huge benefits.

If you have a client that leaves you after 5 years versus 1 year, they are different clients. There’s a secret that I want to put out there, but it’s not a secret. It’s not well known. Only 2% of any clients leave an organization after they’ve been with them for seven years. What I look at is, what is the seven-year plan to keep your new clients to come on this year? Maybe we weed them out. After a few years, if we’re not happy, we move on? Nobody has said why. If you have a plan, you’re ahead of others.

[bctt tweet=”Uncomfortable is the new normal.” username=””]

The impact is on profits on employees. When you’re working for a company where the employees are happy, and that happiness bubbles over and it does to clients, it can be that joy and passion will come forth. I’ve seen it happen with companies and if you want to know that you will be around long term, the only security you have is looking at your top clients now because the 20% that generate 80% of revenue will generate 80% of your new clients over the next five years.

I look upon those as your fuel for growth. What we’re advocating now is for those to interview those top clients, have some external person interview them, find out what’s changed over COVID because most of our needs have changed in some way. If they change for your organization, you want to know because you want to retain those. Those are the ones that give you referrals. They’ll keep coming back. They’ll write reviews for you. They’ll be your ambassadors and they’ll love you.

TTL 883 | Business Development
Business Development: Millennials have lived through 9/11, the great recession, and now COVID. They don’t view the world as safe anymore. They will work if it helps the world or if it gives them purpose.


I’ve interviewed many of my clients, and I’ll say, “What can they do that would delight you and wow you?” They said, “They sent you to pass you to me. Nobody else has to me.” people will say, “Will they talk to you?” I’m like, “Yes and they’ll tell me how you can be more successful.” I would just want people and companies to think about it. If you have not been in close contact with your clients and employees, especially if your clients don’t assume their needs have not changed, because they probably have in some way.

It also ties into the work I did in perception. We think things are always going to be a certain way because they were in the past. That’s the problem. We get into that status quo thinking that was the curiosity issue. When I wrote about perception, I was looking at it as a combination of factors that include curiosity, and part of it is getting to that, that bottom-line question of what’s changed. What are we doing that we did in the past that work but what doesn’t work anymore? Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has a part of their website where they show ice cream that they no longer serve. That was popular in a certain timeframe. Instead of saying, “It’s a failure.”

They recognize that success, but they give it a burial. They put little headstones and said, “This is this flavor.” It was great from this year to that year. It’s that, “We killed it off,” kind of thing. That’s great. They don’t try to force an old thing to work in a new world. This ties into what you’re talking about. We also could do that same way of thinking with our employees. What made them passionate in the past might not work in the future and now, with COVID, maybe people are rethinking things. You’ve mentioned we have massive untapped potential. I’m just curious about your insight on that.

A lot of it just from the work I’ve done with companies is seeing people evolve and develop. I look at myself and started as a tax attorney, that would have been fine, but it’s from the input at people at Arthur Andersen when they say, “You’re a little bit more gregarious for most of us. You’re a little warmer and more friendly and you’re comfortable speaking in front of people.”

It wasn’t said in a way at all that was derogatory was just curious. You’re different than us. They gave me insights into me that I did not see. We all have big blind spots. We don’t see ourselves accurately. I adopted much of what they said about me and allowed me to pivot and change the role. We only use 2% of our brain on any given day. On a team, we pumped in the ions 5%. We’re not even tapping into that potential.

A friend of mine, Scott Jones, was the inventor of voicemail. I worked with him when I left the bank. It’s pretty amazing. He did it on a dare. He took it seriously. He parlayed 20,000, $250 million in four years. He’s pretty amazing. He is very disciplined. Every day, whatever his most pressing personal or financial problem is, he comes up with a minimum of twenty solutions. I remember hearing that, and I said to him, “Scott, why twenty? Isn’t that a little excessive?” He said, “Lynn, the first five, anyone’s going to think of anything, the next five, they’re not meant to be ordinary, but they’re not extraordinary. Once you get into the 16, 17, 18, you are really digging deep inside yourself, and you’re pulling out some gems and treasures.”

I do that at least twice a week. I have given those assignments when I work with clients for people to do that. Right around ten, they get annoyed with me. I’ll say, “Just keep going.” What happened in school, they never asked us for multiple solutions. If you have one way of doing business, and that’s all you have, you’re stuck and trapped. One key thing I do is motivate everybody to come up with the least ten. Twenty solutions and wacky ones are fine.

You can sit back and you can compare and contrast. What will come of somebody who, let’s say, is an attorney will be something extremely creative and someone in graphic design will come up with something very analytical, but they’re calling on resources they never called on because nobody pushed them or asked them. I won’t say demand, but 20 and come up with 50. The more options we have, the more variables you can look at and then decide.

This one’s best because X, Y, and Z, but this is Plan B, C, D, and E. You’re able to maneuver. When I see people doing that, people will say, “I never thought I was creative.” “I never thought I’d come up with innovative ideas.” “I didn’t think I had any insights into that.” When you mentioned it, what am I going to add to it?

A lot of what I’ve seen is people being a little bit amazed and surprised with what they can come up with, and employers being surprised and delighted with what their employees can produce. They started giving them the space, not monitoring them, letting them brainstorm in their way because some people like to sit by themselves and do what I like to call Two-Minute Think Tank for more of the introverted type of people or sometimes like that. The extroverted would bounce ideas. Do a whole bunch of different ways to come up with creative ideas and then you have a flow coming.

You can ask clients. Get clients involved too. It can be extraordinary when you believe in your people and you allow them to be the most they can be and you get out of the way. Never underestimate the power of truly inspired, motivated, and passionate people to create the brightest possible future. Allow them to excel beyond their wildest dream potentials. Let your people amaze and delight you. You’ll have more profits. As owners or shareholders, I would love, expect, and hope you share those with clients and employees in an appropriate way because I believe in the win-win. Everybody can win.

That’s what drove me from the Bank of Boston when I saw they didn’t care about employees. Two people that had a heart attack. One died when I was out on disability and I wanted to bring a stress management firm in for $500 for people. They said, “No.” I said, “No. It’s $500 for everybody.” I said, “I’ll pay for it.” He said, “No.” I turned around and walked out. It felt pretty yucky, to put it mildly. I didn’t know if there was another way. There are different conversations. There are deeper conversations you have to have and be willing to have.

If you want to talk about rewarding employees and working with clients in different ways. It’s possible out there and I don’t think the model of where the 1% are getting all the wage increase come on since the late 70s. That’s not going to be acceptable much longer. Millennials and Gen Z’s are sensitive to that. Companies like Ben & Jerry’s that did have a cap on CEO earnings and all that, that’s a whole another conversation. It does bring up different and uncomfortable conversations. You have to care and believe in your employees. Inspire them and lead them and just watch them blow you away in the most stellar way possible. I can give examples, but I’m not sure if that’s what you want.

I do like examples. As I was thinking, when you were talking about an example, other than Ben & Jerry’s, I was thinking about how Disney’s laundry division is having high turnover. They went to their employees, and just asked him a simple question, “How can we make your job better?” You wouldn’t think you’re going to get things. A lot of companies don’t ask questions. You think they’re going to say, “Give me a Ferrari,” and not take it seriously.

They gave valuable things like, “Put a vent over my desk, so I’m not so hot. Have my desk up and down so I could not hurt my back.” Whatever things they gave were useful and their turnover improved dramatically. They don’t recognize that we have to invest. It’s not a ton of money sometimes in some of this stuff. A lot of them just aren’t asking those questions, are they?

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During COVID, it’s been up and down but a lot of C-Suites, people know the answers. To some issues around the business they do. Where I have gotten most of my answers to C-Suite questions is from frontline people. They will know what’s going on, they will know what the customer wants, or the client wants because they deal with them every day. Sometimes C-Suite people will and sometimes they don’t. Most of them usually don’t.

If there’s an organization where you’re assigned to come to talk to these five clients, you have to talk with them every year or something. Those are better but when there’s not any direct contact between executives, even middle management. From our clients, there’s a distance there. That’s usually the biggest gap. When I do assessments, I’ll interview senior management and middle management, frontline, and clients. Clients and frontline, their realities are closest, and then it goes up the ladder, but look at the gaps and what needs to change.

What do they want? What are their needs? Why did you come, stay and leave? Why would you refer and not refer? Why would you buy more and not buy more? Why did you even consider us? What’s the best thing we do? What’s the worst thing we do? Keep asking questions, because, for people who love the business, I have a great and awesome dentist. If people ask me for a referral, I will but I don’t go around in my life spending my time finding him other clients.

TTL 883 | Business Development
Business Development: The way that business was done in the past is not efficient today. If you do that now, you’ll be much less effective. If you continue to do that over a period of time, you may not even be in business.


If someone asked me, or if you were to ask me, he’s asked me a few times, and I’ve given them names. A great way to ask is, “I would love to have five clients just like you, you’re easy to work with. I enjoy your relationships. How can I find five clients?” If they say, no, they’re not willing to, great, leave it there. They may ask for more time and say, “Should I call you back in a week, you want to call?” Whenever they say that you’ve planted the seed, and I want to replicate and duplicate you. For some clients, that’s what you want. It’s delightful to work with. People say to me, “You’re not going to ask the model to leave.” They’ve already thought about why they’re leaving. I’m not putting the question in their head.

There’s that hesitancy, and fear of the unknown and there’s much unknown now. The more that you do know about your clients and your frontline employees, as in this example, the better your organization will be. The more you can get all of the feedback loops going, including lots of different parts. If you have a client, board of advisors, employee board of advisors, there are lots of ways you can get feedback from non-traditional sources. If you live in your colleges, there are lots of marketing divisions that have to do a research project on your company. I’ve had that done twice at Boston College in Northeastern, here in the Boston area. There are many resources out there to get different ideas, but at this time, the best employees that you have, the most valuable employees, the ones who are retaining your clients, the frontline people.

That’s important, I’m glad that you brought that up because many people forget that. I know you’ve got so much great content on your website and in different information that you share newsletters. A lot of people could use help with a lot of these things. As we wrap up, the show is wondering if you had anything you wanted to share or how to follow you, how to find your information that everybody could benefit from.

LinkedIn is probably the easiest way to find my company and me. It’s Lynn Thomas. My email and website, all my contact information are there. If you want to get a newsletter, you can send me an email or to my website. Put that on there and we put a newsletter out every month as far as my latest thoughts, and I do research for that. Also, one thing I want to say about feedback. Feedback is key.

I know a lot of people had lots of ouches around feedback and usually, it means criticism. If you don’t know how to say something to somebody and have it be kind, call me. I’m willing to talk to you. I did have a critical father and a critical older sister. One of the benefits was, as friends of mine and colleagues have said, “You can say anything and make it sound nice.” It’s like, “Yes. That’s a super skill of mine.”

That’s a good one. A lot of people could benefit from that.

In companies, I find a lot of people are hanging on baggage from 2 years ago or 10 years ago, “Ten years ago, you did this to me.” My rule of thumb is if someone does something you don’t like, you have three business days to tell them or you draw.

I like. That’s the right of rescission from when I was a loan officer.

You can drag it around but it’s going to be a woah kind of place, a wow place as people are dragging these resentments and this old stuff. It’s like, “Let’s just clear it up. Move along. Leave it behind. It’s just three days.” If you can say to them in a way that’s kind and they can hear, then drop it, because it’s not that important. Move on.

That’s great advice, Lynn. This was fun to have you on the show. I’m sure everybody could benefit from this. I enjoyed it.

Me, too. Thank you for the questions and your follow-ups.

You’re welcome.

I get many great guests on the show. Sometimes I want to take a little bit of time to talk about some of the research I do. I’m going to talk to you about perception and some of the work I did with Dr. Maja Zelihic, who is also one of the people I’ve worked with at the Forbes School of Business. She’s been great in this process of researching how perception process in our mind, opinions, version of the truth, biases, and how we live. What’s in a rose? Would it smell as sweet by any other name? All that, that we read about.

We looked at what we can do with the perception in the workplace to discuss it. We looked at it as a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for cultural quotient, CQ for curiosity quotient, and we thought, “This is something that they’re not talking about enough in the workplace.” We talked about this perception reality and to what extent are our perception is true? They’re our perceptions. What is a reality to us may not be the reality to them.

There is a truth to some extent, but what’s real and all that? We start to get into this analysis paralysis thinking about it. We thought, “If we’re thinking like this, we need to showcase what others have done to try and look at this because the world’s changing.” We’ve seen The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, which is a great book. We know that what we used to think is the reality of everything that we thought we could do. Now, it’s different. We’re becoming more connected and we know that there are a lot more issues with global tragedies.

As companies are trying to do work in a global dot-com industry, it’s a lot different from how we look at things than when I originally got into the workplace or when Maja got into it. We’re looking at some of our belief systems of what shaped us both consciously and unconsciously. If we know that, we can be more responsive and respond to this multicultural and multi-language world in which we’re living. 

If we can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards where we want to go or where we don’t want to go and understand what other people believe and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in, we can understand that and see where they’re coming from. That way, we manage our perceptions and we’re able to build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence.

Maybe you can’t walk a mile in my shoes but we can have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that. We looked at what was available in terms of assessments out there of how we can test and validate and do all these things with that. We came up with a Perception Power Index, which goes along with the book, The Power of Perception. Those are the things that we’re going to talk about.

We come into this world with this predisposition to how we view and interpret things. Imagine if you’re born where you are now compared to if you were born somewhere else. We know that twins are different if they were separated at birth. There’s a different upbringing. We have this cultural impact on how our behaviors, our beliefs, and everything that we relate to are impacted by our social, ethnic, age group, and everything. We’re seeing that there’s a lot more conflict in the world. A lot of it is because we don’t understand each other that well. 

Something that we don’t even think about as acceptable or not questionable here in the United States might be something questionable in another culture. If you’re wearing a miniskirt in Brazil, it’s a lot different than if you’re worrying that in Saudi Arabia, for example. We have to appreciate where other people are coming from. Maybe we’re allowing our culture and our society to dictate what we’re thinking and perceiving.

[bctt tweet=”The more you know about your clients and employees, the better your organization will be.” username=””]

I’ve had Joe Lurie on the show. He’s got a great book, A Mind-Opening Journey Across Culture, where he writes about all the different perceptions of things that he’s found in different cultures. Eye contact in Western cultures is maybe candor and confident. If you go to Africa, they don’t want to do that. Eye contact with a person of authority, you’ve got to worry about respect. There’s a lot of different issues when you’re talking about the Western culture versus other cultures. In Asian cultures, they might use a calculator to negotiate the price of things but you might not want to do that in some other areas because it may seem disrespectful. 

Looking at different areas is fascinating. Even how certain hand gestures mean one thing. It might mean A-okay in one language and maybe be insulting in another culture. A lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures and that is worth reviewing. Now we know that there’s a lot of stereotyping going on. We’re trying to get away from that. We’re trying to get away from biases. We have biases.

Beau Lotto talked about that on my show. I hope you’ve read that episode. He talks about how you need it and how you can’t live without some bias to give you some decision-making ability. We have to pay attention to unconscious bias. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t come across as arrogant or condescending. Saying something like, “Keep it simple, stupid,” might mean one thing in one language. We have that as a saying and it’s not meant to be insulting. If you tell it to somebody else, it could be insulting. 

These are the things that we were looking at when we decided that we needed to look at cultural quotients, IQ, CQ, our drive, motivation, knowledge, cognition, metacognition, and all those things to look at how we come up with these actions or behaviors. Do we have to adapt to customs or should they adapt to ours? Should we be more tolerant of differences? Change is a big thing that we teach in business classes and being proactive about it is also important. We know that we have these teams where there are in-groupers and out-groupers. We want to try and get people to get along. 

I’ve had Amy Edmondson talking about teams, teaming, and how people get along. A lot of collaboration is about having the curiosity to ask questions and learn from each other. We want to look at the path that we’re on that’s similar but also understand the path that we’re on that’s not so similar. Some of the things that impact that are things like spirituality.

Whether you’re religious or not, it can be different. Some people have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them where other people might be agnostic or atheist and that could completely shape your whole perception of the situation at hand. You might accidentally insult someone without even realizing how important something is to them. 

I don’t think a lot of people give a lot of thought to the differences of how much strength that can have in their ideas and things that they question or don’t question. It can have a big impact because we inherit a lot of beliefs from our family. We personalize our beliefs. We take things that work for us or maybe don’t work for us. We make something around what works in our situation. That can make us think we’re right and they’re wrong and vice versa. That is a problem in the business world if we don’t examine what is shaping what these people are coming up with or not coming up with. 

TTL 883 | Business Development
Business Development: Don’t just have one way of doing business. Motivate everybody to come up with at least ten new solutions to do business. Let everyone take part because the more options you have, the more variables you have.

Having personalized beliefs are fine but even though Stephen Covey says, “Spiritual renewal is one of the habits that are essential to effective leadership,” we have to look at what’s your greater purpose? What do they think is their greater purpose? What are our values or our ethical principles and what are theirs? What will our legacy be and what is theirs? Those are the things that we researched in terms of how people use their religion and spirituality. It was also fun to look at gender to see the differences in how people look at paintings. 

There was a comment that we put in the book. Two strangers, a man or woman, were visiting an art gallery and found themselves standing next to one another staring at a painting of an old country estate. Replete with an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch of a mansion and with various barns and outbuildings and serving his background. The woman, without prompting, commented, “What a beautiful painting, so serene and peaceful. A beautiful blend of man and nature.” The man commented in response, “That barn looks like it’s in dire need of a paint job.” 

We both look at the same thing but we see different aspects. There’s not that one’s right and one’s wrong. It could be the opposite way round. It could be the man seeing the great thing, the woman saying the opposite. We don’t want to stereotype necessarily but it’s interesting to see that men and women do see things a little bit differently. There are psychological differences. These have been documented, including differences in their brains.

We hear gender bias and we know studies show women are viewed, treated, and paid differently. We know there’s a problem predominance in the number of men compared to women in executive positions. Those are the things that are important for leaders to recognize. We have to know the origins of all this and why we see things through these different lenses. We know that men’s brains are structurally different than the female brain and that’s a fascinating thing to look at in itself. We’re not going to exactly see things in the same way.

There is a New York Times bestseller called The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist. She also later wrote The Male Brain. She guides you through how the brains of each gender differ and how they shape our behaviors from the time we’re infants all the way into adulthood. The women’s perceptions and behaviors are different from men’s, mostly due to hormones. We do have different hormones. We know the women have more estrogen, progesterone, we even have testosterone but not as much as the men. It goes all the way back to some of these hormones. It’s how we are influenced by them.

I talked to Tom Peters on the show. That’s a great show if you get a chance to look at it. He talked about The Female Brain and he recalled an article from Duke University Basketball, Coach Mike Krzyzewski. In the Sunday Times magazine section, he described how that coach, often referred to as Coach K, would bring his wife to all the team meetings. He said the reason was so she would see what was going on in player’s lives that he didn’t notice. She would smell of a problem of a girlfriend 100 miles away or some distraction and he didn’t think men psychologically saw those things. He found it fascinating as an observation. 

There are differences. If we pretend like we’re not different, that doesn’t work and we get uncomfortable. If we look at that as one thing being better than another, that’s also uncomfortable. It’s important to recognize that these things are part of us and that we’re intended to be different. We’re not intended to be the same. Wouldn’t life be super boring if it was that way?

I thought that would be something that you talk about in the workplace of what we can get. We know that the percentage of women in the workplace is increasing. We know that the rate of women occupying key roles in the workplace is on the rise. We know that women are being hired into leadership roles more often than they were CEOs at an increasing rate and of course, we’d like to see it higher. We know that women are bringing different perceptions into the workplace. Those are different aspirations. 

It is an interesting thing to look at how we’re genetically wired differently from birth. These differences are spawning this ground for this history of beliefs and stereotypes of how we’re taught to view each other. We’re carving a different road for ourselves, the women versus the men. That’s important to know that we’re evolving. When we’re doing that, we’re impacted by our intelligence in this process. 

[bctt tweet=”Maybe you can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but you can at least have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that.” username=””]

We talk about IQ and EQ. If we’re thinking of intelligence as what we know and how we apply what we know, we know that we need to be able to use our intelligence to understand how to relate with one another. We know that our intelligence and our perceptions evolve in different ways. Fluid versus crystallized intelligence comes about.

There’s some great work by Raymond Cattell, who talked about that. If you ever get a chance to read some of his work, there are all these different types of what we learn and how it changes over time. It’s an important thing to look at. Also, Howard Gardner is heavily cited in the area of types of intelligence. We thought we had one kind. He studied all these different types of abilities that we have. You could have naturalistic, music, logical and mathematical, and existential intelligence. Also, body, kinesthetic, verbal, linguistic, intrapersonal, visual-spatial intelligence, and interpersonal intelligence. The list goes on and on.

To say somebody is smart is a hard thing to do because there are these different types of ways of being smart. How do you value that intelligence? What’s important in your culture for that type of intelligence? That was interesting to us as we went through all the different ways that we grow, learn, and apply what we know.

We also looked at emotions as in emotional intelligence in that aspect as well. I had written my doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence and that’s such a huge area. It was great to have Daniel Goleman on the show to talk about emotional intelligence. If you haven’t read that episode, I highly recommend it.

Emotions play a big part in how we make decisions. Empathy is a big part of emotional intelligence. Sometimes that ties into the curiosity that we’re asking questions to learn more about each other. Our emotions can be different across cultures. There are different studies between Japanese and American subjects. They found facial expressions and non-verbal behaviors vary significantly between them.

I had Paul Ekman on the show. The TV show, Lie To Me, was based on his work. There are certain expressions that we all make that are the same, whether you’re blind or not. I thought that was fascinating. My father was born blind. It’s interesting what things we have similar and then other things that are completely different. It’s conceptually different based on the way you grow up and the influences around you of how you respond to your emotions.

Your emotions can make you perceive failure differently either. Some of us have the fight or flight response. Some of us will run from it or run to it. Most of us have that sense that failure is not our favorite thing. Our perception of failure can influence how much we explore things and ask questions. It gets back into curiosity again.

I tell a story in my talks and I write one in the book about different experiences where sometimes you’re in a sales presentation where you get your rear end handed to you. You might be on a call with your partner and your partner thinks it’s the worst thing in the world, where you might think it’s the best thing because you’ve learned everything you need to know to fix your next presentation.

If you don’t learn these things, sometimes your perception will get you down and you’ll quit. You have to learn from failure and if you don’t, you’re going to end up being the glass-half-empty person and you won’t move forward. You’ll stay where you are and move backward. That’s what we’re trying to avoid by understanding perception.

The other thing that we looked at when we were looking at perception was whether it’s your reality or not. Looking at some of the perception experts, especially Beau Lotto, I love his TED Talks. He talked about a lot of great things on the show. If you’re wanting to know perception versus reality, I would look at some of that because it’s fascinating. 

Talking about perception, you need to talk about collaboration because collaboration is a required skillset in the workplace. If you’re being hindered by your perceptions, there are so many variables. Think of the questions we ask ourselves, “Does this project intrigued us? Does it motivate us? Do we like our teammates? Do we like our leader? Do we like the role that we’ve been given?” You look at all this and if you’re getting mixed reasons for why you like something or don’t like something, a lot of it could be your perception of it.

When we talk about collaboration, I always think about Amy Edmondson‘s TED Talk because that ties into how they got the Chilean miners out in that disaster. These people were able to work together and collaborate because they maybe had different perceptions but they knew that it was life or death, in this case, to help people get out from under that rock. 

Understanding that perception is critical to collaboration, getting people to work together, and being innovative and creative is interesting. Gallup says we’re losing $500 billion a year on engagement. We know that people want to be collaborative. If we don’t have this ability to get along, that’s going to be huge. We want people to be creative and see things differently.

In the Dead Poets Society movie, Robin Williams had the students get on top of their desks to look at life in a different way. He said, “To make a difference, you must see things differently.” That’s a key point that a lot of people always are looking at things from their vantage point. They don’t get on top of their desk. They don’t look at things from another way. 

I’ve done a lot of training classes where we’ve given Legos and we’ve had people build things as teams in collaborative ways. It’s fun to see them get ideas from each other and go, “I would have never looked at it that way.” If you aren’t a big fan of teams, sometimes it’s helpful to get on a team with people who are completely different than you are because if everybody thinks the same way, life’s boring.

It helps to look at things from a critical thinking standpoint and to do research. How did these people do this? How have they made it successful? What facts support their argument? What’s the source of their information? How did they come to that conclusion? We’re back to curiosity again. Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves. I don’t think we get enough of that. There’s a lot of people who want to take things at face value based on what they’ve always known and what supports the values that they’ve always had. That’s common for people.

You watch the same either CNN or Fox or whatever that supports your values because it makes you comfortable. It is important to get curious and get outside. Our perception suggests we know something but our curiosity proves that we don’t. We need to know what we don’t know. A lot of people aren’t asking enough questions. That’s the thing that in the book, Cracking the Curiosity Code, is a huge part of changing the culture in organizations. 

I often talk a lot about that to groups because if we can ask more questions, we can get better at decision-making. Decision-making can be challenging. I love a quote by Deepak Chopra where he says, “If you obsess over whether you’re making the right decision, you’re assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.” If you think about that, you always think you have the right or the wrong thing but it’s not necessarily the case. There are shades of gray, not everything is black and white. That’s what I find particularly fascinating in the research that we did.

TTL 883 | Business Development
Business Development: Emotions play a big part in how you make decisions, and empathy is a big part of emotional intelligence. This also ties into curiosity. You get to learn more about each other across different cultures.


If we’re trying to fix all the things in work and if we’re trying to fix engagement, I mentioned before that you’re losing $500 billion a year, according to Gallup. When people are financially invested, they want to return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. That’s what we need to do, get people emotionally invested at work and contributing. Part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better. We’re back to empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence and then we’re getting that perception of the other person’s ideas. We see it not just from our standpoint but from theirs.

Some of the questions that we need to ask to improve engagement are, “Do my employees feel they’re growing in their work? Are they being recognized for their work? Do they trust that the company’s on the right track?” Those are some of the things that lead to great communication. I had Kevin Kruse on the show and he has a great book on information about engagement and that’s helpful. All this is so that we can be better leaders and better employees. We have to sometimes suspend our beliefs and be agile. Look in some of the words that we hear a lot about like vulnerability. 

Brené Brown made a lifelong career out of that. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that. That’s what led to our interest in looking at what the perception process is and how we can manage our perceptions. Creating an assessment would be important and an epic decision of how we can help people understand what they go through. What does the process look like? We found it’s about evaluating, predicting, interpreting, and reshaping or correlating one’s perceptions. 

The EPIC acronym we came up with is evaluation, prediction, interpretation, and correlation. Those are the things that if you take The Perception Power Index, you will find out how you’re doing in those areas? What could you do to improve your EPIC process? It’s similar if you’ve taken The Curiosity Code Index. It’s simple. You get your results right away and you can find out a lot more about how well you go through this process and what things are holding you back. If you get a baseline of, “This is how I am at this,” then you know how to move forward.

Let’s look at some of these because, in an evaluation, you’re going to examine and assess. You’re going to do a lot of these different things that you can recognize if you’re open to thoughts or ideas that you look at from your own perspective of your self-awareness. I think of this one in that respect. If you applied this element of emotional intelligence and self-awareness, then you’re going to get along better and you’re going to be able to be more aware of how you come across to other people. That’s a lot of a problem. I see a lot of people who don’t recognize body language, issues, tone, or if they’re typing in all caps. There are all these different things they can do of how they come across and they don’t realize it.

They can predict how the other person’s going to act. In a way, that’s another part of emotional intelligence. It’s their interpersonal awareness of, “Are they able to understand where the other person is coming from, what their perception is, their capabilities, their abilities, and how they make decisions?” It’s challenging to predict what other people are going to do if you don’t look into what they’re doing, have empathy, ask questions, and have that sense of emotional intelligence. It’s only then that you can make your interpretation. 

In your interpretation, you have to consider how all of this impacts your decision. The curiosity comes into this. You’re making assumptions, and you’re looking at how their fear is impacting them. A lot of this ties back into their culture of how they were raised. We know that behavior and different things are rewarded or not rewarded in certain systems, so we need to look at that. How did their culture shape them? How did the company culture shape them?

It’s about assessing and understanding your own emotions for the EPIC part, but the I part is more about putting it collectively together and interpreting what you know. You end with your conclusions. Your correlation is your final C of the EPIC process because now that you have all this, you can come up with your solutions and conclusions after researching your facts. This is the critical thinking aspect of it all.

[bctt tweet=”Appreciate and respect where other people come from.” username=””]

We know that there are so many great ideas that come out but if you don’t go to the part where you end coming up with the idea with taking what you’ve learned in this group setting and changing a little bit of your behavior so you can have a win-win situation. You haven’t come to any conclusion that’s going to be good for everybody. Those are some of the main points that we make in what we’re talking about in this EPIC process and this power of perception. This would be something critical to share.

You can take The Perception Power Index at All the assessments are there. You can take the Curiosity Code Index, The Perception Power Index, and even take DISC and emotional intelligence tests. A lot of that is all there. If you don’t see it in the drop-down menus at the top, there are more menus at the bottom. I hope you contact me if you have any questions, and I hope that this helps you understand perception a little better.

I would like to thank Lynn for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to, and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Lynn Thomas

TTL 883 | Business DevelopmentLynn Thomas is an experienced, accomplished, dynamic, energetic, and deeply caring leader. She has been committed to cultivating transformative leaders for over 30 years — working with executives, managers, founders, organizations, and institutions to navigate change, rejuvenate culture and exceed their potential in areas of business and beyond.

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