How do you cultivate a sustainable workforce that stays on and builds the organization as they build themselves? Roberta Matuson answers this question with her latest book on talent development, which she talks about in this interview with Dr. Diane Hamilton. Known as The Talent Maximizer, Roberta is the President of Matuson Consulting, a bestselling author, and a leading authority on leadership. Listen as she shares valuable insights on employee engagement and talent development. With the right leadership style, you can be on your way to cultivating evergreen talent.
Why shouldn’t we take “yes” as an answer? In the context of workplace communication and talent development, always saying “yes” can do more harm than good. Steve Herz, the President of the Montag Group, calls this an “echo chamber of yes” where otherwise valuable feedback is drowned out by the constant urge to buy into the status quo. Steve joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to talk about how he approached this question in his new book. In an engaging conversation, Steve takes a shot at the “participation trophy” culture that gets in the way of talent development and organizational growth. Join in and listen to his incredible insights.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Roberta Matuson and Steve Herz here. Roberta, you probably know as the Talent Maximizer. She’s written a lot of best-selling books and I’m excited to talk to her about Evergreen Talent. Steve Herz has a book of his own. He is a Founder of a few companies and as well as a talent agent and career advisor. One of his books is going to talk about not taking yes for an answer. I want to delve into both of those topics. We’re going to get into some soft skills and some of the things that leaders need to know.
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Cultivating Evergreen Talent With Roberta Matuson
I am here with Roberta Matuson, who is the President of Matuson Consulting. She helps leaders in Fortune 500 companies and small to medium-sized businesses achieve dramatic growth. She’s known worldwide as the Talent Maximizer. She’s a leading authority on leadership. She has five books, including Evergreen Talent: A Guide to Hiring and Cultivating a Sustainable Workforce. She also has the international bestseller of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Business Book for Leaders. It’s nice to have you on the show, Roberta.
It’s nice to be here.
It’s nice that we finally get a chance to chat. I know we’re in an author group and we’ve chatted in other realms, but not like this. This will be fun to get to know you. I want to start with your background because you’ve done many things. I’m looking at the people and the clients like General Motors, New Balance, Microsoft, Best Buy, Monster, and Staples. It’s a who’s who of people you’ve helped where you’ve been seen in the early show, different things you’ve written for Fast Company, Forbes, and all these major places to find you. How did you reach this level of success? What was your path?
I reached this level of success by accident. I had a friend who passed up an opportunity to write for Monster. She said, “I don’t think what they’re paying. I don’t think I want to do that. I don’t think they’re paying enough.” I was like, “I’ll talk to them. Let me see.” It turned out what she thought they were paying for four articles was what they would be paying for one article. I said, “I’ll do it.” This was before it became in style to have a personal brand and get your IP out there, your Intellectual Property. I had never written a thing and the next thing I know, I was the HR expert for Monster.
That’s quite the position. It’s funny because I can remember when I first wrote for Investopedia, it wasn’t a good mix-match for me. It is because I’m not super focused on financial things as much. You were always an HR-focused. I saw you had an MBA and a BS in Human Resource, right?
When I wrote, they always had me right in the back. This was long ago. They wanted evergreen things. Was that what it was like for Monster? Did they want up and coming ideas?
They were at the forefront at that point. Up and coming ideas were acceptable but they also did want evergreen topics. My work still lives on their site. Even though it’s somewhat older than a lot of my new work, it’s still something that if you read it today, you would be like, “That makes sense.”
Your stuff is evergreen and it’s always applicable. Let’s start with your bestseller because you’re known for Suddenly in Charge. What led to that success? How hard is it to write another book after you become this international bestseller?
I wrote Suddenly in Charge because it was the book that I wished that I had when I was suddenly in charge. When I was 24 years old, I came in to work one day and I found out that my boss had been fired. I did what I thought any other 24-year-old would do. I asked the president of the company for her job and he gave it to me. At 24 years old, I was part of the executive team. I was a director in a commercial real estate company. I didn’t have this playbook. I managed to last for six years and then I got taken out by a wave I never thought was coming. That’s because I didn’t manage up, so I wrote the book. Half the book is on managing up and the other half is on managing down. What has happened is as a result of that book doing well, the owner of the publishing house came to me and asked me to write a second book, and that book is called Talent Magnetism.
You’ve written some amazing books. As you talk about this managing up, I’m thinking of a boss I had who was great. He would kiss up and kick down, which was awful because I was on the down end. Those people eventually can be on the other side. Do you treat people much the same, both sides of that equation? Is it okay to treat them differently? How do you look at that?When managing up, be more strategic. When managing down, be more authentic. Click To Tweet
You have to be more strategic when you’re managing up. You’re more authentic when you’re managing down. You have to be the leader that you are. I’m from New York and I’m never going to be a California style leader. It’s not in my DNA, but if I’m managing up, I would have to think about it more strategically. I would have to think about, “Who are these people at the top? What do they need from me in order to look good?” You do have to shift your mindset.
It all comes down to all the soft skills and some of the stuff that we both talk about, research, or write about. You can’t treat everybody exactly the same. It takes some change based on developing empathy for the other person’s position and perspective and all that. You write a lot about talent and how to retain that talent. Is it hard to get and retain the right talent if you don’t adjust like that? Some people like to manage everybody the same.
I tell my clients, “Equal is not fair.” There are people who are working a lot harder than other people. If you’re going to treat them the same, then they’re going to look at their co-workers and quickly figure out, “This is crazy. I don’t need to work that hard because I’m not getting anything else. I’m getting what they’re getting. I’m getting that 3% pay raise. I might as well kick back and take my Friday afternoon and go to the beach.”
I see that so much. A lot in higher education, you would see a lot of people given the same amount of work. It is interesting to me, in any industry, where you can give everybody who seems equally qualified the same task and one person’s head will explode because it’s too much. He can’t handle it and the other person says, “No big deal.” It’s a hard thing because everybody’s got the same education and the same number of years of work experience, and yet, some people are completely different in terms of their capabilities. Do you do a lot of testing of people to see what their skills are? Are you into personality assessment or any of that?
I’m not into that. When I see it, I know it. I don’t have to do a test to see that you’re blue, green, purple, or whatever. A lot of those tests are dangerous unless you are a licensed psychologist, which I’m not. They should not be in the hands of people like myself who don’t have the background to interpret those tests because this is somebody’s career we’re talking about. I shy away from them. You can tell a lot by talking to people and watching what they do and how they do things rather than testing them.
There are many different theories on how to motivate people and how to keep people engaged. We all hear the $500 billion a year and up numbers from Gallup and all that. What do you think’s the biggest issue with engagement?
The biggest issue is that companies know exactly what they need to do to engage people, but they’d rather send out another employee engagement survey and ignore whatever comes through.
It takes more work.
It’s a lot harder to work on the problem than it is to ask, “What do you think the problem is?”
This is a problem I’ve seen, especially with surveys and different things as if they give them and then they don’t have any follow up plan for how to do anything about what they learned. Doing the assessments or the surveys and then doing nothing with the results is crazy. I worked for a company for twenty years that they gave out an employee survey at the end of every year to see what we thought of things and never once did I hear they ever used it. They may have used information but to get people motivated to want to give you good information, at least say, “We did this because you said that.” It’s hard. To be good at helping cultivate, grow, and sustain a good workforce, it’s tough because there’s so much great talent out there. I don’t think a lot of people are doing what they need to cultivate it, as you put it. How do you do that? How do you get evergreen talent? How do you make sure that they stay that way?
It starts out by making sure that you’re planting the right seeds and you’re putting the right plants in the ground here. For example, I live in New England, and every year, I get excited when it’s time to go to the nursery and pick out plants. My husband will remind me like, “That’s not going to work in our yard. We don’t have any sun.” I’m like, “Really? They’re nice flowers.” What happens is you’ll look at somebody and you’ll think, “They would be an incredible employee, but they wouldn’t be an incredible employee for you because you’re not going to be able to nurture them. You’re not going to be able to grow them in your organization. They’re going to max out wherever you bring them in. They’re not going to stay.” Employers don’t take enough time to think about, “What do we need here?” We certainly don’t want a row of the same plants growing in every cubicle. We need different varieties, but I don’t think they give that enough thought.
I have the exact opposite problem in Arizona. There’s too much sun. It kills every plant I have. When you look at all these teams, whether you’d like personality tests or not, the only thing I thought was important from what I learned in some of the training I had from them was the value of having diverse teams. If everybody is exactly the same on a team and you give them a project, it’s way less creative than if you have a diverse team. With that diversity comes issues because not only we’re all exactly alike, we have more conflict. How do you deal with that?
Conflict is good. When you have conflict, that means that people are interested. They’re going to participate in the conversation. The last thing you want is a team of yes people because they’re like, “Yes, that’s great. That’ll work.” Maybe there was something better or maybe you could have done things a little bit differently and had better results. When you have that diverse team and people sharing their ideas and experiences, you can come out with a lot more innovative ideas than if you and I went to the same school, background, and age, sat down and said, “Let’s develop a product that’s going to be attractive to Gen Z.”
You need different aspects, viewpoints, and vantage points. This is exactly what I deal with when I’m talking about curiosity with people is that if everybody’s in agreement, that’s not a good sign. You’re dealing with the status quo, oftentimes. I love it when you’ve asked people questions. I’m curious how much you see curiosity being encouraged or developed in the companies with which you work?
Unfortunately, I don’t think I see a lot of that. I don’t hear a lot of people saying, “Why do you feel that way? How is it that you see it this way? Tell me more.” It’s more like people are busy and over-scheduled that they want to tick things off the box and say, “I had my team meeting, great. I did this. I did that. We got to our timelines and we finished things on time.” There’s not enough time to sit back, think, and be curious.
Usually, the team meeting is about the next team meeting, which drives me crazy. They start off, “Let’s talk about the minutes from the last meeting. This is what we talked about. Let’s discuss what we’re going to talk about.” It continues and that drives me insane. It’s interesting to look at some of the companies I’ve seen. I interviewed Olin Oedekoven on my show, who’s an interesting guy. He’s a well-respected leader in the education industry. He said he hires people sometimes and then design jobs around them. He could see something in them. He doesn’t know yet what they’re going to be great at, but that’s hard to do for a lot of companies. Either they don’t have the money or whatever to do that. Do you recommend doing something like that? Is that even possible for a lot of companies?
I totally recommend that. I’ve done that. I’ve worked for companies that have done that. It’s like, “This is a smart person. We need them here. We’ll put them on special projects until we see where we can leverage their expertise.” It’s had amazing results as a result of that.
It’s an interesting concept. I’d love that because I always think, “I’d be great with this company. I just don’t know what it’d be great at.” I was young and I looked at different companies. If somebody had ever done that for me, it would be interesting to see where they would put you. I don’t know how long it would take to figure it out though. Does it usually take you long?
No. As you said that, what’s coming up into my mind was I remember the owner of one of the companies that I worked for when I was director of human resources. I remember him saying to me, “You should be in sales.” I looked at him like, “What?” I thought, “I’m selling every day. I’m selling this company to prospective employees. I’m selling our policies and procedures to employees.” Now that I have my own consulting practice, as you know, consulting is 80% to 90% marketing and sales. He saw that in me and I am in sales.
It’s funny because I was in actual sales in the title jobs for 30 years. When I got out of that and I got into education and consulting and some of the stuff I’m in, it amazes me how many people are in sales-based businesses, but don’t even think of it that way and could benefit from having more sales training. My husband’s a plastic surgeon. He’s in sales and doesn’t know it. Everybody’s in sales. I don’t think there’s enough training for that. Do you have any sales-based training in the consulting you do? How do they deal with the sales aspect? How do you get people to get those skills?
A lot of them rely on the sales leaders to train the team on how to sell. Nowadays, there are many resources available, LinkedIn Learning, Skillsoft, and all these platforms. Even YouTube, you can go on and take a class or look up a video on how to close the deal and how to prospect for clients. I don’t know if they have any for plastic surgeons, but how to convince somebody who doesn’t want these procedures.
It’s interesting to look at microlearning. Are you seeing that company’s leaders used to be that everybody wanted you to have a certain degree? Having run an MBA program and you have an MBA, we stopped back in the day. The MBA was such a huge thing. That was a lot of why people have certain levels of education. Do you think that they’re still embracing that same thing or they want the skills that you can get from maybe you educate yourself or other ways?
That’s an interesting question because my son is a college student. He has the opportunity to earn a Master’s degree in the same amount of time it would take him to get his Bachelor’s degree. We were discussing whether or not he should do that. He’s in computer science, so I would say that that depends on the field. These computer science people are in demand. Maybe it’s not important, but we know there are some careers you can even work in. You can’t be a teacher unless you earn your Master’s within a certain period. It’s changing, but if anyone were ever thinking about, “Should I get a degree or not, or Master’s?” If you’d like to learn, you should do it for yourself.If you like to learn, you should definitely do it for yourself. Click To Tweet
A lot of continuing education will go on and on. With computers, it’s tough because the minute you get your degree, everything’s changed by the next week. Your MBA is solid for a long time. It’ll be interesting to look at how things become different for how everybody perceives it and what’s important. I was looking at some of the speeches you give and some of the things you do. You talk a lot about cultivating a sustainable workforce, retaining top talent, and some of the things we’ve already talked about like managing top and down. What’s your favorite talk to give?
My favorite talk is managing up and the top-down world of business. I’m always astonished by how much interest there is in the topic, as well as how many people have never even thought about the fact that they need to do this. This is something they need to get good at. I love talking about that topic. It’s one that speaks to the heart and something that a lot of people are uncomfortable with. That would be my topic.
When you speak and have that topic, what are some of the questions that people have when it comes to that?
There’s a lot of confusion about, “Isn’t that brown-nosing? Isn’t that sucking up?” I’m like, “No, this was called managing. If you don’t do this, do you see Bob over there? He’s the one who’s going to be promoted and you’re more qualified. You’re going to have to deal with that.” It’s that whole thing. There’s also a lot of questions around self-promotion, which I always tell people that you have to be shameless and you have to toot your own horn to be heard in a sea of cubicles. They’re like, “I’m not comfortable with that.” I’m like, “Get comfortable because there are people doing that and you’re not. Nobody cares if you’re the best singer in the room if you don’t open your mouth.”
There’s an art to that as well. I’ve worked with a guy who did it to the extreme.
That’s not my style.
We got to teach people to have a balance with that. Make sure everybody knows you’re recognized because I’ve met those people who go, “I don’t feel comfortable.” You’re not going to feel comfortable when they don’t pick you for the job. You have to tell people what you’re doing. How do you help the guy that does that every five minutes in an email? “Look at what I did today. This is what I did yesterday.” There are people who don’t get it.
You tell him he has to stop it.
It would be nice if he listened.
If he doesn’t, then I would have his email go to trash or something.
It’s a tough thing because you have to try and help these people recognize how they come across. It goes back to empathy and emotional intelligence thing. You have to look at it from other perspectives other than your own. If you’re overwhelming people with email about how wonderful you are, think of how that’s coming across to the other person. If you’re not doing something, then think of how little recognition you’re getting. There should be more training on those things on how to communicate and ways to help you get to the top. Don’t you think? They don’t do a lot of training in that respect that I see.
More so than training, it’s about coaching. I have a robust executive coaching practice. A lot of the work that I do with my clients is we work on managing perceptions. When you do a 360 and you interview people who work above them besides some below them and then they get to see how they’re perceived, sometimes, it can be a bit astonishing. You can have those conversations about, people don’t appreciate the fact that you have to be the center of attention. This is a behavior that we need to change, and we need to change this perception. That’s what I’m going to recommend we focus on.
It’s interesting because my next book is about perception. How do you measure how other people perceive them if you don’t give them surveys? How do you get that feedback?
It’s hard for you to ask yourself because I don’t think most people would be honest with you, especially if you’re the boss. “You’re a lousy boss.” “You’re not getting your raise this year either.” I’m not talking about an HR person in the company, but you need an outside person to do this. Whether you hire a personal coach to do this on your behalf or you ask a friend to take on this role and let people know that this person is going to be contacting you to get some feedback, you have to set up the parameters and make sure that is confidential. You’re not going to go back and say, “Your boss said this about you.” “Diane thought this,” or, “Marge thought that.” You have to have someone who’s done this. Someone that’s not going to filter the information. That would be my recommendation.
It’s a tough thing to get the right feedback. You’ve touched on many great topics that all companies struggle with. I could see why your books continue to be successful. A lot of people will probably want to know how they can get it, reach you, and find out all your great information. Is there anything you’d like to share so people can learn about you and what you’re working on?
They can go to my website, MatusonConsulting.com. They can reach out to me on LinkedIn and send me an invitation. If they mentioned your name, I’ll accept it for sure. They can follow me on Twitter @Matuson.
Thank you, Roberta. I was looking forward to having you on the show. This was fun.
This will be something we’ll have to continue and follow your work as it progresses.
Critical Workplace Communication With Steve Herz
I am with Steve Herz, who is the Founder of IF Management, President of The Montag Group, and a talent agent and career advisor. He’s also the author of Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth, and Energy to Get Exceptional Results. It’s nice to have you here, Steve.
Thanks for having me, Diane. I’m excited to be here.There’s nothing wrong with positive feedback except that it tends to overwhelm negative but valuable feedback. Click To Tweet
I’m excited to have you here because you’ve done some interesting work in what you’re talking about like, “I’ve been in sales my whole life.” I’m interested to know what the, don’t take yes for an answer, means outside the sales setting. You have an unusual background in getting into shape and doing things in terms of physically. I want to know your story before we go on to what you’re working on. Do you mind giving a little backstory?
I started out in life as a writer. I wanted to be a sportswriter as a kid, and then went to the University of Michigan and worked for Michigan Daily. I decided halfway through college that that wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I shifted into political writing, editorials, and news writing. When I graduated from college, I realized I still didn’t want to go into journalism for a full-time career. I went to law school at Vanderbilt. Almost in my last year of law school, I was in a summer associate program at a big Park Avenue law firm in New York. I was told by a partner there that I shouldn’t be a lawyer, I wasn’t cut out for that, and that wasn’t what I would be good at in life. In many ways, it was a gut punch but it was also the best and kindest thing anyone’s ever done for me, to tell me the truth in a way that nobody else had.
I realized that he was right and it wasn’t the right career for me. I set off after law school. I did finish that last year. I knew I didn’t have the aptitude or wanted to make the effort to try to be good as a lawyer. It wasn’t right for me. I tried to take these other interests I had in sports, media, and politics and got into representing on-air talent for sports and news broadcasting. That’s been my career for many years. Over the last couple of years, I’ve morphed into a bit of a consultant, coach, and media trainer, but not on-air. It’s what I call in the book private speaking-coaching versus public speaking. I’m working with bankers, doctors, lawyers, and more professionals. I’ve been writing this book and it’s finally coming out. That’s my life in a nutshell, professionally at least.
I like the self-empowerment guide, as you call it. It ties into some of the positive feedback information that I talked about with my students, in my training, and on different things I do. You touched on communication traits, which communication is such a huge issue in the workplace. You have the acronym of AWE. What does it stand for? What do you write about in that respect?
AWE is a shorthand hack that I created for the book, my life, and the coaching. That sums up all or enough of the soft skills of life to be memorable and easy to digest and apply in your life. It boils down to your Authority, Warmth, and Energy. Ultimately, it translates to the people take you seriously, find you competent, and someone that should be followed. Do people like you? Do they trust you? Do they want to be around you? To me, everything else is not that important if you’ve mastered that, and you have the substantive qualities behind it.
I love that you’re asking those questions. I’m known for being an expert in the area of curiosity. The more questions we ask, the more important it is. It ties into my work of perception because a lot of people don’t think about how they come across to other people. It goes back to emotional intelligence and your self-awareness. How much does this tie into that?
It ties in quite a bit but I’m trying to focus on the communication piece. This idea of what I call private speaking in the book, this notion that so much of when we think about great communication, we will think about public speaking. I’m trying to make the point that most of us don’t do any public speaking. You might be a little bit because you’re a relatively famous person, relative to most people, but most people don’t do any of it. Few of us think about how good we are in private speaking and what kind of impact is it making on our lives?
I was talking to my sister a little bit about the grammar aspect of the business world of how people communicate. Do you get into the weeds of that type of thing? Are you getting into how you come across? In the business world, how important is it that you have this sense that people respect what the words that are coming out of your mouth?
I do. It’s a good point about grammar. I don’t get into, no pun intended, the granularity of grammar. That’s not my purview, which isn’t to say it’s not important. You make a good point and it is important. To your point, I’m focusing more on the specifics of how you come across to other people. That’s the only thing I’m commenting on because that in and of itself, as you probably can imagine, took up a full book. Plenty of other people have written and can write on grammar. I’ll leave that to them. I’m trying to write about what I’m relatively knowledgeable about.
You start your book with a bold statement, “If you want to reach true potential, you must stop taking yes for an answer.” I want to know what you mean by that because that’s an interesting starting point.
What happens in society is that people are in what I call this echo chamber of yes. We hear a lot of yeses and not a lot of noes frankly in certain contexts. There’s nothing wrong with hearing the word yes. Yes, is great and we should feel good about ourselves. We should applaud ourselves for effort and what have you. The question is when the yes is overwhelming, what otherwise would be valuable feedback. That’s what I’m trying to say.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Coneheads but I’ve got the image of David Spade in my head. No matter what his leader says, he would walk around like, “You’re right.” When you say yes to everything, and when you go to meetings and everybody’s in agreement, that’s just saying that everybody’s buying into the status quo. Nobody’s pushing any innovation or any future potential of change. How do we get people to stop taking yes for an answer or even recognize that they’re getting too many yeses?
First of all, please read the book. If you read the book, you’ll see that these markers are everywhere. What I talk about in the book ate these three main factors that have contributed to this yes echo system or echo chamber. One is the participation trophy culture, which is morphed into an MVP trophy, and that’s the problem. There’s nothing wrong with saying to the kid who otherwise wouldn’t go out there and play baseball or try the piano or go do something that he’s or she’s afraid of and say, “That’s good that you went made the effort. You get a little sticker. Good for you.” Somewhere along the lines, that sticker has morphed into this MVP trophy because everybody gets the same thing and we don’t know the difference between good versus great or amazing effort versus perfunctory effort. I use an example in the book that is appropriate, which comes from my own life of having dealt with some weight issues up and down the scale through my life and being back and forth to different Weight Watchers meetings. Weight Watchers can be great, I’m in no way diminishing Weight Watchers here.
What I found frustrating about it the last time I went was that you go to these meetings once a week and if a person shows up and they’ve lost five pounds, everyone gives them around them applause and you get a little ticker. The next person can walk in and gain ten pounds, and not have shown up for three weeks or three months, but they’re there. They get the same sticker and the same round of applause. It diminishes the idea between good versus great. In one case, the person gained ten pounds, that’s not good at all. That’s terrible. I understand the idea of positive reinforcement. You have to realize where people are and where they’re at. I’m not diminishing Weight Watchers, but I’m trying to say to the reader of this book on a micro level, don’t be fooled by the sticker you’re getting from Weight Watchers metaphorically in your life if you’re getting that.
The other two things really quick besides the participation trophy is there’s been massive grade inflation in society for many years. You can’t even get a C in some schools. The average GPA is well over 3.0 and everyone gets top-coated into this little bunched up in the 3.3 to 3.7 range. The last piece is this idea of HR departments. In many American businesses, they don’t fire people anymore. They downsize, reorg, riffs, or any euphemism you can find for firing someone or getting them off your payroll or out of your company, but they don’t say, “You could have done this or that better.” It’s metaphorical like, “I’m breaking up with you, but it’s not you. It’s me.”
It’s funny because I grew up in a super competitive family. You don’t get a sticker unless you tripped that your opponent made sure they couldn’t finish the race. It was like a cutthroat kind of thing. I ended up in sales not surprisingly. When you’re in sales, you do learn the difference between the good sticker of money and not any sticker of no money. Plus, being in education, I see what you’re talking about on the grades. Younger students are saying, “I checked off boxes, so you have to give me a 4.0.” The subjectivity is not allowed so much anymore. It’s what I’m witnessing. It’s hard to change the whole society. Are you saying that this is something that is just Millennial induced?
No. That’s a big misunderstanding.
Where’s that coming from then?
It’s societal in general. I don’t think it’s Millennial at all. There are some aspects of it that are Millennial, but great inflation has been going on for many years. The participation trophy started in 1985 or something on that. I had done some research on it. I met the guy and interviewed him. He didn’t want to go on the record, the guy who made the first participation trophy. He’s got a gigantic trophy business, so God bless him. Certainly, what’s going on in HR departments isn’t Millennial either. Millennials get a bad rap in my opinion, speaking as a non-Millennial.
I want to say one last thing really quick. My book is not in any way, shape, or form a political statement. It’s not a commentary on society in the least. It’s a book designed for individuals and for company cultures that want to change a culture, but the world is the way it is. I’ll let everybody else decide why it is that way and try to make the macro changes. That’s all great but I’m talking to you as an individual who is frustrated with your lot in life and where you are or the company that wants to change on a little bit larger level.
When we talk about how we reward and grade and things like that, do you think we should do it more on a scale then? How do we fix that?
I spoke to someone who studies education at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell. She’s a columnist there. She was helpful to me in seeing how to understand this. She made a good point that what’s happened in education, especially higher education, is that it’s become a consumer-first culture. If you are sending your kid to Yale versus Princeton, they’re all competing with each other in some sense. Even Yale is competing with Princeton and Princeton is competing with Harvard. It’s a constant fight. Think about it on the lower level, like lesser schools, they want to get the best students. The students would rather graduate with a 3.7 if he works at whatever level versus going to, let’s say, Washington University, which has less grade inflation and graduating with a 3.4 because the perception is that the employer is going to, all things being equal, hire the kid with a 3.7. The schools have a lot of pressure to inflate their own grades.When everybody gets the same trophy, we will never know the difference between great, good, and perfunctory effort. Click To Tweet
Do you think the leaders look at your grade point average as much as the school?
If you talk to recruiters at some of the bigger companies, there is a cut-off. Some of the bigger banks and some of the bigger, more competitive jobs, they’ll say, “Only 3.5 or higher,” or whatever it might be. Even if it’s not, the perception exists and the perception is real.
It’s interesting to look at how much perception influences and that’s what my work is on. There’s so much involved in all of this. How we see ourselves, how other people see us, and how we do business with different groups, there’s this importance of recognizing things from different vantage points. Your book is an interesting one because you’re talking about how you help people with private speaking. I do some of that as well. This COVID crisis is going to be interesting on how it impacts how much we might see more of what you’re talking about in terms of private speaking. Are you seeing more people contacting you to help them because they see the value of having that connection that doesn’t have to be in person?
Yes. COVID changed everything and, in some ways, changed nothing in the sense that we all have to figure out a way to connect with people in whatever medium we have. That used to be letter writing and now they’re emails. It’s been the phone, and it’s still the phone and Zoom. You still have to figure out a way to connect. Even though all those different mediums are different, there’s still an element of sameness to what you need to do to be compelling whatever that medium is.
It is interesting to teach online, and different things that I’ve done in the past and watch it progress, and the different abilities to make communication better. Asynchronous versus synchronous, and some of the things we do. I am excited to see what the changes will be of how we work virtually. You do many different things in terms of work. You still work as an agent. Do you still represent broadcast journalists?
I do. I represent a lot. Our company has close to 300 clients and I’m working full time on that. Somehow, also trying to work full-time on getting the book out there and consulting. I wanted these people. I can’t sit still for five minutes, so this is good for me.
Neither can I. We’d probably sit in a restaurant for five minutes and have to go to the next place. When you are an agent for them, what do you do exactly? You find broadcast journalists jobs doing what?
Our clients run the gamut from your local weathercaster in Chicago to your main or weekend news anchor in Boston. We represent the chief international correspondent, Apple Fox News, and CNN. We have a guy who hosts a local show called Inside City Hall here in New York, a cable channel called NY1 to an investigative reporter at WNBC in New York, all up and down. In sports, we have a ton of big-name sports clients, a guy who hosts the midnight show on ESPN, Scott Van Pelt to Jim Nantz who’s the main talent on CBS to Liam McHugh, the host of any NHL on NBC along with another client, Kathryn Tappen and on and on. That runs the gamut with people on CNBC, Fox Business, and MSNBC. We’re fairly all over the media landscape.
It’s an interesting group of people to represent. How does your book help somebody in their work? Do you talk to them about these elements of AWE?
Yes. In fact, the principles in this book about private speaking were formulated for many 25 years of giving feedback and advice to my clients that were on-air doing public speaking and also coaching them on how to communicate off-air with their bosses and colleagues. Mostly, it was about the advice that I gave them on-air. The light bulb that went off for me several years ago when I decided to morph more to writing the book and doing some of this coaching was this idea, “What works in the public speaking arena, why can’t that work in the private speaking arena? If somebody has to be authoritative, warm, and energetic on-air, the AWE, why wouldn’t that work for a dentist or a psychologist or a lawyer or doctor or anybody?”
That’s when I wrote this proposal about it when I came up with the idea. Life doesn’t always work out this way. I mentioned it to a mom at my kid’s school who happened to be the general counsel at a major bank. She fell in love with it and said, “I want to hire you for our bank.” I had a client within 24 hours and it was off to the races. One of the speeches they hired me to give, which I still think it’s crazy, was International Women’s Day. They hired a man to speak for whatever reason. Thankfully, a woman got up in the audience at the end of the speech and said, “I love your message. Where can I buy two copies of your book for my children? They need to read this.” I said, “There is no book.” She said, “That’s a real shame. You should go write a book,” so I did.
Harvard Business picked it up. That’s quite a thing. As I was looking at the three of them, I’m trying to determine which one people struggle with the most. I’ve met a lot of people who do well in warmth and energy then lack authority, and people who have authority and energy and then lack warmth. I’m curious if any of them are left out more than others. How do they rank?
Authority is the one that we most self-sabotage with. A lot of people develop these bad speaking habits, whether it’s speaking in a singsong way, or using the word like all the time or other filler words and not pausing instead. Filling that space with things that make you sound less intelligent or less competent than you are. Authority is a real problem for a lot of people based on bad habits and blind spots that they’re not even aware of. In many respects, it can be the easiest to fix. Warmth is a little trickier but it’s also easy to fix in some respects. There’s not one size for warmth. You can be a warm person who has a great smile and is physical in an appropriate way if people feel close to you. You have a body language that’s loose and open, and a face that’s loose that people feel able to feel welcomed by you. You can have a different form of warmth.
Someone interested in you all the time, curious about you, asks great questions, listens attentively, follows up, acknowledges you, and has the ability to take a conversation and turn it around so that it’s from your perspective. That’s its own kind of warmth. There’s not a one size fits all. That’s one of the things I want to say in this book. That applies to energy too, by the way. You could be a high energy person and be a deflating person. That’s not energy. The point of energy if you read the book is that the only thing that matters is how you make the other person or the other people feel in the interaction. Are you energizing others? There are people that are relatively low energy that are energizing, and people with high energy that are deflating.
You mentioned being curious about other people in the warmth thing. Since I focus on developing curiosity in organizations, do you think that falls under warmth? Where would you categorize curiosity?
It’s under warmth and energy. A lot of these components bleed into each other, depending on the situation. If you’re curious about me, you keep asking me about me and sense a genuine interest in me, I’m going to feel more connected to you because you’re trying to relate to me on my level. I’m going to perceive you as warmer and you’re going to energize me because you care about me. It’s like a 2 for 1 special.
You’ve got a lot of great information in your book and I’m always happy to have people on the show who want to develop great communication soft skills behaviors because that’s my focus. We need more of that. It’s wonderful that you’ve written this book and I hope people will check out Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth, and Energy to Get Exceptional Results. If they want to get your book, follow you, or find out more, how would they do that?
We’ve created a one-stop-shop for them. All they need to do is go to www.StevenHerz.com. You can buy the book at any online or outlet you want by clicking the one button, Buy the Book. If you want to follow me on every possible social media channel with the exception of TikTok, I’m not on there yet. You could click a button and follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and all those great places. If somebody doesn’t want to buy the book and they want to learn more, go on that website. There’s a free guide you can get. It’s eight pages and it’ll tell you all about it. It’s called the AWE-thority Prep Guide, and you can also get a learning series that you can go along with. If that’s enough for you, great. I’m happy with that. The message got out. If you want to know more, then buy the book.
Thank you for being on the show, Steve. I enjoyed our conversation.
Thank you. I appreciate it, Diane. I’ll talk to you soon.
I’d like to thank Roberta and Steve for being my guests. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can find them there. We air on all the stations that are listed on our site, but it’s nice to read it once in a while instead of having to listen. If you ever want to do that, go to my blog. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Matuson Consulting
- Evergreen Talent: A Guide to Hiring and Cultivating a Sustainable Workforce
- Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around
- Talent Magnetism
- LinkedIn – Roberta Matuson
- @Matuson – Twitter
- Olin Oedekoven – Past episode
- LinkedIn Learning
- IF Management
- The Montag Group
- Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth, and Energy to Get Exceptional Results
- LinkedIn – Steve Herz
- Instagram – Steve Herz
- AWE-thority Prep Guide
About Roberta Matuson
Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, helps leaders in Fortune 500 companies including General Motors, New Balance, Microsoft, Best Buy, Monster, Staples, and small to medium-size businesses achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known world- wide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership, employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of five books including Evergreen Talent: How to Seed, Cultivate, and Grow a Sustainable Workforce, and the international bestseller Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book for leaders.
About Steve Herz
Steve Herz is Founder of IF Management, President of the The Montag Group, and a talent agent and career advisor. He is the author Don’t Take Yes for Answer.
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