Digital Transformations: Creating Trust And Brand Loyalty With Howard Tiersky

The internet and technology have wired us all together into a network of data and information. Businesses need to begin their digital transformations if they want to thrive. In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton discusses the digital age of business with transformation consultant and author Howard Tiersky. Howard discusses how the rise of the internet changed how businesses operate and then analyzes what businesses need to do to transform and make use of the digital age. Dr. Hamilton also discusses perception and how it affects our worldview in this brilliant conversation that is sure to be a must-listen.

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I’m glad you joined us because we have Howard Tiersky. He has been named as one of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers by IDG. He has a book out, Winning Digital Customers. It’s going to be a great show.

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Digital Transformations: Creating Trust And Brand Loyalty With Howard Tiersky

I am here with Howard Tiersky, who is The Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. I am excited to have you here, Howard. Welcome.

Thank you so much. I couldn’t be happier to be here.

This is going to be fun. I was looking forward to this. I teach a lot of marketing and entrepreneurship. This topic comes up quite a bit. Also, your subtitle, The Antidote to Irrelevance, is tied into the curiosity aspect of what I work with companies to make sure that they don’t become irrelevant. I do want to get a backstory on you. I know that you have had many top clients from Verizon, Morgan Stanley and NBA. I was looking at the list from Facebook. I’ve worked with Verizon. I’ve worked with some of these. It’s interesting to see how you’ve reached this level of success. Can you give me your backstory a little bit?

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity over many years to work with many brands. It’s from learning from them more than anything else and the things that we’ve experimented with and tried to do together over the years that I was able to put together the insights that make up the book. It’s been a tremendous opportunity for me. In terms of how I got there, it’s like a lot of people’s careers. It only makes sense when looking backwards but you should never plan it that way.

I started my educational focus in theater, film and television. I went to NYU and USC and got degrees there. I was especially enthusiastic about interactive entertainment at a time before the web was even out. Those were early days. I was playing around with things like CD-ROMs and other kinds of interactive experiences. As it became practical to create mass-market interactive experiences, it was something that I naturally gravitated towards.

While I was in graduate school, I was working in the graphics department of Ernst & Young Consulting, making PowerPoint slides for big thought leaders. I was the graphics guy. I got an opportunity to understand and learn from some tremendous mentors that are out there, how they think and how they work with big brands. I happened to be in the right place at the time when the web came out. This big consulting company had been doing big ERP implementations and computer-assisted software engineering but not especially the customer-facing work that we do now.

They looked around and said, “Who in this company knows anything about this internet stuff and the web?” They’re like, “That kid in the graphics department does.” The next thing you know, they said, “Tell him to stop making our PowerPoint slides. He needs to come to the clients with us and tell them what he knows.” You couldn’t replicate this now. This was at the right place at the right time type of situation.

All of a sudden, in a whirlwind, I was being taken to three Fortune 500 companies a week to talk to them about what I knew about this emerging communication medium called the World Wide Web and the internet. I found myself giving a lot of presentations on what it is and why a brand should even be interested in having a website. It’s long ago but that was what we were talking about back then.

[bctt tweet=”We need to be thinking much more about the customer’s emotional journey and how we can influence that journey.” username=””]

I’ve been tracking this incredible journey of the growth of digital as it’s moved from a peripheral, “Why would I want to do that thing?” To the center of almost every business now or certainly every successful business. That’s maybe another example of being in the right place at the right time. That’s led me to all kinds of opportunities to be part of some massive and fascinating transformations. Some are successful and to be perfectly frank, some not so successful.

It’s interesting to look back at how much it’s changed. I worked as a VARP with IBM in the ‘80s. We used to take tech support calls and laugh when people would say, “Did you see what I saw on my screen,” like you could ever do that. Now, to look at the difference between what you can do and what we used to think was impossible, it’s been fun seeing that. You have had the experience. I was writing a brand publishing course for Forbes when I used to work on some of their stuff. I used the research from Bruce Rogers in his Publish or Perish study that he did where he looked at all the different vendors and how companies use them.

Everybody’s trying at that time when it was like, “How do you keep customers and grow at scale and still get your message out at scale to everybody but they feel like you’re reaching them at a personal level?” It’s challenging to win these digital customers. I thought it was interesting to look at some of the things you talk about. You talk about customer love and write about it as well. I’m curious what you mean by customer love.

One of the things I’ve observed over many years working with brands is that there’s one thing that is more valuable than anything else I see in business, which is the emotional connection that the customer has to your company, brand and products. When you look at a brand like Apple or Harley Davidson, you can come up with many examples where the customer’s emotional connection is one of the most important facets of their success.

We’ve done studies where we’ve looked at 100 companies and had done consumer surveys to understand what is the level of emotional connection customers have to those brands and then compare it to things like revenue and stock market performance. You can see these correlations. There’s another company called BERA that does these studies all the time.

To me, this is a bit of a somewhat overlooked reality in a lot of boardrooms now as companies try to answer the question, “What do we need to do to deliver for our shareholders the financial performance of the company?” A lot of times, if someone raised their hand and said, “What if we could get our customers to love us more?” Nobody would say, “That’s a bad idea. It sounds nice. It sounds like a good thing to do but is this our number one business priority?” A lot of companies wouldn’t necessarily see it that way.

The word love is a good word to use here. In English, we use the word love to mean a lot of different things. I love my wife. I love my Ford Mustang. I love Starbucks. I don’t mean the same thing. I liked the word because we don’t want to think of it as customer preference. Often, in business, we use de-emotionalized words. We even use the word loyalty often to talk about customer preference. The word loyalty in English can mean a powerful emotional idea. The soldier on the battlefield will not leave his friend behind but that’s not what we mean by that word when you use it in business. We mean something unemotional and concrete, which is repeat transactions that we want, of course. It’s not an emotional idea.

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance

This idea that we need to be thinking much more about the customer’s emotional journey and how we can influence that journey is one of the most powerful things we can do in architecting experiences that not only create more joy for the customer. It not only makes us feel better as business people, as marketers, as product developers because we’re having more of a positive impact on people’s lives, which is wonderful. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, frankly, which also, most importantly, for the people who are making an investment, to deliver the best financial performance.

It’s a word and it could mean a lot of things. A lot of people strive to quantify. They want a process for how you get this customer and how you retain this customer. I know that you had a process that you talked about in your book. You have a proven formula for transforming any company to thrive in the digital age. Is there a formula? How does this work?

There is one and, in a sense, I feel a little guilty telling you that there’s one. It sounds like a very unromantic thing to tell you that what we have done is we have reverse engineered love to figure out what is the recipe for inspiring it. There’s something about me that I would like to believe that such a thing would not be possible because it is a spiritual, metaphysical thing. In reality, you can reliably create that feeling of love, overwhelming enthusiasm or whatever you want to call it if you do three things. The three things are not necessarily easy to do but they are easy to conceptually understand.

The first is to consistently meet your customer’s needs. That may sound straightforward and obvious. In a sense, it is. Yet, many brands don’t do this. Every brand meets some of its customer’s needs but how many brands do you do business with where you’d say, “They do this for me but there’s some other stuff they do that creates frustration or a nuisance to me or an annoyance for me. It makes me go out of my way.”

That’s pretty common, whether it’s your bank, your insurance company or your doctor. A lot of brands have a long way to go. You’re a psychologist or you’re in psychology. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what’s the bottom level? It’s just, “Meet their needs.” Meeting your customer’s needs is not enough to inspire love. If you’re not doing that, then it doesn’t matter what else you’re doing. It’s not going to happen. That’s the first level and you have to do it consistently.

The second level is to occasionally or periodically delight them. Do something that they don’t expect, something that goes beyond their needs and expectations. The third level is to stand for something that resonates with them or that they care about. We see many brands that take a political position. For example, Nike supporting something like Black Lives Matter but it doesn’t have to be that. Look at Apple, which stands for something but it’s not political. It’s about empowering the creative individual. Someone like Godiva clearly stands for something. They stand for indulgence. You deserve to indulge yourself with the very best.

When you have all three of those things together, we find that it inspires love. You might ask, “Why did those particular things inspire love?” We’ve looked at that as well. To briefly state it, it goes back to what we’re talking about before about emotion. Love is an emotion. It’s not surprising that the recipe for it is composed of other emotions. I’ve done a lot of work over the years with Tony Robbins. He says that emotion comes from meaning, the meaning you put into something. What is the meaning that someone gives when you consistently meet their needs? You understand me. You get me. When someone doesn’t meet your needs, often, you either think they don’t care or you think they don’t get what you need.

On the second level, when you delight somebody, when you go above and beyond what’s necessary, the meaning that the customer gets is, “They care about me.” Meeting your needs, that’s what they have to do to get your money. The fact that I show up to the gas station and I pump my gas and they give me gas doesn’t prove they care about me because they want money. I give them the money and they give me the gas. It’s a transaction.

[bctt tweet=”People who are making an investment deliver the best financial performance.  ” username=””]

If the guy runs out and says, “Before you go, I noticed your windshield is dirty. I have to clean that off for you. I don’t want you driving around with a dirty windshield.” He didn’t have to do that. That shows me that they care about me. Many brands, frankly, stand for nothing. The third level, when you stand for something that the customer also shares as a value, the meaning the customer creates is, “They are like me. They’re human. They have feelings and they care about things in the same way that I do.”

Imagine you met somebody. After you met them, you concluded, “This person I talked to get me and they seem to care about me. Not only that, but we think similarly. We share some common values.” Does that sound like somebody with who you might want a relationship with, someone with who you’d at least be open to being in love, whether that’s romantic love or friendly love? This is the formula and we’ve applied it over and over. Darn it if it doesn’t work across industry after industry, whether B2C or B2B.

That makes it clear for the customers but you also touch on the teams. Don’t you give a five-step methodology for how you can align your teams with this vision so that you get this customer experience?

These three levels, to meet their needs, to delight them and understand them, and to care about, are conceptually easy to understand but not necessarily easy to do. How do you make sure you’re consistently meeting their needs? How do you figure out how to delight them? My book, Winning Digital Customers, goes through our five-step process, which is a digital transformation process. When we talk about this idea of digital transformation, what I like to think of it as is it’s not about digital experiences. Digital transformation to me it’s not about websites and mobile apps.

That’s why I call my book Winning Digital Customers. What’s a digital customer? It’s not a robot. The reality is that digital has become so much of a central force in the lives of most people. There’s always an exception. If you’ve watched the Fran Lebowitz documentary by Martin Scorsese, she proudly declares, “I don’t have a computer. I don’t have a phone. I don’t do any of those things.” That’s interesting that they made a whole documentary about her. It’s extraordinary.

I haven’t seen it. Now I want to.

It’s on HBO. It’s great and funny. The point is if you’re somebody who isn’t living a life with digital at the center, who isn’t consistently tied to your phone all day long, then you’re curious. There’s always an exception that proves the rule but that is extremely rare. The point is the vast majority of people now are what I call digital customers. Meaning they live a lifestyle with digital at the center. It doesn’t mean that they only want to live their life in apps and websites but it means a digitally-enabled experience no matter what it is.

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
Digital Transformations: One thing that is more valuable than anything else in the business is the emotional connection that the customer has to your company, brand, and products.


For example, Taco Bell is redoing their restaurants so that they have to drive through lanes. One is the normal kind where you go up and you order but the other is for people who’ve ordered with their phone or ordered online so they can pick up their order. They don’t have to wait behind people who are trying to decide between the empanada, the burrito or whatever. This is an example of meeting the needs of digital customers.

Domino’s is famous for doing well with its stocks because of that.

If you texted Domino’s the pizza emoji, that’s all you have to do, they will deliver to your last known address the pizza that you ordered last time using the credit card that you ordered last time. They’ll confirm it with you. All you have to do is send a pizza emoji and they’ll come back and say, “Hi, Howard. Do you want the blah, blah, blah, stuffed pizza with cheese sticks with 27,603 calories?” You say why and the pizza shows up.

In any case, with respect to the process, I say that only to clarify how digital transformation solves this larger problem of customer love because digital is not the only thing that’s important to customers now. It’s such a huge part of their lives that if you aren’t doing a fantastic job at digital, then there’s no way that you are even meeting your basic needs, let alone delighting them. You’re not standing for something that they care about because digital has become important to most consumers now. It’s not just a need, it is a value. When you demonstrate as a brand that you’re not delivering an elegant customer experience, you become a brand that consumers see as out of step with what they care about. It’s that important to them.

The book goes through a five-step process. The first is to understand the customer. This goes back to psychology. If you’re going to influence somebody, meet their needs, and delight them, you better understand them. If you don’t, then you’re trying to throw darts with a blindfold on. We go through the book a wide range of specific, largely research techniques, both direct and indirect. Meaning both the research you do sitting with a customer and the research you may do with data and other things to make sure you understand that customer.

Most companies understand their customer at about a 5 out of 10. Rarely do you find a customer that has 0 out of 10 understanding of their customer? It’s pretty hard to run a business if you have no understanding of your customer. Most companies have the opportunity to improve their business by improving their understanding of the customer. The second step is to map the journey. First, make sure you understand the process your customer is going through.

It’s another one of those things where a lot of businesses understand the theoretical process of how their customer is supposed to interface with them. Do they understand the little points of pain, the Post-it Notes they have to keep up on their computer or the little workarounds they have to figure out how to do so that they can effectively interface with you? Very often, these aren’t thoroughly understood and they’re great opportunities for improving the way you’re meeting the customer’s needs or even further delighting them.

As part of that developing the journey, taking that understanding of the current journey and turning it into the future state journey map. What would be the experience that if you deliver that for the customer, you would deserve their love? You would be fully meeting their needs. You would be delighting them and you would be understanding. What does that look like? That one step can be quite a lot of work. The book talks about all kinds of specific exercises and techniques to use and to get to that journey map.

[bctt tweet=”While digital is not the only thing that’s important to customers today, it’s such a huge part of their lives.  ” username=””]

The main trio of steps is to build it. Often, when you create that journey map, it’s going to mean that you’re going to need to create a new website, a new app, and some new back-end systems, and all kinds of things to make that journey a reality. Sometimes it can be daunting. You look at where you are and this vision that you’ve created can seem like a little bit like that old joke where the guy pulls up at the gas station and says, “How do I get to such and such?” The guy says, “You can’t get there from here.”

The last two steps are things that happen in parallel with the first three. In the first three, you’re going to understand the customer, map the journey and then build it. While you’re doing that, it’s important to optimize the present because so often, the process of transforming to what you need to be to deserve customer love is going to take a long time. It might take a year or a few years. Often customers are not patient, investors are not patient and the boards of directors are not patient.

To sustain, support and keep customers, you also need to be asking yourself, “While I’m working on my big, audacious vision to be excellent for a digital world, where am I annoying my customer? Where am I disappointing the customer that I can fix quickly?” It’s amazing how often with the right types of research you can discover some small things that are having a big negative impact. That’s an important separate process that we talked about.

You want to do it in parallel with all those other steps. As soon as you start understanding the customer, you’re going to learn some things that are going to be big transformational efforts to fix. You may learn other things that you can fix by changing some text on your website. If so, by all means, let’s get busy with that stuff. The last of the five is to lead the change and that doesn’t start at the end. It starts at the beginning. We talked about it in the book last because I always feel like it’s helpful to first think through what has to happen before you ask the question, “What leadership is necessary to make this successful?”

The truth is that leading a company to transformation is a lot harder than leading it through a normal period where you’re trying to keep the operations effectively going, maybe optimize it in certain ways. There are multiple reasons why it’s so much more difficult. One is you often have to change the organizational structure, bring in new people and rethink processes at a much larger scale. Because you often face a lot of internal resistance, people are often naturally resistant to change even when that change is essential for their survival, ironically.

We talk a lot in the fifth step about how to be the leader that is necessary to be able to drive these transformations. If I look through my career at the transformations that I’ve been a part of that were not as successful as they were intended to be and some that were downright failures, it’s almost always not a failure of technology or anything like that. It’s usually a failure of leadership. In some cases, because I was one of the leaders, I’ll point to myself as well and say, “It was a failure of my leadership as well.” Bill Gates said, one of my favorite quotes of his, “Success is a lousy teacher.” I’ve had some good teachers over the years and that’s part of what I tried to cover in the book.

You’ve done some amazing things in your book. I could see why you were named one of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers by IDG because you have some great content here. A lot of people are going to want to follow you and find out more. Is there some site or something you’d like to share so people can do that?

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
Digital Transformations: Meeting your customer’s needs isn’t enough to inspire love, but if you’re not doing that, then it doesn’t really matter what else you’re doing.


If you’re interested in learning more about the book or getting a copy of the book, there’s a book website, which is at If you go there, you can get the first chapter of the book for free and you can also get links to how to buy it on Amazon and all the other places that sell it. You could probably find it wherever you buy books. If you’re interested in learning more about my consulting firm, which is called FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, you can find us at From.Digital. I also am active on LinkedIn, feel free to follow me there. I do live casts twice a week on topics related to innovation and digital transformation and publish a lot of articles and other things.

You do a lot of amazing things. This was fun. Howard, thank you for being on the show.

It’s my pleasure. It’s great to be with you.

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 and all of it 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 just our perceptions. What is the 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 but 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.

[bctt tweet=”You can’t walk a mile in my shoes, but we can kind of have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that.” username=””]

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.

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, a 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.

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
Digital Transformations: If you aren’t doing a fantastic job at digital, then there is no way to meet your customers’ basic needs, let alone delight them.


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 but 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.

Having personalized beliefs are fine that 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 serving as 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.

[bctt tweet=”Our perception of failure can really influence how much we explore things and ask questions. It goes back into curiosity again.” username=””]

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 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.

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. There is this perceptual intelligence of fluid versus crystallized intelligence that 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.

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

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.

[bctt tweet=”We need to get people emotionally invested at work and contributing. Part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better.” username=””]

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.

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’re seeing it not just from our own 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 because 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.

TTL 888 | Digital Transformations
Digital Transformations: If we can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards where we don’t want to go and understand what other people believe, we can see where they’re coming from.


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.

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

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About Howard Tiersky

TTL 888 | Digital TransformationsHoward Tiersky is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. He was named by IDG as “One of The Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today,” and by Enterprise Management 360° as “One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World.”


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