Anything that you use pen and paper for is a form. Manage these forms online can save your valuable time for what really matters. Formstack wants to help you find that problem that takes up the majority of your time and fix it. The company’s CEO, Chris Byers joins Dr. Diane Hamilton to discuss the importance of online web forms. Learn all that Formstack has to offer today.
Also, take a deep dive with your host, Dr. Diane Hamilton on the study of perception. Learn how people should be open about how they perceive things. Learn how to respect different cultures and appreciate where other people come from. Strengthen your perception today.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Chris Byers here. He is the CEO of Formstack. I’m excited to talk to him about all the things that Formstack does with SaaS-based forms and all these different ways of organizing your business. It’s going to be a fascinating show.
Watch the episode here:
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How Online Forms Can Save Your Valuable Time With Chris Byers And The Power Of Perception With Dr. Diane Hamilton
I am here with Chris Byers, who is the CEO of Formstack, which is a productivity software SaaS platform helping companies digitize information, automate workflows and reform processes. He’s grown the remote-first company to more than 230 employees and its mission is to improve people’s lives with practical solutions for their everyday work. This is exciting because Formstack has been used by Cleveland Clinic, NHL, Netflix, Twitter and Butler University. There’s a long list. I’m excited to have you on the show. Chris, welcome.
Thanks. I’m glad to be here and looking forward to the conversation.
This is going to be fun. It’s an interesting thing to discuss because I teach a lot of students how to be entrepreneurs. A lot of them come up with SaaS ideas that they are interested in. This is something great for my students to listen to as well. I want to get your backstory because it’s not easy to jump into some software company that would compete with some big names out there. I want to know how you’ve got to this level of success.
The fascinating thing is I did not design my court or my plan to get here. It developed a little bit over time. If I roll all the way back to what got me started that got me here, a friend of mine and I in college started a software company together. This was back in 2000 and it was the beginning of the understanding of SaaS software and being able to deliver software over the internet.
There are many things that if I were to talk to you and spend a little bit of time on some business problems that you might have, that you would describe and you might not have the technical skills to solve them but you know how it’s supposed to be solved, you could probably draw it on paper. That was the beginning of pre-Formstack. Thinking about custom software and listening to people’s problems and saying, “We can take that and turn it into some software that makes their life a little bit more useful.”
Although we didn’t carry on with that business for more than a couple of years, it forged trust and a relationship. When my friend, Ade Olonoh, started Formstack back in 2006, early on, I was an advisor. I ended up being an investor. When he started another business, he said, “Can you come in and help run this for a while?” That was back in 2010 with seven team members and a much smaller organization. Thankfully, he built an engine that continues to operate. We have been able to grow it into a much larger business.
To a lot of what you talk about, have researched and think about, at the end of the day, we are trying to intersect with people, ask them the right questions and get to the root of their issues. When we can do that and bring our software into that mix, we often save them a lot of time. As you know, that’s got to be one of the most valuable things that we all have.If you engage and give people great value at a good price, you can create a great trust for a long-term relationship. Click To Tweet
The whole eSignature way of doing things from originally being a loan officer and having a real estate license, I could have used you back in the stocks’ days of insanity. It changed the world, didn’t it?
Absolutely. I think about those key things that we do regularly as I describe them and say, “If we could put software in between them, your life would be better.” Think about going to the BMV, the DMV or whatever it’s called in your state. “I’ve got to go get my driver’s license.” There’s no science to that whole process. If that could be online or self-service at home, it would be magical.
It’s the same thing with the next time you go to the doctor’s office and don’t want to fill out yet another set of paperwork. A great example is mortgages, the long list of paperwork. They are not super complicated topics. It’s helping people find the right ways to put that process in place and put it online. All of a sudden, you have saved yourself and your customer a ton of time.
From teaching online, they send you everything electronically now. We are used to getting a thing like you would have to scan it, sign it and fax it. It’s the same old thing you are talking about. I loved when I bought a house doing it the way you are talking about because I thought, “How much faster it is?” There are some big names on the market there. I think you know some of them. How do you compete in a market when you are up against those brands?
We think of ourselves as a practical organization. If you spent time in our company, what you wouldn’t find, even in our sales team, are people who are always beating our chests, saying we are the number one whatever and we are going to be the best solution for you. We try to be a little bit more practical about it and say, “If we can bring good value to every customer, that will gain us some trust. We can grow with them over time.”
We don’t worry too much about saying, “We want to land this huge deal.” If a large Fortune 50 company does come in and they want to start a trial and pay us $99 a month as a starting price point, that’s okay. We will get to know them over time and continue to grow over time. That gives us a competitive advantage. As you know, when a salesperson approaches you, most of the time, they want you to spend the most amount of your money possible on them. If you can engage and give people great value at a good price, you create some great trust for a longer-term relationship.
I saw that you are working with some of the big names that you need to be working with, Salesforce and all that on your site. I was taking a little bit of a look and from my experience working on the board at DocuSign and some of the other BOA and some of the things I saw, and then teaching with Adobe and things that are out there. There is a different niche or a group. Everybody has different needs. Finding out who your customer is is important. I’m thinking of my students of mine when I’m asking this question because when you are starting your company, you have to visualize who you want for a customer. Is that where you started?
We probably think about the next obvious thing. Way back when Formstack started, Ade is a software engineer. He can build solutions to about anything but even for himself, he was like, “It’s tedious to build online web forms. Why don’t I build a tool even for myself to make it easier because every product you ever build has forms associated with it or somehow engaged in it.”
Often, it’s looking at what we are doing now. If I could build this in Formstack, it would be helpful to us internally. We would save time, which means probably every other customer is going to save time also. We have some key customers. Some of the customers we love the most are in more traditional industries. Think of healthcare where, because of HIPAA and all these restrictions get the least innovation because they’ve got the highest bar to fulfill.
We can come in and say, “We will give you a secure HIPAA compliant product but you get this flexibility of innovation.” It’s magic for them. We do love those industries. We are not necessarily going to be the ones out there competing against the next new bleeding-edge technology. We want to bring practical solutions and help people solve day-to-day problems.
I noticed that with the Cleveland Clinic. Also, having worked in pharmaceuticals, I know how much this fun of HIPAA but I also know the fun of FERPA. You had Butler University and FERPA is more the education aspect of keeping everything private as well. That’s great to see that you get into those major industries like that. What I’m interested in also when you are talking about forms and then you were saying that, it made me wonder, do you compete at all with the SurveyMonkey’s and doing any survey type of forms?Start a business to bring some good back to the world, not just to make more money. Click To Tweet
We do compete with surveys at times. At the end of the day, what they are trying to accomplish is that more quick survey of a large volume of people, where we provide a lot more value is somebody saying, “This is a business process that we are trying to solve for.” Think about HR onboarding. You could use SurveyMonkey to do some HR onboarding but it’s not built for that particular use case. For us, thinking about how do we automate those processes where HR is trying to engage with new employees, get that data in the right back end systems. That’s where the real value is getting created.
I worked for AstraZeneca for many years. I went through some serious training and stuff. I have worked in different forms of education where you do get some of these forms now online. Do you deal with all the HR aspects? What does it look like when it comes to you? What are they usually asking for?
Usually, people are looking for something relatively straightforward. They might be saying, “I want to make sure that when I hire a new employee, I can capture their information that’s going to need to go into the HRIS system.” I quickly build a form. I see how easy it is and then I start sending it out to people. I then realize, “I can generate documents out of that data.” All of a sudden, I can get the handbook for that particular person built immediately. I can take that all the way to eSignature. All of a sudden, I have got this entire onboarding process documented and painless.
Instead of filling out your address seven times across seven different forms, you fill it out once and it’s populated into all the right documents. Of course, we can store that in our HR system. People are not necessarily looking for a big system, they are just trying to solve a relatively simple use case but then they discover there are a lot more opportunities available to solve.
It’s an industry that there are a lot of room for growth and a lot of people need it. In addition to doing that, you also serve on a board of Nexus, which is a nonprofit. Tell me a little bit about that.
I have wrapped up that position but what I loved about Nexus and what they are still doing, specifically in Indianapolis, is they have built a co-working space but it’s for impact businesses and nonprofits. Trying to find a place to bring people together who are saying, “I want to make a profit maybe but I want to do that for a particular set of people or I want to do that in a way to bring some good back to the world, not just make more money.”
I get to help take that from some early-stage ideas that had been funded to figuring out what’s the business model. Every nonprofit, even impact business, needs some business model to be successful. Even if you raise money, you need to have some business model. How is it I go about this? I helped them try to think through that and get them on their feet in that way.
It seems that you are doing quite a lot. In reviewing the site, it was interesting to see all the work at Formstack and with your nonprofit. Now, I understand you also have an event coming up. Is it called Practically Genius?
That’s exactly right. We are having our first major customer event. We have been around for many years but have not yet had that great customer event. We are launching that in October 2021. It will be online and digital. It’s the first time we want to bring customers and partners together. It’s to help them explore and understand how we think about things to help them see how much value we put in them as problem solvers and how we want to engage with them with our software to help them solve more problems within their HR team, marketing team or sales team. We are going to do that on October 5th and 6th, 2021 and we are looking forward to it.
Will you have speakers? I’m curious what this is. Is this virtual? How are you handling this?
Yes, it will be virtual. Some of it will be pre-recorded to bring up the level of production. We will have some great keynote speakers like a member of NASA, fast companies and some great headliners there. We will bring some customers in to tell their stories and some partners who use our software to help those customers get successful.
We want to give people a wide variety of exposure to our company. At the same time, we want to bring some of our team members in so they understand who they can use internally. Maybe a solution engineer can listen to their problems and help build a proof of concept. They can come to our pro services team who can teach them how to use our product. We want to engage with customers and learn more about their needs.
You had 27,000-plus customers last I checked. I don’t know if that’s an accurate number but that’s quite a few. Is this company that you hope to eventually go IPO? What do you want to do with Formstack in the future? I’m curious.
We have been fortunate to be on a great ride, to your point, get to that 27,000 customers. For us, we are continuing to try to solve the problem of how do we help every person we engaged with finding that one key problem in their organization that’s taking time? What we say is that through studies that we have done, customers save about seventeen hours a week when they utilize our product. We want to bump that number up to 40.
How do we help a whole workweek every single month time available back to them to do whatever their core key job is, whether that results in an IPO or continues to grow the organization? We are fairly open to what that looks like. We want to continue to get in front of more customers. We have 200,000 users in those 27,000 companies that use us. Getting to a much bigger number, one million or something like that is a great milestone but continuing to build that organization.
It brings me back to when I was in pharmaceutical sales. This was probably in the ‘80s or ‘90s. We were writing our notes. After we would go call on doctors, we kept our notes in notebooks and papers. They then came out with these handheld computers sometime in the ‘90s. Everybody freaked out. It was so much trouble and harder. Eventually, it’s better. People freak out when they change to something new because it’s hard to teach an old dog, as we say sometimes but if you don’t do that, you never grow. How do you get people over that hump?
We are working with a nonprofit. I was talking to their chief technology officer and he pulled out their expense approval process. What he pulled out was a three-ply, the salmon, canary, and white color copy of the form. This is not that long ago. He said, “This is how we still do it here.” Of course, as chief technology officer, he wants to use technology to solve that problem. It’s all about saying, “Let’s take that one form and let’s run this process for a few people.”
We all use our phones for these tasks every day. It’s not like we have a learning curve. It’s that mental block of, “It feels hard. We know how it works now.” As you run those proofs of concept and have people do it for a month or a couple of weeks, they can get engaged fast. One of our cultural values is to be agile and iterate. That is all about saying, “It’s not a good idea for us to do these big waterfall processes where we say, ‘Let’s go build a project for six months, and then we are going to turn the lights on that next day.’ Let’s get a little bit in somebody’s hands of using the product and feeling successful and build on that.”
We don’t need to do that entire project first. We will build toward that and we will do it quickly. As you know, momentum is a powerful tool in anything you are trying to do and grow. If you can build a tiny bit of momentum, that’s one of the great ways to get people over the hump of doing it the same way they always did it.
I’m curious, what forms do we need that we don’t know we need?
The easy audit you can do at the beginning is, where do I use paper still in my life? Where do I use paper and pen to fill out a form or to run some process? Those are the most obvious ones. Of course, that’s why I go to healthcare, where it’s still way too rampant.
They are behind. It’s amazing. The hospitals especially were bad.
Maybe it’s an intake process. You have clients and you want to interview with them. You might do that on paper but what if you could allow those clients to do a portion of that? You want an in-person interaction for part of it but you want them to do that before they show up to your office. Taking those intake processes and letting people do when they’ve got time in a self-service way, oddly enough, we live in a time where we all love self-service. Even though we have to do the work, it means we get to do it at home or whenever we want to as opposed to what we know is a waste of time, which is sitting in somebody else’s office filling out paperwork.Time is valuable which is why you can save about 17 hours a week just by using Formstack. Click To Tweet
I remember sitting in the waiting room filling it out on a little iPad-looking thing. I would love it if I don’t have to go fifteen minutes early. They let you do it at home and anything that speeds up the process. I’m all for it. The times have changed. One of my first jobs was selling computer software to school districts.
People, back in the day, were freaked out over that because computers were new. This was the early ‘80s. People are much more open to recognizing the sale of this software as a service thing is a hot right. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here. I wanted to make sure, is there anything that you wanted to say that I didn’t ask you about? I want to make sure everybody gets to know more about you and Formstack and what you are working on.
The key thing we are working on that we are excited to get into the market is we make it easy as a drag and drop form builder to collect data, do the same with document generation and eSignature. We want to pull all that together and help people in a no-code way. I don’t have to have technical skills or knowledge to automate more processes.
For us, that is a workflow-building tool so that anybody can come on and say, “I have got an HR process problem or I want to get leads scored and then to the right sales reps,” or some finance process. “I want to get expenses flowing faster through the organization and expense approvals.” We want to make that as dead simple as possible. Keep watching Formstack and you will see some of that come out. That covers most of what I’m thinking about.
I look forward to watching your growth. If anybody is interested in attending your October 5th and 6th Practically Genius event or following you, how can they do that?
Check out Formstack.com. We are also on LinkedIn and Instagram. Look for those and we will be publishing information here as you are reading this. It’s an easy way to get engaged. Sign up if you want to attend.
That sounds great. It was nice of you to come on. I love how you are embracing curiosity with everything that you do, which ties in well to what we do here. Thank you for being on, Chris. This was interesting.
Thanks, Diane. It has been great to talk to you.
You are welcome.
The Power Of Perception With Dr. Diane Hamilton
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 have worked with at the Forbes School of Business. She has been great in this process of researching how perception process in our mind, opinions, version of the truth, biases and how we live. What’s in a Rose? Would it smell as sweet by any other name? All that 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 are not talking about enough in the workplace.” We talked about this perception reality and to what extent are our perception is true. They are our perceptions. What is a reality to us may not be the reality to them.
There is a truth to some extent but what’s real and all that, we start to get into this analysis paralysis thinking about it. We thought, “If we are thinking like this, we need to showcase what others have done to try and look at this because the world is changing.” We have 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 are 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’ve originally got into the workplace or when Maja got into it. We are 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 are living.
If we can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards where we want to go or where we don’t want to go, understand what other people believe and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in, we can understand that and see where they are coming from. That way, we manage our perceptions and we can build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence.
Maybe you can’t walk a mile in my shoes but we can have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that. We looked at what was available in terms of assessments out there of how we can test, 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 are going to talk about.
We come into this world with this predisposition to how we view and interpret things. Imagine if you are 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 are seeing that there are a lot more conflicts 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 are wearing a miniskirt in Brazil, it’s a lot different than if you are worrying that in Saudi Arabia, for example. We have to appreciate where other people are coming from. Maybe we are allowing our culture and our society to dictate what we are thinking and perceiving.
I have 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 confidence but if you go to Africa, they don’t want to do that because of eye contact with a person of authority, you’ve got to worry about respect. There are a lot of different issues when you are talking about the Western culture versus other cultures. In Asian cultures, they might use a calculator to negotiate the price of things but you might not want to do that in some other areas because it may seem disrespectful.
Looking at different areas is fascinating. Even how certain hand gestures mean one thing. It might mean A-okay in one language and maybe be insulting in another culture. A lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures and that is worth reviewing. Now we know that there are a lot of stereotyping going on. We are trying to get away from that and trying to get away from biases. We have biases.
Beau Lotto talked about that on my show. I hope you have read that episode. He talks about how you need it and how you can’t live without some bias to give you some decision-making ability. We have to pay attention to unconscious bias. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t come across as arrogant or condescending. Saying something like, “Keep it simple, stupid,” might mean one thing in one language. We have that as a saying and it’s not meant to be insulting. If you tell it to somebody else, it could be insulting.
These are the things that we were looking at when we decided that we needed to look at cultural quotients, IQ, CQ, our drive, motivation, knowledge, cognition, metacognition and all those things to look at how we come up with these actions or behaviors. Do we have to adapt to customs or should they adapt to ours? Should we be more tolerant of differences? Change is a big thing that we teach in business classes and being proactive about it is also important. We know that we have these teams where there are in-groupers and out-groupers. We want to try and get people to get along.
I have 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 are on that’s similar but also understand the path that we are on that’s not so similar. Some of the things that impact that are things like spirituality, whether you are religious or not, it can be different.
Some people have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them where other people might be agnostic or atheist and that could completely shape your whole perception of the situation at hand. You might accidentally insult someone without even realizing how important something is to them.
I don’t think a lot of people give a lot of thought to the differences of how much strength that can have in their ideas and things that they question or don’t question. It can have a big impact because we inherit a lot of beliefs from our family. We personalize our beliefs. We take things that work for us or maybe don’t work for us. We make something around what works in our situation. That can make us think we are right, they are 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 even though Stephen Covey says, “Spiritual renewal is one of the habits that are essential to effective leadership.” Do 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.Maybe you can't walk in someone else's shoes, but you can at least have a better appreciation for what it would be like to do that. Click To Tweet
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 with various barns, outbuildings and serving his background. The woman, without prompting, commented, “What a beautiful painting. It’s 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 is right and one is 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 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 and of itself. We are 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 are 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 and progesterone. We even have testosterone but not as much as the men. It goes all the way back to some of these hormones. It’s how we are influenced by them.
I talked to Tom Peters on the show. That’s a great show if you get a chance to look at it. He talked about The Female Brain and he recalled an article from Duke University Basketball, Coach Mike Krzyzewski. In the Sunday Times magazine section, he described how that coach, often referred to as Coach K, would bring his wife to all the team meetings. He said the reason was so she would see what was going on in player’s lives that he didn’t notice. She would smell of a problem of a girlfriend 100 miles away or some distraction and he didn’t think men psychologically saw those things. He found it fascinating as an observation.
There are differences. If we pretend like we are not different, that doesn’t work and we get uncomfortable. If we look at that as one thing is better than another, that’s also uncomfortable. It’s important to recognize that these things are part of us and that we are intended to be different. We are not intended to be the same. Wouldn’t life be super boring if it was that way?
I thought that would be something that you talk about in the workplace of what we can get. We know that the percentage of women in the workplace is increasing. We know that the rate of women occupying key roles in the workplace is on the rise. We know that women are being hired into leadership roles more often than they were CEOs at an increasing rate and of course, we would 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 are genetically wired differently from birth. These differences are spawning this ground for this history of beliefs and stereotypes of how we are taught to view each other. We are carving a different road for ourselves, the women versus the men. That’s important to know that we are evolving. When we are doing that, we are impacted by our intelligence in this process.
We talk about IQ and EQ. If we are thinking of intelligence as what we know and how we apply what we know, we know that we need to be able to use our intelligence to understand how to relate with one another. We know that our intelligence and our perceptions evolve in different ways. Fluid versus crystallized intelligence comes about.
There’s some great work by Raymond Cattell, who talked about that. If you ever get a chance to read some of his work, there are all these different types of what we learn and how it changes over time. It’s an important thing to look at. Also, Howard Gardner is heavily cited in the area of types of intelligence. We thought we had one kind. He studied all these different types of abilities that we have. You could have naturalistic, music, logical, mathematical and existential intelligence. Also, body, kinesthetic, verbal, linguistic, intrapersonal, visual-spatial intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. The list goes on and on.
To say somebody is smart is a hard thing to do because there are these different types of ways of being smart. How do you value that intelligence? What’s important in your culture for that type of intelligence? That was interesting to us as we went through all the different ways that we grow, learn and apply what we know.
We also looked at emotions as in emotional intelligence in that aspect as well. I had written my Doctoral dissertation on emotional intelligence and that’s such a huge area. It was great to have Daniel Goleman on the show to talk about emotional intelligence. If you haven’t read that episode, I highly recommend it.
Emotions play a big part in how we make decisions. Empathy is a big part of emotional intelligence. Sometimes that ties into the curiosity that we are 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 are blind or not. I thought that was fascinating. My father was born blind so 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 are 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 have 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 will quit. You have to learn from failure and if you don’t, you are going to end up being the glass-half-empty person and you won’t move forward. You will stay where you are and move backward. That’s what we are 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 are wanting to know perception versus reality, I will look at some of that because it’s fascinating.
Talking about perception, you need to talk about collaboration because it is a required skillset in the workplace. If you are 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 have been given?” You look at all this and if you are 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’ve 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 are 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 differently. 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 have done a lot of training classes where we have given Legos and we have 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 is really boring.
It helps to look at things from a critical thinking standpoint and to do research. “How did these people do this? How have they made it successful? What facts support their argument? What’s the source of their information? How did they come to that conclusion?” We are back to curiosity again. Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves. I don’t think we get enough of that. There are a lot of people who want to take things at face value based on what they have always known and what supports the values that they have always had. That’s common for people.
You watch the same either CNN, 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 are making the right decision, you are 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, and that’s what I find particularly fascinating in the research that we did.
If we are trying to fix all the things in work and we are trying to fix engagement, I mentioned before that you are 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. It’s to get people emotionally invested at work and contributing. Part of that is to ask questions and to understand each other better. We are back to empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence and then we are getting that perception of the other person’s ideas. We are 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 are growing in their work? Are they being recognized for their work? Do they trust that the company is 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.Appreciate and respect where other people come from. Click To Tweet
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 are doing in those areas. What could you do to improve your EPIC process? It’s similar if you have taken the Curiosity Code Index. It’s very 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 are going to examine and assess. You are going to do a lot of these different things that you can recognize if you are 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 are going to get along better and you are going to be able to be more aware of how you come across to other people. That’s a lot of a problem. I see a lot of people who don’t recognize body language, issues, tone or if they are typing in all caps. There are all these different things they can do of how they come across and they don’t realize it.
They can predict how the other person is 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 are 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 are making assumptions and you are looking at how their fear is impacting them. A lot of this ties back into their culture of how were they 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. If you don’t go to the part where you end coming up with the idea of taking what you have 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 are 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 DrDianeHamilton.com. 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. I hope that this helps you understand perception a little better.
- Ade Olonoh
- Practically Genius
- LinkedIn – Formstack
- Instagram – Formstack
- Maja Zelihic
- The World is Flat
- Perception Power Index
- The Power of Perception
- Joe Lurie – Past Episode
- A Mind Opening Journey Across Culture
- Beau Lotto – Past Episode
- Amy Edmondson – Past Episode
- The Female Brain
- The Male Brain
- Tom Peters – Past Episode
- Howard Gardner
- Daniel Goleman – Past Episode
- Paul Ekman – Past Episode
- TED Talks – Beau Lotto
- Amy Edmondson – TED Talk
- Cracking the Curiosity Code
- Kevin Kruse – Past Episode
- Curiosity Code Index
- Coach K – Article
About Chris Byers
Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack. Formstack is a SaaS-based forms-driven workflows platform that helps organizations streamline data collection and management, without code. With Formstack, businesses and teams of all types and sizes can easily create and use online forms to automate repetitive business processes and tame data chaos.
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