Making Difficult Conversations Easier With Roberta Matuson And The Power Of Perception With Dr. Diane Hamilton

Workplace conversations can be the most difficult kind of conversation you have. While we tend to avoid them as much as possible, sometimes, it’s better to get them done. In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton talks to Roberta Matuson, an expert on maximizing talent and the president of Matuson Consulting. Roberta discusses what makes workplace conversations difficult and tells us why we need them, and how to make things easier.

We’ve had so many guests who have so much to offer to this show but now it’s time to focus on some of our host’s research. Join in as Dr. Diane Hamilton talks about some of her work around perception with Dr. Maya Zelehic, who is one of the people she has worked with at the Forbes School of Business. In this episode, Dr. Diane discusses perception and how it affects our worldview. She also discusses how our perceptions determine our opinions, our version of the truth, our biases, and how we live.


I’m glad you joined us because we have Roberta Matuson here. She is the President of Matuson Consulting. She’s helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including top companies, be super successful. She’s got a book. I’m very excited to chat about that.

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Making Difficult Conversations Easier With Roberta Matuson

I am here with Roberta Matuson. You might know her as The Talent Maximizer. She’s the President of Matuson Consulting. She’s helped leaders in many impressive companies like General Motors, New Balance, and Microsoft. She has written six books. Her book is Can We Talk? Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work. It’s nice to have you here, Roberta.

Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

I was looking forward to this. We know each other through a women’s author group and a lot of other things. You’ve written things that I was included in, which I loved. A lot of people are familiar with your work, but in case they’re not, can you give me your backstory so people get familiar with how you got to this level?

It started when I was 24 years old and I was tossed into an executive role with nothing more than a prayer. I found myself in the executive suite where I was managing a team of six people of which several of them were old enough to be my parents and even one old enough to be my grandparents. Having had that experience of being a new leader and an executive, that was the premise for my first book, Suddenly in Charge. I learned a lot along the way. I also learned how to avoid those difficult conversations, which did not serve me well. I’m in consulting for many years. I’ve taken everything that I’ve learned from being an executive in a leadership role to helping other executives be the best that they can be.

That takes a lot. Everybody has a unique focus on things that they like to deal with. I know you’ve appeared on many different shows in different aspects of what you cover and different varieties of media. I was trying to figure out a little bit more about your book because I know, it comes out in September 2021. They’re taking pre-orders if anybody’s interested. I saw that on Amazon. We’re having more difficult conversations at work than ever because of COVID. You wrote this prior to that. How much are you thinking that this is perfect timing? Even though it’s horrible timing because of COVID, but it’s what we need more than ever.

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Can We Talk?: Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

I wrote the book during COVID. I’m glad I did. In the past, the advice that I would give people on these difficult conversations, some of them might say, “Never do this over the phone. Never do this over video. Do this in person.” We know we can’t do that now. Being in the middle of all this while I was writing was a good thing because I had to think a little more out of the box and say, “Ideally, it’d be great if you could but since you can’t, this is the next best thing.” For that, I’m grateful that the book is relevant and timely as we are still in the middle of this.

It’s interesting that this came up because my sister was telling me about a work situation where they gave a 360 evaluation at her work. They had everybody evaluating everybody and then they were presenting it live on Zoom. If it was negative, everybody saw it.

That’s horrible.

She was mad about it. I go, “That’s not how they’re supposed to do it.” How are they supposed to do it?

I wrote about this in my LinkedIn newsletter. I do a 360 and a lot of people try to take the shortcut and they’ll send out a survey to the stakeholders. When you get those surveys, you’re like, “I need to get this off my desk. I’m going to check the boxes. I know they can trace this back to me, so I’m not going to tell the truth.” When I do 360s, my clients select the people who they would like to be part of that 360. I then have phone calls with everyone that they ask me to speak with. I ask them two things. I ask them, “What does this person do well?” The second question is, “What are they doing that’s getting in their way?” It’s remarkable. I then give them feedback. I roll everything up. The biggest surprise that my clients have is how well thought of their stakeholders think about them. They’re always surprised. They’re like, “Really? They said that?” I’m like, “Yes. That was a good thing.”

Is any of that good because they’re afraid it’s coming back to them?

It never comes back to them. They know it gets rolled up. Let’s say you only have one direct report and so I’m giving feedback. I’m not going to say, “Here’s what the person who worked for you said.” It gets rolled up. Sometimes people are concerned about something that they’re going to share and they’ll say to me, “Please don’t share that.” I take that piece out. The feedback that I get time after time is very consistent. Leaving one person’s statement out isn’t going to change what comes back. Tell your sister to call me.

I will do that.

That is terrible.

She was talking to her boss about it. The thing that they were asked was, “What’s your passion for the future of your job?” Half the people who rated her never even met her. It’s crazy.

Every now and again, I’ll do what I promised myself, “I won’t do that,” I’ll read a book review from somebody who reviewed my book and they’ll be like, “I never read the book. I’m giving it one star because the Kindle wouldn’t download.” I’m like, “Really? I’m not responsible for the download. If you haven’t read it, I don’t know why you would feel like you could rate it.” I feel for her.

It was interesting to me because we could get a lot out of the 360s. You just got to do them right. I’ve had some difficult conversations at work. I remember having one with my boss in the other direction. Sometimes it’s harder to be the boss talking to somebody where they’ve done something wrong. I thought my boss had done something wrong. I had to tell him that because he was belligerent in the way he spoke. It didn’t work for me well.

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Difficult Conversations: How do you as an employee have a difficult conversation with your boss, or how do you have a difficult conversation with a peer? Because the dynamics are very different.


I remember telling him that I didn’t like it and he was stunned. He goes, “Can you give me an example?” I go, “You asked me to do something I’ve never had to do and I never needed to do. I asked you how do I do that?” He looked at me and said, “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” I go, “What do you think that does to curiosity or people asking anything or falling out? It kills it.” As you said, when you had to manage old people, I was the old person and he was a young person. I’m sure it’s intimidating for him to do that. You put yourself in that position. That’s hard when you’re the young one, isn’t it?

It is. I’m glad you brought that up. When I was thinking about writing this next book, Can We Talk? I was looking at what other books were out there on the topic of difficult work conversations. What struck me is that every book that I encountered was for leaders on how to have difficult conversations with their employees. As a result of that research, I said, “I’m going to write a book that’s also going to talk about how do you as an employee have a difficult conversation with your boss? How do you have a difficult conversation with a peer?” The dynamics are different. I was excited about writing this book that would bring new thought leadership to many people. Had it come out several years ago, it might have helped you.

One good thing about getting older though is you get a little bit like, “I don’t care.” When you’re young, you think, “I can’t say that. I’ll lose my job.” You are different every year. You get more and more confident. What’s the worst? You start to get that way. Do you think it’s different for each generation? Do you think it’s age? Do you think there’s any impact by all of that? What did you find?

I find that the younger generation, and I love them, they’re bold. They’re like, “Do I have to put up with this? I’m going to say something.” It’s terrific. Whereas my generation, we’d be in the office waiting for our boss to leave because God forbid if we left two seconds before them. In this generation, they’re out the door when there was a door to go out of any time to make it to their yoga class. It’s a whole different thing. I said to people and they laugh, “If I had it to do it over again, I would come back as a Millennial.” I love their spirit.

I do too. I see that too. It was Mad Men’s time when I was in the workplace.

That’s bad.

It’s a real difference that I’ve seen throughout the years. It’s interesting to look at how to have conversations in general and how it’s changed. You came up with seven principles. I want to know what those seven principles are. I’m curious.

I’ll tell you two.

It may help me be curious enough to find out the rest.

One of them is curiosity and that’s the fact that you need to be curious and ask questions. When you’re having these difficult conversations with people, many times we go in there and we charge through, “We’ve been thinking about this for months, maybe years, and now we’re ready.” We forget about the person on the other end that this is the first time they’re hearing about this. Asking follow-up questions, “Do you understand what I’m saying? Do you know what I’m looking for? How do you feel about this?” It’s important. You don’t do that if you’re not curious and if you don’t care. It’s all about you. That’s one of the principles.

[bctt tweet=”You have to have the courage to step up and say, ‘Hey, I deserve this.'” username=””]

Another principle is confidence. You got to be confident. When you have that conversation with your boss and something came into your head and you said, “I’m going to tell him exactly how I feel.” That took a lot of confidence. I was thinking about when I was twenty years old and I went into my boss’s office, I was working in a law firm, and I asked for a raise. Lawyers scare me. At the time, I was making $120 a week as a file clerk and I was like, “That’s not enough.” I went in and I asked for $130 a week. Do you know what he said?

I don’t know.

He said, “That’s fine.” I thought to myself when I left, “Why didn’t I asked for $140? What the heck is wrong?” It took a lot of courage.

When you’re old, you probably go, “What number could I have asked for?”

It takes courage to have these conversations. I know a lot of people that are reading had a horrific year. They’ve been working their tails off. You’re reading about all the wages that have been increasing and yet yours hasn’t. Some of the readers could perhaps go and get a job at McDonald’s and make almost what they’re making now because their companies haven’t adjusted their pay. You have to have the courage to step up and say, “I deserve this and here’s why. How much are we talking here?”

When you talk about the pay thing, I’m seeing it so much. I took a job where the pay was below what I would even want to take but I liked the position, but then I found out when I got there that a 70-hour workweek was minimal. That pay does not work for me. I see that happening a lot where they’re asking them to do what I think of as unreasonable hours for pay that should be 40-hour pay. Are they taking advantage of people? If so, that would be a difficult conversation to have.

Things are going both ways. The Wall Street Journal had an article about the number of people who are holding down two full-time jobs during COVID unbeknownst to their employers.

In higher education, you see a lot of that.

They are hopping from one Zoom call on one computer to their other job. We’re in this crazy employment market and you can name your price. Pay people fairly. Pay them for what you’re asking them to do and the value that they’re bringing, and you’ll find that you won’t be hiring new people all the time.

I’m always surprised by that. Some things get better, some things get worse. The “You’re expendable” thing is getting a little bit overdone because they don’t think about the cost of replacing people. That’s what’s killing engagement so much. In my research of curiosity, I looked a lot at engagement because it ties into it so much. If people are walking dead at work and not wanting to do what they do, we got to find a way to improve that.

I love that you pick curiosity. I’ve seen it in Novartis and other companies have measured it. Their curiosity training made a huge impact on their engagement levels. What we see when you work on the curiosity aspect is you get people out of that status quo thinking. Francesca Gino did a great job in her piece in HBR talking about that these leaders think they’re encouraging curiosity but if you ask their followers, it’s not so much. For leaders reading this, if they think they’re encouraging curiosity, how can they find out if they really are? Don’t they have to have a difficult conversation about that?

Yes, they do. It doesn’t have to be difficult. If you are curious and you want to know how your people feel and you have a good relationship with them, then you can ask. Many times, that’s not the case. That’s why I come in and I find out that information because you can’t improve something if you don’t even know that something’s wrong. You keep doing the same thing and then one day, you’re startled that the promotion that you were hoping for didn’t go to you, and then your boss finally tells you why. You’re sitting there like, “That’s the first time I’ve heard this. How come?” It’s because your boss didn’t have that conversation with you, the one you didn’t have with your employee.

It keeps going downhill from whatever you learn from your previous bosses. That’s why mentorship is so important, and have consultants come in and help. When I told that guy what he said, you could tell he had no idea that what he said was even bad. His leaders talk to him that way. You have to find a way to break that cycle, but sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. How do you find out what you don’t know?

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Difficult Conversations: If you really are curious and you really want to know how your people feel, and you have a good relationship with them, then you can ask, but many times that’s not the case.


That’s where the whole 360 comes in. You try to get solicited feedback from people that work for you, people that you report to and are higher up in the organization. The one thing that most leaders don’t understand is that leadership is about perception. You could think you’re fabulous. How many times have you sat in your car and sung at the top of your lungs a song, and you think you could go out on the stage and sing with some of the top bands in town? You got somebody in the backseat, a kid or someone going, “Really? Can’t you please shut up?” You think you’re great but maybe you’re off-key and no one has ever told you that.

I’m so off-key. Everybody’s told me that.

I’m not and I am fantastic. I don’t let anyone tell me not to sing. If I wanted to be a performer, I would get a coach. I would get some help.

I would need many for that. You’ve got a good point. It’s fascinating to see where we go for help when we realize we even need it. This book is important because I’m not seeing a level of communication that shows a lot of depth out there. Sometimes, it’s even harder. How is Zoom doing it that way and impacting that?

It requires different skills. Some of what I write about in the book is if you’re going to have a difficult conversation, it’s got to be set up right. Before you and I started this interview, I sent my husband and my dog out on the deck. Let’s say you were my boss and you were going to tell me that my job was on the line. I didn’t have headsets in and my ten-year-old kid was walking behind me. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Out of respect for that person, so they can be focused, I recommend in the book that you ask someone what time they might be available to have a private conversation. You and I might be in big houses, but some people are in a one-bedroom apartment. There might not be any privacy.

If you’re in New York, your place could be the size of somebody else’s closet sometimes. You just don’t know. I love that you brought up perception because one of my books was about perception. It was nice of you. It’s such a huge part of what we see because when Dr. Maja Zelihic and I wrote it, we looked at perception as an EPIC process, which we Evaluate, Predict, Interpret and Correlate with our conclusions. It’s important to look at perception because your perception is reality. When I look at perception, I look at it as a combination of IQ, EQ for emotional quotient, CQ for curiosity quotient, and CQ for cultural quotient. We don’t know what their vantage point is, don’t you think?

Yeah, I do.

How did you find that out?

You have to ask or you have to have somebody who’s willing to be open and honest with you. I have a mentor and I’ll never forget he said to me, “I want to meet you for lunch.” I was like, “What did I do?” He doesn’t meet with any of us for lunch. I said, “Sure,” and I met with him. He gave me some feedback that I didn’t expect. It wasn’t good but I took it in and I said, “You’re right,” and I made some changes. He was right. You’re not always going to have someone who’s going to be willing to be honest with you. The other thing you have to be careful of is unsolicited feedback because that’s for the person giving it, not for you. He asked me, “Are you open to this feedback?” I was like, “Yeah, tell me what’s on your mind.” Somebody else who wasn’t confident might have been like, “No, I don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

[bctt tweet=”Pay people fairly. Pay them for what you’re asking them to do and the value that they’re bringing.” username=””]

Do you have to say yes to that question?

No, because he was my mentor coach. I paid him. He wasn’t my boss.

That’s a huge difference. If it’s your boss and he asked you that question, what are you going to do?

I’m going to say, “This isn’t a great day to share that with me. I had a tough evening at home with my family and didn’t sleep.” I’m sure you can avoid that conversation if you want. I’m not saying it’s smart.

Did you deal at all with crying in your book? There’s a lot of women I know who tell me they cry when they have to have difficult conversations. It’s something hormonal and they can’t help it.

No, I didn’t. Yes, I’ve come across it as somebody having a difficult conversation with somebody. Part of what I talk about in the book is about being empathetic. If somebody starts to cry or if the conversation gets overheated, you have to step back and say, “This might be a good time for us to pause. Why don’t we reconvene tomorrow?”

That’s good. Younger people have told me that they get impassioned by whatever it is. I don’t know what it is but they’ve told me they can’t help it. Sometimes if you’re a person who does that and you feel it coming on or if you know a difficult conversation is going to happen, would it help to say, “Sometimes when I’m passionate about something, I might get emotional. I don’t want you to freak out. Do you prepare the other person?” Is it on your head to say something or is it for the other person to deal with it?

There’s nothing wrong if somebody is like, “We need to talk. Can we talk?” What’s the first thing you do? You’re like, “Here it comes.” When you could say that other person, “I’m going to give you fair warning. I got a lot going on right now and I may react in a different manner than how I normally react. Keep that in mind and let’s have this conversation.”

I tell people that with the curiosity thing. Some people are afraid to ask questions because they think it’ll be confrontational. If you preface it with, “I’m trying to develop my curiosity and I wanted to ask you something,” rather than not asking it, you get that person to realize that you’re not challenging what they’ve set for somebody.

It’s asking clarifying questions. If your boss says, “I’m not happy with your performance,” and then shuts up, then you have the right to ask or clarify, “Can you be a little more specific? What part of my performance isn’t working for you? What are some of the examples of what I can do to improve?” One of the most valuable pieces that are in the book is how to start these difficult conversations as well as how to wrap them up. The getting started part prevents us from moving forward. It’s like, “I don’t even know how to start this conversation.”

I can tell that this is something that we need to get better at from my experience in the working world. When I’m working so much in emotional intelligence and empathy, empathy is such a huge part of having a good conversation. I’m glad you brought that up as well. A lot of people will want to read your book. I’m excited about you having another one. All of these are amazing. I can’t believe how many that you have done so well. If people would like to read your book or get ahold of you, is there some way they can reach you?

They can send me an email at Visit my website m They can download the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or wherever you’d like to buy your books. The Kindle edition is also releasing. I’m excited to get it into the universe.

I’m excited for everybody to be able to reach you and learn more from everything that you write. Thank you, Roberta. This was fun.

I appreciate you having me on your show and thank you. I hope you have a great day.

You too. This is wonderful.

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’ve worked with at the Forbes School of Business. She’s been great in this process of researching how perception process in our mind, opinions, version of the truth, biases and how we live. What’s in a rose? Would it smell as sweet by any other name? All that 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 that 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 a reality to us may not be the reality to them.

There is a truth to some extent but what’s real and all that? We start to get into this analysis paralysis thinking about it. We thought, “If we’re thinking like this, we need to showcase what others have done to try and look at this because the world is 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, understand what other people believe, and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in, we can understand that and see where they’re coming from. That way, we manage our perceptions and we’re able to build empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re going to have a difficult conversation, it has to be set up right.” 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, 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 is 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 Cultures, where he writes about all the different perceptions of things that he’s found in different cultures. Eye contact in Western cultures may be candor and confidence. 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 are 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 okay in one language and maybe be insulting in another culture. A lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures and that is worth reviewing. Now we know that there’s a lot of stereotyping going on. We’re trying to get away from that. We’re trying to get away from biases. We have biases.

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

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Difficult Conversations: If somebody starts to cry or if the conversation gets overheated, you have to really step back and just say, I think this might be a good time for us to pause. Why don’t we reconvene tomorrow?


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

I’ve had Amy Edmondson talking about teams, teaming, and how people get along. A lot of collaboration is about having the curiosity to ask questions and learn from each other. We want to look at the path that we’re on that’s similar, but also understand the path that we’re on that’s not so similar. Some of the things that impact that are things like spirituality. Whether you’re religious or not, it can be different. Some people have this impact of how important their spirituality or their religion is to them. Other people might be agnostic or atheist, and that could completely shape your whole perception of the situation at hand. You might accidentally insult someone without even realizing how important something is to them.

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

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

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

We both look at the same thing but we see different aspects. There’s not that one’s right and one’s wrong. It could be the opposite way round. It could be the man seeing the great thing and the woman seeing 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 from 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.

[bctt tweet=”You’re not always going to have someone who’s going to be willing to be honest with you.” username=””]

There is a New York Times Bestseller called The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. She’s 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 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 a problem of a girlfriend 100 miles away or some distraction. 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 no different, that doesn’t work and we get uncomfortable. If we look at that as one thing better than another, that’s also uncomfortable. It’s important to recognize that these things are part of us and 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. 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. Fluid versus crystallized intelligence comes about.

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

TTL 882 | Difficult Conversations
Difficult Conversations: If we can monitor our perceptions and guide them towards, where we don’t want to go and understand what other people believe, and maybe not necessarily agree with everything that they believe in, we can understand that and see where they’re coming from.


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

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

I had Paul Ekman on the show. The TV show, Lie To Me, was based on his work. There are certain expressions that we all make that are the same, whether you’re blind or not. I thought that was fascinating. My father was born blind 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’re in a sales presentation where your rear end is 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 kind of 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 Talk. He talked about a lot of great things on the show. If you’re 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 collaboration is a required skillset in the workplace. If you’re being hindered by your perceptions, there are 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.

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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 from 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’re 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’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 a 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.

Difficult Conversations: A lot of studies look at Western culture versus other cultures, but 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.


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

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

They can predict how the other person’s going to act. In a way, that’s another part of emotional intelligence. It’s their interpersonal awareness of, “Are they able to understand where the other person is coming from, what their perception is, their capabilities and 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 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 many great ideas that come out, but if you don’t go to the part where you’re 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 those are 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 Roberta for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them at I hope you join us on the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Roberta Matuson

TTL 882 | Difficult ConversationsFor more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known worldwide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the newly released Talent Magnetism (Nicholas Brealey, October 2013) and the bestseller Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, February 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.

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