Providing The Tools To Empower People In The Workplace With Dr. Martin Seldman

There are many challenges in today’s modern workplace, and we need to start empowering people, especially women, to navigate these challenges. In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down for an insightful interview with the Chairman and Co-Founder of Optimum Associates, Dr. Martin Seldman. Dr. Seldman talks about his days studying as a Buddhist monk, learning many skills that are taught in universities today. He discusses the traits crucial in modern leaders and discusses the need to empower people in the workplace. Learn more about empowerment by listening to this provocative episode.

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People


I’m glad you joined us because we have Dr. Martin Seldman, the Chairman and Co-founder of Optimum Associates. He’s a corporate trainer, executive coach, organizational psychologist and he has so much great information that he’s written many books. I’m excited. He’s got a new one coming out.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Providing The Tools To Empower People In The Workplace With Dr. Martin Seldman

I am here with Dr. Martin or Marty Seldman, a corporate trainer, executive coach and organizational psychologist. It’s so nice to have you here, Marty.

Same here, Diane. I know you’re going to talk about me but I’m looking forward to getting to know you better, too.

This will be fun. This will be our chance. I had a guest, Mark Herschberg, on my show who said great things about your work so I looked you up and he was right. You’ve done a lot of interesting things. You’ve got a lot of wonderful books. I was looking at some of your past books, Survival of the Savvy, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Super selling through self-talk, Customer Tells. Some of these were fascinating and I understand that you are co-authoring a book, A Woman’s Career Guide to Power, Presence and Protection, which I’m looking forward to. I also would like to get a backstory on what led to this level of your success?

Diane, there’s a long backstory but a couple of things unusual. When I was twenty years old, I went to Japan and studied Zen Buddhism. I was in a monastery. Even though we took vows of voluntary poverty, I would say the things I learned there contributed to helping me be successful even in the corporate world. I learned a lot about tranquility, focus, concentration, self-reliance and also, ironically, the ability to live on very little. The way that contributed, gave me the freedom to pursue what I wanted to. For instance, I got a PhD in Clinical Psychology but in the ’70s, Maslow was talking about self-actualization. I took a job in the human potential movement. They could only pay me $300 a month even with my PhD but because I could learn to live on anything, that job, where we focused on people’s strengths and potential getting them to believe in each other, was the basis of my becoming a coach.

First of all, I’ve had Albert Bandura on the show, which had to pinch myself. I didn’t know he was still alive because he was 94. He invited me to his house later, we got to know each other and he’s such a nice man. I teach so many courses still. I was the former MBA Program Chair at Forbes School of Business. I’ve worked at different universities in different aspects but Maslow comes up a lot. I can’t imagine what that was like. I was thinking of my job in 1980, I made $900 as a secretary. That’s pretty bad. “You deserved more. I can’t imagine that’s all they paid you,” but I love that you studied Buddhism. That explains some of the blogs I saw on your site because I was like, “What is this?” I was curious about that. I read Steve Job’s bio and he did a lot of studying in different areas. Did you like reading that bio? Did you relate to any of what he did?

What’s happened, the things I learned, this was 1964, neuroscience and people who study high-performance leadership, it’s come full circle. A lot of the things I learned in the monastery are now taught at Stanford and Harvard MBA programs and so forth in terms of the concentration focus, which can make you a better leader and listener. There’s also a whole aspect of how it increases your emotional intelligence, being able to read people’s signals. You’ll have some people go to meetings who will get 3 or 4 times as much information as what’s going on as other people. Ironically, it’s subtle advantages that these practices give you.

It’s so interesting because, first of all, I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I am very fascinated by that. I had Daniel Goleman on the show. That is another pinch yourself moment. Now he’s focused on mindfulness. You were way ahead of your time.

Goleman was one of the guys I was thinking about. He wrote a book in was in 2014 called Focus. He’s the first one to link these skills with leadership.

[bctt tweet=”We live in a world now where nobody has all the answers. Nobody has all the information.” via=”no”]

I’d like to see more books on linking certain things. In my books on perception and curiosity, I get a lot of questions since I focus strongly on the curiosity of what research is out there to tie into it to show that it helps with engagement and innovation and all the things. I’ve had everybody from Francesca Gino, who wrote a great HBR piece about the case for curiosity. Amy Edmondson for Harvard talking about curiosity and getting the miners out from under that Chilean rock disaster. A lot of people have some data that I’d love to see more because I see curiosity as the spark to the success that we see in the business world. If you’re curious, you build that empathy, which builds your emotional intelligence. If you’re curious, you explore areas that help you become more innovative. Did you ever study anything in those realms of curiosity?

In fact, I would say there are certain qualities that are rising in terms of their importance. For instance, being a quick study, that was always important. Now with all the pace of change and complexity, it’s even more. I would put curiosity in that category. I like to say we live in a world now where nobody has all the answers, the information and curious leaders, they’re the ones who get the informed decisions, the alignment but also the innovation up from people. I would say it’s become a crucial skill. The opposite of it is arrogance, which is one of the highest derailers among leaders.

It was interesting to me when I was writing about it was I was looking for assessments since I used assessments for emotional intelligence and different things and other aspects of my research. All the assessments told you was whether you had high or low levels of curiosity. I said, “That’s all well and good if somebody is curious or not but what if you’re not?” I wanted to be able to fix it. That’s what I created. It was the assessment that tells you what stops you so that you can move forward. I found that Fear, Assumptions, the voice in your head, Technology, over and under-utilization of it and Environment are the four factors. I have an acronym of FATE to remember it easier, as the things that hold you back from being curious.

It’s important to figure out the things that hold people back to help them move forward. I use some of that work when I worked on my book on perception because I see perception as a combination of EQ, IQ, CQ, for Curiosity Question and CQ for Cultural Quotient. We have a common focus on perception. I wanted to know what’s your interest in perception and how do you help people manage their perceptions as consistent with their values and all the things that I know you work on.

If you don’t mind, I want to get closure on that point you made about curiosity because it does give you an insight into how I work. I was lucky. When I got my PhD, I worked a lot with behavioral so I focused quite a bit on skills, behavior change by coaching assignments. Basically, I have to convince people to change and pretty quickly, otherwise not good for their careers and my coaching practice. In terms of curiosity, as an example, a lot of it boils down to questions but what you have with certain leaders, they ask questions but they’re not curiosity questions. You’re familiar with the idea of open-ended questions are questions where you cannot tell the point of view of the person asking the question. Often that’s the most curious and that triggers the most openness and sharing in the other person. I’ll talk to leaders. They’re not curious then that they don’t ask questions. They’ll say, “Marty, what the heck are you talking about?” I go to their meetings and here’s what I hear. “Don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be better? Help me understand why you didn’t do it this way.”

Directed towards what they want to hear.

In the English language, we put a question mark after comments but they’re not questions. They’re not curious. People don’t react that you were curious. They react like, “You just criticized me and told me what to do.” It sounds like you’ve done great work identifying evaluating. Where I worked to change people is getting them down to that skill level, for example, to make sure they’re asking open-ended questions. I’ll give you an example. If I said, “Joseph, what is your key strategy for the second half of the year?” That’s open-ended. If I said, “Joseph, it’s July 14th. Where’s your strategy for the second half of the year?” A lot of leaders don’t understand the different kinds of questions. I don’t know if he ever got into it at that level.

It’s an interesting thing because I talk about some of the things that hold people back in terms of fear. I often tell a story of a boss I had who would say things like, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” When people say things, they don’t recognize the impact. Francesca Gino made a point on the show of her work at Harvard that they asked leaders how much they thought they instilled curiosity and then they asked their followers. It was different from what the leaders thought as compared to what their employees felt. As you were saying this on open-ended questions, I remember another leader who said something to another one of my peers who said, “Don’t you know, you never ask open-ended questions in negotiations?” I’m thinking, “That’s an odd thing to say,” don’t you think?

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

It’s odd because, in my experience, I would pay people to talk first. In terms of emotional intelligence, I always like the expression, “People will tell you how to sell them.” What do they focus on? What are they interested in? Where do they look bored or glazed over? It’s good practice but it’s an advantage to ask these open-ended questions first as you did with me starting this interview.

I was in sales for decades and it didn’t matter what you’re selling. You learned some of the same things. I always tell a mortifying story of how I did as a pharmaceutical rep. I detailed this doctor. I was so proud of myself thinking I did this great sales presentation and went down to get samples. When I got into the elevator, some guy got on with me as I was going down to get my samples. I looked at him and I said, “Do you work in the building?” he goes, “You just sold me your products.” I didn’t even look at him. I didn’t ask him any questions. I was 23 or something. I was young. They had trained me out of it and back to it because the training was, “You better say this. You better say that. You’ve got to do this.” Do you think we train people out of their competencies?

I loved what you said before about that gap between the leader’s impression of their impact versus the team. All these things you asked about my practice and one of my favorite expressions that I use in coaching are, “It’s intention versus impact.” Often that’s what I’m coaching people for because they don’t realize the impact they’re having. Also, as leaders, how much does every comment, facial expression and so forth get scrutinized.

It’s such an interesting time. You have a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I also saw your Bachelor’s was in Mathematics from Cornell. You’ve got an interesting background. What did you write your doctoral dissertation on? I’m curious.

It was about in the old days of encounter groups. This was in the ’70s. It was about perceptions at the end of meetings and so forth. That was what I was focusing on then. I do want to get back to your question about perception and we may be working on different sides of this street but what I’ve found in coaching is the expression I use is the difference between perception and reality. People make decisions based on perception. What I’m focused on in terms of people’s careers is that companies have talent reviews that make an assessment that’s going to determine your future in that company and you’re not in the room.

Whatever gets said at that meeting, some things get said, they don’t get challenged. That’s the buzz on you. One thing I found many people I coach don’t even know is the buzz. They don’t even know how they’re perceived and that leaves them vulnerable. They could go to a meeting and not realize they’re reinforcing a negative buzz every meeting. They also don’t realize that to change the buzz and perception, you can’t talk your way out of it. You need to demonstrate your way out of it. There’s more, Diane, but I’d like to stop there. Any thoughts on that?

I’d like to know how you demonstrate your way out of it.

For example, I once coached this woman Maria and they sent her to me because they said she wasn’t tough enough. It was the exact opposite. She convinced me, “Marty, I’m tougher than a lot of these men. They never have a couple of conversations. They never fire people. They move them around.” What was the issue? One is Maria was very friendly. She smiled a lot. In talent reviews, she often would defend her people and it looked like she was rounding up. When she was tough and she believed me, she had all these conversations, she would never tell anybody about it. It turned out that because she didn’t know it, she was going to meeting after meeting and reinforcing this buzz that even though her results were great, the engagement scores, that maybe she’s too nice. A lot of times, people and companies are often are not good at giving the buzz. They’re not aware of it and they’re not aware of how their buzz relates to the scorecard, which is what’s the company looking for in the role. What would it take for them to elevate people?

[bctt tweet=”Curious leaders are the ones who get the informed decisions, the alignment, but also the innovation from people.” via=”no”]

In this case, Maria unfortunately was creating her own buzz. There’s another thing. This gets into my book on organizational politics. Sometimes people create a buzz about you because they know it will limit you. These are people in a company that is competing with you. For example, Indra Nooyi, a great leader at PepsiCo, focused on strategic acuity. It was very important to her. She came from a Boston consulting group. If you’re in a company and let’s say you go to the head of HR who has a lot of access to her and you said, “Cynthia, Marty Seldman is a good guy. He gets things done. In fact, if you point Marty in the right direction, you can take it to the bank. Now you have to call the plays for the guy but he’s solid.” Indra is busy. She is never going to check out that comment. I may not even be aware that that happened but believe me, I am going nowhere in PepsiCo. I may not get fired but that person has created a buzz about me that’s limiting. I don’t want to scare your readers but this stuff happens all the time.

It’s a fascinating look sometimes because I have a lot of people who will call me and tell me the same story from a company. I can leave and people will call me years later and they’ll still tell me what’s going on. You can hear from one perspective what that meant to them. You hear it from another perspective the same exact story you’re like, “I don’t even think it was the same room. We’re you guys in the same area?” Not knowing how somebody is taking something or what’s being said and the influence is interesting. Going back to your comment on the Maria’s too nice, I gave a lot of discussions about that in perception and curiosity about the women versus men of how people come across.

I hear a lot less of men coming across as too nice as women. When I was looking at some Oxford data on men versus women on curiosity, men are 2.5 times more likely to ask questions after watching a training seminar. They’re more likely to raise their hand and right away without having a bunch of questions asked. There’s a lot of differences, because of that, it made me interested that you’re writing about a woman’s guide. You’re looking at it from a male perspective. Who are you co-authoring that with?

First of all, Diane, I’ve been very fortunate. I got into being a coach in 1986 and I left out a part. I had gone around the world quite a bit when I was young. I broke into international coaching and the field was wide open. There were few people who had lived outside the US. By now, I have coached 2,000 people one-on-one and about 600 women. What I started to notice is there were several areas. I wouldn’t call these weaknesses but areas where women were at a disadvantage, not from a leadership perspective but a career advancement perspective. What coincided, there were two women I coached, one from Argentina, one from Mexico. The woman from Argentina went on and she is now the highest-ranking female in Latin America and CEO.

The other woman is her communications person. They wanted to write a book for empowering women in Latin America, which we did. It’s called El poder de poder. Pepsico had an English version of it called Empowering you, empowering her. Now we’re putting together a book for the US market on power presence and protection. You hit one of the areas where women we’re at a disadvantage and it’s in this area of executive presence. I don’t know if you focus on that as a topic.

It comes up on the show quite a bit but it depends on the conversation but how do you focus on it in the book?

Almost every woman knows women often have to walk a much narrower path on things that they may get criticized for. A man may be described as bold or confident. Executive presence sounds like a neutral term but I guess to deviate a little bit, to remember, I’m a man but I’ve been privileged or I’ve had access to the secret dialogue. In other words, when they hire me, they pay me quite a bit of money. They’re usually candid with me and I hear how people are described. I wouldn’t have written the book just by myself but with these female co-authors. Executive presence tends to be described from a male lens in terms of posture, eye contact, handshake, words and so forth. What I saw is that women were getting dinged and marked down for these things like lack of gravitas or confidence. There are things about the voice or choice of words. You’ve probably seen the research women tend to apologize more. These are things we focus on and particularly a vocabulary that expresses confidence and conviction without crossing the line where people feel like you’re telling them what to do.

I’ve had a lot of women experts talking about women holding women back or a lot of speakers on women can’t wear the same thing on stage, that men, nobody’s looking at their clothes but women, you have to be on a standard way above because everybody’s going to criticize. Do we need to recognize that women should be able to do what they want to do? Do women need to adjust to fit because of that? What road are you taking in that respect? Are you saying it’s okay to apologize? Should we stop apologizing? Which direction do we need to go?

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People
Empower People: Curiosity boils down to questions, but what you have with certain leaders is that they ask questions that are not curiosity questions.


What we do in the book is talking about the things that will be great if society changes but living in the real world, try to teach skills where women can feel authentic, absolutely honest, integrity but still make sure that they’re doing things so that these things don’t hurt them. For example, apologizing. It’s probably better to not apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong. For instance, if you said something, “I’m sorry, I’ve missed it but has anybody focused on this?” it’s probably better not to say that. It’s to eliminate tentative language. For instance, saying like, “I haven’t totally thought this through or this is outside of my area of expertise but would we be silly to think about.” Unless you’re in Japan where those phrases are welcomed, you’re probably better dropping that off. It’s good to use phrases like, “Steve, this is your call. If it was my decision, here’s what I would focus on, my point of view or I suggest.” There’s a language that explains that demonstrates confidence and conviction that is always going to help you.

Some might say we’re trying to be more like men. What do you tell them? Why can’t men maybe apologize more? Is there a way to meet in the middle?

I would absolutely recommend that. Many times when I’m coaching men, that’s the direction I take. There’s so much room. For instance, even if you have a different point of view, you might say, “I’ve listened carefully and I understand why you’re excited and you see the upside. Here’s my remaining concern. Here’s what I haven’t heard an answer to or I’m not as confident as you are that this is going to get us where we need to go.” Diane, what I’d like to convey is there’s a whole range of skills and language where you can convey all your ideas and still meet this threshold of executive presence getting your points across, helping the company make informed decisions and helping your career.

As you’re talking about helping your career, it brings to mind how many men will take a job without having 100% of the checklist of all the things that they’ve done in the past where women want to make sure they’ve done everything before they say they can do something. Do you touch on that at all?

Even at the level of a meeting, Diane, there’s a threshold of certain things. What they’ve shown is men will speak up and speak up confidently with much less knowledge than it would take a woman to do the same thing. You may have a meeting where women with a lot of thorough research, a lot of information, are self-censoring or hesitant and men who don’t have as much knowledge or speaking up very confidently. It’s even on the level of meetings.

That Oxford study had similar information about women, if they see a mistake in the presentation, they’re thinking, “It must be me. I got it wrong.” They don’t challenge it where men will go, “You got a typo.” It’s a difference. Is it that we don’t want to insult, that we are taught to be more nurturing? What is this? Where is this coming from?

Deborah Tannen did the greatest research on gender communication. Unfortunately, she died. In the ’80s, she did a lot of groundbreaking work. She says that little girls and boys get very different messages around being conceited, about being a team player and so forth. The research shows men are much more comfortable bragging or asserting opinions. Women often will get conflicted about it. It’s the same thing around power. McClelland talked about power with leaders and power over leaders and many women gravitate towards power with and non-coercive leadership. These are some of the real key differences that play out in organizations and wind up affecting career advancement.

You and I are both Boomers. Have you seen a change? It seems a little bit different when I go to startups, now everybody’s 20s, 30s. You’re looking at Gen Zs, completely different. Even Millennials are referring to the kids as the Gen Zs. It’s so funny to see each generation is thinking the next ones, the young one. Are you seeing that women are progressing because maybe we have this gender-fluid thing going on now and different things that we didn’t have in the past?

[bctt tweet=”The difference between perception and reality is that people make decisions based on perception.” via=”no”]

This would be anecdotal, Diane. I haven’t studied it but I agree with you. I feel younger women are not getting so many of these messages growing up that that might hold them back.

It’s got to be a harder time. Imagine with social media, the pressures that kids growing up have to the point when they get older. I wonder if it gives them a much thicker skin or not. I am so glad my kids were up long before that happened that I don’t have to deal with that. Do you deal with social media at all in any of your work?

Not as much. One thing points to what we’re saying, this term imposter syndrome. I’ve encountered it and so forth. Once in a while, I encounter it in a man but much more often, I would run into this with a woman. Many times, they’re totally out of whack with reality. Often they’re very competent and qualified.

I agree with you that a lot of women seem to feel that way. I can remember when I was very young working with somebody and I was hard on myself and he looked at me and he said, “Diane, in your worst day, you’re still ten times better than anyone here,” that was doing what I was doing. For me, it came from having such a competitive family. If you didn’t win, you lost. How much does the competition have to play in that?

I definitely think it’s a factor but that expression, “Hard on yourself. Being your own worst critic,” now this is a little bit far-field but that leaves somebody vulnerable also to a narcissist, to gaslighting and to people who want to undermine your confidence. That’s a whole other issue that I get into because I’ve seen it happen. Women being marginalized or undermined and so forth. It could be a woman doing it to a woman but often especially if a woman is the only one in an area, that’s the protection part of the book. We get very candid about how you need to, unfortunately, protect yourself and your team sometimes as you’re moving up.

Can you give some examples?

There are many but you’re familiar with the idea of gaslighting.

Explain it to those who aren’t.

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People
Empower People: Leaders don’t realize the impact they’re having and how much every comment, facial expression, and so forth gets scrutinized.


It comes from a movie in 1944 where a husband tried to undermine his wife’s sanity and confidence. This was through adjusting the gaslight. They didn’t have electricity in those days but it basically means somebody who will distort reality, deny reality, try to undermine your confidence or blame you for the things they’ve done. If you tend to doubt yourself, it can make you more vulnerable to that. On the level of marginalization, it’s simple things like interrupting, changing the topic, squeezing somebody for time or teasing people. These micro-aggression things happen all the time.

How do you protect yourself?

With me, you’ll see, it’s always down to the level of skill or language. You might say, “Joe, before you move on to that point, I just said something that’s important to me. I don’t need everybody to agree with me but I’d like to get some feedback about what I said.”

You set the stage for being able to not have them cut you off.

The expression we use is, “We train other people how to treat us.” If you allow that, you’re probably going to get more of it.

A lot of things come down to being able to understand what people’s motivations are. You wrote a book called Customer Tells. You said, “What do championship poker players and world-class salespeople have in common? The ability to read people.” I had Paul Ekman on the show. They made the TV show Lie To Me. He talked about that. It was great. We all have these emotions. I thought it was fascinating because my father was born blind. Blind people even make these same expressions without having seen them. There are all these things that we do as humans that we’re not even aware of. How much do you incorporate the importance of Customer Tells it and can you touch on that in this book at all?

Diane, two ways. This is something that doesn’t typically go with somebody who became a monk but I did grow up in Brooklyn, New York with gamblers and the Math at Cornell. There was a period of my life where I supported myself playing poker. I did bring this into the corporate world when I became a coach. There are two things. On one level, I say this to CEOs. The CEO leaders, nearly need a good BS detector, probably more than anybody in the company. That’s why I love that show and learning more. On another level, it’s the basic emotional intelligence. Reading people. Did I surprise them? Are they getting antsy? Are they bored? Did they key in on something I said? What’s their style? Do they want me to get to know them as a person? Do they want to get right down to business? It’s so much there but people who focus on reading other people, reading the situation, agendas, hidden agendas, it’s a huge advantage.

That’s interesting about the poker thing. I had Molly from Molly’s Game on the show, which I don’t know if you saw that movie. I had Annie Duke on the show, too, the first woman in to do that. It’s fascinating. My parents both played a lot of cards. My dad played Gin Rummy every day. My mom plays Bridge every day and there’s that math behind it. We’d have plenty to talk about in general. As you’re talking about some of this stuff, it’s ringing some bells of some of the great conversations I’ve had on the show of the things that women can do and men can do to be more powerful. We glazed over the power part. I want to go back to that since it’s A Woman’s Career Guide to Power, Presence and Protection. We did talk about it but I want to go more into the power thing because, first of all, what do you mean by power?

[bctt tweet=”To change the buzz and perception, you can’t talk your way out of it. You need to demonstrate your way out of it.” via=”no”]

McClelland then did this years ago and he studied it a lot but the very simple thing he came up with, the power with and the power over. I remember a powerful woman, maybe 1 or 2 in the US being interviewed and they used this word. They said the same thing you said, power. She said, “I don’t like that word. I prefer influence, persuasion, getting people excited about things. I don’t like people doing things out of fear.” The research shows, Diane, which probably yours with emotional intelligence, your dissertation and so forth, power with leaders especially nowadays they get the most empowerment, engagement and innovation. It’s a great leadership style. Here’s the problem. A power over leader looks at somebody differently. Let’s say power over leader meets Diane. Eventually, they want to know what Diane knows how she can contribute but their first lens is, “Does Diane have power? Do I need to be afraid of her? Does she have a powerful network? Is she one of these nice women who won’t use their power?” they then decide how to treat you.

I find that interesting because I worked in education for a long time. I noticed there was a big difference in this industry in how men treat women. They’re very polite and yet they figure out a way to make sure the women do all the womanly and whatever you want to call that stuff like taking dictations keeping the notes. There was a lot of like men need to have the overall strategic leadership stuff and the women do the tactical get the soldier over the hill stuff. I have never seen that so much in any other industry. I felt a lack of respect for women in that room. Did you find certain industries were that way?

You’re going to see differences in industries and so forth. The automotive industry used to be that way. It’s changing. If a woman said to me, “Marty, I can guarantee the rest of my career, I’m only going to deal with power with people.” I wouldn’t coach her. The worst thing that’ll happen is she runs to somebody they’ll have a difference of opinion. They’ll either get an alignment or compromise. The problem is if you are a power with the leader and you have to deal with power over leaders and you don’t see it coming or you’re not equipped, they’re not going to treat you like you would treat them.

Part of the book is, one, detection. How to quickly know you’re dealing with power over the leader. What are the skills? How do you shift gears? The worst power over leaders, they’re not all like this. They’re basically saying, “I can hurt you. You can’t hurt me.” They will take credit. They will blame you for things and marginalize you. They’re not worried because you can’t hurt them. This is also the reason why everybody needs a powerful network to sometimes have to rely on that for protection.

What other skills?

Some is to see that you are going to be forceful, stand up, set boundaries and say no. Sometimes with this power over leaders, you need to document agreements on what’s been discussed and so forth. Definitely, you need to put your handprint on your work. Some people are very trusting and they don’t socialize it. One, they leave themselves open. People may be busy and not know you did it but there are people in organizations who notice that you’re quiet, that you don’t talk much about your work and they will present it as their own. Even if they say, “I’m so glad Diane finally listened to me.” You say, “What do you mean?” “She wasn’t going to do that but I pushed her and now we’re all benefiting.” You may not even know that conversation occurred but you’re wondering why you haven’t gotten the rewards and responsibilities for all your good work.

I’ve met a lot of women who don’t want that recognition. They love doing their job. They look at some of these people like the politicians who rah-rah themselves to the top. They rolled their eyes at that, that they don’t want that. They’re not looking to be promoted but it annoys them. I’ve seen that these people keep promoting themselves and I don’t think that they want necessarily the next level up in the company. What kind of advice do you have for them to keep their sanity around that situation?

That’s something I would definitely challenge them on and push them for two reasons. One is what’s going to happen is you’re going to work for somebody who’s an empty suit who you know is not competent, doesn’t deserve it and gets very sick. The other thing I show them that it’s never good for the company is when somebody who is more deserving gets passed over and an empty suit who doesn’t have the competence. If they don’t have the values, it’s a question of how much damage they’re going to do to the company and the company’s reputation.

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People
Empower People: Sometimes, people create buzz about you because they know it will limit you. These are people in a company competing with you.


Here’s another thing, as you add to that type of person, I’ve seen will take on more and more responsibility and not take the pay. They’ll keep loading up. “Here, you’re now the head of this and this,” and then you never get paid. Don’t you think that’s another big concern for somebody like that?

One of the key research studies I point to in the book and in terms of this, they did a study on volunteering in business. Many women, you’ll hear that difficulty in saying no and so forth. What they found is, in general, these are all generalizations. Women tended to volunteer, say yes more for things that they thought were good for the company or the consumers. They tended to not always self-promote about it. Men were much more selective about what they said yes to. They would only say yes to things that lined up with what senior management priorities were and things that they thought were going to get them promoted. Now you have women who, before even this happens, are doing more housework, childcare or eldercare. Now, they sign up for these things, do two jobs, work with a hole in the org chart without filling it. It puts them at a tremendous disadvantage.

A lot of women I’ve talked to will say, “That’s my work ethic. That’s what I was taught.” What do you say to that?

That’s the thing. For instance, in the Midwest where I live, people have this expression, “Making do.” That’s not good.

How do you change that way of thinking?

I try to convince them what it’s costing them and also why it’s not sustainable. In fact, it’s going to affect their health if they have a romantic relationship family and so forth.

Do they work too hard that it distracts from their personal relationship?

Absolutely. I have assessments too, Diane, that one assessment I have is on resilience but it gets into this burnout and big item around self-care where women will drop many of the things that they need to do so they have a chance to show up and be successful. It’s not to pamper themselves. It’s the basics.

[bctt tweet=”Almost every woman knows women often have to walk a much narrower path in things they may get criticized for.” via=”no”]

As we’ve talked about the generational thing, I wanted to also touch on this since I teach so many universities still and different courses and that this comes up a lot on the power thing. On teams, which younger generations, we’re starting to see that the leaders of these teams sometimes want to be a go-to more than the power person. Did you run into that a lot where instead of, “I’m the head of everything. You need to come to me.” It’s almost more servant leadership based, in a way. I was curious if you ran into that.

On that one, I’d say you’re much more knowledgeable than me on that.

It’s an interesting thing because I get so many age groups in the courses I teach. I’ve taught thousands of online courses, for example, in different universities. I’ve been doing this since 2006 and every year, I get to watch the progression of what becomes the popular thing. It’s conscious capitalism. It’s servant leadership. You start your course with Maslow. We talked a lot about that. We talk about all these things that when you dealt with in all your books. It’s important because I’m not one of those women who only like to speak to women. I like to speak to everybody but I have been asked to speak to women’s groups quite often.

It’s a harder thing for me to do because I look at things and I go, “I wish it didn’t have to be these men versus women or differences.” It seems like we’re still focusing on some of those same issues all these generations later. It’s hard. When I put together the data on curiosity and perception, it was interesting to me how similar. I researched thousands of people for years to do the Curiosity Code Index, the FATE, those four things that inhibit curiosity and it was almost identical how much Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment inhibited both men and women. I found that fascinating.

My goal is by equipping women with these insights and skills is to make it more of a level playing field. A lot of the research shows that when women get into positions of power. It helps the company in financial results. It’s very good for society. The other trend, which I don’t have too much insight into, I’ve been reading that many women are leaving the workforce. Diane, you are probably more current with that than me. Any insights there?

The data I found interesting was looking at how women leave to have children and then they get behind because they’re off for a couple of years and then they come back and the men have gotten an advantage. I can’t remember where it was. It was like a Green Lunar or somewhere not typical that I would have seen the research. They’ve made the men take forced paternity leave to get them the same amount of time off as women. It equaled out in that respect and made women more motivated to keep going. I wish I could remember where I saw that but I’m sure I could find it. It was trying to get it to be a more level playing field.

We would see a lot less of that. Working in pharmaceutical sales, my husband’s an MD and looking at how the doctor situation is, I know a lot of men doctors would get very upset that women would get the spot in the training programs and then decided to stay home and not go back to work. That took away a spot in their mind and that caused some conflict in that realm. It depends on the industry and if what their rationale is. It’ll be interesting to see what COVID has done to help women who want to stay in the field now that they can work virtually more. What do you think will happen?

It’s hard to know. I was planning one way and now, with this new variant, I’m pulling back a little bit. I don’t know when that’s going to open up. Diane, I shared how I look at or work with perception. How about you? You’ve done a lot of work on there. What do you focus on?

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower People
Customer Tells: Delivering World-Class Customer Service by Reading Your Customer’s Signs and Signals

I’ve had a lot of people Beau Lotto was on the show. I love his TED talks. I’ve had a lot of perception experts on the show. It’s fascinating to me because I wanted to see how you can do business around the globe. Dr. Maya Zelihic and I wrote The Power of Perception and we did the Perception Power Index. The research on that was more the factors were that the steps that go into the perception process. We used epic as the acronym to remember it but it’s evaluating, predict, interpret, correlate to come up with your conclusions. It’s like, EQ, IQ, CQ, Curiosity Quotient, CQ, Cultural Quotient. If you understand those things, it’ll help you build that empathy and empathy comes up in every single discussion.

It seems like I have anymore because if you are able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes even if you don’t agree with them, you can understand what you are to do. Subway sandwiches would have done better in another country had they known that sandwiches weren’t a great thing there. It comes down to finding out what people want, their cultural influences, their gender influences, all those things. Understanding the perception process is key to productivity and working globally. That’s the stance that Maya and I had when we wrote that book. Did you have something to add to that on perception?

No. I was curious about how you were looking at it.

It’s different. For a lot of companies, for me, my main focus when I talk to companies is to show the impact of curiosity whether it impacts perception in that case. I always say that curiosity is a spark to so many things. If you’re baking a cake, for example, your end product is the cake. You have flour, eggs, oil and all those things you’re mixing together. You put it in the oven and you want cake. If you don’t turn on the oven, you don’t get cake. You get goo. Same thing in the working world. If your end product is productivity, money and all this success if your ingredients are motivation, innovation and engagement, all these things but you’re not turning on the oven, that spark. That spark of curiosity is the key to all things.

I’d love to see more research done on curiosity and how it ties into the things that you study, the power and the end product of productivity. Add another P to your book to see how it all works. It was fun to talk to you, Marty. I can keep you on the show all day but I know a lot of people are going to want to follow you and learn more about you. Your book comes out either at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, correct?

Probably in December 2021.

How can they reach you or find out more? Is there somewhere they could follow you?

[bctt tweet=”Men will speak up confidently with much less knowledge than it would take a woman to do the same thing.” via=”no”]

I’m on LinkedIn and then I have a company with John Futterknecht called Optimum Associates. is the website. They can read more about me. My email is I’d love to hear from anybody.

I hope people take some time to explore your work. You’ve done amazing things. I’m so glad that Mark Herschberg suggested you via on the show because we could talk about all this all day. Thank you again, Marty. This was fun.

Thanks so much, Diane.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Marty for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can go to Everything’s listed on the website, as well as the Power of Perception Assessment, the book, the Curiosity Code Index, as well as the Curiosity book. Everything is on there. Look for the dropdown menus at the top and at the bottom if you want to see testimonials and so much more. I hope you enjoyed this episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

Important Links:

About Dr. Martin Seldman

TTL 866 Dr. Martin Seldman | Empower PeopleDr. Marty Seldman is a corporate trainer, executive coach, and organizational psychologist. With a career that spans over 40 years, Marty has become the executive coach of choice for many Fortune 500 companies. Marty has trained tens of thousands of executives around the globe through his seminars and coached over 1800 executives one-on-one.

Approximately half of the executives Marty has coached are women, people of color, or non-U.S. executives. Marty believes that in order to truly help an individual, you must work on improving the entire “self”, not just the business “self”. Every skill he teaches can be used in all aspects of life, where the same skills that drive performance and career, also lead to less stress, better health, and stronger personal relationships. He is the Co-Author of A Woman’s Career Guide to Power, Presence and Protection.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Take The Lead community today:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *