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In part A, Lisa talked about her book ‘Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence,’ which challenges traditional concepts of confidence, focusing on inner strength and self-belief. Additionally, she introduced eight ‘superpowers’ for building confidence, including leadership, empathy, and resilience. We strongly recommend that you check out Part A if you haven’t already.
Now, without further ado, let’s jump into part B.
Firstly, Aram and Lisa discuss the concept of confidence and gender biases in leadership. Lisa highlights an old Harvard Business Review study that contrasts likability with competence, noting that people often prefer a “lovable fool” (likable but not highly competent) over a “competent jerk.”
She suggests that gender bias might play a role in this dynamic. Additionally, Lisa observes that countries with women as presidents or prime ministers, such as in Scandinavia and Asia, often have cultures that value humility, achievement, and knowledge over bravado.
The discussion emphasizes the cultural differences in leadership styles and the perception of competence and likability, particularly in relation to gender.
Moving on, Nolan and Lisa discuss persuasion, particularly in the context of influencing and persuading others. The latter elaborates on persuasion as an exchange of energy and introduces the concept of four superpowers correlated with success in persuasion, leveling up, and self-recovery. These superpowers are leading, performing, creating, and self-sustaining.
According to Lisa, developing leadership skills can significantly enhance one’s abilities across various areas, especially in persuasion and leveling up.
This involves extroversion, charisma, and the ability to speak up. While these skills are important, Sun notes that they are only needed in a small percentage of situations in life.
As a storyteller and innovator, a person with this superpower excels in imagining possibilities and bringing ideas to life.
Lisa highlights this as the most crucial aspect, focusing on self-appreciation and authenticity. She reveals that her book is an exercise in self-sustaining, aiming to teach people to value themselves without seeking external validation.
Lisa also discusses her personal journey in developing the self-sustaining superpower and the overall message of her book, which is to help individuals appreciate and like themselves as they are.
Next, Lisa addresses Aram’s inquiry about personal growth and the concept of self-sustaining. She identifies two main challenges that individuals often face in this area. The first is the “Satisfaction Conundrum,” where people link their happiness or self-worth to external achievements.
This mindset can lead to continuous dissatisfaction, as individuals always look for the next achievement without appreciating how far they’ve come. Lisa emphasizes the importance of disconnecting happiness from these external markers, illustrating this with her own experience at McKinsey, where she realized that her self-worth shouldn’t be tied to her professional milestones.
The second challenge Lisa discusses is the “Superhero Facade.” This is where individuals try to appear as if they have everything perfectly under control, thus isolating themselves from others. By maintaining this facade, they miss the opportunity to invite others into their journey and share their challenges and growth.
Lisa suggests that by being open about what is going well and what one is working on, individuals can invite others to help and support them in their journey.
To overcome these challenges, Lisa advises a process of introspection, focusing on one’s strengths and achievements. This approach is detailed in her book, which includes identifying the forces affecting self-sustaining and providing strategies to develop this superpower.
She stresses the importance of cultivating an abundant mindset, recognizing the good in one’s life, and appreciating personal contributions rather than focusing solely on weaknesses or what’s missing.
This mindset shift is crucial for developing self-sustaining as a superpower and achieving internal satisfaction.
Nolan seeks advice from Lisa on enhancing his skill of ‘giving.’ Lisa responds by emphasizing that the foundation of giving is empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. She references a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, which uses the analogy of two young fish being asked about the water they’re swimming in to illustrate how people often overlook their immediate environment.
It is used to explain how individuals with a giving nature are those who can recognize and empathize with the situations and feelings of others around them.
To illustrate her point further, Lisa provides an example of a person in a grocery store line becoming impatient with a slow cashier. She suggests that if one were to consider the possible challenges in the cashier’s life, such as battling cancer or financial troubles, it would change the reaction from impatience to empathy. Thus, it allows one to become more giving and supportive.
Lisa also shares a personal experience where an act of kindness from a gym receptionist in New York City changed her entire mood for the better. The receptionist’s empathy and helpfulness transformed her stress and frustration into gratitude and positivity.
The key takeaway from Lisa’s advice is that giving involves recognizing the struggles and needs of others (“seeing the water”) and finding ways to make a positive impact in their lives, however small it may be. This approach fosters a more empathetic and supportive interaction with others.
Aram asks Lisa about the interplay of different superpowers (leading, performing, creating, and self-sustaining) within teams and how they can work together harmoniously, especially when facing challenges or conflicts.
Lisa responds by emphasizing the importance of recognizing and utilizing the diverse superpowers within a team rather than trying to possess all of them as an individual. She shares her personal experience of how her superpowers helped her navigate the challenges her company faced during the pandemic.
Lisa mentions leveraging her creative skills to pivot her business towards making hospital gowns and face masks, sharing openly on LinkedIn, and guiding her team’s direction. However, she acknowledges her weaknesses in effective execution, which are compensated by her team members who excel in “achieving,” “knowing,” and “believing.” This complementary set of strengths within her team enabled them to act efficiently and optimistically.
Lisa also discusses the importance of team members owning their learning journey. She illustrates this with an example of a marketing manager who wanted to improve her performing skills. The manager was able to grow in an area that was not her natural strength by practicing presentations and working on this skill.
On a side note, Lisa encourages teams to take the quiz from her book to understand each member’s superpowers, which can lead to a greater appreciation of each other’s strengths and more effective collaboration. She stresses that the purpose of the quiz and the book is not to create a standardized HR tool but to help individuals affirm their strengths and leaders celebrate the diverse strengths within their teams.
By doing so, the dialogue around confidence becomes more specific and empowering, allowing team members to understand and utilize their unique abilities more effectively. This approach deepens conversations within the team and empowers individuals to take ownership of their personal and professional growth.
In the closing segment, Nolan and Aram engage with Lisa Sun on the topic of gratitude and its connection to Gravitas. Lisa emphasizes the significance of expressing specific gratitude, pointing out that it not only acknowledges someone’s efforts but also affirms their value and contributions.
She illustrates this by thanking the hosts for their thorough research and thoughtful interview questions, noting that such specificity in expressing gratitude makes it more meaningful and impactful.
Lisa connects gratitude to the concept of Gravitas, which she describes as self-affirmation and recognizing one’s own value. She believes that when someone expresses or receives specific gratitude, it helps in reinforcing their self-worth and confidence. According to Lisa, this interaction of gratitude and Gravitas fulfills a fundamental human desire to be seen and valued.
Lisa, Aram, and Nolan discuss more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts on this informational podcast episode. Also, if you enjoyed the episode, we’d be thrilled if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts. Your ratings help us grow and improve.
Thank you for your time!
Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Lisa Sun, CEO, and founder of Gravitas. If you haven't already checked out part A of the show. Be sure to do that first. Let's jump into the conversation with Lisa.
Aram Donigian : Well, I think going back to the question I asked you earlier, the bias is one, a very narrow focus of what confidence is. You explained that very well, right? And then the other piece is this triple standard because if I heard what you said, it sounds like men can get away with just being good at one if they're just confident, a lot of bravado without necessarily the results or the emotional intelligence that maybe yield some warmth.
Lisa Sun : There was an old Harvard Business Review study, I don't know if you all remember the two by two. It was likability against competence and they're like, look, everyone wants a rockstar, highly competent, highly likable. And what they realized is the lovable fool, the person who was very likable but not particularly competent, often did better than the competent jerk, which was so fascinating. I don't know if they explored gender bias in that two by two, but they were like so often the lovable fool gets away with a lot more at work.
Obviously we all want rock stars, but a lovable fool one. And I think that's where our data played out. And I don't want to get too far into this, but if you look at countries that have women presidents, they tend to be more humble and self-effacing culturally and tend to value things like achieving and self-sustaining and knowing over bravado and swagger. And you can just take a quick look. There are not many countries that have a woman president or prime minister, but if you look at the ones that do, it's like Scandinavia, Asia. It's a really interesting walk around the cultural differences on how this set plays out.
AD : Interesting.
NM : As you know, the NEGOTIATEx podcast is about elevating one's ability to influence and persuade. When it comes to persuasion, are there certain superpowers that are most helpful?
LS : We define persuasion as needing to sell someone on a plan or an idea needing to advocate for yourself or a project, right? So persuasion is really exchange of energy between two people. And this is where we did find in the dataset. Let me give you an example. When it comes to getting things done, effective execution or emotional support, you don't need more than achieving, giving, knowing or believing, right? Those are actually the four superpowers most correlated in the dataset. To those situations, we tested 30 situations in life and correlated them to which superpower you needed.
When you start thinking about persuasion or leveling up or self recovery, the four superpowers most correlated with success in those arenas are leading, performing, creating, and self-sustaining. So they are the four that are the least prevalent amongst general population.
And what I like to say is, look, most of us don't need to sell ourselves on a stage very often or present in front of others. So you should acknowledge that if you don't have these four, it's fine. You should like yourself anyways, right? Like, when do you have to give a bridesmaid's toast or when do you have to give a speech? Not that often, so don't beat yourself up about it. But if there are situations you want, if you are put in a position where you have to lead something or be the spokesperson, you do need one of these four skills. So I'll walk you through each of those. So leading. We do find by the way, that if you develop leadership skills, you are two to three times more capable across the board.
So in our dataset, we took people who just had giving as their only superpower. So they support others, they nurture others, and if we taught them leading skills, they were two to three times more capable in areas of persuasion and leveling up. So leading is the one quality, and I think this is why your podcast is so important. Leading as a superpower does double or triple your value, but you have to decide if you want that, right? And I think most of us may decide, hey, we like our lives. And that was actually intentional for the book. Even if you don't want to be, if we were all leaders and performers, nothing would get done.
But if you want leading, performing is really about extroversion, charisma, speaking up. And those skills I think have been written about ad nauseam. My book is not solely focused on that particular skill because there are so many great books about that. We find though, that there are only a handful of situations when you really need that and they might be less than 5% of total lifetime that you need those skills. But when you do learn how to do it, my book collaborator Catherine Huck, this was actually one she saw as an opportunity and we really worked on it over the course of six months. She actually said, look, I am so much better at this just by writing the book, I think you write the book you must need to read yourself.
Creating, which is my number one superpower of the four that I have. That one is Ralph being a great storyteller. Can you imagine if you're a creator, you're really good at imagining possibilities and ideas and then willing ideas into existence. So you are a natural storyteller by definition because you create stories, you write them. We find that people who need to write a story, create a piece of art. If they have creating as a superpower, they're incredibly capable at it. So if that's something you want in your life.
And I think we could all use self-sustaining. So I will now give you the Trojan Horse Easter egg of the entire book. I'm going to unveil it for you, which is, the entire book is an exercise in self-sustaining, right? If you like yourself, if you have an authentic inventory of what you bring to the table, if you're not faking it or performing to society standards, you naturally develop self-sustaining. In fact, chapters five, six and seven are an entire exercise in self-sustaining. Just taking the quiz is an act of self-sustaining.
When I started this process three years ago, I scored zero on self-sustaining. In the process of writing the book, I now get four out of the seven statements correct and say, that's me, but that is the work. And so that is actually the hidden gem of the entire book is we're teaching people how to like themselves not feel like I need to impress you, not live up to external validation, but genuinely like where you are in life.
AD : Wow. I'm going to have to go back and reread the book because that's my growth opportunity. And a question I wanted to ask was how would you coach me? And it sounds like there's a lot there I need to work through.
LS : Well, a lot of people who don't have self-sustaining, one of the six forces that might be holding you back, I'm just going to, I guess is of the six forces, there are two that I'll talk about. One is called satisfaction conundrum, and this is where you tie your happiness or your self-worth to external metrics of success. So I'll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I'll be happy when I get that award. I'll be happy when I get that promotion. Well, if we don't get it, we beat ourselves up. And if we do, it's like a treadmill. I start looking at the next one. So many times you're looking at the summit, you didn't turn back around to say, look how far I've come.
I'm not saying not to have high standards, but this is Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah's new book, which is when you disconnect your happiness from those external markers, you can get that and be happy about it. But genuinely, I still like myself. It took me 11 years at McKinsey to get to the same milestone that it takes a man 5 years. And the entire time I tied my happiness to that metric of partnership when it basically made me feel bad about myself the whole time. Versus, I'm doing great work. I like myself, I'm driving impact, I love coaching these teams. I'm making a difference. That's enough for me. I hope I get partnership and I'm working towards it, but whether or not I get it isn't going to define whether or not Lisa is a valuable person.
So that's one thing you have to break out of. And then the second thing you have to break out of if you're trying to become more self-sustaining is what I call the superhero facade. So much of the time we're trying to tell everyone, I got this, every part of my life is perfect when ultimately that means no one is invited on the journey with you. When you can take an honest inventory of what's going well in your life, what you're working on, you've admitted what you're working on, you actually invite people onto the journey like you just invited me to help you answer this question.
So I always say, self-sustaining. If you really want it, you have to take the 6 forces we identified in chapter two and say, which one of these is working on me? Because you can't solve a problem until you've diagnosed the root cause. So this is why I'm insecure, this is why I'm afraid of it. And then in chapter 4, we teach you some of the skills around self-sustaining each of the 8 superpowers. We break down how to channel it.
And the number one thing is being able to tell yourself every day, here's what I bring to the table. Here's how incredible I am, and this is why I'm doing the work I'm doing. That second part is very hard for most of us to do. So focused on, oh, the weaknesses, the to-do list the flaws. What's missing in my life that we don't see the abundance? Self-sustaining is really an abundant mindset.
AD : Anyone who knows me knows you just hit the nail on the head. So thank you for that. Nolan, I know you had a question ahead.
NM : Yes. I'm going to go and jump in then. Lisa, so my biggest opportunity is giving, and so I'm hoping that you can help me improve that for myself.
LS : Okay. Well, I love this, by the way. This is the first time I've done a podcast where I've gotten to do it. I feel like, dear Lisa, ask Lisa anything. I feel like I'm a Reddit chain. Ask me anything. I love this. So what I would say, giving first starts with your ability to have empathy for other people and to sit inside their stories. There's a great David Foster Wallace commencement speech that he did where he talked about two young fish swimming around in a little fish bowl and an older fish comes by and says, “good morning boys, how's the water?” And they go, “what's water?”. If you're a little fish you don't know. And he uses this analogy to say, people who have giving or have empathy, they see the water and they can take a moment and step outside of themselves and see somebody else's pain.
So he uses this and he says, let's imagine you're in the grocery store line and the woman who is checking you out is really slow and you're like five people back and you're late and there's traffic and you're on your phone and blah, blah, blah. And you're so angry at the person who's running the checkout line, why is she so slow? And he says, okay, if you take a moment and you see the water, you might think she's battling cancer, she can't make her mortgage payment, she's had to take this as a second job and is exhausted.
If you take a moment and you see that your reaction might be totally different, all of a sudden you might be able to become a giver. You might be able to, when you get to that, say, wow, that was a really long line. That sucks for you. And you can smile at that person. You can say, I really feel for you, because there is 10 more people behind me. I hope you have a good day.
And so in the book I write about all these little ways in which we can take a moment and see the water. Another example for me is there was a day, I live in New York City and I was late for the train. I got to the gym and it was raining. I didn't have an umbrella. I was 10 minutes late for my gym class and whatnot. And Aaron, who's at the reception, he's like, I am so sorry you went through that. Here's a towel. You only missed 10 minutes. Take a moment. Let me take your bags. I'll put it in your locker for you. You just go in and you go have fun. And he totally changed my whole mindset that morning, right? I was angry, I was stressed, I was pissed that I missed the bus, all these things. And so I think being giving is really around, can you see the water in the person you're interacting with and can you find ways to make that person's life a little bit better today?
NM : Awesome, thank you.
AD : We're getting to kind of how these superpowers interact. I'm wondering, as you think about functionality on teams, as you think about somebody who's maybe working upward with a manager or boss or working kind of laterally with a client, a key supplier, how is it that maybe your superpower, Lisa, and what's mine? How do they work in harmony? What do we need to be about if they're challenging and we find them somehow conflicting? What advice would you give about just functionality of groups and teams and pairs of people?
LS : The best part is it's not like Pokemon. You don't need to collect them all yourself. You can have them on your team. That's the best part about this approach is you can actually have all eight, but just you don't have to have 'em all at once yourself. I'll give you an example, which is my confidence language is creating, performing, leading. And over the course of the pandemic, I added giving and a little bit of self-sustaining. So I always say, I have four and a half now I'm really happy. And by the way, I love that you asked about giving because I think people who are such strong at leading and creating, what ends up happening is you are living in the future 10 years out and you're like, it's my way or the highway. And you don't actually appreciate all the emotions of the people who work with you.
So I actually added giving during the pandemic. I realized I was such a tough person to work with. But what I think is great is when you know your superpowers, you can tap into them. The example I use is in March of 2020, I make women's fashion. So the sales of my company weren't zero, they were negative. We have a 30 day return policy. So if you bought a dress, you sent it back to us because you weren't going to the office, you weren't going to that event, you weren't going to that conference.
And because creating is my number one superpower, I willed an idea at existence, I said to my team, what do we have that no one else has? And we made hospital gowns and face masks for 72 days to keep the lights on. I put on LinkedIn because of performing, and I was very vulnerable. I said, the sales of my company are negative. If you have a company that needs face masks, DM me. And people wrote us saying, I need 2,500 face masks for a warehouse in Newark. I need 800 face masks for everyone on my team who have to come to the office still. So that's performing. And then leading. I set the direction and got everyone to move in that way. But my team, I will also tell you, leading, performing and creating, what it means is you don't get anything done on time on that effective execution part of the scorecard. It's really low. It's the lowest thing on my list of things I do well because I'm always talking and creating.
When do I have time to actually get things done? And so my team though, their number one superpowers are achieving, knowing and believing. And so they get things done.
They're process oriented, and they're optimistic and positive in the way they do it. Otherwise they wouldn't follow me probably. And the fun thing is I said, we're going to make hospital gowns and face masks. And my team is like, okay, so we need this fabric. We need to call the factory in China. We need to see if any seamstress will come back into the office in New York. We have to get elastic. They went into power mode. They sort of said, here's how we're going to do this. They set up the spreadsheets, they set up the template. I didn't really want to do the costing sheets on any of this. And so that's a great example where you acknowledge the differences on your team.
I also will say though, I encourage my team to own their learning journey. So at the time, I had a Marketing Manager when I started the company and she said, Lisa, I really want to learn how to present in meetings the way you do. So I want to build performing into my skillset. And we actually practiced all of her presentations for big retailers for hours beforehand so that she could add that to her skillset. Because when she took the quiz, she didn't naturally have it, but she owned that portion of her learning journey.
So I think when you're thinking about teams, it's really fun. Take the quiz together. I think it's just really fun. And by the way, a lot of people take the quiz and they go, is this great inflation? I have four or five of these. Is that wrong? I'm like, no, you've been underestimating yourself. You've been under leveraging yourself. Maybe you should trust yourself more if you knew that you were good at that already. You trust yourself and not waste the energy of self-doubt. But at the same time, you can say, okay, that's why this person on the team always gets things done. They're achieving and giving, and I can acknowledge it and I can tell them how strong they are and not just assume and take for granted that that's what they do. Or I can say, Hey, you know what? To win on this team, we all need to become better at self-sustaining, and I want us to all have that as an exercise. There's lots of ways you can use this as a tool.
I did a workshop in Miami last week, and 43 people took the quiz and it was fun. The person who led the team's like, these people have this one in common and these folks seem to have this one in common. And she said, that kind of makes sense intuitively, but it was really nice to see it. And I'm not in the business of creating HR scorecards, by the way. I'm not StrengthsFinder or Clifton Strengths or Disc or Myers-Briggs. The book was never designed to become the next HR tool, but what it is, is for yourself to affirm yourself and then if you're the leader, to start to celebrate other strengths that might be different than yours. I hate the phrase, be more confident. Be more confident is ambiguous and anxiety inducing because confidence is through the lens of the beholder's confidence language.
So if I tell you to be more confident and I'm talking to both of you, it probably means my version of confidence is leading, performing, and creating. So I'm asking you to speak up, take charge, be more ideas driven. That's my version of it. But now I can say, Hey, be more performing. Be more self-sustaining. It changes the dialogue around confidence. It's specific in the attributes we're asking people to demonstrate.
AD : Really deepens that conversation. And it empowers people to own their journey like you were saying too.
NM : You state that gratitude and gravitas are intimately connected as we prepare to say thank you and recognize you for all you've shared with us today. Could you say a little more about gratitude and why it's so important?
LS : Yeah. I love thanking people for specific things, right? So because it affirms them. It says, I see you, I value you. And for that person, it's a compliment to say, yeah, that is me. So both of you, I can say thank you for the intense amount of research and thoughtfulness you put into this. The interview questions were so detailed. You really went into my book, you took the quiz. I want to thank you for investing that time because time is how you spend your love, right? So thank you for loving me back. And when you say thank you, but you make it specific because I think gratitude can't just be thank you so much. It's got to be specifically, why am I thanking you?
It's intimately connected because gravitas is about self affirmation, right? Really knowing what you're bringing to your name, knowing your value. And so now both of you know that I value the time you put into preparing for this conversation. I value that and that matters. So I hope you feel a confidence boost just from hearing that. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and detail that went into preparing the session. So that's why gratitude and gravitas are connected, because if gravitas is about self-love, self-knowledge, self-awareness, when someone thanks you or you take the time to say thank you, we all feel seen. We all feel valued, and that's really what humans want. We just all want to be seen ultimately.
AD : Yeah. Well, Lisa, this has been a fabulous interview. Thank you for your time. What haven't we asked you today that you would like to leave maybe with our listeners as a final key idea?
LS : Well, I want everyone to take the quiz. If this 45 minutes hasn't convinced you to go to myconfidencelanguage.com and take the quiz, please do. And I highly encourage people to message me on LinkedIn, DM me if they've heard this, and just say, I heard this episode and here's my confidence language. I really love it when people share just how powerful they are and they can engage with me on social media, Lisa L. Sun, and Gravitas New York.
NM : Awesome. We'll make sure we have links to all of that. Turnover to Aram, you got anything else?
AD : I just want to say thank you. I'm going to work on my self-sustaining. I'm going to go back and look at the chapters that you referenced. Really appreciate your time and the insights and know that our listeners do as well.
NM : Well, that is it for us on today's podcast. If you haven't already, please rate review and subscribe to the NEGOTIATEx Podcast and we'll see you in the next episode.
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