Jeffrey Pfeffer: Get Comfortable with Standing Out or You Never Will

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer is the author of 13 books.  He discussed his most recent, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t during a Social Capitalist interview.

So I look at folks. I think the average human being, not everybody, but the average human being, is too concerned about what other people think. They are too worried about standing out. They’re too worried about asking for favors because they’re worried about what other people would think about them and they’re worried about being too bold. Continue reading

Relationship Roundup

In the roundup this week, an in-depth look at quick wins, what we can learn from bad behavior, the softer side of power, the value of youth in your network, and creative first impressions.

Quick wins – At myGreenlight we fully support the concept of quick wins on the way to big audacious goals. Read one Harvard Business Review blogger’s view on their benefits here:

Anti-relationship lessons – A view from the other side of the street is always a good way to heighten our perception and understanding. In this SmartBrief Blog, a few behaviors that will guarantee you won’t be #1 on anyone’s relationship list. Read more here:

The softer side of power – The concept of what makes someone powerful is shifting. In this recap of Harvard Professor Joseph Nye’s new book, The Future of Power, there are three lessons on the softer side of power and how to apply them. Read Scott Eblin’s blog here: Continue reading

Jeffrey Pfeffer Says Save Generosity Until You Have Power

In his Social Capitalist interview, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, shared perspectives on power, kindness, and generosity that differ dramatically from one the fundamental concepts of myGreenlight – lead with generosity. How do you feel about his comments?

There is this tendency to assume that competency and niceness are, in fact, independent of each other. You can be smart and nice or dumb and mean. All four selves are possible. But empirically, people tend to see niceness and competence, or niceness and smartness, or niceness and brilliance, as being negatively related. Theresa Amabile, who’s now on the Harvard Business School faculty, wrote an article many years ago entitled “Brilliant But Cruel,” in which she found that people who gave negative book reviews were seen as not as nice, not as kind, not as warm, but also seen as smarter. Continue reading

Relationship Roundup

This week in the Roundup, I’m sending you into the weekend with news on collaboration, best uses for Google +, meetings that you’ll never forget, tips for finding balance and insight on the shift of power. Enjoy!

Get a collaborative boost. Collaboration is the new king of business. Author, Tammy Erickson shares why it’s key to the future of your businesses’ productivity in this HBR blog. Read it here

Intimacy building with Google+. Guy Kawasaki shares how social media engagement with Google + is less about getting to know new people and more about increasing the intimacy in the close circles you’ve already formed. Learn more here

Memorable meetings. Part of your personal brand boils down to creativity. Long slow dinners in exotic locations for instance. Amy Levin-Epstein shares some truly creative meeting locations that will be perceived as nothing less than impressive. Read her CBS MoneyWatch blog here

Finding balance. Learning to juggle is one of the keys to being successful. In this HBR article by time coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders, learn the patterns of successful people. Read it here

Power shifts. The world is changing and age old concepts are changing with it. In this HBR blog, author of The New How Nolifer Merchant shares her take on the power shifts in play right now. Read it here

Kibibi Springs is myGreenlight’s Community Director.

Jeffrey Pfeffer on Why Kissing Up to Your Boss isn’t a Bad Idea

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer shared the often unspoken power rules of business on an eye-opening session of the Social Capitalist. An outspoken truth-teller and academic rebel willing to question the orthodoxy, he proved again with his book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, why he’s one of our very top thinkers in management theory.

During the interview, Professor Pfeffer shared reasons that making the powers-that-be look good isn’t a bad idea.

I think many of us in particular are uncomfortable with having other people, particularly other people who we may feel are unqualified or who have gotten their positions in an unfair manner or, you know, who knows how they’ve gotten their jobs, but they have power over us and we don’t like it. And so we say, why does this person have the right to tell me what to do? And then we act and behave in a counter-dependent fashion, and that doesn’t get us very far at all.

Everybody has a boss, and to the extent that your boss likes you, thinks well of you, and wants to make you successful, you’re probably going to do way better than if your boss doesn’t like you and would rather never see you again, in which case you’re likely going to be fired.

When your colleague and co-author Keith Ferrazzi came to my class some years ago, he’s made a statement that I think is completely correct. He said, “You are not responsible for your career. Your blinding ambition is not going to necessarily make you successful. It is other people who are responsible for your career.” The people higher up in the organization whose fate – your fate, they control. And so your job is to make sure that they want to make you successful and have an interest in your success and well being. The best way to do that is to make those people feel better about themselves. And so flattery, yes, is one technique. Not disagreeing with them openly or in a confrontational way is another thing. It’s basically asking about any behavior that you’re going to exhibit, At the end of exhibiting this behavior, will the other people feel better or worse about themselves and about my effect on their self kind of esteem? And so, a lot of this is about being energetic, being enthusiastic, being positive, because all of those things are part of having people feel better about themselves.

For more insights into the role power plays in your success, read the full transcript and get the audio recording of this information packed Social Capitalist interview.

For more information about Jeffrey, visit

Christine Comaford’s Mindset Adjustment to Instantly Relate as an Equal to Anyone

Christine Comaford has one of the most fascinating bios you will ever see. She is a five-time CEO, venture capitalist, Buddhist monk, and best-selling author, just to name a few of her accomplishments. Christine joined Tahl Raz, co-author of Never Eat Alone, in a fascinating Social Capitalist Interview where she shared this simple shift in mindset that will make you feel more equal with even the most powerful potential contact.

Christine says:

We tend to put people above us, and that’s just not true, you know? So we can equalize our self with others, for starters, which is a core tenet of Buddhism. We’re all the same. We all have one unit of self worth. No one’s better than anybody else. So as we equalize, then we can exchange.

And when we exchange ourself with others, and I do this all the time in business, we have a new tool. If someone is mean or challenging, it’s just because they’re in pain. And so you think, “OK, when have I been in pain before.” OK yes, I’ve been in devastating pain before. That’s possibly what they’re going through. And when we can exchange our pain for their pain, we can then talk to them far more effectively.

For many more insights and actionable tips, make sure to read the full transcript of Christine’s Social Capitalist Interview here.

James Altucher: Groping His Way to Success

Here are a selection of things people have said about James Altucher that you can find on the Internet:

“Hedge fund hotshot”

“the best blogger of our generation”

“i’m going to kill him and eat his remains”

“an entrepreneurial savant”

“I hope you’re not starting a cult but if you are, I want in…”

“an absolute moron”

“a genius”

Like many of the examples and case studies used in the myGreenlight curriculum, the guests on the Social Capitalist are often smooth, connected players with the right pedigree, the right suits, always ready to say the right thing. James Altucher is none of those things. His pedigree is a portfolio of astounding failures. His dress is less Wall Street than Occupy Wall Street, if the movement employed an IT guy. And above all, the things Altucher says inevitably piss off at least half the people who hear him say them.

That’s what makes it so remarkable that Altucher has grown a loyal tribe of hundreds of thousands that read his blog, opened doors to everyone from the super-secretive hedge funder Steven Cohen to Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, and built enduring relationships while reinventing himself and his career in multiple industries. He’s done it as an outsider, with an unorthodox style. And there are some powerful lessons to learn from that style:

You’re afraid. Now you have a choice: Fit in or stand out.

Much of the work world is built around your fear and giving you a way to hide from it. There will always be someone around to tell you how to fit in. Because it’s not too hard to figure out how to fit in, you’ll have no problem finding plenty of examples and advice on what to wear, what to say, and how to act. Standing out is harder. You have the choice in everything you do to stand out or fit in. Fear will always play a role in that decision. There will always be a voice in your head that tells you not to speak up, stand out and do work that matters. Altucher writes: “Fear is the enemy of honesty. Fear of losing clients. Fear of pissing off family. Fear of going to hell. Fear people won’t like you. Fear of being alone. I very much have these fears. But fear never made anyone money or anyone happier or healthier…” It’s not that Altucher isn’t afraid; he’s always afraid but he knows the choice to stand out is the only one that can bring him success. Continue reading

Transcript Excerpt – Power: How to Get It, Use It, & Keep It

Check out an excerpt from the transcript for The Social Capitalist interview featuring Dr. Jefferey Pfeffer. Read Tahl’s Raz’s blog post on the interview here. Click here for the full transcript: Social Capitalist Transcript – Jeffrey Pfeffer. Access the audio recording here. Enjoy!

Tahl Raz:     I’m the co-founder of the Academy, co-author of Never Eat Alone and this is the Social Capitalist, bringing you analysis and advice from the top leaders of this new era of social business.  Now, you won’t find the nitty-gritty realities of career advancements in most business self-help or leadership books and you won’t find the great CEOs talking in public or writing in their books about how they really operate.  At least, not according to our guest, Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. A truth teller always willing to question the orthodoxy, Professor Pfeffer is one of our very top thinkers in management theory.  In his book on power, why some people have it and others don’t, his position is clear.  The world is not just.  Your workplace is not fair, and how smart you are, how well you do your job, or how many people think you’re swell has far less to do with your success than almost anyone is willing to tell you.  Professor Pfeffer, welcome.

Jeffrey Pfeffer:    Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Tahl Raz:     So, let’s get right into it.  What is power?  Why is it so important, and why do so few of your colleagues tell the truth about it?

Jeffrey Pfeffer:     Well, power’s simply the ability to get things done in many aspects of life.  There’s disagreement about what to do and how to do it, and so power is simply the ability to get your way.  That would be one way of – that would be an alternative title for the book, which is kind of getting one’s way in inside of organizations.  It’s important I think for three reasons, or it’s important actually for lots of reasons.  But one reason is that if you run an accomplished profound, organizational change, you need to actually have influence to be able to get other people to do what you need them to do.  Power’s a part of leadership.  Secondly, power can be monetized.  When Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House, they had debts and six years later, they had earned $107 million.  Power doesn’t have to be monetized.  I mean, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King didn’t, but it can be.  And thirdly, according to a research by epidemiologist, Michael Marmot, he’s a British physician and epidemiologist, power to the extent it’s manifested and control over your work and your work setting and your work environment actually produces longer life.  And anyone who’s ever had stress from not being able to control the conditions of their work would understand that, I think, pretty easily.  And why my colleagues don’t tell the truth is I, you know, there’s no incentive to do it.  People, you know, there’s a famous line if you were to do the Google search under the phrase, “you can’t handle the truth”, of course what the first thing that comes up is the famous scene between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, in which Jack Nicholson says to Tom Cruise, if he doesn’t think people wants the truth, they can’t handle the truth.  And I think that’s right.  I actually believe that people need to know the truth if you’re going to be successful in organizations and in your organizational life.  You actually need to understand how the world works not how people would like it to work, that’s important also, of course.  But you need to understand how the world actually works, what rules of the game are, what we know about social psychology and the social psychology of influenced processes.  And then you can decide how you’re going to use that knowledge.  But I think it’s important for people to tell people the truth.

Click through for more of the excerpt.

Continue reading

Four Key Skills to Acquire Power

Tahl Raz is the co-author of Never Eat Alone and the host of myGreenlight’s Social Capitalist series. Click here for the full transcript from the interview: Social Capitalist Transcript – Jeffrey Pfeffer. Click here for the audio recording.

You won’t find the nitty-gritty realities of career advancement in most business self-help books and you won’t find it in the autobiographical leadership tomes of America’s most revered CEOs. You won’t find out what they really did to get to the top or how they really operated once they got there because so much of those realities have to do with power.

Getting and using power can be an ugly sport that just doesn’t jibe with the legacies CEOs want to leave. For academics and gurus, maybe it’s political correctness or an earnest desire of how things ought to be, but they too produce books heavy on feel-good notions like following your inner compass and the importance of humility. These lessons are important, but fall short on prescriptions for the work world as it really is.

To put it bluntly: the world is not just, your workplace is not fair, and how smart you are, how well you do your job, or how many people think you’re swell has far less to do with your success than almost anyone is willing to tell you.

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer is one of the willing, and he shared those often unspoken power rules on a recent eye-opening session of the Social Capitalist. An outspoken truth-teller and academic rebel willing to question the orthodoxy, Professor Pfeffer proves again with his book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Other’s Don’t, why he’s one of our very top thinkers in management theory. (MyGreenlight members can click here to download the MP3 of my interview with Pfeffer.)

It’s natural to assume that the powerful of any organization have power because they’ve earned it through performance. But studies have shown it’s actually the other way around – power creates peak performance.

Pfeffer outlines four skills useful in acquiring power:

1. Self-knowledge and a Reflective Mindset: Obtaining power is in part theatre. The stage is your reputation and the steps to creating it are straightforward: make a good early impression, cultivate an image by focusing on your strengths, use media and events to help build your visibility, and create a large enough network of people who will sing your praises. But what kind of impression do you make now? What are the strengths on which to build your image? Do you look people directly in the eye, which connotes not only power but also honesty and directness, or do you look down and project weakness? Being objective about yourself in the moments in which you interact, paying attention to your strengths and weaknesses and how you’re viewed by people, are critical if you’re to adapt and evolve your reputation.

2. Confidence and the Ability to Project Self-assurance: Authority is 20 percent given, 80 percent taken. We take authority through the way we act, talk, and appear. You need to project confidence and assurance, even if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Any one particular event is less important than your reaction to it: Are you upbeat? Are you projecting sure-handed confidence? To convey that everything is fine and under your control, even under dire circumstances, often means acting in ways contrary to your real feelings. Most people can’t do this, which is exactly what makes it so valuable a skill.  But remember: just as important as the skill itself is making sure the right people notice. The best way to ensure those at higher levels know what you are achieving is to tell them. The importance of standing out contradicts much conventional wisdom. Fact is there isn’t a leader anywhere who hasn’t told the right person or people at the right time, “I’m the greatest and here’s why you need me for this job.”

3. The Ability to Read Others and Empathize with Their Point of View. Many of Pfeffer’s strategies revolve around self-enhancement—the idea that people like to feel good about themselves and do things to ensure that result. The surest way to build a better power base is to help those with more power enhance their positive feelings about themselves. Is this just a fancy way of telling us we should all be ass-kissers? Not entirely. The key is to understand what matters to those around you. Genuine flattery is certainly effective, but so is asking for help or going out of your way to do a seemingly small task—a bit of extracurricular research into an interest of your boss, attending a birthday party or even a funeral of a colleague, or visiting them or their family members when they are ill.

4. Capacity to Tolerate Conflict. You have to be willing to scrap. Because most people are conflict-averse, they avoid difficult situations and difficult people, frequently acceding to requests or changing their positions rather than paying the emotional price of standing up for themselves and their views. If you can handle difficult and stress-filled situations effectively, you have an advantage over most people. Powerful people get things done, and to get things done it’s almost universally assumed that sooner or later push will come to shove and the powerful will be on the right side of that equation. That’s probably why studies show that the people we perceive to be the most competent are also those that are perceived to be a little tough, and even mean.

The reality is that we all exist in hierarchical settings where there are always competitors for status and advancement.  So assert yourself and actively promote your own interests. You don’t need to become a ruthless power-mongering monster, just a little more aware of the real rules of the game and a little more confident that you have what it takes to be a player.

What about you: Are you playing the power game? Got tips for doing it without being a bully?