A conversation with Elizabeth Weingarten; Head of Behavioral Science Insights at Torch.

“Absolutely. And that’s what’s so cool about people. And I think bringing people together is those moments of like, “Oh, I was thinking about it in this way. And oh, your lived experience means you’re thinking about it in this totally different way.” And how exciting as a facilitator to kind of be in those moments where your assumptions are challenged or where all of a sudden you have this whole new metaphor to view something in the world.” –Elizabeth Weingarten

In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Elizabeth Weingarten about how a deep interest in people and journalism led to her career researching and sharing the science of leadership development to clients around the world. She shares some of the many benefits of having strong relationships at work and how they can help us tap into positive energy.  Later, Elizabeth explains the three factors that best create the conditions for learning.  We then discuss the importance of sponsoring your peers and helping them move forward at work.   Listen in for reasons why leadership behaviors are more important than traits.  

Show Highlights

[2:21] How Elizabeth Got Her Start As A Leadership Development Scientists.

[13:05] Tips For Inviting Joy And Moments Of Connection At Work.

[25:14] The Differences Between Learning Leaders And Knowing Leaders.

[32:32] How To Redefin Leadership.  

[36:51] Building In Moments Of Connection.

About the Guest

Elizabeth Weingarten is the Head of Behavioral Science Insights for Torch. In this capacity, she works with the behavioral science team to identify and share with broad audiences what Torch is learning about the science of leadership development. Prior to Torch, Elizabeth was managing editor of Behavioral Scientist magazine, worked at the behavioral science design firm ideas42, directed the Global Gender Parity Initiative at the think tank New America and was a senior fellow in its Better Life Lab. She has also worked on the editorial staffs of Slate, The Atlantic, and Qatar Today Magazine.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Douglas: Welcome to the Control the Room Podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures to the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control the Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings Quick Start Guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at magicalmeetings.com.

Today, I’m with Elizabeth Weingarten, Head of Behavioral Science Insights at Torch, where she works closely with the behavioral science team to identify and share what the company is learning about the science of leadership development. Welcome to the show, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

Douglas: So let’s start off with learning a little bit about how you got your start in behavioral science in helping the study of leadership development.

Elizabeth: Great question. So my story really starts with my parents who are both journalists. I come from this family of journalists. And I came from a family where every night at the dinner table, my father would say, “Do something else besides journalism.” Because this was a time when journalism was really undergoing a lot of changes and I think he wanted me to find something that had more job security. But kind of, unfortunately for him, journalism was really my passion growing up. I was editor of the newspaper and found my way into journalism school. And I think a big part of that, and this is kind of the thread that really goes through my whole career, is I’m fascinated by people and understanding why do people do what they do? How do we just more deeply understand motivations and behavior? And so from journalism school, I had a more traditional kind of journalism career.

At first, I worked at the Atlantic and then I worked at Slate and I found myself staying really interested in journalism and storytelling and kind of narrative, but also really deepening my interest in other subject areas. So for instance, I got really, really interested in global gender equality issues. And part of that was I got a chance to live and work in Doha, Qatar for several months and became really, really interested in that subject while I was there. So from there, I went to a think tank where suddenly I was kind of combining journalism with this kind of policy analysis. So I was starting to do a lot of analysis and research of global gender issues. And while I was doing all of this work, a big intention of mine was, how can we kind of change the hearts and minds of people inside workplaces and really kind of get people to embrace gender equality in all parts of their life.

And I was really doing that through this journalism and research work, but what happened while I was on this path, and Douglas, I’m curious if you’ve had this experience too, is that I read a book that totally changed my life. It just kind of blew up my worldview and that book was What Works by Iris Bohnet and she is a behavioral economist at Harvard. At the time that I read it, I had no idea what behavioral economics really was. And I read the book and it was this kind of book that really places the gender equality work that I was doing alongside this whole new way for me of viewing the world, which was from this place of behavioral science insights. And understanding fundamentally that the systems and the environments and the structures that we surround ourselves with often have just as much influence on our behaviors every day than any kind of innate trait that we might have.

So I got really excited about this space, because all of a sudden it was this different way to approach the problems that I had been curious about as a journalist and from there really pivoted my career. I started working at the Behavioral Scientist magazine as the managing editor and then started working at a consulting firm called ideas42, which really focuses on doing applied behavioral science for social good. And the other big thread across my career, I mentioned that kind of interest in humans and why we do what we do. But the second big thread was really diversity, equity and inclusion, and really thinking about that in the workplace. And that is really a big part of what led me to where I currently am at Torch. And at Torch I’m the head of behavioral science insights. And really that means that I get to work with our behavioral science and our marketing teams and our sales teams and lots of other teams. It’s very cross-functional. And start to identify what are the most interesting things that we’re learning from our software platform.

And we focus on leadership development, coaching, mentoring, and collaborative learning, and then really translate that into content that’s going to be compelling to people. So it’s this cool marriage of the things that I’ve loved to do throughout my career in service of a goal that is really powerful to me, which is how do we help everybody at work really reach their full potential as leaders.

Douglas: It’s not uncommon for folks that come on the podcast to have this thread of experiences that kind of build on top of each other. And usually woven within that experience is a deep interest in people. And I hear that shining through quite a bit, whether it’s in the early days as a journalist, that there was definitely an interest there around people and the experiences that people have to deal with and live with. There’s some serious stuff there. And I think it’s really, really quite cool that you stumbled into this discipline, the science that helped open up a whole new chapter for you.

Elizabeth: Well, I appreciate that. When you’re in it, when you’re kind of in your career path, so to speak, it’s not always clear what the next step is going to be and how things are leading to the next thing. But my north star has always really been my curiosity. So I try to listen to times when I just get so interested in a subject and I start reading about it all the time. I think that, for me, has always been a really important indicator of a place to dig in and think about, well, how do I make this more a part of my work day to day?

Douglas: Absolutely. And these moments of exploration can be so powerful to folks. I’m just thinking about the listeners that might be in those moments in their career where they’re like, “I don’t know what’s next.” And the exploration and just staying so curious, it’s just such a powerful thing.

Elizabeth: It is. And I appreciate you talking about it with that framing, because I think that it can also feel really overwhelming. And I think particularly in a broader context of uncertainty like we’re in right now. But I think behavioral science really teaches us about the power of framing and both kind of in the external world, how somebody frames a question to us. But of course, how we’re framing questions ourselves and kind of priming yourself to be in that more exploratory mindset, I think is a powerful way to really think about your next step and really find agency in finding what that is for you.

Douglas: That reminds me of something that comes up quite often when we’re training facilitators and something that’s been really powerful way to look at things for myself that something I’ve found really powerful is understanding that these framings are going to be different for everyone. Even if I prompt the room, everyone’s going to respond with their own perspective, their own point of view. And whether that’s a different thought pattern or a different mindset or someone might be thinking in hierarchy, someone else might be thinking linearly, someone else might be thinking in roller coasters or whatever. And if we assume everyone’s thinking the same, that can really stifle our ability to connect.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. And that’s what’s so cool about people. And I think bringing people together is those moments of like, “Oh, I was thinking about it in this way. And oh, your lived experience means you’re thinking about it in this totally different way.” And how exciting as a facilitator to kind of be in those moments where your assumptions are challenged or where all of a sudden you have this whole new metaphor to view something in the world.

Douglas: So often that can be the root of challenges. When people are disagreeing, it could be just those elements of play and how simple is it to just break that apart. It’s not anything big. This person’s not wrong, that person’s not wrong. It’s just something is not congruent about the communications.

Elizabeth: Definitely. And I think that in our increasingly virtual world, sometimes it can be really challenging to pick up on those disconnects and where they’re coming from, because it often takes kind of a pause and kind of a slowness. And asking that other person questions and really trying to more deeply understand, which a lot of times the platforms that we’re part of are not conducive to that type of slowness. They’re instead trying to kind of increase the pace of our interactions and this relates back to one of my favorite topics. And I know you talk about this a lot too, is just the power of asking questions. And I think in those moments when you feel that disconnect and when you’re feeling kind of at loggerheads with someone else taking that step back and really saying, “Huh, this is interesting. If I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt and think to myself, well, this person is just as complex of a human as me.

They probably are motivated by a lot of the same things as me. There are a lot of similarities there. How can I understand where they’re coming from? What am I not asking? What am I missing?” This is a question that I’ve seen people ask that I’ve tried to ask myself too, is when you’re maybe repeating back to somebody, what you think they’re trying to say or get at in that kind of active listening modality. Also, asking them, what am I missing here? What am I not understanding about your perspective?

Douglas: That’s really fantastic. And another one that I love is, “Tell me more about that.”

Elizabeth: Yes. Yes. I love the comment question and I think something that you learn as a journalist and I imagine too as a facilitator, is the power sometimes of not saying anything and just kind of letting it come out, which can be really hard.

Douglas: No doubt. The silence, man. It’s crippling when you’re first starting. Well, I know when I was first starting, it was so scary. You feel like you’re there to fill up space and getting out of the way is what allows the beauty to creep in.

Elizabeth: Definitely. It’s funny how afraid we can become of silence. Whether it’s in a facilitation moment or I think about for myself, one of the conversational crutches that I have just in my personal relationships is feeling like I need to fill in silences or I need to always have a question to ask or kind of run the conversation sometimes like an interview. And I don’t feel that way with everybody. But I remember back when I was dating, that was a thing that I always felt like I had to keep the conversation on the rails. And it’s just been interesting to me to recognize that deep fear of like, well, what happens if there’s silence? Nobody’s really harmed, but it feels like this big scary thing.

Douglas: The silence is similar to what you were saying earlier about the slowness, because in order to create slowness, we had to embrace silence and allow things just to move at a different pace. And a lot of the advice we were given, going into the pandemic, shorten meetings to 30 minutes, actually worked against us in this notion of slowness. Because now instead of having six meetings a day, we’ve got 12 meetings a day, because now we’ve got more slots rather than embracing the opportunity to have some async time and slow down. So I don’t know, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and maybe even some tactics you’ve seen around embracing that slowness.

Elizabeth: I think it’s really tough because I think when you get into that 30 minute Zoom meeting, people are so laser focused on the agenda, what has to happen. And I can get like that too, especially when you have all those meetings stacked on top of each other. And I think for many of us, Zoom fatigue is still real. We’re probably not trying to add more virtual time. But what I’ve found is helpful, at least in the context of some meetings and at least maybe one or two meetings a week is just having that kind of five minute buffer at the beginning to whether it’s checking in or asking somebody a question that maybe brings a little bit of joy and kind of delight into the conversation. So I’ll say that the one question that I’ve been asking people recently that has really been fun is tell me about a poster that was on your wall when you were a kid.

And so, it doesn’t necessarily get to the kind of, how do we slow everything down, but I think what it does get to is how do we build in more moments for human connection and for deepening relationships every day. Which I think, when we think about why the pace of things can feel like it’s burning us out. I think a big part of that, or at least a big part of that for me is that I’m not feeling connected or I’m not feeling like things are meaningful because I’m just speeding through my to-do list. But when I can build in time for having some of those connections, all of a sudden I feel a lot better and I feel a lot better about my work in particular.

Douglas: Absolutely. Gallup released the 12 questions, these are indicators of people were likely to leave. If you really look at it and think about it. It was about the relationships people had at work, how they related to coworkers, how they thought about their coworkers and how they related it to the work and the job they had to do. And so these relationships matter for team health.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. They matter for team health. What we’ve found that I think is really interesting is that they really matter for learning and growing as people. So when I first joined Torch, I actually learned about some really interesting research, which is that people had been studying for many decades, psychotherapy practices and what makes certain types of therapy more effective than other types. And what they found looking across lots of different studies and lots of different types, is that beyond any specific methodology or strategy, it’s really your relationship, what’s called the relationship alliance, that has the greatest power to really supercharge growth and behavior change.

And that’s not just inside these types of therapeutic relationships, but really more broadly. And I think, for me at least, that makes a lot of intuitive sense. I mean, I think about the times in my life that I’ve grown or changed the most. And it hasn’t necessarily been because I watched some online training or Ted Talk. Not to say that those resources aren’t really valuable, because they are. But in terms of that, really kind of life changing growth, a lot of times that has come in the context of that trusted relationship. So whether it’s a mentor or a coach or a manager or a partner, anything like that.

Douglas: I love this idea that these trusted partners can bring the best out of us or even shine a light on things that might be an epiphany that was waiting that we just wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And it reminds me of the work that I think Rob Cross and Peter Gray were doing around network analysis and the importance of positivity in our networks. And I think this aligns really nicely with what you’re talking about with the relationships. We have to have this notion of positivity that’s floating around the organization and the relationships we’re building helps us tap into that positive energy and that reinforcement.

Elizabeth: And this also reminds me, there’s a whole literature on something called high quality connections at work and the powerful role that they can play in our lives. And these are short term interactions, so a little bit different than those longer term, kind of coach or mentor relationships. But I thought about them from that kind of positivity standpoint, because these are interactions that really kind of uplift us during the day or during the week because they are really around this point of the other person expressing genuine concern for how we are and who we are. So it’s really about showing that this person cares about us, checking in, seeing how we’re doing.

So it’s that person that checks in with you right after a tough meeting to see how you’re holding up or they know that your parent just went through surgery. And so they’re asking to see how it was, but I know those little elements of kind of positive interaction, even if it’s not a kind of significant long term relationship really can have a profound impact on our wellbeing, on our engagement, on our productivity, all sorts of things in the workplace.

Douglas: And you mentioned earlier about how relationships have an impact on how we learn and grow. And that resonated with me just in the minimal research I’ve been able to do in learning science and just knowing about the conditions by which we’re more apt to be in a good state of mind to learn. There are conditions where we might be able to learn and conditions where it’s more difficult to learn. When we have positive relationships and encouragement and nourishment, we’re going to be more open because we’re not in a fight and flight kind of mode, we’re more open to what the future might offer us. And so I’d love to hear more about your thoughts there, because when you said that I was like, “Of course this really resonates.”

Elizabeth: Absolutely. I think there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to that kind of readiness to learn and grow as you described. There are three that I would probably point to as far as the things that we know are really powerful, especially in that context of a coaching or a mentoring relationship. And one is when relationships can create environments of psychological safety. And so what this often means of course, is that you really feel comfortable being vulnerable with that person and telling the other person what it is that you really can’t figure out or what you’re really struggling with, which means that you actually get to the heart of what you want to learn or what you want to change versus just kind of operating at that surface level. And to me, a big part of that is really creating spaces where we can be authentic with each other and communicate with empathetic understanding.

So that means is actively trying to understand the thoughts and feelings of people around you, but also knowing to our topic earlier, when to ask questions versus when to assume that you know what someone else might be feeling. The second piece is around structure. And that is the kind of how, when, where, and why you need to change or learn. And this is something that you don’t necessarily always need a person, but that a person can really help guide you through and kind of create that structure. Not only to understand what your overall trajectory might look like, but also setting that time and space to have that experience with somebody. And then that leads into the third piece of this, which I think is really important, which is accountability. And so, when you create a relationship with somebody, they can hold you accountable for following through on your promises or the things that you’ve said that you want to learn, or the ways that you want to grow and change. So all of these factors, I think, really powerfully influence whether or not we change our behaviors at the end of the day.

And then I think, our correspond with that kind of learning and growth. But I’m curious how those factors connect to the factors that you’ve learned are really important in learning.

Douglas: I’ll say this, when you were saying those things, it immediately brought me back to any of the times I’ve been mentoring for, there’s a couple of incubators here in Austin that I work with. I got to the point where I had enough of just hearing startups pitch me on their ideas. It’s like, “I’m not here to invest in you. I’m here for this mentor office hour and you’re wasting your time with this whole pitch. Tell me what’s wrong. Tell me where you’re stuck.” And the thing is it requires a lot of trust to open up and talk about those things. And so I started to, out of the gate, when we were doing the informal, just like, “Hey, nice to meet you.” As I was introducing myself, I would tell them, “Hey, you’re going to get the most out of this session, if you tell me what’s going on or you’re stuck. How I can help you.”

If we just talk about your company, it might be fun to talk about your company. I might enjoy it. I might learn something, but it’s not going to help you. And that does require a lot of trust for people to be vulnerable, but gosh, does it really open the door for them to be a better learner for themselves and to even be exposed to the possibility to the right thing. I can’t individualize the experience unless I really know what’s going on. And so I think that shows up a ton in work too and can we anticipate those moments when we need to tell people, “Hey, lay it at my feet, it’s going to be okay.”

Elizabeth: Definitely. And I think what that makes me think of too is even beyond the learning opportunity and potential there, is just the opportunity to create a stronger relationship. We know that reciprocal vulnerability is a really key part of building any type of relationship. So you say something about a mistake that you’ve made or something you don’t know. I want to tell you something about something I don’t know, or a mistake I’ve made. And all of a sudden we feel a lot closer to each other. And I think that’s incredibly powerful. So all of a sudden you’ve converted kind of maybe a one time, one off thing where everybody’s following a script and we’re all like, “Oh, okay. I have to paint myself and everything in this light, but actually I’m feeling this way.” And everything is kind of in shambles to this moment, as you put it, kind of authenticity and reciprocal vulnerability, and maybe build a strong relationship for the future.

Douglas: I love that notion of modeling the failure or modeling the vulnerability, but in sharing stories of failure is really powerful. Because I think so often it can, especially if you’ve gotten asked to come in as this authority figure or share something so easy to fall into like, “Well, I got to prove to them why I should be here.” And it can be, I don’t know, I feel like that alienates more. It puts you on the pedestal or me on the pedestal and then it just separates and isolates.

I think that’s totally right. And I should say too that, I completely understand it as a kind of a coping mechanism for certain populations of people that have historically been and to this day are still underestimated. And kind of feel the pressure to really showcase your expertise all the time, because you are getting more scrutiny, whether it’s women or people of color, really facing double standards in how they might be in the world. That’s really tough. And so I think there’s all of that added pressure on folks to really express that they’ve got it all under control and they can handle everything. But there’s also, I think if you can do this and kind of find space to do this, there’s so much to be learned when you put away that expert hat. And I think that’s something that I really struggle with.

In particularly, when I’m leading a webinar or when I’m in a situation where I feel like, “Okay, well I have to know the answers to all these questions.” And then sometimes you kind of reflect and think about it. And some of the questions that are being asked aren’t actually answerable or they’re really big. And so you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be the all-knowing person when actually you could learn and grow more if you pose that question back to your audience or if you are in person. Or if you acknowledged, “You know what, that’s a great question. I don’t really know. I’m going to have to do more research on that.” So I always really admire that in a leader that can come out and say that.

Douglas: I had a friend tell me that was the difference between a knowing leader and a learning leader.

Elizabeth: Interesting. I love that distinction.

Douglas: I had a friend who has a different friend. He was the CTO of another company here in Austin. And he did this thing though that was really, really cool. Whenever his team would ask him because inevitably, the team is like, “Oh, let’s go see what the boss thinks.” His answer would almost always be, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Elizabeth: I love that. And that kind of gets to this thing that we hear about and think about a lot, which is how do you create coaching cultures inside organizations? Because it’s one thing to have a capital C coach that’s working with you. And it’s another thing to really build an organization and a culture so that folks are really modeling some of those behaviors that we associate with great coaching. And one of them is question/asking and not assuming that you always have the answers and really trying to help the folks who you work with and who work for you come to the right answers themselves. And oftentimes, maybe those answers are totally different than the ones that you thought were the right ones. But then again, the bonus is that you learn and you’ve also maybe witnessed that moment of epiphany for another person.

Douglas: It’s just a totally different model and I think it can be so powerful. But to your point, whether there are massive social structures in place that are causing it, or even just our own fragile egos, the imposter syndrome is real. Even if you have all the privilege in a world, it can still be there. But certainly the folks that don’t have it, had to fight even harder. And it’s a big challenge. And the thing that was emerging for me as we were talking, when I first started doing public speaking, I was given the advice, never introduce yourself, never talk about yourself when you get on stage. Someone should be doing that for you. Someone should be introducing you. You should just walk on the stage and start, tell your story. Just literally walk on the stage and say, “So one time when I was in the second grade.”

It’s so much more powerful. And so I wonder if there’s some, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is there a way that we can use our relationships and work, use our bosses, use our peers to help with that credibility building so we can just show up in the authentic ways without having to justify our existence?

Elizabeth: I think what that makes me think of is sponsorship and as a incredibly powerful leveler, especially for underrepresented populations and sometimes sponsorship can kind of emerge from great mentorship relationships, great managerial relationships. But that’s really when somebody is, they’re not just mentoring you, but they’re taking it upon themselves to suggest you for stretch assignments or they’re talking about you in meetings when you’re not there. They’re saying, “Hey, did you see the great work that Douglas did on this project? We really should promote him. Or we really think that this person has a lot of potential inside the organization.” So sponsorship in particular, I think is an even more powerful model in terms of helping people from backgrounds that are historically marginalized or folks that are maybe more likely to face both that imposter syndrome and also that added scrutiny of being somebody from one of those populations. That’s a thing that can have huge and powerful impacts in the workplace.

Douglas: I love that for a couple of reasons. It just gave me vocabulary that helps explain something I’ve seen happen before. Also, you look at it from both directions. One being, if you’re feeling the need to step up and beyond whatever threshold there is there, seeking out the sponsor and creating those relationships and asking people to help you, really powerful. Because then you can just concentrate on your good work and then they’re helping amplify. It’s like, all goodness. And then the flip side of that, if you seek out folks to sponsor, that’s so much better than even tooting your own horn, because when people see you advocating for others, they’re going to have so much respect for you.

Elizabeth: A hundred percent. I think that’s actually something that I really appreciate about where I work now at Torch, is there’s this culture of recognition and calling people out for their great work. And so you see leaders doing it all the time, just really making sure that everybody is identified for the work that they’ve done on a particular project. And even folks that work behind the scenes on something. And I think that recognition is such a powerful component of having a healthy workplace culture. It’s something that we all want at the end of the day. We want to be kind of recognized for our work. But it’s also something that I think getting back to that imposter syndrome. If you’re a leader who is feeling insecure about your own leadership, maybe you think that the way to solve for that is by broadcasting your own accomplishments.

But actually, that’s not going to be the way that you really find that stability as a leader, it’s really going to come more from that place of holding other people up and really kind of expanding the kind of pie, so to speak.

Douglas: I love that. It also echoes, so many parallels to this. The same mentor that was giving me that speaking advice, they said never be the hero in your own talk.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Douglas: And I saw this really well done at our conference this year actually. I’ll have to talk to you about maybe coming out in February. This year, we had Steven Tomlinson talk. And all the wise advice that he was giving, he was attributing to his grandmother and I’m sure she had some really great things to say, these are things that I’ve heard him tell me just in passing, little nuggets he’s thought about. And he was giving his grandmother all the credit for all of them and it was so moving and powerful that you just got to love him for it.

Elizabeth: I love that. I mean, we tend to gravitate towards people more that can really showcase that playful self-deprecation. We don’t want anybody to be too negative, but to kind of share. I think going back to the relationships piece, we like to hear about people that can understand and see and acknowledge all of the relationships that have formed them because it reminds us, I think of all the relationships that have formed us and that’s so emotionally powerful. Just hearing you say that I’m thinking about my own grandmother and all of the ways that she’s shaped me. And I think the more that we can bring in our communities and our networks into these knowledge sharing spaces, the more we engage our audiences and kind of get them thinking about those experiences in their own life.

Douglas: And so I wanted to shift gears a little bit here, because there’s one thing that you mentioned in our pre-show chat that I thought I wanted to hit on before we run out of time, which is going to happen real soon because we’re having fun talking. It was this notion of redefining leadership and especially in this time of uncertainty. And I’d love to hear a little bit more about that and get your thoughts on that.

Elizabeth: So I think what’s really interesting first, when we talk about redefining leadership is really going back to the history of when we started defining leadership in the first place. So just very briefly, one of the things that always sticks out to me is that there was this psychologist in the 1950s and his name was Raymond Cattell. And he was one of the first people to publish research that really said, “Here are the traits that leaders need to have.” And he talked about things like enthusiasm, charisma, dominance. What’s interesting about that is we’ve really clung to this idea that there is a personality that you have to have to be a great leader. And this is something I’ve talked a lot about with Linda Ginzel, who is a leadership professor at the University of Chicago. And she wrote a book called Choosing Leadership.

And it’s a great book. She really tries to move the focus away from innate traits of leadership, to leadership. Behaviors and really powerfully, I think too, away from the noun leader and towards the verb to lead. So it’s really less about leadership as a label and more about leadership as action or a series of actions. And I think that way of thinking about leadership is really important today, to the moment that we’re in. And I think it’s a moment where all of us are facing a lot of uncertainty, different levels of uncertainty. This isn’t going away anytime soon. And I think embedded in the question of redefining leadership is this question of what do we need from our leaders right now? But a big part of that question, this gets to kind of what Linda talks about a lot is what do we need from ourselves?

How do we all need to grow, to respond to this moment? Because ultimately, often what we’re looking for from someone else, we can find inside ourselves. And if we accept the idea that all of us can lead and can really learn some of these leadership behaviors, we can kind of start to answer both of those questions at once. And I think the final thing I’ll say is that at Torch, we’ve identified basically nine behavioral skills through a whole literature review and other kind of statistical analysis, that the most effective leaders have and really are strong in. So these include things like authenticity or compassion, perceptiveness, receptiveness, but they’re really not based in that personality. They’re based in the behaviors that we can learn. And this idea, growth mindset, around all of this too, that leadership is not an innate thing, but a thing that you can grow into.

Douglas: I think that’s so important to come back to a word we used at the beginning, just reframe what leadership is. And it’s funny because I had someone respond to my newsletter the other week and they were like, “You talk about leadership a lot.” And nowadays I don’t know if it’s about leadership or people following leaders anymore. And I thought for a second, “Oh wow.” And basically my response to them was something very similar to what you were just saying. We had to think about behaviors and we had to think about how everyone can be a leader and how you can show up in these ways that allow us to unlock our own potential. And I truly, truly believe it starts with the self because we can’t expect others to change if we don’t change first.

Elizabeth: I totally agree with that. And I think we run into real problems when we expect other people to fill some hole in ourselves. When we start out with the assumption that we don’t know what to do, we don’t have enough inside of ourselves. We need somebody else to kind of step in and fill that void. I think we can absolutely be inspired by the models of people. I think we can absolutely kind of lean on relationships in order to grow, but I agree that it has to start with that acknowledgement of the role that you play and just a deepening of your own of your own self-awareness.

Douglas: All right. Well, we’re going to have to end at some point. And so I want to just take a moment to allow you to leave our listeners with a final thought.

Elizabeth: So final thought, always difficult to do this after so many interesting threads here. But I would say, especially during this moment that we’re in, my encouragement to everybody would be to think about small ways that you can build in more moments of genuine connection in your life, especially in the workplace. In behavioral science, we talk a lot about kind of those small changes that can really have an outsize impact in our lives. And I think that is one of them, just kind of building in whether it’s just a question that you ask at the beginning of a meeting, or maybe it’s something bigger than that. But that’s my final thought and encouragement to everybody.

Douglas: Awesome, human connection, so important. And thanks for the book recommendations. Always love it when people mention books. We’ll put those in the show notes so people can find them. And Elizabeth, it has been such a pleasure chatting with you. I can tell that we could go for hours, but again these have to be about 45 minutes long or so. So we will have to save the rest to another time. And hopefully there will be another time. And again, just a pleasure chatting.

Elizabeth: You too, so much fun. Agreed, we could keep going for a long time. So thanks so much for having me.

Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want to know more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about radical inclusion, team health and working better, voltagecontrol.com.