Steve Herz is President of The Montag Group, a sports and entertainment talent and marketing consultancy. He is also a career advisor to CEOs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and young professionals. Prior to joining TMG, Steve was the President and Founding Partner of IF Management, an industry leader whose broadcasting division became one of the largest in the space.
Below, Steve shares 5 key insights from his new book, Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth, and Energy to Get Exceptional Results. Download the Next Big Idea App to enjoy more audio “Book Bites,” plus Ideas of the Day, ad-free podcast episodes, and more.
1. Most of us are unwittingly living in an echo chamber of “yes.”
The first reason for that is that over the last 30 years, there’s been massive grade inflation at universities. Everyone’s getting a B or higher, so we can’t really tell the difference between good and great. Secondly, there’s been the advent and proliferation of the participation trophy, which has now morphed into an MVP trophy. And thirdly, HR departments often no longer fire people; they just create euphemisms like “downsizing” to get rid of you. They send a message that, “It isn’t you, it’s me.”
2. In the echo chamber of yes, you get sucked into a vortex of mediocrity.
You don’t know why you’re not getting the promotion you want, or why you don’t have the number of clients you want, or why you don’t have influence in the room. You’re stuck in this vortex because rejection has fallen by the wayside. I was once clerking for a big law firm, and at the end of the year, the managing partner pulled me aside and said, “Steve, I don’t think you have what it takes to become a lawyer. Go start a business, and come back here as a client.” It was the most kind rejection I’ve ever gotten, because he refused to let me get stuck in the vortex of mediocrity.
“How do you differentiate yourself? That’s where your soft skills, your EQ, comes in.”
3. Get out of that vortex with aggressive humility.
If you work hard, show up on time, and have decent ideas, but you’re still not getting to where you want to be, you’ve got to have aggressive humility. And you need to have it about something I call the “85/15 rule.” It comes from the Carnegie Foundation’s study of engineers in 1918; they determined that the correlation between someone’s professional success and their technical skills is very small, just 15 percent. The rest of their success, the other 85 percent, is unrelated to how good they are at the technical part of their job. So you need to be aggressively humble about, “How am I doing in that 85 percent?”
4. Remember AWE.
That 85 percent is about emotional intelligence, and the impressions you’re making on people. This is where AWE comes in.
- A stands for Authority—it’s your voice, your body language, your ability to make eye contact with people. Do you come across as a competent person who knows how to do this job?
- W is for Warmth—it’s the ability to engender trust and make a connection with another person.
- E is for Energy—how are you making other people feel? Are you making people feel good about you and about themselves, or are you deflating them?
5. Your non-technical skills will set you apart.
We dedicate nearly all of our academic resources to teaching technical skills, and while those skills might earn you a seat at the table, what then? Everybody in the room has those same skills, so how do you differentiate yourself? That’s where your soft skills, your EQ, comes in. By using this AWE framework, you can learn where your weaknesses and blind spots lie, and take action to improve.
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