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Sally Hogshead, New York Times bestselling author and CEO of How To Fascinate, discusses her own diversity story, which includes spending time with a tribe in Nairobi. Sally reveals how her work as a copywriter for top brands led her to understand the importance of fascination for brand development, and how she eventually applied that to personal branding, launching an assessment that has since been completed by one million professionals. Sally also discusses the importance of creating teams with diverse strengths and the blind spots that can arise when we work with people who have strengths too similar to our own. Discover how Sally is now using the science of fascination to help girls and women understand who they are at their very best so that they can show up as their most impressive and influential selves.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- Sally’s diversity story and how it changed her thinking (3:30)
- The importance of understanding how the world sees you (7:30)
- How to differentiate yourself in the marketplace (11:00)
- A different way to look at diversity (14:30)
- How organizations can bring out the best in their employees (18:00)
- The 7 different categories of fascination (19:45)
- Sally’s goal for helping girls and women to discover their fascination advantage (25:30)
- Why employers need to assess an employee’s true strengths (30:00)
- The benefits of creating teams with diverse strengths (31:30)
- How understanding your strengths leads to better results (35:30)
- The need for diverse role models (38:30)
- A special listener code for a free Fascination Advantage assessment (40:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Welcome to The Will to Change. This is Jennifer Brown. Today my guest is Sally Hogshead. Drawing upon her branding principles, Sally created a method to identify how each person is able to captivate their listeners. The Fascination Advantage®, is the first communication assessment that measures how others perceive you.
After researching over one million people, her algorithm can pinpoint your most valuable differentiating traits. Unlike Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder, this test doesn’t measure how you see the world, but how the world sees you.
The science of fascination is based on Sally’s decade of research with dozens of Fortune 500 teams, hundreds of small businesses, and over a thousand C-level executives.
In her early career in advertising, Sally quickly skyrocketed to the top, becoming the most awarded advertising copywriter in the U.S. by age 24. Her campaigns for brands such as Mini Cooper, Nike, Godiva, and Coca-Cola have fascinated millions of consumers. At the age of 27, she opened her first ad agency, and her work still hangs in the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
She frequently appears in national media, including on NBC’s Today and the New York Times. Named as the No.1 Brand Guru in the World, her practical marketing system now lives inside organizations such as IBM, Twitter, and the YMCA, as well as thousands of small businesses.
Her most recent book, Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist was a New York Times bestseller. Her previous book, How the World Sees You, was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Sally writes a weekly column on issues around personal and corporate branding for Inc.com.
Sally is one of only 172 members of the Speaker Hall of Fame®, the industry’s highest award for professional excellence.
Sally, welcome to The Will to Change.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Hey, Jennifer. I am happy to be here.
JENNIFER BROWN: I’m thrilled to have you on, and I’m thrilled to introduce your work, which is so important, to our listenership for The Will to Change.
I wanted to say, I was first exposed to it when you gave a keynote and you gave us all an opportunity in the audience to take your assessment, which we’re going to talk about in a moment, about how to fascinate. And that keynote was at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce conference, a community I’ve been a part of for years. We’re actually certified as not only woman-owned at JBC, but also LGBT-owned.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Woo-woo!
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, it was a really fortuitous moment, and I loved having you there to speak to us in particular because, as we’ll get into in our conversation today, when we are under represented—and that can be women, people of color, LGBTQ people in the workplace—it is harder to find our voice. And I know that’s such a deep area of passion for you.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: And you’re really giving us tools to figure it out.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes, thank you.
JENNIFER BROWN: I’m grateful to you for that. So we always start The Will to Change with your diversity story. Tell us a little bit about your journey and when you made a personal connection into the concept of diversity and inclusiveness for yourself.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: When I was in college, a lot of my friends did summers abroad in places like London or Paris. I went to the study abroad office and I said, “What’s the most obscure program that you offer, so that I can have an experience that’s completely different than what I live day to day here at Duke University?”
And they pulled out this dusty brochure for Nairobi, the University of Nairobi. The more I looked into it, the more I saw that this perfectly tapped into what was my minor. My minor was women’s studies, my major was sociology.
I spent the summer at the University of Nairobi studying female circumcision and really understanding the forces behind it and what we can learn and apply in our everyday life.
I spent a short time with a tribe. The tribe had never seen a Caucasian woman. They’ve never seen a flash camera, they’d never heard western music. What I saw from living in a goat-dung hut with a woman who had 13 children, the men lived in the city and they sent money back, but the women and children were deeply isolated.
What I realized was that we don’t just need options, we don’t just need empowerment, we need education to understand who we are at our best, and how do we pass who we are at our best on to everybody around us? Not just to our children, but to our coworkers and our communities, and really stand for something.
So when I came back to the United States, it was a massive cultural transition because I had been fully immersed not just in a culture that was radically different than my own, but really being able to understand gender and identity on a deep level that has shaped who I am and shaped the rest of my career and has played out in some surprising ways.
JENNIFER BROWN: You ended up studying the science of what you call “fascination.” Did your passion for giving people the language to be seen and hear and to play big, did you know it would lead you to what your new project is, which is really more gender focused, around giving women and girls the voice and the words to talk about how we might be fascinating, to believe it in ourselves, and then also to put that out into the world. Does it all feel like a very intuitive journey? You can tell our listeners a little bit about your tool as well along the way as you describe that, if you would.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: What a wonderful question. You just asked a question that totally sets me up for success.
JENNIFER BROWN: It’s my secret agenda.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes, totally. Well, when I came back to the U.S. and I started beginning to think about what was I going to do with the rest of my life, I took everything that I had experienced when I was in Africa and I began to realize that I wanted to commit myself to giving people the words to understand themselves.
And a formative part of this is when I began in advertising. When I graduated, I started at an ad agency as a copy writer. And it was my job to help brands identify how they could differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
My very first brand I ever worked on was Nike. Jennifer, do you remember Nike’s tagline?
JENNIFER BROWN: Of course, “Just do it.” Really kidding?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Just do it. I was not part of writing the tagline, but I was part of taking that tagline as a positioning statement, and then helping Nike identify, what is the marketing that that defines? But also what’s the ethos of the brand? What’s the rallying cry? Is Nike about rubber and shoelaces, or is Nike about standing for something in the world?
Being able to see that helped me see that when you give a brand the words, the specific words to describe itself, then the brand becomes more valuable, more loved, more respected, and most of all, more valuable.
So after a while of being in advertising and really loving and immersing myself, especially in brands that were targeting women, I saw that there isn’t a process like that for us as individuals.
When I worked in an ad agency, when I was working with brands, the brand didn’t care how the brand saw the consumer. The brand only cared, “How does the consumer see the brand?”
For example, when I worked on Mini Cooper or Godiva, Godiva doesn’t care how Godiva sees the consumer, they only care how does the consumer see Godiva?
And I began to see that there’s really not a way for us to be able to understand, “What’s our personal brand through the eyes of other people?” And as I began studying this, I took all the things that I’d learned inside the hallways of advertising agencies. Not just how to stay up all night feeding on coffee, but taking all those principles of the focus group, of the brand strategy, of the execution, and I created a system, slowly and surely, step by step—failure, success, failure success—to be able to create an algorithm that does exactly for people what a brand strategy does for the brand.
After a few years, after testing this with 100,000 people, I launched the assessment and it’s named The Fascination Advantage. And when you take The Fascination Advantage, it asks you questions in the exact same way that a focus group asks questions of a company. To be able to tease out, without you even realizing, how do other people see you at your best?
And over the course of—now it’s been a few years, we’ve had one million professionals take The Fascination Advantage inside of companies like Twitter, Porsche, NASA, California Pizza Kitchen, AT&T—and what we’ve seen, again and again, is there are clear patterns among the high performers. No matter what their industry or the size of the company, they’re disciplined. High performers fundamentally communicate differently. And the difference is this: They understand that they deliver a specific benefit. So the people who are good at details are really good at details, they look for the opportunities to find projects and assignments that allow them to flourish, to dive in and double down on the area of details. So everyone they work with, all of their clients, their co-workers, their customers know, “Hey, if you need details, go to this specific person.”
On the other hand, what the people who were not as high performing did is they tried to be all things to all people. Jennifer, I’m sure you’ve had the same experience, where you want so much to please the person you’re listening to, or you might feel nervous for your job, or you might just not feel confident about who you are at your best. And what happens in these situations, when we try to masquerade that we are perfect for everyone, we end up being perfect for no one.
So the people who are fulfilled in their careers who feel energized, they’re high producers, but most importantly, they’re respected and valued in their community are the ones who develop a specialty.
When I created The Fascination Advantage, I took that exact same principle that a brand must have a specialty, it must be differentiated, and created a system that allows people to do that.
JENNIFER BROWN: And what a system it is. And when I learned my words—power and prestige—it was revealing and, yet, made me uncomfortable. And as somebody who focuses on gender dynamics and what is different for people who are less heard and less seen in our world or in our workplace, the concept of being a woman whose Fascination Advantage is power and prestige, it reminded me that I have built that, and alternately been really excited by that and also knowing that there is a penalty associated with powerful and prestigious women who really own their power and prestige.
And so it gave me a kick in the butt. It was encouraging, it was a little frightening. It was a very revealing thing to see those words in my results, Sally, and to say to myself, “This is part of the brand that I’ve built and the reason that I’ve been able to have the voice that I have on these topics.” I’m not afraid to use my power and to admit and own the fact that I am prestigious, right?
We don’t hear women speaking about themselves like that so often—not often enough.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Right. Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: We don’t have women taking a claim and writing books. I go to Barnes & Noble and I see the leadership book table, and it’s 90 percent male authors, for example. Do we not have anything to say about leadership and how we define it and how we think it should be manifested? We don’t have a voice.
And it’s interesting to be woman who has a voice, and have power and prestige. I wonder, what are your reflections on how we hold ourselves back because we don’t have the language for ourselves, or we have to give ourselves permission to play as big as we’re capable of playing?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: You used a word a moment ago that I want to come back to, which is “penalty.” And I think that’s such an insightful word because the world is afraid of women who are fascinating. The world constantly sends a message to women and girls saying, “It’s okay to be confident, but don’t be too confident, because then you’re aggressive and bitchy.”
JENNIFER BROWN: Right.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: It’s okay to be passionate, but don’t be too passionate, because then you’re overly dramatic and clingy. So what ends up happening is that women get this message over and over that they need to fix themselves, that who we are isn’t right, that we need to become what somebody else thinks we should be.
What I found in my research is that most workplace cultures give a clear message that the competition is based on strengths. In other words, the discussion about your strengths and weaknesses, the problem is women really don’t respond very well to that kind of a dynamic because it intrinsically says if you’re evaluating on the basis of strength, then you should be the best. As long as you’re the best at something, then you’re doing okay, but if you’re not the best, then you’re an also ran, and then you need to start fixing your weaknesses.
From a gender perspective, this is really uncomfortable for those of us with a more feminine perspective because it plots us against each other, it sets up a competitive, brittle culture in which somebody’s either right or wrong, they’re a winner or they’re a loser.
Instead, I propose that if we can look at people on the basis of differences. In other words, somebody else is good at details, I’m really not good at details. And I happen to know, Jennifer, that from the results of your Fascination Advantage, that details are also draining to you, but you could do it—
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s why we have teams and why we delegate to great people.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: When we began to go in and look at how great teams function, we saw that diversity is key, but diversity not just in terms of sexual identity or ethnicity or geography, but diversity in the sense of communication specialties. High performers on a team, if they all replicate each other, then the team becomes lopsided and the team is far less likely to be a high-performance, long-term culture.
Imagine you’re sitting at a table. Every single person sitting at that table has a specific innate, inborn, hard-wired specialty. And when they’re able to live in that zone of genius, that specialty, they’re going to be more confident, more energized, their work is going to feel like a wellspring, and they’re going to be able to double down because they know how they’re most likely to add value.
But when we have a culture in which we have to fix ourselves, the problem is that we’re not perceived as great at anything because we’re trying to be good at everything.
JENNIFER BROWN: I’ll tell you, from my work, we have the added challenge for diverse talent. When I say “diverse,” I mean say you’re the only woman on a team of men, or you’re the only person of color as you walk through your day. We are also afraid to show our unique genius because we have added layers of stigmatized identities.
When we do work with leaders of color or female leaders or LGBTQ corporate leaders, it’s not only the discovery of your zone of genius and fascination, but it’s also how you communicate that through all the noise and static around unconscious bias that may be around you and holding you back—feeling like you need to play small because you’re just trying to survive every day, let alone be fascinating.
I feel like the math that so many talented people every day, the equation that they’re making all the time, and the energy they’re putting towards bringing their full, authentic, and most powerful self is hampered by what is really an organizational reality for so many people, and that is that they can’t bring their full self to work just from an identity perspective. If I’m gender nonconforming, people don’t understand my experience, they don’t make an effort, I’m not welcomed, I’m not included. By the way, I’m also this kind of person that values power and prestige.
It’s interesting, the double and triple standards that particularly diverse talent are having to navigate in bringing their full selves to work.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: It’s a lot. It’s a lot of double work. Navigating your identity and the implications of stereotypes, and trying to bring your full, authentic, and truest gifts to your employer. This is so tough for women, in particular, let alone all the other groups that we focus on.
How can employers encourage and make it safe to bring your truly fascinating gifts to the workplace? What can they do to encourage this?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: It’s especially important what you’re describing for women in the workplace within organizations. There comes a certain point when men and women enter the workforce in equal numbers, then about halfway through their career, around the age of 35, women become so discouraged and demoralized. And people with alternative self-concept get the same message. Then they become discouraged and they leave, or worse, they stay and they’re in a deadened state.
What organizations can be doing, whether it’s a small business or a large corporation, is to be able to see each individual not just as a job title, but to be able to see how that person is most likely to add value. When you recognize how somebody’s most likely to add value, then they’re able to do that on purpose.
There’s a great quote: Figure out who you are, and then do it on purpose. Figure out who you are, and then do it on purpose.
Now, I love that, despite the fact that the quote is from Dolly Parton. (Laughter.) You’ve got to love Dolly Parton, but it’s not exactly who I’d put up there as a 2018 business leader.
What that quote describes is that when you know what makes you fascinating, in other words, how other people perceive you at your best so that you can get and keep their attention, when people understand what makes them fascinating, they’re more confident. Confidence is linked to performance, and performance is linked to results.
So in order for you to get a better result, you have to get people a new way to see themselves, a new filter that’s not just based on strengths and weaknesses, but is based on difference. What makes you different, and how do we identify that and help you do that on purpose?
JENNIFER BROWN: Right. Given that women are still striving to be successful in what is essentially a male-identified or constructed paradigm in the workplace, really. We see the imbalances, as you say, increase the higher up you get and the more women that leave and other diverse talent at that 35-year mark, which I agree with. You’re speaking my language. How do we balance living truly to our gifts and Fascination Advantage? You said there are 65 of them? How many are there in your tool, by the way?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Maybe we could take a pause and describe that.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. I’d love that. Yes.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: That will help lay the foundation of what I’ll be describing when I talk about examples.
JENNIFER BROWN: Sally, I know in your tool you elucidate seven different ways that people can fascinate. And then from there, it branches into 40-some different descriptors. For me, those were power and prestige, but there are 40 others. Can you tell us about how you came to identify all of these through your past work? And tell us a little bit about some of them.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Sure. In an advertising agency, when an agency is developing a brand strategy for a company, the agency tries to ask, “What type of category does this brand belong in?” There are seven different categories: power, passion, mystique, prestige, alert, innovation, and trust.
Once you understand which category the brand belongs in, it becomes a lot easier for you to be able to create the marketing strategy, what their retail location looks like, what they say.
Southwest Airlines, for example, uses trust. Their whole brand is built on friendly practicality. That kind of a brand is very different than Tesla. Tesla is an innovation brand. It’s all about performance and engineering and bringing new ways to break through.
When I pivoted my career, like we were describing earlier, and I began to look at individuals, I found that we could take those same seven different neurological forms of connection and apply them to people. So, for example, on my team, I have somebody who has primary alert, and that’s the detail-oriented person that we were talking about.
JENNIFER BROWN: Bless their hearts. (Laughter.)
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Right. And here’s what that looks like. My top two primary advantages, in other words, the way I’m naturally going to add value and over-deliver is through passion, which is all about connection, and innovation, which is about changing the game with creativity.
When I work on a project, I like to think, “Okay, what are all the different things we can do?” And so I make a whole bunch of Post-It notes, and I put it all over the place. Finally, after I come up with an idea, I have a really hard time with execution and implementation.
It’s not enough just to have a whiteboard with all kinds of fabulous ideas, unless those ideas are going to die on the whiteboard. You have to actually implement them and get them out into the world.
And so I learned very quickly that I need to surround myself with people who have different advantages. And so when I created this assessment, I wanted for people to be able to have that same thing that brands have, which is the actual words to describe themselves, to have the actual descriptors for themselves.
So now after having worked with about a million people going through this, we see that when you give somebody the words, you give them the way to describe who they are. But if somebody doesn’t know their own value, then they’re expecting somebody else to show them. And the problem is that if you don’t know your own value, then you can’t really expect your coworkers to know. So by identifying how somebody adds value, it becomes much easier for them to see where they’re going to find that state of flow.
Jennifer, when you took the The Fascination Advantage assessment, you learned that the way that you’re most likely to make the biggest difference for the most people is through power and prestige, in other words through leading with authority and raising the bar.
Now, you and I talked a moment ago about how there can be some self-conflicted words around words like “power” and “prestige.” Can we talk about that for a second?
JENNIFER BROWN: I would love to. I’m getting free coaching time with you, which is invaluable.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. Yes. Power is a controversial word, and I chose that one on purpose to identify the people who are leaders and authorities and have confidence and are results oriented. The reason why as women power feels uncomfortable is it hearkens back to strengths versus weaknesses.
The thing is, in our research, women with primary power or prestige, on average, are three times more likely to be a CEO or in the C suite. Let me say that again. It’s the women who have power, the language of confidence, or prestige, the language of excellence, they perform at a higher level. So there’s a benefit to that.
On the other hand, companies that have a really passionate culture tend to be really good at being emotionally involved. Companies that tend to stand back and listen through the language of mystique tend to be great at having a culture where everybody works independently and can think things through in a logical way.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so fascinating. It sounds like I am in the right place and the right role, but you know, I think the value of these kinds of assessments, of course, is that if we can shortcut the number of years that it takes for us to stand up for what we love the most and what we love to do and what we’re great at, right? It’s the wandering in the forest for years that so many of us do, not really being clear, and then not being committed, standing up for the things that we truly love that light us up, and having the language to describe it. And then letting that be our magnetic north to guide us through the kinds of jobs we take, the kinds of roles we take.
I know for me, I had to be all things to all people as an entrepreneur, but my team knows that as we grew, they were very aware, and I was able to say, “I need a role that enables me to be the external face.” So that prestige piece, I want to be on stage, I want to be influencing the conversation.
Now, I speak about it and I don’t apologize. Career paths are all about clarity and then being uncompromising and more truthful and more committed to your true gift and trying to them construct a world and a way of making a living around you so that you can do that, because that’s what’s really going to differentiate you as a brand, to your point.
If you water it down and you are neutral on everything, or you’re rather good, capable, or competent, that’s not going to be memorable. I know you’re committed now, in 2018, that you’re going to apply this in a hardcore way for women and girls because that is the population you’ve identified as one that struggles the most with feeling comfortable and confident and leading their lives through their Fascination Advantage.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: Tell me what your goal is with that. What do you hope to discover through this process or support in the world? And why do you think this is the way to go about it? Believe me, I’m in your corner.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: How are you going to solve this differently than a million other attempts to solve the problem that women don’t have or use their voice in a fascinating way?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: If a woman doesn’t know who she is at her best, it’s very hard for her to show up at her best and be her most impressive and influential, not just her most fulfilled.
What I saw when I looked at how our culture talks about women and talks to women, we’re really good at criticizing. We have a lot of ways to tell a woman that she’s too much this, or she’s not enough that, but we have very few ways of actually acknowledging what she’s doing right.
So I thought to myself, well, in an ad agency, what we do is we give a brand the words, the actual words to understand who they are at their best and how other people are most likely to respect and value the brand.
But with women, if you give woman the words, she responds in an intuitive and immediate way. If you say to a woman—not a compliment, “You look pretty today, I like your eyes.” But if you say, “Here’s what I admire about you. I admire your able to listen, to think things through, to be analytical.” Here’s the result that I got from that. Because of that, our team is now more cohesive because we’re all able to listen to each other instead of all talking at the same time. And what I’d like you to do in the future is to feel empowered that when you’re in a meeting, you don’t have to be the loudest voice pounding our fist on the table. And I want you to be the best listener that you can be so that you can bring that meticulous style of thinking to our team.
A great performance review, just like a great acknowledgement, has three parts. The first part is acknowledge exactly what the person has done—like listening and thinking things through.
The second part is to describe the result that that acknowledgement has created, like team cohesion or a feeling of inclusion. And the third thing is to say, “Here’s how I’d like you to apply it, here’s how I appreciate that in our day-to-day life.” And give them a tangible example.
There isn’t enough of that. We don’t give it to girls. We don’t give it to women. And I think a lot of us who have any kind of feeling in our own identity that somehow we’re “other,” we’re not the mainstream, we’re not the accepted norm. It’s important for us to understand that if we try to force feed ourselves into a one-size-fits-all identity, not only are we going to become deeply frustrated and demoralized, but we’re depriving the world of the opportunity to hear our message. And if you have a message that you think matters, if you think that you have a message that can go out into the world and create change, that change something in the world that matters, then you have a responsibility to understand how that message can be communicated in a way that makes people listen and remember and take action.
If you have a great message, but you don’t communicate it in a way that people can really hear it and remember it and take action on it, then you may as well have never had that message in the first place. And if we think about those messages that each of us have, the messages that we want to give our children and our significant others, our community, and the world in general, then we need to take responsibility for the duty that we have to communicate in a way that’s authentic and natural and confident and allows us to come forth like a wellspring.
JENNIFER BROWN: That was beautiful. It’s so good, I’m going to frame that. Really, really good. And what I hear in what you’re saying is I’m letting my light shine, but I’m seeing the light in you. And I’m acknowledging it’s different from mine, it’s beautiful, has a purpose, and it needs to be heard by the world. And that honoring relationship is that women supported each other in that way by seeing each other.
Organizations need to see their employees. You just said brands, customers, we survey the customers endlessly about how they see the brand. But flipping that in 2018, when I work with employers, they need to see their employees for all of their beauty, uniqueness, their gifts, and whether they’re operating and working from their biggest advantages.
When you labor in a world that has really defined job descriptions and really is trying to put a warm body into a task role, it does not take into account that person’s advantages and the beauty of who they are and what they’re actually best at.
So that gets to how management and companies fundamentally need to change to be able to see—truly see—the diversity in their workforce. And it’s not just identity diversity, like you said earlier, it’s the diversity of communication style, our thought processes, and what we’re great at—not just good at, but really, truly great at.
How would organizational structures look differently if we geared an org chart or workflow around everyone’s Fascination Advantage? I’m sure you have fantasies around it. What would that look like?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. I’ll give an example of what an ideal organization looks like. I did a keynote recently in which I had about 100 very high-level people at a tech company. I separated them according to the advantages. People who had primary alert sat in one area, mystique in a different area, and so on.
I gave everybody the same challenge. I said, “I’m going to give you ten minutes, and I’d like you to solve this marketing challenge, almost like a puzzle. And then at the end of ten minutes, send somebody to the front of the room so they can tell us what your advantage group has developed.”
As I was going around watching the room, I wanted them to watch each other. My purpose for asking this was not to come up with a marketing idea, my purpose was for them to be able to see that when you put two people together who are exactly the same, their traits become exaggerated.
For example, when I walked over to the passion group, passion personalities are high energy, enthusiastic, optimistic. They love to interact. So everybody was sitting in this circle and they were cheering each other and high-fiving and they had so many ideas and they would put all their ideas up on the wall. “Yeah, I love that idea! Woo!”
By contrast, the group next to them was the mystique group. Mystique personalities are all about listening. So this group, they moved their chairs into a circle, they barely spoke, they each took notes, and then they passed their notes around the circle, so they weren’t verbalizing what they were doing.
Then I moved on to the prestige group. Prestige is about higher standards. Prestige personalities tend to be really competitive. I was listening to them as they were developing their idea, and they were deciding who was going to go up to present the idea before they had decided on the idea.
Then I moved on to the power group. They moved themselves into a square, almost like a boardroom, and they had a lot of voices, but everybody felt so confident about their opinion that it was important for them to be able to listen.
And so on and so on. You can begin to see the alert personalities, they raised their hand and said, “How much more time do we have?” They kept their chairs in the exact same formation of how they’d been originally laid out.
And then one by one, the group sent somebody up. And every group had a totally different type of solution to the marketing challenge. The alert group was extremely detail oriented. The person representing that group described almost like a PowerPoint presentation, speaking in bullet points, giving tangible facts and backup for why this was a great idea.
The trust group looked back to the history. Trust is all about repetition and being able to predict what’s going to happen next. So the trust group had looked back into the company’s history to find examples of what’s worked in the past.
The passion group couldn’t pick just one idea or just one person, so they sent up three different people to quickly present three different ideas.
The innovation group, innovation is all about creativity, they moved their chairs into this sloppy amoeba-shaped, circle-like thing, and they had candy wrappers. So when they sent somebody up with an untucked shirt, no tie, when the person presented the idea, they described that they were able to solve the idea so quickly that they had gone on and solved a couple of different ideas.
In an organization, in any group, even within a married couple, when two people have very similar advantages, the good thing about that is it tends to be a predictable outcome. My husband and I, for example, we both score really high on innovation. We’re very creative. We’re not good a structure, we’re not good at schedule. Follow-through exhausts us. The down side of that is that we can never find our car keys. Sometimes we have to be really careful when we’re planning an event with our kids that we’ve got to tell them what’s going to happen, because in our minds, we’re just making it up as we go along, and that can feel chaotic to other people.
The up side is when we want to go on vacation, we can pick the destination while we’re on the airplane about what hotel we’re going to stay in. So every time you communicate with somebody, if you have very similar modes of communication, then it could be a disadvantage or an advantage. And that’s a great thing for us to know.
When we’re developing teams or when we’re picking a partner or even inviting people to a dinner party, the way people communicate determines the result they’re going to get. Remember, we described this at the beginning—when you understand what makes you fascinating, you’re more confident. Confident leads to performance; performance leads to results.
Pick the outcome that you want to have for your dinner party or your relationship or your team, and then find the people who naturally communicate in that mode. For them, that’s not going to feel like work, it’s going to feel like self-expression.
JENNIFER BROWN: What a fun party that would be. Diversity of thought, which is the way we talk about the workplace, this is a mix of introversion and extroversion. It’s a mix of what we might call analytical and “big-picture” thinking.
I agree with you, anytime you’re constructing a team, you want to avoid homogeneity in so many respects. You want generational diversity, you want gender diversity, you want ethnicity because those backgrounds and experiences are going to inform different lenses.
No company or organization can afford to not be as innovative as it possibly can be, and create what I call “creative abrasion” that we need in order to spot problems that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, and to solve them quickly and agilely.
Your assessment adds so much texture to our self-understanding, finding our voice, being true to that voice, and then standing up for our truth. To me, that is a big call-out and action item for diverse talent who have not been seen and heard in so many systemic ways because of stigmatized identities, because of stereotypes.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. Yes.
JENNIFER BROWN: Not being invited to the meeting, not being thought of as, “Oh, that’s what a leader looks like.” Your tool counteracts that, because for me to feel powerful and prestigious, if I have those words in mind as I walk into a room or on stage, I stand up taller. I derive a confidence and self-assurance that I do this better than anyone. I would want to give that not just to women and girls, but anyone who hasn’t seen other role models ahead of them who look like them, for example.
I want your tool to reach as many people as possible as early as possible so that they can show up in the world, be true to themselves, be loyal to themselves, and stand up for that. The world will reward you. You will be pulled into the right places, the right opportunities, the right networks that value who you are, that see you for who you are. You’ll spend less time wondering, “Where do I fit?” Or maybe less time struggling in environments where you know you don’t fit, but you don’t have the courage to change it.
That’s the experience across the workplace. So many people I talk to are unhappy in their work. It breaks my heart because I know you love what you do, I know I love what I do, we’re in our zone every day in what we do. We have the luxury of being able to hire around us so that we have a complementary team.
This has to be not just a luxury, but a necessity for all of us. Whether you’re managing people or being managed or trying to start your own business or if we’re raising kinds and we help them to be seen and heard in the world because their uniqueness—your tool has so many great applications.
I know we’re going to give our listeners a special bonus, speaking of your tool. Would you describe what folks are going to get after listening to this episode?
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. I want to make sure that not only do each of us—everybody who’s part of this podcast—that everybody understands, here’s what makes you fascinating. Here’s how people see you at your best, like a magic mirror that only reflects back what people love and admire about you.
We’re going to be giving a code, and this is a gift that Jennifer and I want to give to everybody who’s listening, and it’s a free version of The Fascination Advantage assessment.
Here’s how to do it. Go to howtofascinate.com/you. And there’s a code, and when you use the code, you get to do the assessment for free. Here’s the code: Change. Cleverly enough. Change.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that. (Laughter.)
SALLY HOGSHEAD: When you take the assessment, it only takes about three minutes. You can do it on your cell phone. But at the end, it gives you a description, it gives you the words that other people would use when they’re raving about you. That gives you a self-concept that if there’s an area where you’re most likely to be able to contribute at the very highest level, find projects, people, situations where you can be that.
If the words that come back are “strategic” and “analytical,” then find situations in which you can contribute through that lens. You don’t have to contribute through being passionate or high powered, you have to contribute by being meticulous, strategic, analytical.
On the other hand, the words that will come back for you, Jennifer, when you took the assessment, your words are “high achieving, focused, goal oriented.” So when you’re working with somebody, Jennifer, if I came to you and said, “Listen, I’ve got really high goals. I can get things started, but can you help me raise this goal to the highest level?” What would that feel like for you?
JENNIFER BROWN: Fun. That’s my definition of fun, stretching somebody’s thinking about what’s possible, adding my two cents, and encouraging them. It’s a very rewarding process to be asked a question like that.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes. It’s rewarding, it’s kind of like eating a hot fudge sundae.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Do you find that you feel pretty confident that you can over deliver? If I came to you and said, “I need to raise standards and have a great result.”
Now, if somebody came to me and said that, I could do it, but I wouldn’t feel as confident as if they came to me and said, “We need an idea that stretches our thinking, that gives us creativity, and gives us passion to get people engaged.” That’s the kind of project where I’m going to be able to deliver the most value.
I had a client one time during the recession, and the first thing to get cut during a recession is the marketing budget. I had to be taking on clients, specifically brands, that weren’t allowing me to deliver passionate creativity.
What I found was I could do it, but I wanted to gouge out my eyes with a mechanical pencil. Every day, my job was to do spreadsheets, go back to a room, figure it out, come back—it was all data driven.
What I want people to be able to do when they take the assessment is to not only understand themselves, but to be able to pay it forward and to share it with the people in their world, especially if you know someone who is demoralized or underestimates themselves, somebody who doesn’t have a strong sense of what you value in them and what the world values in them. Share the assessment with them.
JENNIFER BROWN: Sally, it’s so generous of you to offer this to our listenership. I look forward to seeing our listenership, because I’m going to get some kind of report, and I can see the diversity in our community and in my ecosystem, which makes me happy.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Cool.
JENNIFER BROWN: Words are powerful. This is a very, very powerful tool that’s been eye opening for me. Thank you for your time, your generosity in the world.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Yes, thank you, Jennifer.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, thank you so much, Sally.
SALLY HOGSHEAD: Thank you for the work that you do. I appreciate it.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you so much.
Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist
- MLK Day Replay: Intersectional Panel on Civil Rights including Jennifer and other L’Oréal USA DEI Advisory Board Members
- Cancel Culture to Coaching Culture: Navigating DEI Conversations with Author and Professor Kenji Yoshino
- Healing the Plus-Size Customer and Employee Journey with Author and GORGEous Agency Founder Kara Richardson Whitely
- Owning Your Power: Jennifer Joins the Beyond Barriers Podcast
- Cultivating a Purpose Mindset in Next-Gen Leaders: Social Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst Returns to the Will to Change