BullyProof: Using Subtle Strength to Influence Alphas and Strengthen Society
Be the Robin Hood of Power
None of us can control where we grow up, but all of us can control how we show up. I am grateful I grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. I had everything a kid could want. The area provided me with many opportunities and important life lessons. My grandparents and cousins lived in Queens and visiting them allowed me to meet people from all walks of life. My dad worked as a senior executive in downtown New York City. He grew up in the Bronx with very few resources, and his dedication to his family and friends and his desire to be a good boss opened many doors.
My dad also worked for a power-hungry, manipulative CFO. I remember countless times seeing the anxiety in my dad’s face when he got home from work. He commuted two hours each way into downtown NYC and was determined to be a family man. He was always there to be a dad and created a childhood I am grateful for.
Then he was suddenly laid off after twenty-six years as a senior executive. I wasn’t used to seeing concern about the future in my parents’ eyes. The vision of my mom washing out plastic sandwich bags so we could reuse them is still with me every day.
At forty-five, my dad got a quadruple bypass and was never the same. I know genetics play a significant role, but I believe the dysfunction in his work environment contributed to his heart disease.
My experience growing up with two loving parents was still overwhelmingly positive, and my father went on to be a successful executive and never had ill will toward people who treated him poorly. But I had now been introduced to what it felt like when other people were dealing your hand in life. I didn’t like how it felt, nor did I like seeing my mother and father deal with the financial and emotional pressure of having three children. During this time, it felt as if our lives were not in our control, and I wanted to find a way to change that.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I became obsessed with power and influence. I didn’t want other people to have my dad’s experience working for a dysfunctional boss. I also began to take responsibility for how I responded to setbacks. I was someone who worried about everything, which led to me talking myself out of many opportunities. When it came to sports, I was convinced I wasn’t going to be good enough, fast enough, or athletic enough. When it came to school, I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough and tended to give up the moment learning became too diﬃcult. I struggled with reading comprehension and understanding complex information and still do to this day.
I was determined not to live my life feeling afraid, weak, and powerless, so I set out to learn about confidence and mental toughness. As I mentioned, I wasn’t a good student. I didn’t even want to go to college, but my parents believed in me enough to push me to grow. The friends I met at Pace University in New York taught me how to speak up, enjoy life, and look out for people. Although I had no interest in college at first, something clicked and I worked hard to transfer to Penn State. At Penn State, my mother suggested I combine two things I loved: sport and psychology. We were watching the Olympics when the story broke about Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. My mom had heard that Nancy Kerrigan was seeing a sport psychologist and suggested I look into it. That’s how I got my start in sport psychology.
I got on the waiting list for Springfield College’s Athletic Counseling program. Being emotionally immature, I considered that door closed and thought that aspiration was over. A close friend I grew up with, Vicki Elkins, filled out the form to keep me on the wait list and told me to never close a door. Because of her, I ended up going to the Athletic Counseling program, where I connected with professors Al Petitpas, Judy Van Raalte, and Brit Brewer. They taught me about elite performance and how to help athletes through strong counseling skills, building relationships, and mental strategies.
Here I experienced significant growth because I started applying to myself what I was teaching athletes. To this day, my commitment to you and all my clients is that I won’t advise someone or teach something that I don’t genuinely believe works.
I am grateful for this program because it sparked a fire in me to help people help themselves. That’s when I knew I wanted to become someone who could turn around dysfunctional leadership. I wanted to help good people find a way not to be manipulated, dominated, and stressed out by dominant personalities in positions of power. I also wanted to help dominant people realize they will get much more out of people if they focus less on manipulating and controlling others and more on engaging them.
So much time and energy are wasted when we worry and fall prey to our insecurities, but even worse, if we let dysfunctional people dominate us and set us in a direction we don’t want to go, we are unable to reach our potential and can even do damage to ourselves. Dysfunctional dominance not only impacts our work life; it impacts our home life and our health.
Working with strong personalities others believed could never change was both challenging and inspiring. One turnaround I witnessed was with a sales executive named Trent. He always needed to win regardless of the costs and did not play well with others. The only thing he valued was meeting his sales goals. As a result, his team had to spend a great deal of energy and time dealing with what they called “the churn,” his habit of changing meetings, deadlines, and presentations just to support whatever he needed in the moment.
Over time, these behaviors created resentment and his team began to underperform. Unfortunately, it took a decrease in sales for Trent to finally pay attention to how he was treating others and the negative impact it was having. Through a lot of conversation and some gentle yet strong nudges, Trent agreed to go down a path of getting results through effective leadership and influence rather than coercion and command. It was not easy, but Trent was able to restore his credibility and turn around his team’s performance.
Dysfunction Creates Disruption
Every day millions of people suffer from workplace bullying. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey of Adult Americans, 30 percent of survey participants experienced bullying at work, 19 percent witnessed it, and 4 percent admitted to perpetrating it. That means 49 percent of US workers are affected by workplace bullying. If you apply those statistics to the country as a whole, that equates to 79.3 million people.1
Workplace bullying has been linked to the following:
- Stress-related illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, neck pain, ulcers, and decreased resistance to physical illness2
- Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, and social anxiety disorder3
- Increased mental health prescriptions both for those who experience and those who witness bullying4
- Increased mental health costs5
- Trouble sleeping6
Many companies turn a blind eye to bullies because they get things done. Any negative effects are just the cost of doing business, right? But the truth is bullying costs businesses big bucks.
As just one example, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute survey, approximately 67 percent of those who experience workplace bullying either quit or are fired.7 That staggering amount of turnover alone costs businesses billions of dollars a year.8
But turnover isn’t the only cost to businesses. Workplace bullying also costs employers in terms of9
- lost productivity and innovation, as workers spend more time dealing with bullying behavior than actually working;
- increased HR and workers’ compensation claims;
- increased employer healthcare costs; and
- negative PR, resulting in lost market share, opportunities, customers, talent, and reputation.
With nearly half of the US workforce affected by bullying behavior, the good news is that many want to become part of the solution.
Here’s what I often hear from my clients:
- I want to learn a new way to be positively influential and make an impact.
- I want to stop being pushed around and manipulated.
- I don’t want to keep wasting time at home talking about how someone treated me at work.
- I don’t want to just give in or avoid people when they are dominant.
- I want to stop getting triggered by strong personalities.
- I want to be better at motivating myself and the people around me.
- I want to win without making someone else lose.
- I want more people to lead with values and purpose.
- I want to be more influential.
- I want to be part of initiatives that do good.
So, what’s the solution?
We often believe the biggest obstacle to our success (whether psychological, physical, or financial) is other people. When faced with a dominant personality (or alphas, as we will refer to them in this book), we feel pressured to either fight back or cave in, both of which reinforce the cycle and give the alpha more power. Then we give them even more power by taking it personally and allowing our feelings to drive our behavior rather than what we want for the long term.
Of course, these typical reactions of taking the alpha head-on or caving to their every demand don’t work.
The solution isn’t to change the alpha. The solution is to change ourselves. We can choose to take ownership of our own power and learn to use it for good.
In other words, the solution is to become BullyProof.
What does it mean to be BullyProof? It’s a mindset and skillset that equips you to accomplish the following:
- Take the power out of the word bully.
- Let go of the victim mentality.
- Take ownership of your own power and develop Value-Based Power.
- Master the approach of Subtle Strength to use your power for good.
- Protect and build up others, your organization, and society.
Leveraging What We Have Learned Together
The Unabomber was a math prodigy turned mass killer. As part of a study at Harvard, he was psychologically tortured, which led to his disdain for the academic elite. In the Sparks School shooting, people recall the shooter saying, “You guys ruined my life, so I’m going to ruin yours.”
The pattern is clear: if you’re bullied and you don’t know how to recover, you, in turn, become someone who has a higher potential to bully others.
These are two extreme examples. Let’s take one that is more common. In my work I often partner with elite doctors. Many who have been trained at the most prestigious medical organizations have a certain mindset ingrained in them. It goes something like this: “No matter what, do not show a chink in the armor,” or “You need to have the answer to every question.” One elite person described it to me as being trained to go into meetings with a sword and a shield and to be sure to use the sword first.
How do you think you would interact with people if that was your mindset?
I’ve seen good people go wrong because of the intense insecurity these high-performing cultures breed. That is why in this book we won’t just learn how the powerless can protect themselves and gain power but also how the powerful can learn to be less abusive and more inclusive. This shift benefits us all for the long term.
What’s the Difference between Alphas and Bullies?
An alpha is someone who takes the lead in a situation regardless of whether they are the identified leader or subject-matter expert. Being an alpha is neither good nor bad. In contrast, I would define a bully as someone who consistently attempts to get what they want regardless of the costs. We’ll talk much more about alphas and bullies throughout the book.
Over the last twenty-plus years, I have worked with underdogs and top dogs to help people become BullyProof. It’s more important today than ever.
Who can benefit from becoming BullyProof?
- People perceived as bullies. In my experience working with alpha personalities, few of them realize their impact on others. They believe they’re just getting things done and helping people! Everyone needs to take ownership of their impact on others and make sure they’re not hurting more than they’re helping.
- People supervised by alpha personalities. Often people who feel bullied by their boss have more power than they think. The key is to recognize it and leverage it in a way that has the highest likelihood of producing a positive outcome.
- Sales professionals. Salespeople always need an edge when it comes to uncovering needs and influencing people. Too often salespeople come across as pushy and working their own agendas—or back down too quickly with tough potential clients. The key is to use Subtle Strength to read before you lead and gain credibility. If you can get in the door with a challenging and strong personality, mutual respect and loyalty kicks in, which leads to reoccurring sales opportunities.
- Organizations that want to advocate for women and close the gap on gender bias. Closing the gender gap is no longer a choice but a responsibility. Why does the solution lie on the shoulders of women when men created the situation? Closing the gap for good requires a partnership between people who are skilled at influencing female and male alphas—who are, in short, BullyProof.
- People who work in dysfunctional environments. Human resource departments try to help, but they often don’t have the time, strategies, or expertise to coach people on how not to get caught up in dysfunction. By realizing your options and your strength style, you can learn how to buffer yourself from dysfunction and protect others. Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or a two-person business, Subtle Strength can help you not only transform yourself but your entire organization.
- Surgeon leaders. Not to pick on surgeons, but statistics show workplace bullying is particularly strong in the healthcare industry. I also know from experience that most surgeons believe vulnerability is a weakness. However, vulnerability is exactly what your team members need to see from you. If you want to do more than simply cut people (inside or outside the operating room), Subtle Strength will help you keep your edge and grow your leadership influence.
- Wealth managers. People who work in the finance industry often need to partner with and influence successful, driven clients. The strategies in this book will help you better understand what makes performance-oriented people tick and how to diversify your approach to build credibility and influence capital.
- Service providers. The service industry, whether it is hospitality, dining, or flight support for private flyers, is full of unique personalities who have a lot of power. The BullyProof approach teaches you how not to get triggered and how to demonstrate calm confidence so you can maintain key relationships while respectfully influencing people in your desired direction. The shift from taking things personally to focusing on leveraging Value-Based Power is a game changer.
What if you could become BullyProof? Even better, what if you could level the playing field and become the Robin Hood of power in your organization? Becoming BullyProof is not about stealing power from those who have it and giving it to those who don’t. It’s about helping those who feel powerless take ownership of the power they already have and preventing people in powerful positions from using abusive power.
Core to the process of becoming BullyProof is developing ego agility. My mentor in the field of performance psychology, Al Petitpas, taught me the importance of having “just the right amount of ego.” What he meant by this is to believe in yourself enough that you understand the value of collaborating and bringing in other experts.
On one hand, ego agility is the ability to temporarily release your agenda and your raw inner drive to win or be right in the moment. It does not mean that you can’t win. It just means you need to be involved in a different game, one in which you are secure and confident enough to give up some control in the short term to gain influence capital in the long term.
Ego agility also means taking ownership of your power, having confidence in yourself, and acting on your ambitions—without getting your ego overly involved. You will find the more ego agility you demonstrate, the more credibility and influence capital you will have. Ego agility will also ensure that when you do become BullyProof, you will use your powers for good, to build up yourself, other people, your organization, and society as a whole.
Whether you’re in a position of power and want to leverage it more effectively, are lacking power and want to become more influential, or want an edge in working with strong personalities, here is your roadmap to becoming BullyProof for yourself, others, your organization, and society at-large.
Part 1 begins with you. First, you’ll take back ownership of your own power by redefining both power and strength. You’ll learn about a new approach to power called Value-Based Power (VBP), the key framework for becoming BullyProof. VBP is balanced and intentional influence across four core areas: self, others, organization, and society. Instead of getting pulled into and stuck in the polarity of dominance versus submission, to leverage your VBP you’ll learn about the value of Subtle Strength, which demonstrates calm confidence, backbone, and respect. It helps the powerless gain power, the powerful be more mindful of their impact, and everyone win more together.
Becoming BullyProof requires mastering both.
In the remainder of Part 1, you’ll learn how to use Value-Based Power and Subtle Strength to positively influence yourself and others. We’ll cover all things alpha, the neuroscience of stress and influence so you can more effectively lead yourself, and practical strategies to positively influence alphas in a variety of situations.
For example, I will introduce you to a framework for engaging and influencing people called Motivational Currency®. This approach is based on decades of research by Harvard psychologist David McClelland. He looked at social motives and what drives our behavior internally. The core four motivators of Motivational Currency are Performance, People, Power, and Purpose. We will take a deep dive into this approach, and by the end of the book, you will be able to assess these motivators and others so you can collaborate and influence in an intentional manner.
Then, in Part 2, you’ll expand your BullyProof skills to positively influence your organization and society at large. You will be equipped to lead with Subtle Strength in times of crisis, learn why alpha women are your best allies in creating a BullyProof culture, put people above politics to strengthen your organization and society, and create your own plan for becoming BullyProof and helping others do the same.
If you’ve picked up this book, I’m guessing you’ve reached a pain point where you are motivated to make a change, or maybe you have an internal drive to achieve more or be the best at something. You may even know a lot about power dynamics and bullies, but for some reason, you haven’t been able to put it into practice. Either way, you are no longer willing to accept the status quo. You don’t want to run from this problem any longer—you want to rise to the occasion, grow through the challenge, and do whatever it takes to positively influence your situation.
That’s exactly what this book will help you do. Of course, it’s not enough just to know what to do; you must be motivated and equipped to actually do it, especially when stakes are high. For that reason, every chapter will give you an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned and share it with others.
However, this is not a step-by-step playbook; it is a principle-based guide to help you mitigate risks and increase probability of success. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Every situation calls for different approaches and every rule has exceptions. Although you’ll typically want to lead with Subtle Strength, sometimes you’ll need to use a dominant or a submissive strength style for a purpose. The principles and strategies you learn will help you know which type of strength style to use, and when.
Ready to Grow?
No one should go through life or work feeling powerless. You can take ownership of your power and use it for good—not just for yourself, but for your family, your coworkers, your organization, and your community too.
Becoming BullyProof is not just about me and you, it’s about creating environments where people feel powerful and are willing to play a role in one another’s success. Together we can make significant progress in turning around dysfunctional behavior and decreasing the time and emotional energy we waste on people who aren’t thinking about us.
To support your BullyProof journey, I encourage you to visit OnPointAdvising.com/BullyProof to download free exclusive resources.
One of my favorite quotes by Frank Zappa has served me well as I take on new adventures: “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open.” I invite you to remind yourself to keep an open mind, and you will see how much our minds matter when it comes to influence and your success.
Let’s start becoming BullyProof.
Introduction Be the Robin Hood of Power
Part 1 BullyProof Yourself and Others
Chapter 1 Value-Based Power: A Balanced Approach to Influence
Chapter 2: All Things Alpha
Chapter 3 Train Your Brain: The Role of Neuroscience in Influence and Success
Chapter 4 Motivational Currency: The Coins of Influence and Inclusion
Chapter 5 BRACE for Impact: An Approach for Changing Someone’s Mind
Chapter 6 Defuse the Bomb: Making DEALS with Alphas
Chapter 7 Wait—Am I a Bully?
Part 2 BullyProof Your Organization and Strengthen Society
Chapter 8 Growth Leadership in Times of Crisis
Chapter 9 The Importance of Alpha Women
Chapter 10 Put People over Politics and Strengthen Society
Chapter 11 Finish with HOW
Our Next Chapter – Where Will We Grow Next?
About the Author
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|Epub||June 4, 2022|
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