Vanessa Van Edwards, Behavioral Investigator, Science of People
Many of us have a secret desire to make a living by following our passions, but not all of us have a passion quite like Vanessa Van Edwards’. Back in college, she loved reading academic and scientific journals. She tore through them.
That might lead you to believe that she wanted to become an academic or work in a lab somewhere, but Van Edwards also had the soul of an entrepreneur. Even as a young adult, she had several successful businesses under her belt. Listening to that entrepreneurial spirit within her, she wondered if there was a way to link up her two loves—business and science.
“All these researchers spend years and years doing this research, and they publish 20-page papers and they get read by, if they’re lucky, a hundred people. And I wondered, is there a way to make a business out of this science research? Is there a way to turn science into business?” Van Edwards says.
In 2012, she started the Science of People, a human behavior research lab dedicated to understanding the science behind what makes people tick. Whether it’s unraveling the building blocks of a charismatic personality, decoding body language, or just delving deeper into the psychology of relationships, she built a business around her passion for science, with a focus on translating dense academic language into something that everyone can understand.
In her writing, including her latest book, Van Edwards takes the latest research and uses it to explain how to read faster, make excellent small talk, and easily capture the attention of an entire room of people with nothing but your words.
- How to use content marketing as a way to validate your business idea
- What qualities make a person a charismatic
- How to connect with influencers and get the “yes” you want
- Hacks to improve your networking, communication, and leadership
- Tricks to dealing with difficult people and how to spot them a mile away
Full Transcript of Podcast with Vanessa Van Edwards
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr” podcast, guys. My name’s Nathan Chan and I’m the CEO and publisher of “Foundr Magazine” and also the host of the “Foundr” podcast. Hope you’re all having a wonderful day, evening, afternoon, good night, good morning wherever you’re listening to this podcast. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your time, attention and just sharing your earbuds with me. Today’s guest, you’re in for an absolute treat. Her name is Vanessa Van Edwards and she’s the master of, just–I guess you could say–body language, conversations, really understanding people for the most part.
And this is an awesome conversation, because it’s a little bit different. We talk about this is a little bit, but we talk about things that I’m not that strong at. When I walk into a room and I don’t know anybody, that’s actually really difficult for me to kind of…you know, you feel uncomfortable not knowing who to speak to, if you don’t know anyone in the room. What do you do, how do you work it, how do you make sure you make the right connections with the right people? And Vanessa really, really breaks this down. She’s broken it down to a science.
So very, very interesting podcast. I think you guys are going to love this one. It’s a little bit of a change-up and there’s some real gold here. So I just wanted to share with you also, we are working on an amazing new initiative. I’m really, really excited for the direction that we’ve taken in the business and we’re scaling up premium content. We’ve surveyed you guys, you’ve let us know that one of your biggest problems is, a lot of you haven’t started a business yet and we want to solve that problem.
You said you wanted to create a physical product-based business the most, so we’ve found an expert that’s going to share with you exactly how to do that. So to find out more, you can go to foundrmag.com/ecommerce. All right, if you are enjoying these episodes, please do take the time to leave us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spotify. It helps us more than you can imagine. Also, do make sure you tell your friends. I know that you must have entrepreneurial friends, other founders that you hang out with, learn from, share stories with.
Please do them a favor and pass this podcast along. It gives them the heads up that there is some good stuff there for them and they can learn from some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation. All right, that’s it from me. Now, let’s jump into the show.
Nathan: So the first question that I ask for everyone that comes on is, how’d you get your job?
Vanessa: Sure. So I created my job. It was not a real job. At least, I was told that in college, that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and make a living. And so, I run a human behavior research lab here in Portland, Oregon. And basically, it’s an excuse for me to ask invasively personal questions for my own amusement. And I have always read and loved science. I’ve read lots of research, I was doing a lot of science journalism before I started Science Of People.
And I wondered, all these researchers spend years and years doing this research and they publish 20-page papers that get read by–if they’re lucky–100 people. And I wondered, “Is there a way to make a business out of this science research? Is there a way to turn science into business? And so, that is exactly what we do: is, I tried to turn science into an actual revenue model.
Nathan: Gotcha. And when did you decide this? Like, how long ago? When did you start the Science Of People?
Vanessa: So I started the Science Of People in 2012, so it’s been about five years. But before that, I was running passive income businesses. So when I started the science of business, I was…I knew exactly the formula I needed to make it work, I just had to test out the niche. So I’ve been running my own business for about 11 years, since 2007.
Nathan: Gotcha. What were those other businesses?
Vanessa: So when I was in college…my parents are both lawyers, bless their hearts. And they had…my mom said to me, “No, when I was in college, all I thought about was being a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant.” And she said, “I want to give you more choices. I don’t want you to be beholden to your hours.” And so, she took me to this money conference and they introduced this concept of passive income. And at the time, I think it was 2003, so the Internet was kind of a newish thing.
And so, they were talking about vending machines and real estate and…but there was a small, little section they had on writing, writing books. E-books was just starting to sort of be a thing, webinars was just starting to be a thing. And they were like, “You know, we think that maybe there’s some opportunity in this crazy thing called the Internet. You might try it.” And I was a college student at the time and I was one of the first few members on Facebook. My university had just gotten Facebook and I was like, “I think there is something to this Internet thing.
And so, I started to create information product websites based on niches that I was really interested in. One of them was a teen parenting website. I was kind of curating information on teens and parenting and it’s on e-books and webinars and I had figured out the model worked really well online. Also, finally in 2012, I was…I wanted to actually write about something that I really enjoyed, not just information for the sake of information. And I was like…I loved science, I’d been writing for a couple of news outlets. And so, I was like, “Let’s give this a shot. Let’s see if there’s something about the Science Of People that people will like.”
Nathan: Gotcha. And how did you start?
Vanessa: So I originally started writing pure pop-sci articles. I would take the latest academic research that came out of institutions or peer review journals, turn it into a kind of interesting nugget article, put it in a business format and post it either to my website or “Huffington Post” or “Forbes” or “Inc.” or somewhere like that. And that’s kind of how I got started. I wanted to see if those articles got clicks, if people wanted to opt in to get…I call them hoardables. So a hoardable is kind of like a lead magnet, but it’s something that people like to hoard, psychologically speaking.
For some reason, we like to save PDFs or…we’re very “just in case.” And so, I would create these hoardables based on the scientific steps of conversation, or “7 Scientifically Proven Steps To Increase Your Influence,” and create these hoardables and see if people wanted them. And sure enough, people did and that’s when I slowly started thinking about, “Okay, this topic is interesting. How can I create products that people will pay for around this topic?”
Nathan: Yeah, got you, because I’ve seen you and your work for quite some time now. Someone on my team put me onto your stuff and it’s really polished, it’s really well done and I just wanted to let you know that it’s very well-refined. I think your message and your niche and everything you’re doing is really, really on point. So I’m really curious around just how all that started. So let’s actually talk about the Science Of People. Even just speaking to you now, I can feel like we’re just speaking webcam, I can feel your energy from the microphone: very warm, very friendly.
Is that something that you’ve developed over time, or is this you as a…naturally as a person, or…? What do you teach? How do you help people? What are the kinds of things that our audience can learn from you that you’d like to share around–I guess–communication, body language? So someone on my team actually purchased your body language course, I think, from CreativeLive, so yeah, let’s talk about that. And also, you’ve got a new book coming out.
Vanessa: Yeah, yeah. So…and this is all…this kind of what anchors our material: the book, the courses. And it’s the idea that…I used to believe and I was taught…you know, I read Dale Carnegie and I read all the people skills book you could possibly read, because I joke that I’m a recovering awkward person. And they all kind of had the same message, which is that to be charismatic or to be good with people, you have to be a bubbly extrovert and I am not a bubbly extrovert.
I love talking about science, I love talking about business. So on this podcast, I am in my element, right? This is one of my favorite…I can geek out on this all day long with you, Nathan. But if you were to put me…drop me…air drop me into a nightclub or a bar or a concert, I would be miserable and not talking and hiding in the bathroom. And so…
Nathan: Really? Wow.
Vanessa: …what I realized…oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Nathan: Even to this day–like, right now–if you went to a…
Vanessa: Oh, yeah.
Nathan: …nightclub or a bar, you would struggle?
Vanessa: Oh, so much. I cannot tell you how many birthday parties I’ve missed because I’m just too afraid to go.
Nathan: Wow. Even to this day?
Vanessa: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, even to this day, yeah. And it’s something that I used to be really ashamed of, but now, I own up to it. I talk about it very publicly, because I think that most of us have sort of “thrive-and-survive” locations. We don’t realize it, we don’t think about it that way, but there are areas that we kind of…we need to figure out our own unique brand of charisma. And when you talk about charisma specifically, what research has found…researchers from Harvard Business School have found that charisma is a very specific blend warmth and competence.
People who are highly charismatic are seen as very warm and friendly as well as very highly competent: that they know their stuff, they’re very capable. If you are just warm, you’re seen as sweet, friendly, kind of naïve, not taken too seriously. If you’re just competent, you’re seen as powerful and capable but intimidating, hard to talk to, not a good team player. And so, that specific blend of both is incredibly important to cultivate. So in your own business or in your own life, you have to think of, “Where are the places where I can both show off my skills, my capability, but also be able to be warm and friendly and engaging?”
The biggest mistake that I see some business owners make is, they feel like they have to pitch, they have to raise a round of funding. And that is like…selling is like their…ugh, their worst time ever. Especially CTOs or really technically brilliant people: they’re like, “Ugh, I just want to code all day. I don’t want to go have to pitch to these investors.” But they force themselves into a suit, they force themselves out into the junket. And they are pitching and they’re very capable, they’re very competent, they know their stuff. But because they are uncomfortable and they hate it and they feel schmoozey and salesman-y, they’re not warm. And so, they do not get investment.
And so, it’s really important to either partner yourself with someone who can complement the warmth to your competence or the competence to your warmth, or only select situations where you can be both.
Nathan: I see. So talk to us about the focus of your new book.
Vanessa: Yeah. So I always, growing up, wished that there was a people textbook. You know, I was very kind of book-smart, very nerdy, I loved the getting good grades, I’m a people-pleaser through and through. And so, I always never understood why they would teach us chemistry and math formulas and history, but we weren’t learning conversation and flirting and selling yourself and elevator pitches, which were all the things that you use–I would even say–more often in the business world.
And so, I was like, “What if I created that textbook that I always wanted and science-based?” So not just someone’s opinion. A lot of the resources that are out there are written by people who are naturally good with people. The problem with that is, if you have someone who’s naturally good at people, they air very anecdotal, so you don’t know if that holds up for everyone or if it just works for them. And b, they often don’t know how to teach, because they do it naturally.
So what I wanted to do was, “Okay, if I just start from scratch–if I had to start from the very bottom–how would I reconstruct a conversation? How would I build a blueprint for social interactions?” And in one of my chapters, I literally break down a networking event into a map, like a football field. And I have a…back spots where you move and where you stand and we have a start zone, an end zone, the social zone. How would I break the field–the playing field–if I had to, at a networking event or conference? And so, it’s the textbook that I always wished I had had.
Nathan: Gotcha. So if you’re walking into a room or anywhere you’re going, are you thinking strategy around what you should be doing, based on your rulebook and the science of everything that you know and research? Or is it being developed naturally, or…? I’ve always been curious about that.
Vanessa: Yeah, I used to. So I…and a lot of my students who’ve been with me for many years, in the beginning, it’s very purposeful. I walk into a room, I do step one, I do step two, I interact with conversation-sparker one. You know, it was very, very purposeful and that’s also the way I think. That’s kind of how I think about things and so, it was very purposeful. As I started to a, get really good feedback–so get business cards, have really amazing conversations, meet and make friends–after I got married and realized that it works on the deepest of deep levels, I was able to internalize a lot of it.
So instead of being just memorized and going through sort of the patterns or the steps, now it feels like a much more natural process. So I’ll walk into a room and it’s…I know where I go from either muscle memory, or I feel a little bit more fluid with it. And that’s what a lot of students tell me, is that there is this…somehow, this phase between going from memorized to internalized, depending on your natural ability.
Nathan: Gotcha. And when it comes to…I guess, one thing that I’ve learned that’s very, very key is networking. I think what…well, there’s one thing that I’ve learned from one of my mentors that runs an extremely large company out of Australia and U.S. And one thing that he’s taught me is that one of the biggest success hacks there is out there is not thinking, “How can I do it,” but, “How can I find someone else that’s doing what I want to do?” That’s like, 10X thinking.
So it’s so key if you want to rapidly grow your business and rapidly level up as a person, defined and learned from very, very smart people. And there are very, very smart people on your team that have your back, whether they’re working in your company or they’re friends or they’re advisors or they’re mentors. So what do you recommend for people wanting to do that to connect with really, really smart people that might be intimidating, or that might be someone that you might have as not…you know, have a…might have a…in society…a higher perceived value than yourself?
Vanessa: Yeah. I mean, that’s a big question and I think that I would not do it justice if I tried to answer it in a soundbite. But I will say that it’s something that I work on a lot, something I thought about a lot. The only way that I was able to build my business was by connecting with very big VIPs: journalists, media outlets, book publishers. And so, that’s been a huge part of my business. I will say that the one thing that drives VIPs crazy–and I know this because of botched attempts–is, the worst thing you can ask a VIP…the worst thing that you can say is, “Can I pick your brain?”
“Pick your brain” is a statement–a question–that should be killed and retired and never used again, because when you go to someone with a specific question or even a specific request, or better yet, a specific offer–like, something you are giving–it’s so much easier for someone to say, “Yes.” The hardest thing that happens to a lot of VIPs and a lot of the VIPs that I work with…and I don’t need to do coaching anymore, this is just people who are on my personal board of directors…they get bombarded with these really broad, “Can you help me,” requests.
“Can I do an informational interview?” “Can I pick your brain about something?” “Can you help me with this? I think that our brands would do really well together.” “I think that we’d have a lot of synergy, we should sit down and chat.” “Is there ways for us to collaborate?” Basically putting the onus on the VIP to come up magically with some way for them to help. So if you are asking or trying to connect with a VIP, the best thing that you can do is have a very, very specific ask or offer. And if you can, start with the offer.
Nathan: Gotcha. Can you give us some behavior hacks, something that people can expect, some…just a bit of a taste that people can expect from your book?
Vanessa: Oh, that’s a big question. Behavior hacks. So there are 14 behavior hacks in the book. I love kind of the idea of hacking human behavior or programming for good, programming people. And so, there are 14 different kind of quick hacks that I like. One of them, actually, I briefly touched on earlier, was on this idea of breaking down a networking event into a map. So one of the experiments that we ran at Science Of People, we partnered with local organizations here in Portland. And I wanted to track super connectors.
So I wanted to see if there was a way to leverage what super connectors–people who are naturally good at connecting–already do and already know. So what we did is, we partnered with each of these organizations and we set up cameras in each corner of the rooms, we filmed the entire event. And everyone who came into the event got a little pre-survey and a post-survey. The pre-survey asked questions like, “Are you excited to be here?” “Do you like networking?” “What’s your goal for tonight?” We were trying to gauge people who like networking versus didn’t, naturally, and if they did something differently.
Then, we tracked everyone around the room and we asked them at the end of the night, “How many business cards that you get?” “Did you achieve your networking goal?” Did you have a good time?” And, “Did you make any new business connections,” to see which people were most effective that evening. And then, we also looked at their LinkedIn to see how many connections they had on LinkedIn and if they were employed. What we found was…is that there was this very elite group of super connectors: people who both enjoyed networking, were very effective, got a lot of business cards and a lot of business opportunities, were employed in great positions and had a very high-worth network on LinkedIn.
And they made very distinct patterns around the room and this is one of the business hacks. The biggest mistake that low connectors…that non-super connectors made…is, they stood in the start zone, the area right when you enter. So, like, right as you take off your coat or you check in at the main table, they stood in that very first early area. What we found is, those people had a lot more connections. They actually got a lot of business cards, but they were very, very low quality.
The reason for this–we think, because we watched the videos over and over again–is that when people first enter into an event, they have to scope, they have to have a feeling of psychological safety. They want to take a kind of look around the room, “Do I know anyone here?” “Where is the host?” “Where is my drink?” “Can I put down my coat?” “I want to get something to eat?” “I have to go to the bathroom.” There’s a certain checklist that people kind of go through in their head.
And if you have already done all those things and then, you walk back to the beginning of the room, you feel like you’re getting fresh meat. You feel like you’re getting as they enter and that’s a great thing, because you’re welcoming them. But actually, what would happen was…is, they would briefly talk and the person would kind of be doing a lot of overhead gazing–looking around the room–and they would typically excuse themselves from the conversation very quickly. So that relationship never really fully formed.
The super connectors avoided the start zone entirely. They don’t stand anywhere near the entrance–they usually blew right through it–and they sit in the social zones. The social zone, there’s a couple of sweet spots. My favorite one is right as people exit the bar. So there’s this really interesting psychological thing that happens when you’re at an event: is, you stand in line to get a drink, you’re purposeful, you have something to do. You get your drink and you have this moment where you’re about to turn and face the room at large.
And in that moment, it’s actually the peak of anxiety for most people, because if you don’t know anyone, you know that you’re about to have to do a cold approach, which is the worst. If you know people, you’re like, “Oh, who am I going to talk to?” “What should my opener be?” “Do I remember his name?” “Does he remember my name?” And so, you have this moment where you face the room and you’re like, “What to do next?” The super connectors stood right there and they were in the line of sight from people who turned to face the room and they almost came in like a social savior.
They were like, “Hey, how’s the wine?” Very casual opening and you could see the relief that people had, when these super connectors would approach them. It’s like, “Ah. New person. Yay, I did my networking. I have someone to talk to. They did the hard work of the cold approach. I have my drink, I surveyed the room and I made these really deep connections. So the behavior hack would be to avoid the start zone entirely and always try to stand by where people exit the bar.
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And what other things can people expect from your book, in terms of…? Your book’s called “Captivate: Use Science To Succeed With People,” by the way, just for everyone who’s listening. But what other things can people expect?
Vanessa: So we…I tried to break down…when I was sitting down to write the book, I was like, “How do you begin to organize human behavior?” You know, “How do you even begin to tackle that?” And I thought the most practical thing…way to do it…would be to actually follow the flow of a relationship. So most relationships face different levels and I broke it down. So part one of the book is called “The First Five Minutes.” And that’s because in every interaction, you have this first impression which is incredibly important and you’re sort of sussing each other out. And it usually only takes a few seconds or a few minutes to decide if you want to level up with that person.
So the first part of the book is all about those first few minutes: how do you ask the right questions in the beginning? What kind of body language do you want to have? What is happening in the room in these first few minutes? The second part is “The First Five Hours.” And this is with both business, as well as friends, as well as dating. If you like someone at a bar, you’re likely to ask for their number and then go on a few dates. So that’s the first five hours.
You like a colleague or someone at a networking event: in the first few minutes, you get a card, you go out for coffee, or you invite them over to your office, or you do a phone call together. So the first five hours are, how do you level up the relationship to not just be friends or acquaintances, but actually be partners, colleagues, dating? Those first five meetings, those first five dates, first few hours, spending time together. And the last section is on the first five days, which is like, if you’re willing to spend five days with someone, it’s a serious relationship.
It’s a partnership, it’s a deep friendship, it’s a bond that you want to keep. And so, it’s, how do you really deepen the level? As a leader, we have a chapter and I think number 12 is about empowerment. So it’s like how, as a leader, do you keep someone around for the long term, as well as, how do you deal with difficult people, which is one of the hardest things we have. When we know someone for a long period of time and we know someone for more than a few hours, we typically are going to experience them on their bad day. And it’s, how did you get through the bad days, how do you deal with difficult people and the four types of difficult people. And then, at the end of the book is, how do you keep that engagement for the long-term.
Nathan: As you were talking, I took a whole ton of notes. So there’s one thing that I was curious about, because I know that you’re obsessed with starting human interactions in people. And you know, when you meet people–you talked about meeting people for the first time–I’m curious, should you follow your gut always? When you’re just…you can’t help, as a human to…when you meet somebody, whether you get a good feeling about them or not, should you always follow your gut about that person ?
Vanessa: Yes. Our intuition is incredibly powerful and science has found that there’s a lot happening behind that gut impression. We don’t realize it consciously, but it happens with pheromones, with chemicals. One quick example, which I just find fascinating. This was a study that was done, I believe, at with Stony Brook University. And what they did is, they wanted to know if we can…if there’s anything to do that’s happening beyond our conscious awareness with intuition.
So they took a group of people and they had them run on the treadmill and they had them wear, while they were running, these sweat pads to absorb their sweat. They took the sweat pads off and then, they put fresh sweat pads on them and they had them go up in a plane and skydive. And they had them…they got sweat pads from those suits when they skydived, all first-time skydivers. Basically, they had these sweat pads that were just pure sweat: hard work, running on a treadmill. And then, they had these sweat pads that were sweaty from fear, right, like adrenaline, cortisol, jumping out of an airplane.
Then, they had participants…and I felt so bad for these participants, but hopefully they were compensated well. They had participants smell these sweat pads while they were in brain scanners. And what they found was…is that when participants…and they had no idea what they were smelling, by the way. When participants smelled the sweat pads from the skydivers, their own fear response activated in the brain. In other words…
Vanessa: …they could smell the fear and they caught it, which is incredible, because they had no idea what they were smelling, they had no idea why they were smelling anything. But they began to feel afraid. This is the first of many studies that indicate that when you have a bad feeling about something or a bad feeling about someone, or someone makes you nervous, or someone makes you really happy, someone makes you feel really excited, someone makes you feel turned on, it is not just whatever they’re saying. We are physiologically picking up on things. And so, I think it’s very important to honor your intuition, because it’s way smarter than we realize.
Nathan: I love that. Let’s talk to…let’s talk about…we have to work towards wrapping up, but if we can talk about…a little bit about leadership. I think that would be really, really helpful to our audience, because some people listening right now would be either hiring somebody, have a team of people, or just kind of making that transition from founder to CEO. So how do you deal with difficult people? How do you hire great people and size them up and understand if they’re going to fit your culture, but also someone that you could gel with?
And I think when you are going through an interviewing process, people…you know, they’re going to try their best to get the job, right? And they’re going to make themselves sound really cool and they’re going to…you know, purely good on paper and etc., etc.
Vanessa: Yeah. So I went from being a solopreneur to having a core team. Once we started really getting our business up and running, we hired a team of five very quickly, which I learned hiring quickly is not always a good thing. And I always say, “Hire slowly, fire quickly.” That’s way better. So I know this more than anyone. And then, now, we have a team of 114 trainers around the world who teach our science people research around the world.
So hiring and building a team and building culture’s incredibly important and I think that there’s a lot of ways to leverage this, but the easiest one is what’s called resource theory. So resource theory, it was gelled by a social psychologist, Dr. Uriel Failla [SP]. And he basically argues that all of our interactions are transactions and we are always, while we’re interacting, looking for different resources. And there are six different resources. They’re different…if you’ve heard of the love languages, they’re actually quite different than the love languages. That’s about appreciation, this is about fulfillment. This is about why we are in interactions.
So the resources are love, service, status, money, goods and information. And I have this in chapter–I think–nine of my book, but it’s real easy to get this if you’re just listening. What you want to think about with each and every team member–especially your colleagues–is, what is their primary resource, what is their primary value language? It is not always what you think. Money is what everyone assumes everyone else wants, but actually in business, it is often not money. I’ll give you a really specific example.
So one of my employees, she’s awesome, she’s in charge of all of our community management stuff, a lot of our social media and our content calendar. And she was doing a really, really good job and so, I was like, “I really want to reward her. I’m going to give her a bonus at the end of the year and then, I would try to give her a raise next year.” So I, with great fanfare, tell her, “Were going to give you a bonus. Yay.” And she was like,” Oh, great. Thanks.” And I was like, “No, a bonus. A bonus. You know, like…this bonus.”
And I had work to do in the budget to get this for her. And she was like, “Oh, okay. Thank you,” and we were like, “Okay.” Six months later, I was ready to give her a raise. I bring her in, I said, “You know, I’ve been so grateful for your work and I’m going to give you a raise.” And she was like, “Oh, that’s lovely. Thank you.” I’m like, “What is going on?” And I realized…I was talking to her about, “How do you feel about that? Are you happy with Science Of People? Tell me about your work. What are your highlights of your days working with us? What is your favorite thing to work on?”
And I realized that I thought she was wanting the resource of money. I thought that was her resource language, but actually, her resource language is status. So for her, responsibility, praise, titles, public recognition is far more valuable for her than anything else. So I had given her a raise without a title increase. My bad. She was feeling really, really bad about not being listed on the website. My bad, right? Immediately when I figured this out, I was like, “We’re getting a team page where it’s a public team page, everyone’s photo is going up, everyone’s title was going up. You are getting a title increase. What title would you like?”
And I started realizing that the public praise, like doing it in our team meetings, publicly praising her on social media…which it was a pleasure and so much easier than a raise to do that. And I was like, “Why didn’t I see this before?” So thinking about, how do you give resources–the right resources–to your employees is one of the most important lessons I think we can learn as leaders.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s gold. Awesome. Well, look, we have to work towards wrapping up, so last question, Vanessa. And that would be…well, two last questions. The first one is, when it comes to building a successful business, what’s your best piece of advice? And then, the last place is, where’s the best place people can find more about you and your work?
Vanessa: Sure. So I love talking about business. It’s one of my…because I don’t get to talk about business a lot in my brand, so totally, it’s fun talking about it here. The biggest thing I would recommend–and this is one I learned the hard way, so I hope that by sharing this, I save…I spare some people–is…one: is, make sure you have dream-killers. And dream-killers are really, really valuable people. They’re people in your life…I’m sure you already have them. They’re the ones who always default to, “No.” They’re very good at poking holes in ideas, they don’t ever believe that anything is going to work, they’re incredibly skeptical.
As entrepreneurs, as founders, we know who those people are in our life, because they’ve typically made us feel terrible about ourselves and our business. But I actually think they can be incredibly useful for the right things. In fact, I know exactly who my dream-killers are and I know exactly when to go to them. I go to them for that resource. I will go to them to poke holes in ideas that I’m working on. I will go to them and say, “Dream-kill this for me. What am I not seeing? What are all the things that I should worry about or prepare for?” And making sure that I only go to them during those times.
Not going to the dream-killer is when I’m in brainstorm mode, when I’m in creativity mode, when I’m dreaming, when I’m trying to create. I know to studiously avoid coffees with those people when I’m in that mode. And conversely, who are your dream-builders? Who are the people who will probably never say a bad thing, they might even be more “yes” people. They’re like, “Oh, yeah. You could do this,” and, “You could do this,” and, “You could try this.” Those people are very helpful during the creative brain-training process, but they’re not always helpful in the doing/building process. So know who your dream-killers and your dream-builders are and leverage them appropriately.
Nathan: That’s interesting. And with your dream-killers, do you…are they people that you think should be on your team, or just friends, or…?
Vanessa: It’s totally up to you. It depends on the kind of business that you have. If you’re lucky enough to have a big enough team where you could have a dream-killer on your team, but they’re not involved in every meeting, I think it’s okay. But it’s very hard to have a dream-killer on your team who’s there for every meeting, because they will constantly be dream-killing ideas. That is the definition of a bad apple, right?
Vanessa: That is what…where that comes from.
Nathan: Gotcha. Awesome. And the best place people can find out more about yourself, your work, Science Of People and also your latest book?
Vanessa: Yeah. So everything is on the scienceofpeople.com. That’s our lab landing page. You can play in our lab, do a couple of our experiments, check out some of our manifestoes. And then, of course, “Captivate” is wherever books are sold.
Nathan: Awesome. And I know you also had a special bonus for our audience, as well.
Vanessa: Yeah. So if you check out the book right now, we have “The Lost Chapter.” So we actually have a hidden 15-pack that did not make it into the book, because we thought it would be a really good kind of special extra. So if you go check it out–you can go to scienceofpeople.com/podcast–you can check out the book and then, also the hidden chapter.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for your time, Vanessa. I really appreciate it. It was a great conversation, I learned a lot.
Vanessa: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Vanessa Van Edwards
- Connect with Vanessa Van Edwards on Linkedin
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- Checkout Vanessa Van Edwards’ Books
- Like Vanessa Van Edwards on Facebook
- Learn more about the Science of People