Devora Zack on how the logical and the sensitive can thrive side by side: An interview by Bob Morris

Devora Zack is a Washington Post bestselling author and global keynote speaker with books in forty-five languages.  Her clients include the Smithsonian, Pfizer, Delta Airlines, and the US Food and Drug Administration.  She has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC-TV, CNN, NBC, SiriusXM, and Forbes, among many others.  She graduated with honors from Cornell University (MBA) and the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and is also the author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, Managing for People Who Hate Managing, and Singletasking. Her latest book is, The Cactus & Snowflake at Work.

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What are the defining characteristics of a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive?

One that melds open dialogue that is both sensitive and practical with the freedom to laugh regularly.

Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing The Cactus and the Snowflake at Work? Please explain.

There were many. However, one head-snapping revelation was when the concept of the Non-Event (NE) hit me. The issue is not whether we are “nice” about others’ reactions – or lack thereof. Instead, the core of myriad misunderstandings and conflicts is that one experience can significantly impact one person while literally nothing even occurred to another.

Please explain why you selected the two metaphors rather than another pair of terms such as brain and heart or reason and emotion.

This was a collaborative, cumulative decision with many surveys, discussions, and committees.

Ultimately the visceral appeal of these personality metaphors won out. They combine for a memorable, quirky imagery woven throughout the book.

I am convinced that a crisis does not develop character, it reveals it. What do you think?

It depends.

In your opinion, what are the most important dos and don’ts for a cactus to keep in mind when working closely with a snowflake? In turn, what should a snowflake keep in mind when working closely with a cactus?

On either end of the spectrum, keep alert for when you think others should or should not think, feel, or interpret situations. Replace that tendency for judgement with curiosity and compassion for other’s subjective experience. In the book I encourage readers to “mind their own business.” In other words, focus on what is within your own bailiwick. What makes you think you know best for someone else? What if everyone is exactly how they are supposed to be? And keep in mind: when you think you know everything about a situation, you’re inevitably wrong.

After someone reads your book and is self-motivated to establish and then maintain an appropriate balance of their mental and emotional intelligence. Where to begin?

Practice makes perfect. Select one or two “toolshed moment” tips and focus on integrating them into your behaviors. Keep at it and be patient with yourself.

What seems to be the single greatest challenge that people encounter when embarking on that quest? How to respond to that challenge? Any especially important dos and don’ts to keep in mind?

Beating up on yourself and throwing in the towel too quickly. Remember the RAR model – Recognize your initial response, Accept it, then Revise.

In your opinion, which of the material you provide in The Cactus and the Snowflake at Work will be most valuable to those now preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked on one? Please explain.

The parts that resonate with you the most. Not sure what you’d most benefit from working on? Ask trusted sources.

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Devora cordially invites you to check out the resources at her website.

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