Reframe & Reset Your Career Podcast

Episode 61. How Behavioural Science Can Help Enhance Your Job Search & Career Development – Dr Kurt Nelson

How can behavioural science help boost your job search, career development and other aspects of your life? Dr Kurt Nelson, shared his insights about this, his career and much more on Episode 61 of the Reframe & Reset Your Career podcast.

In this episode, we will learn about:

If you’re not happy in your current role, consider potential internal moves first,

What is behavioral science?

How to maintain motivation during your job search and the problem of the “middle”,

The benefits of maintaining a streak during your job search such as sending out CVs and connecting with people,

Reframing failure and how loss aversion is relevant to a job search,

Managing your emotions during a job search,

Strategies to help with job interviews,

What is the “pratfall effect” and how it can help in an interview?,

Be mindful of taking on tasks which don’t directly lead to promotion,

The benefits of broadening your interests so it’s easier to connect with new people,

Leaders need to be mindful of the power of their words and actions and

Enjoy the journey, focus on the process and not the destination.


The edited transcript of the interview is at the end. It has been edited for clarity and ease of reading. I hope you find it helpful.


Kurt is a sought-after behavioral scientist and recognized leader in human motivation and behavior change. For over 25 years, Kurt has worked with global companies to apply behavioral science principles to drive change in their organizations.

He is founder and president of The Lantern Group, a communication and behavioral design agency which uses behavioral science insights to improve employee engagement and motivation. Additionally, they have created the Brain/Shift behavior change catalogue of personal products.

He also is the co-founder, with Tim Houlihan, of the award-winning Behavioral Grooves Podcast, where they interview leading academic and business executives from around the world and explore how they apply behavioral science to their work and lives. All his work focuses on understanding ways to positively influence how people behave.

Kurt earned his MBA from the University of Iowa and his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Capella University.

Kurt discussed why the concept of loss aversion is relevant to a job search and being rejected. He told me “It’s an element Danny Kahneman, along with his former research partner Amos Tversky, brought us: Loss Aversion and that rejection is a loss right. We had this this idea, even if it was just an idea that I was going to get this job now that job is lost, it’s gone and that pain is double of that equivalent of a similar gain would be and so every time we get a rejection that loss really hurts … So reframing that and looking at the journey and what are these many steps that I’m doing that I can be successful on, hopefully can help alleviate that it’s not going to take it away but it can help alleviate that.”


People & Resources Mentioned

Linda Babcock

Dr Robert Cialdini – Influence

Dr Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow


Contact Kurt








Reframe & Reset Your Career Resources & Contact Info

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Thank you for your continued support of Reframe & Reset Your Career, I do appreciate it. We will be back to the usual release schedule in October with episodes coming out on Weds 11th October with Matt Abrahams and 25th October with Kimberly Godbolt. Have a great Summer!

It would be great to hear from you, the listeners, and your thoughts about the podcast, YouTube channel or anything else, it’s always a pleasure to hear your views. I have had some great reviews but not had any way of responding. 


Edited Interview Transcript

Harsha: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 61 of the Reframe and Reset Your Career podcast.

Our guest today is Kurt Nelson. Before we begin, I wanted to thank all the supporters of the podcast. We just passed 10,000 downloads. Please connect with me on LinkedIn and do let me know what you think of the content. Do subscribe, like, and share does make such a difference. Now back to the show. Kurt is a sought after behavioral scientist and recognized leader in human motivation and behavior change.

For over 25 years, he has worked with global companies to apply behavioral science principles to drive change in their organizations. He is founder and president of the Lantern Group, a communication and behavioral design agency, which uses behavioral science insights to improve employee engagement and motivation.

Additionally, they have created the BrainShift behavior change catalog of personal products. He is also the co founder with Tim Houlihan [00:01:00] of the award winning Behavioral Grooves podcast. Welcome, Kurt.

Kurt: I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Harsha: And you’re, you’re joining us from sunny Minnesota. Is that correct?

Kurt: I’m actually joining you from Northern Minnesota, not even a home. We’re up at up on the North shore of Lake Superior. So I’m in a, like a cabin little retreat out in the woods.

Harsha: Fantastic. So Kurt, I’m, I’m a big fan of the arts. Is there a performer, song, book or film which you’d like to share with our listeners today?

Kurt: I’ve been thinking about this because I could go a lot. Part of the podcast that I have, we talk about music as well and we end it on music. So I like the starting on music piece. There’s a lot of artists that I really love. Over the past few years, actually right before COVID and throughout COVID that I listened to a lot is Seawolf they’re a band out of Los Angeles.

They [00:02:00] are an indie kind of act and they are just fantastic.

Harsha: I’ve never heard of them. We’ll definitely check it out. So thanks. Thanks for the recommendation. So back, back to the start, you earned an MBA from the university of Minnesota. With a specialization in marketing. Why did you study that? And was there a particular strategy behind that?

Kurt: Yeah, it was the university of Iowa just to make that sure. So it was interesting because I had got my undergraduate degree that was in economics and marketing. I started to work and realize that the job that I had. Oh, it was it was not good.

So I ended up having an opportunity to go back literally with about a year after graduating after working for about a year and just decided to do it. I’d always wanted to go back and get higher education. So that was one of the things that really drove me. And then the opportunity just presented itself.

And I was [00:03:00] really focused in on business. And so looking at different graduate programs and an MBA just seemed to fit with what I wanted to do.

Harsha: Brilliant. And I like that part of the story about, you know, you, you were in a situation, it wasn’t working out for you. And rather than staying and not being happy, you took action. And I think that’s really important for our listeners out there is that, look, if you’re in a situation which isn’t working, look, not every situation is going to be great. Not every boss is going to be great, but what you need to do is take stock of the situation.

And I’m not saying you should take action straight away. But you need to think, think about it, think through your options, almost have this decision tree.

Kurt: I think you’ve brought up a really good point. And what I think is really interesting about my situation that might apply to others is that pretty quickly I realized that this job that I had.

I was a loan officer [00:04:00] for a company that was a lender of last resort. So half of my job was giving people loans, but half of my job was collections and realized very quickly that. Because I was doing so much of calling people and trying to get them to pay their bills and then going out at the end of the month and knocking on doors and actually asking people for money, that the people that came in for loans, I started viewing them differently.

You know, we had 97 percent of people, 95 percent of people pay on time. But I started viewing everybody as that three to 5 percent that didn’t pay and realized that, that I didn’t want that to kind of continue. It would jade who I was as a person. So to your point of thinking about the opportunities and taking that decision tree, and I had prepared myself so when the opportunity arose, I was able to jump on it and I didn’t have to think that much because I had gone through that process prior and had weighed the pros [00:05:00] and cons. And I think that was really important.

Harsha: I think that’s a really interesting point you bring up about how people view each other because, you know, there are a lot of jobs where there’s just downside, there’s no upside. I suppose, as a loans officer, you’re almost going to be judged on the defaults and not the people who do well.

And, and then you have all these behavioral biases which come into it and you’re thinking, Oh, past history is going to inform future history. And, and I suppose we could talk hours about that. But, but I suppose also if you’re working in an organization, there are jobs, say in risk control or accounting or the middle office, because I I’m from a banking and finance background.

And yeah, but luckily I was in the front office. I was doing the deals rather than recording them. But when you’re talking to people say in the the middle and the back office, you have to sort of empathize with their situation because it’s all downside and there’s not a lot [00:06:00] of upside in a way from saying yes.

So it’s about trying to understand, empathize. I’m sure that must’ve come across in the stuff that you were doing.

Kurt:  It was, I mean, huge, a huge part of that, right, is trying to understand the position and what people are doing. And I think it was one of the pieces that I kind of innately fell into that I, that I liked to, to kind of understand what was going on.

I think that led to me going back eventually to get my PhD in industrial organizational psychology and trying to understand why people they think the way they do, but to your point, it’s very difficult for people as much as we like to say, we can get into somebody else’s shoes. It is very, very difficult for us to do that.

We have the fundamental attribution error, which is a bias that we pretty much most of us have at some point is this idea that we attribute different motivations [00:07:00] and different causalities for people’s behavior and their actions than we do to our own. We typically put ourselves in a pretty good light and we don’t do that so much for others.

And so trying to actually have that empathy for those people in the back room, for the other aspects. As much as we like to think that we do a good job we can do a much better job because we have some just fundamental brain elements that kind of keep us from doing that really well.

Harsha:  In terms of, going off on your own and founding the Lantern Group, what led you to that? Kurt, why did you go down that route?

Kurt: It’s an interesting piece. It kind of has some correlations to, going back to get my MBA. So I was working for a company and so I got my MBA, moved up to Minnesota from there. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am 99. 9 percent sure I was the lowest paid MBA [00:08:00] graduate of my class. So I was on the bottom, bottom, bottom of that payroll because I joined because I thought they were going to be doing all this consulting and this really cool work of, you know, performance improvement with organizations and my job.

I was a marketing coordinator. So I was basically making copies and running stuff around and doing all sorts of other things. And then I kind of got promoted. Luckily for me, I was able to get into Thank you. A kind of sneak myself into another group that was doing all the strategic work. So there was a small group within this company that I worked on.

It was called the consulting group. It was with a bunch of PhDs and who were doing all this really cool strategic work with senior leaders, which is what I had actually kind of signed up for. But that took about a year and a half to two years in this job. And then for the final three years. As I was talking with one of the people there, I just, I [00:09:00] see this pathway and it’s a good pathway, but it’s a long pathway, you know, 10, 15 years to get up to a VP direct senior director type level.

And there was this little opportunity again, I kind of planned that said. Oh, I could just go off and do my own thing. I don’t know where that will lead, but it seems like it might be a more fun path. And because I wasn’t making that much, I realized that I could probably just get a job at McDonald’s if everything else failed and still pay my rent because I didn’t have a fancy car.

I didn’t have a fancy apartment. So I’m like, Oh, I can cover my bills with a minimum wage paying job. So from the risk perspective, it wasn’t that big for me. And so I was able to take that, that leap.

Harsha:  I love those points you make. I suppose one, the fact that you, you looked at the landscape and you saw, look, what you’re doing isn’t really working out.

Therefore, you try to figure out what the interesting departments are within your company.

And I remember when I was a [00:10:00] lowly graduate student, I was at EY and I was on the audit side. And I wasn’t particularly interested in that, but I thought, rather than just leaving, look around for more interesting opportunities.

And I managed to find that. So I think that’s a good lesson for people out there. If you are stuck in a situation, look around internally, because at least you’ve done a lot of the hard work by getting through the front door. But then the second point about, what are the downsides of the situation of, say, leaving?

If you do leave and you don’t have a fancy lifestyle, then actually the opportunity cost isn’t that great. So you can almost take on more risk rather than less.

Kurt: To the point of, like, looking around inside the organization if you’re not, if they’re feeling that your current role isn’t a fit. I was very lucky because I found a mentor.

And luck. And again, this is another piece of behavioral science, right? Is this they ended up they I found them because they sat in the cube next to me. They were the different department, different [00:11:00] division, but they sat in the cube next to me and they heard me and they overheard how I interacted with customers and different things.

And we formed a friendship and yeah. What I ended up doing, which I don’t know every company would allow this, but I started going on these projects with this mentor of mine, even though I was still having my old job. So I was doing two jobs getting paid for, you know, this other one. And I did that for at least six months before I actually transitioned over to being an employee of that group. So a really interesting process for how that worked for me.

Harsha: And I think there’s a great point there that you never know, one who is listening. You never know also by being nice to somebody what where that can lead you. And I definitely think if I look back in my career I mean, sure. Look, I’ve got some qualifications et cetera, et cetera.

But I think it’s by building relationships and trying to be nice to people. I mean, not [00:12:00] in a forced sort of way. But if you’re just yourself and you’re authentic, you’ll come across people who like you, who want to help you. Maybe they see something of themselves in you and they want to give you a break and you just never know. Do you?

Kurt: Yeah. I mean, and that’s exactly the case. And then this, there wasn’t a grand plan when I started to take on these projects. It was just, this was fascinating. This was interesting piece. And, you know, Fred, who was the mentor that I had was kind enough to offer them. And I’m jumping on this chance because this seems fascinating.

This seems like what I want to do. And to your point, It all came about because he saw something in, in me, probably from overhearing me with other people in the conversations. And so always be aware that people are listening and watching and paying, paying attention. Sometimes when we don’t think they are.

Harsha: I just love that. Now moving on to behavioral science. So can you [00:13:00] explain to our listeners what is behavioral science? I know this is a difficult question because we could talk for hours, but you’re the expert.

Kurt: So behavioral science, the way that I define it, and I think there’s probably other definitions out there, but I think this is, this is one that is pretty simple.

And so it is a mixture of many of the social sciences, any of the social sciences that look at human behavior. So in other words, any of psychology, sociology, social psychology. Economics, behavioral economics, any of those that are trying to understand and study why we do what we do and behavioral science because is a overarching component, which looks at all of the different research from those different fields and tries to bring it together to again, talk about why we do what we do.

And that I think is the really [00:14:00] fascinating piece, at least for from my perspective, both from work, but also from just an inter personal relationship and trying to understand myself and why I behave the way I do. Why does my spouse behave the way that she does? Why do my kids behave the way they do? That, that one I don’t understand. All right. That’s, that’s beyond me. But then it goes into work, trying to understand how do our employees work and behave? How do our peers, what can we do to influence them, customers and all of those factors.

So that’s the way that I look at behavioral science. And it’s not the most scientific definition, but it’s one that I think works for most people.

Harsha: So Kurt, if I spoke to your wife, would she give you a glowing reference that you’re a much better husband after all the years of behavioral science?

Kurt: My kids will go. Papa, are you using that psychology stuff on us again? And it’s like you caught me. You caught me. So yeah, [00:15:00] I think on those close relationships that it’s harder. And, and I will, I always tell people this too, is that the psychology that I studied is industrial organizational psychology.

So I’m not the psychologist that is trying to have you on a couch and uncover all of the elements of your, your siblings and, and. Yeah. Parent relationships to find out what’s wrong with you. I have no clue. I mean, I took a course or two in that, but that’s it. I look at how how large organizations implement programs and how that drives behavior change at the larger level. So that’s where my my focus is.

Harsha: I love that answer. And the whole idea about trying to understand why we do what we do, because that’s actually how I became interested in this area. And it all started from decision making and looking at, Daniel Kahneman and, and various things about, system one system to try to improve your decision making.

And I feel that if you can figure out [00:16:00] what your base level of being is then you think, okay, there are things that you’re what you were good at the things that we’re not so good at. And then if you think about the things we’re good at, then maybe you don’t need to think too much. A lot of decision making can come instinctually to say on this podcast.

Hopefully I’m not thinking too much when I’m interviewing you. So that comes hopefully naturally. But then there are other things say if I’m going to make a decision about buying a stock, you need to think a bit more about that. And then say if there’s a particular skill that you’re doing, maybe some people are very good at excel spreadsheets.

Some people aren’t so good. So it’s really thinking about what you’re good at what you’re not so good at In the areas, maybe where you’re not so good Think about how you can reduce the risk or minimize the chances of going wrong. And also maybe saying client meetings, do you have to prepare more?

Do you have to, you know, [00:17:00] should you be more natural? Should you be less natural? I think that’s a really fascinating thing about behavioral science, neuroscience, psychology. It’s really being honest about what your strengths and skills are and then trying to apply techniques to help you.

Kurt: Yeah, I think that’s a really good kind of way of looking at this. There’s a couple things that I want to dig into. So you brought up Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and slow and his system one, system two. And again, for the listeners who may not know that, system one thinking is our quick, automatic kind of in the moment thinking we hear a horn as we’re crossing the street, I don’t want to have to stop and think, oh, it’s a horn.

What do I do? Do I jump, I move out of the way, right? That automatic piece of it. System two thinking is our more deliberate. Thoughtful, as you said, picking a stock. I don’t want to just pick a stock because, oh, I like the, I like the call letters. Those are cool. All right, here we go.

Although sometimes my stocks that might work [00:18:00] better. But that’s, that’s beside the point. But when we think about that, there is oftentimes I think people get confused and saying, oh, we need to do more system two thinking. And I think what you’re saying is and I think this is aligned with what you’re saying, but it’s not so much in making sure that we’re doing more system two thinking.

It’s making sure that we are applying the right thinking to the right problem or the right decision that we’re making. So, as you mentioned in this podcast, you don’t want to be thinking too much about the questions that you’re doing. You need to have that, that’s not how we have a natural conversation.

And so you want to apply the right type of thinking in the right situation where we get into issues. Is and particularly systematic issues is where we often do the wrong type of thinking for the wrong type of decision or the wrong type of problem. And so that I think is is a key piece of this. The other piece that you talked about is this aspect of knowing what you do good.

And then, [00:19:00] doubling down on those and trying to limit the, the negative aspects of those things that you may not do so good. If you can do that, that is fantastic. One of the problems is that we tend to have blinders on about our own ability. And one of my favorite studies is, and they’ve done this, repeated this multiple times as they ask people, how good of a driver are you?

And like 95 percent of us say we’re better than average, which. Statistically can’t be true. And of those, I believe there’s like 40 or 50 percent say that I’m in the top 10 percent of drivers. So when you look at that, we don’t, we can’t, we don’t evaluate our own abilities as well as we probably could.

And Danny Kahneman said one of the best things I think ever and he’s talking about all these different biases and heuristics that we have And somebody asked him, Well, you’ve actually found out and researched all these. So you must be really good at avoiding them. And he said, No, I’m [00:20:00] not.

I’m human, just like everybody else. And I have the same exact biases. And yeah, the knowledge of them, the awareness of them. Might help a little bit, but doesn’t it just because you know them doesn’t mean that you’re going to be immune against them.

Harsha: Yeah, I think that that’s a great point that being aware of these things isn’t isn’t the sort of the cure, but I do think that Thinking about them and thinking where you might go wrong Does I think help a little to try and avoid the bigger problems.

Kurt: Oh, I would agree with you 100%. And I think where I would go to, one of the things is that we have these blind spots on our own self. Instead of trying to do an introspective look at what you do well, and maybe what you don’t do so well, and, you know, again, I think on both ends of those things, those things that we kind of do middling, I think we are better at actually assessing our own skill set.

But on the other [00:21:00] two ends of that it’s good to get trusted people that are close to you to help you understand, “you always do this, Kurt, when you’re in this situation” and I don’t even realize that I’m doing that, right? A close friend or a co worker and the hard part is, is finding somebody that you’re going to be able to hear that information from because we don’t like hearing those things.

Harsha: I love that point. Now going on to, say, the job search and the career development sort of process Kurt. Now, obviously, these are tough times for people. A lot of layoffs. Now, if our listeners are struggling in their job search, are there any thoughts you have or techniques that can maybe help motivate us in our sort of job search.

Kurt: Yeah. So motivation I think is a really interesting piece. That’s what my dissertation was on and various things, not on a job search, but just motivation and the incentives piece on that. [00:22:00] Beyond that, I think what’s really interesting in a job search. Is that a job search can feel overwhelming, right?

It is the big, the big goal at the end is this job, which is a pretty big goal. And that journey to get to that goal can be really long. And what we know about motivation is that that big goal can be really inspirational at the beginning and really inspirational when we get close to the end of it. But it, it wanes in its motivational ability.

Yeah. In the middle and it’s called the problem of the middle. So we start off, all right, January 1, I’m going to get a new job. I want to get a new job. You’re all excited. January 15th comes and then February comes and then March comes and by that time just feels daunting and I’m way down and I haven’t gotten, the interviews I wanted in various different things.

And so Part of what you can do from a motivational perspective is to figure out how can I break that big journey down into milestone steps? [00:23:00] And so what are the things I need to do? And instead of looking at that bogey of the job as the end result, I have these steps in the process that I can then get excited about.

“Oh, I sent out 10 resumes. I got one interview call. I did, you know, all of those milestones” because those are these small little pieces that keep our motivation up. And one of the other pieces that I want to talk about is just that we are motivated by a sense of progress. And so even if we feel like we are moving just forward a little bit, right? Just a little bit.

That is much more motivational for us than being stagnant or going in decline again as we look at different pieces of what we need to do. Try to always really focus and frame yourself on those positives and various different pieces. And then one last hint on this is again at that progress piece as we’re [00:24:00] looking at this.

One of the things that we can do is we find really motivational streaks, keeping a streak going. So if you have something that you need to do every workday, I want to send out one resume a day and don’t make it too big. Don’t make it so it’s over daunting, make it so it’s actually pretty achievable, but it will help you move to where you need to go.

And then you just keep that streak going. Now with a caveat on that is I usually would give myself a cheat day or a day off so that you don’t get what’s called the, “what the hell effect” like, oh, I went two weeks in sending out a resume every day and now I missed this Monday. Oh, what the hell? I’m just gonna give up on it.

No. Alright, well that was the one day that I got off. Now I need to make sure that I can sure that I’m doing that for another, two weeks till the next month. ’cause I get one day off a month. There’s something like that or whatever that, that little limit is to say, I get a free shot, a free roll and to be able to do it again.

Harsha: No, I just love those points you’re making. And I think [00:25:00] sometimes maybe even have a spreadsheet so you can visualize that streak and break it down into, I’m on LinkedIn, I sent a connection request or I sent an email or whatever it is, because I do think about having that visualization.

And even for the podcast, when I’m putting me and my recording schedule together. I have all the previous ones that I’ve done, so it looks like, you know, I can actually do this, even though I’m episode 61. And I’m sure it’s the same thing with you. Every episode you come, come to, you think, can I really do this? How have I got Annie Duke on my podcast? So, and, and in a way it’s that beginner’s mentality that you’re always thinking I need to do my best and almost be like an intern right from the beginning.

Kurt: Yeah, you bring up a really good point is the visualization of that streak is really important.

And so 1 of the things I’ve talked to people about is like doing have a calendar even just a paper calendar and mark off X or do a checkbox on different things. [00:26:00] I love the spreadsheet idea. I love anything that is there. There is something about tactile, kind of using your hand with a pen and paper that engages your brain differently than just on a keyboard.

So if you can do if you like that, do that. But again, whatever way that you can visually kind of see that progress and make sure that streak. Doesn’t get unbroken. You know, it’s that old Fleetwood Mac song The Chain, right? You know, don’t break the chain that you don’t want to break the chain. So, yeah.

Harsha: And I do think that failure and setback is, is unfortunately just part of life. Now I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I’m originally from a sporting background. So I played a lot of sport when I was young and technically I’m a professional athlete with a very short career. I played cricket and I got paid for one match. Yeah. Sorry. The reason why I say that is that. Cricket is very, it’s very similar to baseball in the sense that if you’re a batter, if you succeed one in every three, that’s actually a really good career.

But then if you think about [00:27:00] it, you’re failing 60 to 70 percent of the time. Now in your job search, you could be easily getting those numbers because all you need is the one job, but you could get, you know, people don’t respond to you. They don’t respond to your CVs. And it’s almost like you have to sort of bend reality and say, okay, I’m progressing, but it’s not actually coming through in the, the numbers.

And I saw that post you did about Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee bar. Yeah. Yeah. And, and how he talks about failure and, things just not working out at a point in time. And I think sometimes it’s about the journey and you almost need to sort of reframe things and say to yourself, look sure that interview may not have gone well, or I may not have got that feedback that I wanted, but I am still making forward progress.

Kurt: And you bring up a really good point in the emotional toll that a rejection has. [00:28:00] is again, it’s it’s it’s an element. Danny Kahneman, along with his former research partner, Amos Tversky, brought us loss aversion and that rejection is a loss, right?

We had this this idea, even if it was just an idea that I was going to get this job. Now that job is lost. It’s gone. And that pain is double what kind of that equivalent of a similar gain would be. So every time we get a rejection that loss really hurts and there’s some research out there that again if we post this podcast out right and you get a number of your listeners writing “Hey Great podcast loved it. Loved it. Loved it.” and then one person goes. “Eh, it was it was all right”, where do we focus, right? We don’t focus on those three, four people that were like, Oh, this is a great podcast. We focus on that one that says, Oh, my gosh, we flubbed up. And [00:29:00] then you, we ruminate about that.

And that’s the same thing in a job search. We don’t think about, I got that connection on LinkedIn, and they connected. And now I’m going to have an informational interview with them. And now I’m going to do this. I, it’s the one where, oh, I sent that I had an interview and now they, they said, I’m not moving forward.

And it’s like, Oh, that feels really good. So reframing that and kind of looking at the journey and like, what are these mini steps that I’m doing that I can be successful on? Hopefully can help alleviate that. It’s not going to take it away. But it can help alleviate that. And again, that the, you know, the, the Greek freak and his kind of, you know, answer to a really dumb question on my mind, like, are you a failure?

Because you didn’t win. It’s like, they won more games than any other team this year. And you know what? It’s a game that has sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. and just depends on the day often and you can play your best, but the other team is just better that day and that [00:30:00] can be the case in a job search.

You can be really well qualified, but there’s just somebody else that just has a little bit better qualifications than you doesn’t mean that you’re not a good fit. It’s just, there’s maybe somebody else that was better for that, that particular job.

Harsha: And I love this point you brought up about the emotional toll, because I do think that that is very powerful, that failing is not nice.

Sometimes you’ve got people who do fantastically well in their academic career because that is simply about, okay, I will learn a bunch of stuff. And if I do the work, I’ll get the passing grade or the top grade or whatever it is. And I suppose through academic, it’s a lot fairer.

Whereas I think in the job world, it unfortunately, there are all these people have different perceptions. There are biases, maybe they’re unconscious, but people do have them. Maybe you walk into an interview and your tie is askew and somebody will immediately say that guy’s a [00:31:00] slack or girl is a slack person.

So you really have to think, how can I bounce back from that failure and then emotional toll. And I think the worst thing is. To stop applying or to stop interviewing.

Kurt: Oh, absolutely. And again, many of these factors are outside of our control. They might look at you and you remind them of, you know, an ex they had a horrible breakup with, and they don’t even like consciously realize it, but they’re like, Ooh, I don’t like this person because they unconsciously remind me of that.

So there’s a number of factors that come into play. And as much as we like to remove those they just don’t happen. We’re human. And, and, and as being a human, we have all of these flaws within our, our decision making and reasoning ability. And that happens with the people who are hiring us as well.

One of my favorite, in kind of a hiring situation, it was, I think the Philadelphia orchestra who started to do. [00:32:00] blind because they put them behind a curtain and what they realize is they hired many more women and minorities than what they did before, because they have a perception, social you know, cultural, whatever it would be.

And our expectations play into. Exactly what we hear or what we see and how we interpret that. And so it’s hard to separate those two. And so by taking some of those things away, you can do that. But that just goes to show, as you said, you can do everything right and. Because of some luck aspect of the situation, bad luck in many of those pieces, right?

You just don’t get the job, but that shouldn’t dissuade you. It just means I just have to keep law of averages, right? If I keep putting things out there, if I keep trying that, sometimes that luck will be bad. Sometimes that luck, maybe I remind somebody of their father or their, you know, whoever it is that they just adore that mentor that they had when they were young.

And it’s like, Oh, [00:33:00] and you might not even. Be the best candidate, but because you remind them, you could get it. So there, those, all those factors come into play.

Harsha: And then one bizarre personal is that when I, when I was interviewing for my first graduate job, I was having a terrible run. I thought I had the qualifications. I thought I was interviewing quite well. And then essentially I had pretty much my last opportunity with one of the big accounting firms.

I started speaking to the person who was going to interview me and I started speaking about classical music and I really know nothing about it, but I knew a bit more than her and she thought I was a genius at this.

That completely changed the perception because rather than being some hierarchical difference of she was the expert, I was a novice. It was completely reversed. And then when we went for the interview, it was, a breeze and I got the job obviously I had to go through some other interviews, but it does show that these very small bits of luck, you could have bad luck, but then it [00:34:00] can so easily turn without any conscious effort on your part.

Kurt:  Yeah. And Harsha, I bring it, you bring up a really interesting point. It was this. Tangential conversation, right? I don’t think she was asking you about classical music as part of the job interview per se, it was just a, you know, some side conversation that you’re having. And one of the things that I’ve, I coach my kids and, and the young employees that work for me is like, broaden your interests, just be curious about different things.

And it doesn’t mean that you have to become an expert in them, but it makes you more interesting. And to that point. You might find something classical music or, you know, horse racing or, you know, whatever it would be that all of a sudden, you know, aeronautics, I don’t know what it would be, but you can, you know, expand your horizons.

I always talk about this when we talk with business organization about creativity, you know, read journals or magazines that you wouldn’t do go out and view, [00:35:00] different YouTube channels of things that, you know, are like, why would I watch something on sea turtles or whatever it would be?

But because you do that, it allows you to bring in these different references. And again, people perceive you. In various different ways, and if you can have a connection, whether that be about classical music, whether that be about fly fishing, whatever that would be, and however small, it shifts that perception.

Harsha: I just love that point, Kurt. And, and actually the yeah, if you can think different ways about different topics, then, yeah, it does add a real richness to a conversation or something like that. But now sort of moving on to the interview scenario, Kurt, is there any way there where you can use behavioral science or psychology to help put you in a more favorable light with the interviewer?

Kurt:  Yeah, so there’s a couple, just a couple [00:36:00] things. So we already talked about one. One is being this idea. That if you can find a connection with that people really like people that are similar, we have a similar background, anything that you can draw to have a positive connection is a good thing. So that’s a really positive anything to connect you with that other person.

They’re going to see you in a different light and that will be signed more positively for you. The other one I want to talk about is Pratt Fall Effect. Pratt Fall Effect actually researched at the University of Minnesota in the 60s, but it, basically it says they, they gave people two scenarios, very similar, interview, you know, this person did this interview, they were really highly qualified, all this, and same exact stuff except for at the end.

The one person in Scenario B spilled coffee, and they spilled coffee over the desk, and it was all this mistake, and so they made a mistake. And actually when people looked at those people, they liked the [00:37:00] person who spilled the coffee more than the other person. It made them human, and it, it allowed them to be seen as more likable, more, more warm.

Warmth is another really thing, anything that you can do to kind of show people that, that you are a true person. So. Oftentimes people get hung up. Like I made a small mistake. I fumbled the first question or different pieces. That’s okay because people will they might actually feel you’re more human in that way.

And so reframe that if you do have something like that as the pratfall effect, and it could be a positive, then you don’t ruminate over it so much.

Harsha: I just love that. Now say if you’re lucky enough to get the job, are there any ways in which behavioral science can help build influence within a new company or a new organization?

Kurt:  Oh yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s a ton. We could go on for this for hours and hours and hours. A couple. A couple of key things, I think just as you’re doing again, it’s understanding why people behave the way they do and think the way they do. [00:38:00] And so, as we’re thinking about influence, right, and, and, and how that works, one of my favorite authors is Robert Cialdini and he wrote a great book called Influence, so if you haven’t, you know, I, I highly recommend you going out and reading that, but one of the components that he talks about from an influence perspective is reciprocity.

This idea that I do a favor for you, you feel like, you know, unconsciously to a certain degree, like you need to you know, give back that favor. And so there’s an element of reciprocity that you can bring in. So what can you do for people? I mean, even just small things, and I’m not saying the. Conniving about this, but what are those ways that you can go and help somebody in their job offer to do things that will help them assist them?

And so I think those are really important. I will say and we talked with Linda Babcock, who’s from Carnegie Mellon, and [00:39:00] women tend to do. A lot more of these things and often what are at unpromotable tasks, like setting up the company picnic and doing different things like that. And so be aware, particularly if you’re female not to just be doing these unpromotable tasks that from a reciprocity perspective, but make sure that you’re doing things that are going to actually garner something that can move you forward, but you’re helping somebody else. That’s one way of, of doing that. And again, like I said, if you want to go on, we can talk about that more and more and more.

Harsha: I do love that point you make about women tend, tending to do these unpromotable things because, you know, the majority of my listeners, and this is more from anecdotal evidence, are women.

And in clearly, I think that’s important. I would say for them to know that, that be mindful. I mean, obviously be nice, be a good person, be authentic. But I do think sometimes men [00:40:00] understand the games that are being played. So I do think in a way women hopefully should, once they see that there’s this evidence there from your guests and also anecdotal evidence out there.

They should be more mindful about how they use their energies. And I do think it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a question of fairness because yeah, why should they be expected to do those tasks and not be rewarded, but also understanding the game that is being played.

Kurt: No, I think you’re absolutely right. Understanding in this instance and putting processes in place for yourself. So one of the things that that Linda talked about is that. If you’re in a meeting, right? And it’s like, oh, we have the, you know, the holiday party coming up who wants to volunteer men hold back and women raise their hands right away.

So 1 of the things you can do is just say, I’m going to wait. And if you wait. then men are more likely to do it. But [00:41:00] what ends up happening is men hold back more and women, you know, kind of feel more. I don’t know if they feel more obligated or they’ve been socialized into raising their hand first in different pieces.

But, you know, just give yourself that 30 seconds to say, I’m not going to raise my hand. And, and even if, you know, they’re, they’re kind of little tips like that, that you can do. And then if you’re, if you’re a male in a leadership position you know, don’t ask for volunteers, kind of rotate volunteers.

That’s another way of, of just doing that. That’s a big piece of that as well. It’s like, it’s not just a woman, problem that they have to solve. It’s a problem that, that us males have to solve as well.

Harsha: Yeah, because because also if you’re a manager, what you should be thinking is, look, I’ve got a good team here.

Do I really want to waste the people doing these tasks, which okay, they’re important, but they shouldn’t be burdened by, one particular gender, one [00:42:00] particular group, they should be spread around fairly.

So just from an economic perspective and I, and I think with this whole diversity thing, clearly there’s an element of fairness, but also it’s about doing what’s right for the company.

And I’m amazed that so many companies don’t do the right thing. When it’s so obvious that they should and I think fixing the problem is far worse than trying to be on the front foot and trying to be proactive.

Kurt: Oh, exactly. And to that point, the fixing the problem, right? You disengage those women.

And there’s lots of research that shows, you know as if you look at leadership and the number of women versus the number of men in senior leadership positions, it’s lessened. Partly that is because Hey, my time. I’m on this committee on, you know, this task force. I’m doing this volunteer piece, whereas my peer isn’t doing any of that.

That takes up 67 [00:43:00] hours of my you know, my week, or even if it’s just a month, that’s 6 or 7 hours. You extrapolate that over a course of a career, and that can be a lot of work and a lot of promotional elements that don’t happen because of that. And to your point, Let’s make this a meritocracy, right?

We want the best people to be in those positions and not just the people that, you know, ended up not having to take on those additional tasks that are important. You know what? Having a holiday party and doing the committee work on, you know, the new regulations for whatever it would be are important for an organization.

And so you want that. And actually. It’s a great piece. If you look at this, too, is saying, how can we make those more appealing to everybody? As how can we have that work be significant in your annual review to make them more promotional type activities? The non for, you know, the holiday party piece doesn’t get talked about in your annual review. Maybe it should. [00:44:00]

Harsha: Yeah, no, I love that. And I think I suppose for leaders, as we’re talking about, do you think about the bigger picture? Do you think about how you’re impacting your staff? Because you set the tone, don’t you?

Kurt: Yeah, you do set the tone. And one of the things again, as a leader we often forget is that our moves are often the way that we talk about something the way that we encounter a situation we are in a spotlight, right?

So the spotlight effect is something where most of the time we think we’re in the spotlight when, in fact, most people aren’t paying any attention. They’re focused in on themselves right there. They’re doing their own spotlight on themselves, not on you. So like that. Yeah. That tie that’s askew that you talked about at the beginning.

Most people don’t even notice that, right? All right. I noticed it and I was like, Oh crap, it was off. And now I’m really self conscious. But if you’re a leader and particularly in those situations where you’re talking about something that might have material impact for [00:45:00] people, then everything that you do gets under that microscope or is in that spotlight.

So, if I’m talking about something and I offhandedly mention, Oh, well, you know, we might have to lay people off then if that happens, well, you’re thinking it’s a joke and everybody below you is like, now they’re worried about layoffs. And so be really conscious of, any type of your leadership position, your actions, your words, rolling your eyes when somebody talks, all of that body language, all of those factors are important.

Harsha: Yeah. No, I love that point. And you’re paid the big bucks because you have to deal with this. It may not be fair that people misinterpret actions or words, or if you’re in Boston and you say that you’re a Lakers fan, I mean, clearly it’s not going to work. No, but but you to understand your audience and some of these leaders get paid awfully well.

I’m not saying they don’t [00:46:00] work hard, but it’s not really commensurate with the work that they’re doing. It’s really dealing with the massive problem. If there’s a fire or the real firefighting, that’s when the The real skill of the leader happens. So, yeah, I totally agree with that. So Kurt, look we’re coming to the end of our time and clearly, look, I’d like to give you a chance to maybe talk a little bit more about the work that you do.

And I know that you’re producing these tools to help people to improve their productivity or how, how they’re getting on in their lives.

Kurt:  So that’s the brain shift. It’s new. We, we just started doing these last year as, as kind of these elements and our main kind of core flagship product is the brain shift journal, which is a 13 week guided journal based on behavioral science.

So we take all of these things of trying to understand why we do what we do and build it in so that you can achieve the goals that you set for yourself. So there’s an area to fill in your keystone goals, which are those. Big goals, aspirational goals of getting a [00:47:00] job, right? I could fill in getting my job.

And now I can work through what I can do over the next 13 weeks in order to get that job. And then every day I can have prompts and they’re, they’re unique prompts every week. And there’s behavioral science principles that go along with each week. So we have 13 different behavioral science principles we teach you about.

Every day has three to four prompts that guide you through that day and help you achieve those goals and stay positive. We have gratitude components in there. We have elements about, you know, setting up habits and routines. We have elements on bringing other behavioral science aspects into it. In addition to that, there’s some smaller guides that are, you know, you can do to it.

How do I set up goals? So how do I create a good goal? That’s the first piece is like making sure that the goal we set is, is good. And then how do I break that goal down appropriately to set those milestones? And so we have, that’s called goal shift and those are just electronic packets you can download.

And we’re going to bring to market in the next six months, many more of those so that we [00:48:00] found really positive feedback from, from those, from the people that have used it. So.

Harsha: Brilliant and Kent, how can people get in touch with you? I know you, you obviously have a website, you’re on LinkedIn, Twitter any things that, obviously all of this will be in the show notes.

Kurt:  Easiest way is that you can go out to lantern Www lantern There’s a connect button down below. If you want to reach out to me directly, I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can find me. Just search Kurt W Nelson on LinkedIn. Twitter is What Motivates @What Motivates or at Behavioral Motivation Guru.

Not, not Behavioral Guru, Motivation Guru are two Twitter handles I have. The podcast, the podcast that I do along with Tim is called Behavioral Grooves. And again, we just, we interview behavioral scientists researchers and, and practitioners and try to parse out some of these. Things that we know about how we behave and how can we apply those to work in life.

And so if you want to listen, then any of the podcast [00:49:00] channels we’re out there 350 plus episodes now. So I remember back at 60. So it’s a fun, fun, fun journey. And, and I hope you’re having as much fun with this one as I’m having with with behavioral grooves.

Kurt: No, I just love that. And I think it’s a great point you brought up. I focus on the process, focus on the journey, because it’s important to have goals. But if you don’t take care of all the micro steps that happen between here and the goal, You’re not going to get to the goal. And it’s funny when I started out, I thought I’ll do a few episodes.

People liked it. And obviously that makes a difference. You’re getting validation as social proof, but that’s not the reason why I’m doing it. It’s because I, when I enjoy it, I want to learn more and I’m sure it’s the same with you. And I definitely, when you’re speaking to, you know, smart people like yourself, you’re elevating your own game.

You’re learning more. And it’s funny. So say if I had to interview. I don’t know some big top [00:50:00] CEO, maybe two years ago. I thought there’s no way I can do it. But now I feel like, okay, I’ve done it 60 times, 70 times. I could probably just about, just about wing it. So if Tim Cook or any of the Apple leaders are listening, I’m quite happy to interview.

Kurt:  I mean, you bring up a really good point, this a so all of the listeners out there, you know, start a podcast. It’s, it’s a, it’s a great thing. But do it for the process, not for the outcome because neither of us, I think are probably getting rich off of off of the podcast. So but, but you bring up a really good point is.

Like, I like many of the pieces I talked to you about today came from the people we interviewed, you know, the inside Linda Babcock, you know we interviewed Danny Kahneman, you know, so we have all of these elements that I can bring in. Not just to my life, but to work into these things that I’m doing.

And that’s [00:51:00] fascinating. And it’s funny. You talked about your start. Cause Tim and I, when we started, we actually didn’t start a podcast. We started a meetup. We are doing these, you know, local gatherings once a month and our second meetup, we had a speaker and we’re going, Oh, you know, we’re going to get 25, 35 people here.

More people need to do this. Tim was a musician. He had recording equipment. I had just been on a radio interview. I’m going, let’s do a podcast. We’ll just do it once a month. It’ll be really easy. We’ll bring the speaker in before take an hour of their time before and maybe 15 minutes of processing at the end.

And we’re done the podcast. Kind of, we realized very quickly. Oh, this is really fun. And the people we want to interview, they’re not going to fly into Minneapolis to do this meetup cause we’re not paying them, but we can call them and they’re more than happy to do it electronically with the technology that we have and and then we just love it.

We just, it’s like my highlight of the week. So.

Harsha: I think if you can have these sort of big dreams, [00:52:00] you just never know how you can make them happen, even if you only get 60 percent or 70 percent of the way there, you’ve still tried, and that’s still 70 percent of quite a lot, which creates a lot of results.

Kurt: Oh, I fully agree. It’s that the old adage, you know, shoot for the stars, you might reach the moon, you know, the, the idea that you can have these big dreams. But don’t put all of your, and again, we know this from happiness research is this idea that, Oh, when I get the job promotion, when I get this, then I will be happy.

And that’s not the case. Enjoy the journey and then be willing kind of as you know, going way back to the beginning of this, this podcast, when we talked about. You know, be willing to pivot, be willing to go and say, here is, you know, I, I started off my job. You know, that first job, I was really excited about it going, this will be great.

I can, you know, do this. And I realized very quickly that that wasn’t it. [00:53:00] And I was then willing to say, all right. We don’t when the chance comes along, I am going to move and shift. And so make sure you’re doing that as well and not getting so hung up on. I have to achieve this 1 goal. And if I don’t, then I’m a failure.

No, I can get 70 percent of the way. And that now leads open this different path, and that path might be a much better outcome. It’s like when I said, you know, I could see that long journey of staying employed. No, there’s this little dirt path going down. I couldn’t. It went down in the ditch. I didn’t see where it ended up after that.

It just disappeared. But it ended up going up this really great mountain. It’s been fantastic ever since.

Harsha: That’s brilliant. And one final thing, is there anybody you’d like to give a shout out to who’s helped you in your life or your, or your career?

Kurt: So I talked about the mentor, right? That took me under his wing.And it was Dr. Fred Balmer, who is to this day, we had dinner with him and his wife, just a month or [00:54:00] two ago, and it’s just a fantastic human being and I would not be where I am today without, without Fred. And I just again, that is a shout out. It goes out to Fred.

Harsha: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today.

Kurt:  Yeah, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Harsha: Take care. Bye. Bye. Thank you so much for listening and staying to the end. That was such a fun interview. If you’d like to listen to more episodes, Please subscribe to the podcast, which is available on your favorite providers and subscription is free. If you wish to learn more about any of the resources mentioned in this episode, please take a look at the show notes, which are available online.

Thanks once again for listening, wishing you success with your career. I hope you will join me again in the future.

*Reframe & Reset Your Career, including any comments made by the host and guests, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any description, including but not restricted to financial, legal, investing or medical advice.*

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