Episode 3: Emotional Intelligence, with Betty Liu

Betty Liu, journalist, author, podcaster, and host of Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop”, talks with us about her career and lessons she’s learned along the way. Betty shares her take on having a strong network, and the importance of emotional intelligence for success.


Episode Transcript

00:13 Sallie Krawcheck: Hello everyone and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, this is Sallie Krawcheck, here with the president of the Ellevate Network, Kristy Wallace on a beautiful afternoon in New York City. We're here today, we've been talking to Betty Liu as our guest on our podcast. Betty, for those of you who don't know and you all should, is news anchor for Bloomberg Television. She has her own show "In the Loop with Betty Liu." You can hear it on TV, you can listen to it on the radio. Because that's not enough, she also is the author of "Work Smarts." Because that's not enough she's also a podcaster herself with the Radiate Podcast which we highly recommend. And I would also tell you she's an Ellevate Network member, one of our great, great members. So we love having her on. We taped that one a little bit earlier, so I'm sitting here with Kristy. Kristy, one of the topics that kept coming up was EQ. And you did, 'cause you're a very good student, you did a little research...

01:12 Kristy Wallace: Yes I did.

01:13 SK: On EQ. Tell me what you found.

01:15 KW: Alright. Well EQ, for those that don't know, is the ability to recognize your emotions and those around you. And more importantly, it's responding to those emotions in the appropriate way.

01:26 SK: And is that a female characteristic, do you think? [chuckle]

01:29 KW: Oftentimes, it is attributed to females, more aware of I think how our actions impact others, more in tune to that.

01:38 SK: Yeah. I think it's that relationship focus that so many women bring and the intuition that we bring. So often you hear, "She's got a strong EQ," and so, sometimes often you hear, "He does not have a strong EQ." So we test it, we did a survey. Why don't you tell the listeners about the survey?

01:56 KW: We did. Every week, we polled the Ellevate community and get their insights and input on a lot of important questions. One of the polls we recently asked was around, "What are your strongest professional attributes?" And roughly 40% of our members think strong communication and an analytical mind are their strongest professional attributes. Both of those are a combination of EQ and really feed into being successful in that area.

02:25 SK: I think the other thing we saw on that poll was just under 9% of our women, ladies, professional network ladies said that the ability to work with a team, just under 10% said it was a strong, one of their strongest professional attributes. So, a lot on EQ. So, listen up guys, I think you're gonna enjoy this conversation with Betty.

[music]

03:01 SK: Well, Betty thank you so much for joining us today, it's so great to have you here.

03:05 Betty Liu: So great to be here, Sally, with you.

03:07 SK: Great. You have had such an amazing career. If you were to boil down your success to one or two or three pieces of advice, what would they be?

03:18 BL: Well, I think one of the things that I think has helped in my career as a journalist, as a reporter and now as a news anchor, is I've always been very curious about the world around me, curious about people. I always wanted to learn and continue to learn and I've had that ever since I was young. So, luckily, I fell into the right profession. So I think that having that natural curiosity and wanting to connect with the world around me has really helped me in my profession. The other thing I think also is my understanding as I grew older that working hard is not going to get you to the next level. So working hard is great when you were in your 20s and you'll do anything. You'll get the coffee, you'll stay up until 2:00 in the morning writing that report. But once you get into your 30s and your 40s, you realize that EQ skills are so much more important. And I feel like my being able to be more aware of that and being able to develop the EQ part of my personality has also helped me get ahead.

04:30 SK: So how do you develop that? Talk me through that because that feels very soft to me. Have you actively gone after that?

04:37 BL: Well, no. I had to make a lot of mistakes, right? There were [chuckle] a lot of moments where I wasn't very aware of my surroundings or the connections that I was making. It was just sort of more trial and error through the years understanding that when you are in a business situation, it's not always talking about business. You wanna connect to people on a deeper level. You wanna talk to people about their kids and their passions, their hobbies and understanding that that makes so much more of a connection than talking to somebody about their deal or their latest job project. It was just really more through trial and error. There's nothing as you know with these things Sally, cut and dry about it. People ask you all the time, "Give me three pieces of advice," or, "Exactly how did you get access to Warren Buffet? Give me the exact path." And there isn't. It's made up of a bunch of little steps that you learn along the way.

05:39 SK: Do yo have a moment in your career when you thought, "Dang it, I've done it. This, this is so much fun. This is so cool. I'm successful."

05:53 BL: Well, I'll tell you...

[chuckle]

05:54 BL: I love that question. I'll tell you that I've always been... So I probably... One of the reasons why I am successful is that I always know that I'm only as good as my last show, right? So I allow myself when there is a win in my career, I allow myself to enjoy that. But the next morning, I say to myself, "Betty, you gotta get up and go again because it's not gonna last. You're only as good as your last show or your last job or your last big promotion or big deal." But there was a moment one time, I never told the story, a few years ago, actually several years ago, when I finally got my big promotion to host this show on Bloomberg television. And actually it happened a few years after that. I landed this job at Bloomberg television about 10 years ago, and it was essentially my dream job, but I knew that I had to perform. So a few years into it, I was performing, and I was doing a good job. And I finally got my contract, the contract to stay at the network. And I will tell you that it was finally an amount that I could say to myself, "Betty, you can stop going to the supermarket and looking at the meat prices."

[laughter]

07:13 BL: "You can buy organic, and you can splurge a little." And so, that was probably a moment where I thought, "Okay, I finally made it."

07:24 SK: Is that when you bought your yellow Betty mobile? [chuckle] I did my research, Betty. I follow you on Instagram.

07:31 BL: Oh yeah, okay, Instagram. That was more of my midlife crisis gift to myself. So but that... Since that promotion at that moment, I've definitely wanted to celebrate more wins in my life. And I've also said to myself, "I'm at a point where I also wanna enjoy my life as well as working hard." And I'm not sure I always balance that as well as I could have. So as I get older, I try to keep that balance in mind. And part of that is saying, "You know what? I'm gonna kick it around in my yellow convertible in the summer, and drive to the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore, wherever I might be.

08:07 SK: Fabulous. Fabulous. So you have had such great success. How do you keep yourself motivated?

08:16 BL: A lot of it is self-motivation. I've just always been very, I guess I've always just wanted to strive to do well whether it was, maybe it's an Asian thing, right? You grow up in a household, and your parents expect you to get straight As, and they want you to...

08:36 SK: And I know you did.

[laughter]

08:38 SK: Right? You did, didn't you?

08:39 BL: I did wanna live up to that sort of, I'm gonna get straight As, and my parents wanted me to be a doctor. But I can't say that that actually helped me all the time either because I think as being a child of immigrant parents, they put so much emphasis on education. They don't put enough emphasis on developing those softer skills that we just talked about earlier in this conversation. So I had to, well on the one hand, they really drilled into me the idea that you have to work very hard. They didn't really help me in understanding how to really interact with the broader business world, and that I had to learn on my own.

09:19 SK: You make such an interesting point. I was just talking earlier today with a friend about how we, women know how to get As at school. And...

09:28 BL: Absolutely.

09:28 SK: When you tell us that test is at 9:00 AM on Tuesday morning, it's multiple choice, it's 80 questions, we're there, our pencils were sharpened, we have our erasers, and we get the A.

09:35 BL: Totally.

09:37 SK: And then we get into the workforce. And for many of us, not until we're in our 30s that we recognize there're other factors that come into play. You talked about connecting with people on a more emotional level. The one we think about and the one we were talking about today is the network, one's network. And you got to have a great network for what you do. When did you realize it and how have you built it?

10:00 BL: Well, yeah, absolutely that your network is so important. And one thing I've been able to develop in the last several years is this ability to connect to people, and to be a giver and to help connect other people as well. And I didn't learn that early on. You're absolutely right, Sally, that what was told to me was, "Always work hard and do good on your tests. Get the straight As, and you will be successful." And that only works for you up to a certain point. In terms of developing the network I just, what I found I guess early on or several years ago is that, just knowing that connecting with people, and helping people, and giving to people was going to get me a lot further ahead than just doing a great job. So a lot of people ask me, "Well, how is it that you can get along with all these old white men?" [chuckle]

10:58 BL: You know what I mean, this is the question that, [chuckle] a serious question that people ask me because they think that only people of a certain kind can connect. And it's not true. I was thinking about this the other day. I connect a lot with other people who are very similar to me, who are not necessarily my gender or my race or my culture. And I think it's because I connect to people who are a lot like me, who love to have lots of things going on all the time. They have lots of projects. They're very outward-focused. They love to be creating things all the time. They love connecting to people. So whether that person is a CEO of a company or a billionaire or an entrepreneur, if they have those same traits of just always wanting to be creating things, and connecting, and having lots of projects going on at the same time, more likely than not, I'll connect to that person.

11:52 SK: Yeah. Well, you do a great job at it. Now, another thing I wanted to talk to you about is failure. So your job is public. You are on TV everyday. You're on the radio. So...

12:04 BL: Oh yes. Worths and all.

12:06 SK: Well, I don't see any there. But, we all have our micro-failures during the day and most of us get to hide them. Yours are out there. So, tell us about a horrifying moment, or tell us how you sort of wrapped your head around that.

12:22 BL: Well, every day there's little tiny, as you say, little, I wouldn't call them failures but little mistakes that you make, or you might ask a question and say, "Dang, I should have asked it a better way," or, "Why did I ask this question?" Or, "I missed this interview opportunity." So, you do have those moments on a daily basis. And I always call it... I feel like people like us who are go-getters and they're ambitious, they wake up every morning scared. And it's a bad word, so I don't wanna say it on this podcast. But they're basically scared crapless.

[laughter]

13:09 SK: That's staying in, we're not gonna get rid of that... Yes?

13:12 BL: Every day, you wanna make sure that you're doing your best. So in any case, so that's a long answer to the short question, which is if something goes wrong on the show, if I miss an opportunity or anything like that, the most important thing that I do is I say to myself, "Just get over it and move on." To me, the person who succeeds is the person who's able to just pick up after losing a deal or getting fired or any other number of failures, who's able to just move on and get on with it, because if you don't do that, nobody's gonna do that for you.

13:52 SK: Tell me how you navigate turbulence, because media may be the most turbulent industry out there. Coming from a Wall Street background, I would argue Wall Street is, someone argued technology is, but media is changing dramatically.

14:10 BL: Yeah.

14:11 SK: How are you managing your way through it and how are you thinking about your career as you manage your way through that?

14:16 BL: Well, it's funny because I was joking this morning to our colleagues, "Now they call television 'linear video.'"

[laughter]

14:26 BL: So I'm saying, "I'm the host of a Bloomberg linear video show."

14:30 SK: I haven't heard that before.

14:31 BL: Yes, it's now called linear video.

14:33 SK: Okay.

14:36 BL: Telephones were landlines now.

14:37 SK: Okay. What are the other kinds of video?

14:40 BL: Well, there's digital video, right?

14:41 SK: Digital, candid, fine, okay.

14:42 BL: There's mobile video. There is...

14:43 SK: Got it. Got it.

14:44 BL: So there's all sorts of new terms, but it just goes to show you how quickly the media world changes. You just have to make sure that you are on top of things. I have to say I remember 10, 15 years ago, nobody wanted to work in digital. You were shuffling journalists off into dot-com, the ones you didn't want working on your paper, you didn't want working on the network, you were sending them off to the dot-com cyberia. But it's not that way anymore. Now, being on dot-com or being on mobile, that's the new black dress, that's what everybody wants to wear. So you just have to continue to adapt. And using social media, I think, is becoming so much more important. Someone was asking me the other day, "How is it different now? How are you different on social media than you are on television, for instance?" And you are different. You get to show a different side of you. And that's something that I don't think anchors were ever expected 10, 15 years ago. But now you are expected and wanted to share things about your home life or your kids or your vacations. It just fosters, though, I think a greater connection with the people who are listening to you or watching you or reading you.

16:01 SK: Now this is pretty meta, because you've also recently launched a podcast series.

16:06 BL: Yes.

16:07 SK: And I'm one of your guests, and here we are here, putting that in, it's a little, okay, a bit of a circular reference, I think.

16:16 BL: We're gonna be each other's greatest hits [chuckle]

16:18 SK: There we go. We can see if we can make that work. But talk about your thinking for a launch now 'cause that's part of this transition of media, and that really isn't part of your Bloomberg.

16:27 BL: It's not a part of... Exactly. It's supported by Bloomberg. I was lucky to get the blessing from them early on. That's one piece of advice, "If you ever wanna do something on your own, just make sure you do get the blessing of your company to do that." But I think companies themselves are more aware that their employees wanna be their own brands and they wanna have side projects. You talk to any engineer out there, they're working on a dozen different projects including their current job. But people are doing that more and more because you have so many more resources to do that with. Starting a company, the cost of that have gone down dramatically. So I think companies should recognize that. Probably almost everybody who is ambitious in their company sitting there in that sit is likely thinking of that great novel that they're gonna write, or some company they wanna start, or any number of things. So in any case, so the podcast itself, I love that you were great in our podcast.

[chuckle]

17:25 BL: Because you were just... You opened up about what it was like on Wall Street for you. And the motivation for me in doing that is that I wanted to hear other people's stories about how they became who they are, how they rose to the top. So that was kind of the motivation. Because I don't get a chance to do that when I'm on Bloomberg television or on Bloomberg radio. Our focus is more on what can you tell me that's investable. So, with Radiate, I wanna know what can I hear from people that I can actually learn from for my career. So that was kind of the difference and I was able to put that platform together.

18:06 SK: Well, from the ones I've listened to you're doing an amazing job with it and we're really pleased it's out there.

18:08 BL: Thank you, Sallie.

18:10 SK: Now, you have been called 'the CEO whisperer.'

[chuckle]

18:14 SK: What? Tell me about that...

18:15 BL: Like the horse whisperer.

18:16 SK: Right. Or the dog whisperer. I think there's a TV show called "The Dog Whisperer." [laughter] What are you whispering to those CEOs? Tell me about this.

[laughter]

18:25 BL: So people do actually tell me a lot of things off the record that I would never say to anybody else and that's the reason why they tell me these things. And I think it's also because they know that I present... I'm not threatening. I don't present. There's no "got you" in my MO. And so, people do tell me these things because I do try to foster a connection with some of the more powerful people in the business world. That was the New York Observer. They had written an article about me and they called me 'the CEO whisperer' 'cause they'd come on our show the day after the elections in 2012 and saw that there were all these CEOs that were coming on, and we're talking about politics and how it affected their outlook. I think it's one of those monikers that I've just been able to connect a lot with people in the C-suite and I think part of it is just letting them tell their stories, Sallie. You know what I mean? You know this yourself. Everyone... Who is the most important person in the world? It's yourself. [chuckle] And I've always... One of the great things that I... One of the things that I do do and I allow people to do and that I want people to do is I just want them to tell me their stories, and I love listening. So I think the easiest way to make a best friend or I say find a husband or find a wife is to just be an extremely good listener.

19:54 SK: I think that's great advice. Now with your book "Work Smarts" which I adored, what did you learn from it? Were there any surprises to you, secrets of success that you just weren't expecting as you began to write it? Besides the 'hard work' and 'take risks' and so on?

20:14 BL: Well, what I was really glad that people did and what was surprising to me was how many people talked about their own failures. So Jamie Dimon talking about being fired by Sandy Weill.

20:25 SK: I think he did pretty well after that. Right?

[laughter]

20:27 BL: Not bad. He was one of the ones who bounced back.

20:29 SK: Not bad, no. He seemed to have bounced back slightly.

[laughter]

20:31 BL: And which made it easier for him to talk about being fired by Sandy.

20:35 SK: Yes.

20:37 BL: But others... Elon Musk who said that he feels an extreme amount of fear every day actually, and he thought he was gonna go bankrupt at one point when he was sleeping on people's couches. But I was actually very surprised by how open people were about their failures. I was also surprised by how people were open about their own maybe prejudices, I would say. Martin Sorrell... I wouldn't call this a prejudice, but Martin Sorrell said, "Admittedly, look, I look for people who have college degrees. They're a great filter for whether or not someone is going to be a good employee or not. I don't buy as much into the idea that a great worker... A great employee or a great entrepreneur is gonna be someone who's not gone to college or is taking big risks." He's like, "I like people who've gone through and gotten an MBA. And that's a good filter for me that if they could get through Harvard, then they can get through WPP." Harvey Golub, the former CEO of American Express, he was very open about the challenges he felt working with women.

21:44 SK: What did he say?

21:46 BL: Well, remember that he comes from a different era, which was not that long ago, but we're talking maybe 30, 40 years ago where he said when he was running the company or when he was very senior, he didn't feel comfortable having a meeting alone with a woman. He was worried that he was going to get lawsuits slapped against him or that people would whisper about him if he went to dinner with a junior woman employee. He also very openly questioned the whole idea of the gender pay gap and whether that really existed. I know it's surprising to hear that, but he was very open about that. And, Sallie, as much as anyone might disagree with it, that is an opinion that he holds. He believes in it and that other people hold as well. And so, to get that out there was also important.

22:39 SK: I was with a very senior person at a very large company about two weeks ago who told me that he believed capitalism was such, that if women were indeed as good at their jobs as men, then that would work itself out.

22:56 BL: Oh, boy.

[laughter]

23:00 SK: Sometimes, we all breathe the same air as each other and we fully buy into the argument for diversity that I just sort of found myself standing there with my jaw... My mouth open, a fly could have flown in. And thought, "I don't even... " It's like I've sort of forgotten how to even respond to this any longer. [laughter] So yeah. Well, times have changed pretty rapidly when it comes to things like that.

23:25 BL: It has. It has and I think that more people are recognizing that it's not just lip service to say that diversity is a good thing. Many people do recognize that it's actually got facts backed up to it.

23:36 SK: Right. Right. Well, I think we're having a national and global conversation on a scale that we've never had before.

23:40 BL: Totally.

23:41 SK: Okay. So maybe this is my "got you" question for you which is: You are one in business, has being a woman in business and being a woman in media helped you or hurt you?

23:54 BL: I think it's probably done both. It's helped me in the sense that I think that just naturally being a woman you have more EQ skills, so you can connect to people, you can connect to both men and to women. I think being Asian-American actually people ask me that question too, also has helped me because I understand people from different backgrounds, because I myself came from a little bit out of the mainstream. So I can get along with people in the mainstream, but I can get along with people of different races, because I do come from this different background. I also think it's hurt me as well, of course, right? If you look at across... You look at managements in the media, it is still overwhelmingly white and male. So have I been passed over for jobs? Or have I not even been considered for management jobs? Maybe. And that's something that I hope will change, and it's probably one of the reasons why I do do several projects.

24:57 BL: I always want to be able... If I don't have those opportunities, let's say within my own company, then I will just make those opportunities on my own. And I think that that is what a lot of women do, which is probably why you see a lot of women wanna become entrepreneurs. Because if they can't find that opportunity inside, they'll just now go and do it on the outside.

25:20 SK: I've been so impressed as I've gotten to know you, how you've continued and continually challenge yourself, and push yourself to do new things and learn new things. And I know given how successful you are, it'd be easy to say...

25:33 BL: It's probably insufferable for people.

[laughter]

25:34 SK: Well. My favorite morning was the morning you and I got together for I think a 7:00 AM breakfast, and you showed up with no make up on, right?

[laughter]

25:44 SK: 'Cause you'd been working on your project. And it was so funny to see you, 'cause I'm so used to seeing you on TV. I'm like...

25:51 BL: With all this make-up.

25:52 SK: "My gosh. Look, it's Betty, she looks like she's 20 or 12."

25:56 BL: Well, thank you.

25:57 SK: It was terrific. It was terrific. What would you do differently? If you look back on your career, do you have that thing you did that you wish you hadn't done?

26:09 BL: Yeah.

26:10 SK: I do. My first marriage, but go ahead.

[laughter]

26:11 BL: Actually, I was gonna say that I probably would've picked a better partner in the beginning.

26:17 SK: You mean a spouse partner?

26:18 BL: A spouse. Yes. I think...

26:19 SK: Well, we've got the same thing, then.

26:20 BL: We have the same thing.

[laughter]

26:23 BL: I probably would've made different choi... Don't get me wrong, I'm so happy and lucky for my kids and that it was obviously, the best thing that happened out of my first marriage. But I think I felt the same pressure that a lot of other young women in their 20s did, which is that you have to have the house, the kids, the job, the marriage, you've gotta have all of that lined up, and I put that pressure on myself. And looking back on it, I should've probably had more confidence, trusted myself that all those things will come together, maybe in a more messy way, but it'll all come together eventually. So that probably would be the thing that I might change.

27:05 SK: I hear that again and again, that we should be kinder to ourselves.

27:08 BL: Exactly.

27:08 SK: If we just treated ourselves as well as we treat our friends...

27:13 BL: Oh my gosh.

27:13 SK: I know. I know. I know.

27:15 BL: That voice in your head all the time.

27:16 SK: Oh, my gosh. So final question for you, advice to young women. For those of our listeners who are in their 20s, 30s... What would you reach down and tell them?

27:27 BL: I would say for really young women, one really bad piece of advice that I got early on was from an older person who meant totally well, but he said to me, 'cause I was fretting about something I can't... You know my personality, I was like, "Oh my God. This is the end of the world. This is gonna... " But I was fretting about something and he said to me, "Why are you worried? You're so young, you'll figure it out later." And I actually think that that's very unhelpful. I actually think that young people should be thinking five, 10 years from now. What is it that I wanna do? Where do I wanna be? And they should write lists down, and they should have goals. I think those years go by really quickly. Before you know it, you're 30 years old, and you are in a position that is less than your peers, you have no direction on where you wanna go, you have no idea what you're passionate about... So I would say that...

28:25 BL: I hate to sound like a tiger mom, but I do think that when you graduate or even before, you should write down, "Where I wanna be in five or 10 years." And you should have some focus, and I don't think that you should squander away your 20s and just... I think that you can experiment, and I think people are very forgiving when you're in your 20s. But you should really know what you wanna be by the time you're 30.

28:50 SK: I think that's great, great advice. So thank you so much for joining us, Betty.

28:54 BL: Thank you, Sallie.