CHAPTER 33 – Peter and Carla

Peter and Carla

On her way out of the building, Carla spotted Peter suiting up in his motorcycle gear.  He stood in leather pants, leather boots, leather jacket, with an iridescent yellow vest.  His candy apple full face helmet, the maraschino cherry, sat balanced on the seat of his bike.  He struggled with his gloves.

“Don we now our gay apparel, Peter?” said Carla.

“Can’t get more butch than this, Carla.”

“In a geeky gay biker sort of way, yes.”

Peter smiled and bowed. “Whatever.”

“So did we have our one-on-one with Danny boy?”

“I had a one-on-one with someone dressed in a Dan suit.”

“Who do you suppose it was?”

“Some Buddhist monk from another planet.  I don’t know, but it was weird.  He was totally reasonable.  He listened to me.  Freaky, actually.  He even apologized.

“I know.  I met the same monk.  Should we notify the intergalactic authorities?”

“I don’t know.  I kind of like the new guy.  But it doesn’t matter, anyway.  I told him I was leaving.”

“Peter!  I didn’t think you were really serious.”

“I wasn’t even sure myself, but when I knew Dan wanted to talk with me about improving our work relationship, I couldn’t maintain the charade.  I felt like I was getting stuffed back in another kind of closet.”

“What did he say?”

“He apologized for riding me so hard, and that he was sorry he never told me what he liked about my work.  He wanted me to take a few days off and think about it.  He said he was getting ready to have a two-day offsite with the staff and he wanted me to be there.  He also said that if I wanted to leave he would be a positive reference.”

“Wow!  I had a similarly civil and sane meeting.  What if he started doing this shit all the time?” said Carla.

“I’m not too excited.  He’ll probably revert to type.”

“Yeah, that’s always a danger.  Although, I’ve known Dan for a long time.  He’s capable of making drastic and permanent changes if he can see the benefit. It could go either way.”

“Well, I’m going to think about it, Carla.”

They stood still for a moment.  Peter reached for his helmet, tugged it down over his head and stood astride his bike.

“Careful on your ride home, dude.”  She whacked him on the helmet.

Peter waved a gloved hand, started his engine, gunned the throttle, kicked into first gear and made his way through the parking lot.  Carla watched as he merged with the traffic and disappeared onto the freeway on ramp.

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When an abrasive manager changes his style, people are slow to trust. What is your experience with this? Please leave comment.

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CHAPTER 32 – Dan Listens to Peter

Dan Listens to Peter

Dan arrived early for his one-on-one meeting with Peter and sat alone in the conference room.  Something about Peter made Dan want to grab him by the shoulders and rattle him awake.  Was it that Peter presented data with no regard for his audience’s reaction?  Or, that when nervous, he incessantly clicked his pen?  Or that he searched awkwardly for words?  These crimes hardly deserved the punishment Dan meted out.  Reliving one of Peter’s stumbled presentations, Dan felt as though he wanted to discipline an incorrigible child.

He breathed into the tightness in his shoulders and chest and dissolved some of it, but the tension of wanting Peter to perform well remained. When Peter fumbled, Dan looked incompetent, and it jeopardized both their jobs.   He could be fired. As he acknowledged this fear his lower back tightened.   Dan breathed into his back until the tension eased.  He was surprised at how much he had riding on Peter’s presentations.

Now his thoughts turned to what he truly appreciated about Peter.  Peter could see patterns in data that other people missed.  Dan sometimes marveled at Peter’s insights, and he never acknowledged him for it.  Dan wondered: Would he like to work for a boss who consistently badgered him and withheld praise?

“Hi, Dan,” said Peter, sitting down opposite him.

Dan saw how Peter, in micro movements, displayed his discomfort.  He’s like a whipped dog, he thought. This is what my old behaviors produce. 

After some awkward pleasantries, Dan took a breath and said, “Peter, I owe you an apology.”

Peter looked at Dan, his expression unchanged.

“It can’t be fun for you to work for me.  I ride you mercilessly about small mistakes in your presentations…”

Peter nodded, almost imperceptibly.

“…you work incredible hours…”

Peter nodded again, more noticeably.

“…and I never tell you how much I admire your talent for seeing patterns in data.  If I were you I would’ve quit long ago.  I’m sorry, Peter.”

“Actually, Dan, I came today to tell you that I’m quitting.”

“Is it because of what it’s been like working for me?”

“Partially,” said Peter.

“What else is it?”

“Nothing, actually.”

After a moment, Dan said, “Peter, there is a human side to this enterprise, and I’ve been blocking it at every turn.  I’m sorry it’s come to this.”

Peter was silent.

“The team is going to miss you.”

“After they pass through the stages of grief, they’ll get on with life.  Five minutes should suffice,” said Peter.

Dan smiled. “I want you to know that you can use me as a positive reference.  If I can help in any way with your transition, I will.”


“Peter, I’d like to hear what it’s been like for you to work here, for me – as a kind of exit interview.  Could we use this time to do that?”


Peter told him it had been hell.  Fretting for hours over which slides to include in one of Dan’s presentations ruined his weekends.  He rehearsed these presentations, only to have Dan remove many slides and demand replacements.  Dan would ask for more data and then never use it.   “A thankless job,” barely described it. This came out haltingly, but after forty-five minutes it was all on the table.

“Take a look at this,” said Dan, handing his behavior chart to Peter.  “Michele and I prepared this chart from the 360 feedback interviews.  I think you might find the second one particularly interesting.”

Peter read aloud:

“In helping his team prepare their presentations for senior executives Dan: A) (Old Behavior) Demands last minute changes in slides, often asking for hours’ worth of work that is seldom used.  B) (New Behavior) Dan gives clear direction about what response he wants the presentation to evoke in the audience.  He acknowledges what is good and offers constructive suggestions on what needs improvement.  Then he trusts his subordinates to create the final version.  In that way, they own the presentation, accept its success, and learn from their mistakes.  If Dan thinks they’re making serious errors, he does not withhold his opinion.”

Peter handed the chart back to Dan.  “That would work.  When do we get to meet the guy who does Behavior B?”

“Peter, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback in the past three weeks.  It’s been hard to hear, but it’s finally seeping in.  Michele has helped me see that teams whose members collaborate and learn from each other perform best.  I’m committed to our building that kind of team.  I’m sorry that you won’t be here to help us create it.”

“Dan, this is a little late for me.  I’m burned out.”

“How about this, Peter?  Take the weekend and next Monday off.  Get some rest.  In two weeks, we’ll have a two-day off site meeting for the whole team to design how we want to operate.  Could you work another couple of weeks and then come to the offsite? Then you’ll have direct experience of how successful we are at recreating ourselves.  If you decide you want to remain part of the team, I’d be happy to have you stay.  If you still want to leave, I’ll understand.  My offer to help with your transition stands.  How does that sound?”

“I don’t know, Dan.  Let me sleep on it.  I’ll let you know Tuesday.”

“Peter, thank you for speaking your mind today.”

“You’re welcome,” said Peter.  “Thanks for listening.”

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 Have you ever asked for and received harsh feedback about your leadership style? What did you do? Please leave comment.

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CHAPTER 27 – Out with Old, In with the New Behaviors

In a single two and a half hour meeting, Michele and Dan had gleaned the most important messages in the feedback report.  Among the many stories illustrating the ways Dan needed to change, they chose to concentrate on five key behaviors.  Attempting to change more than that, she said, would dilute results.  He could only do so much, and she preferred he focus on the differences that would have the greatest impact.

They agreed on what new behaviors would replace the old ones.  These new behaviors were designed to create better working relationships among internal customers and develop more highly functioning teams.  The behaviors brought a more strategic approach to his leadership, one that not only accomplished goals, but also developed people and his organization in the process.

Michele reminded him that even if he radically changed his behavior, some people might be slow to notice or reticent to accept the changes.  She suggested he use the one-on-one meetings to share exactly what he was working on.  Asking for support and feedback from others would engage them in his progress.  She said she would email him a chart that summarized the targeted behaviors, so he could use it in his one-on-one meetings.

The night before his first one-on-one, he found Michele’s e-mail waiting for him.  He printed out the chart and read it many times.  The left column listed his old behaviors, while his new best practices stood opposite them in the right column.  This should be simple.   He and Michele had discussed the logic for each best practice, and on paper they looked reasonable and preferable.  But memories of shouting at meetings reminded him that logic did not always carry the day.  To adopt and sustain his new behaviors, he would need to dissolve the emotions that were driving the old ones.  That way he’d be able to relax and trust his spontaneous actions to reflect his intentions.

Tomorrow, in his meeting with Carla, he would take this new strategy for a test run.

Click here to read Chapter 28.

Do you use a checklist approach in your coaching? Let us know in the comments.

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Ivan Misner Interview on Creating Social Capital

I’m pleased to be interviewing Dr. Ivan Misner. Ivan is both a colleague and a friend. He’s often referred to as the “father of modern networking.”

IM: Stephen, I’m just glad they’re not calling me the grandfather of modern networking yet!

SJ: Yes, that’s a good thing! Ivan, you’re one of the world’s leading experts on business networking and referral marketing. You founded BNI (Business Networking International) in 1985. BNI now has more than 6,000 chapters on every continent. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.5 million referrals, resulting in $2.8 billion worth of business for its members. It’s great to be talking with you, Ivan.

IM: Thank you. Just so you know: $2.8 billion is the gross domestic product of the country of Liechtenstein.

SJ: Aha!

IM: Okay, so it’s a small country, I admit, but when you think about a networking organization generating as much business as a country the size of Liechtenstein, that’s impressive. Although I’m looking for a bigger country next year, I think this is a good start.

SJ: It certainly speaks to the power of networking. Let’s turn to Chapter 12 of Dragons at Work where we find Peter, a direct report of our hero, Dan, suffering under Dan’s leadership. The first question I have for you is this: How would having a larger network make Peter a better employee?

IM: Building a powerful personal network is important, whether you’re running your own business or working for a large company, and it’s important for a number of reasons. When you’re connecting with other people, and helping and referring other people to projects or opportunities, you’re building your social capital. Building social capital involves making investments in relationships that you will keep over time. That makes it easy to take a withdrawal down the road. When you build enough social capital with people then when you ask for some assistance, they’re more than willing to provide it.

I’ll give you a good example: A friend of both of ours, Alex Mandossian, said to me, “Ivan, I have a favor to ask you.” I answered, “Yes, I’ll do it.” He responded, “Well, I haven’t told you what the favor is, yet.” I said, “Alex, we’ve built up enough social capital in our relationship that I can’t imagine you’re going to ask anything that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. And so the answer is yes, I’ll do it.” That’s social capital. You build a relationship with someone long enough, well enough, and strong enough that when you need help, assistance, advice, coaching or a referral of some kind, people are more than willing to do it. And of course, it takes time to build this kind of relationship.

SJ: Yes, it does. So for Peter, our character in Dragons at Work, it looks like he hasn’t taken that time. What would you tell someone like Peter? How would you advise him to start building his social network?

IM: There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “What’s the best time to plant an oak tree? Twenty-five years ago. When is the second best time? Today.”

If you haven’t built a network, it’s not the end of the world, but don’t expect networking to be a magic bullet. It takes time. Everything I teach is based on one core foundational philosophy: the VCP Process of networking. And if you haven’t built your network (as Peter has not) you need to understand this in order to move forward. VCP stands for visibility, credibility and profitability.

First, you have to be visible. People have to know who you are. They have to recognize you (whether in a corporate environment or an entrepreneurial environment). Otherwise, they won’t refer to you, ask you for advice, or give you business.

From visibility you go to credibility. Now people know who you are, what you do, and what you’re good at. They know you’re good at it because they’ve worked on projects with you. Maybe you’ve done business with them or know people who have worked with them who speak highly of you. At some point, you get to credibility.

The third phase is profitability. And although I often use that in an entrepreneurial environment where profitability is about getting business, it can also apply to profitability in a relationship. In Dragons at Work we have a corporate environment, where the profitability comes from people being willing to help you, support you, support your project and support your position.

That profitability only comes after you’ve gone through the stages of visibility and credibility; yet people often try to take withdrawals before there’s any social capital. They start to ask for things before there’s a strong relationship. It takes months, if not years, to get through the VCP process, and Peter needs to start doing that now so that he’ll be in a position to utilize his network effectively in a few months.

SJ: And how would having a really strong network, at this point, make him more courageous with his contributions?

IM: Well, I think it starts with diversity. Diversity in a network is critical, and it would really help in Peter’s case.

Networks, by nature, tend to be clumpy or cluster-like. We hang out with people that are very much like ourselves. We hang out with people from a certain socioeconomic background or educational background. Our friends tend to be each other’s friends. The demographics of the people in our own personal network usually are not diverse.

This is a huge mistake if you want to build a powerful personal network. The more diverse your network, the more powerful it is. And the reason for that is the more diverse your network, the more likely you are to have connectors who connect you to more unique clusters of people.

You asked how, if Peter had a strong network he’d be more courageous. Well, diversity in your network enables you to go outside the box. If you have a powerful personal network that’s very diverse, you can call upon people who have different skill sets than you; who have more expertise than you in other areas. That enables you to be more courageous in either your workplace or as an entrepreneur. You have contacts who can help you, so you can be more courageous because you’ve built these relationships over time. Diversity is key to having a powerful personal network in so many ways.

SJ: From what you just said, it seems that having a diverse network would make him more innovative and therefore more valuable. And that would give him more confidence to speak up at work. That’s a great way to look at diversity.

IM: Yes, no question about it. And in our networks, we tend to pooh-pooh other professions or other businesses. It’s like I don’t need that contact. What can this person do for me? How could that individual possibly help me?

First of all, you never know who other people know. A few years ago I wrote about what I call the “butterfly effect of networking”. The butterfly effect is the idea that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly causes a minute change in the environment and leads to a cascade of changes that affects the weather.

Small changes in one place can lead to huge changes in another place. If we mostly spend time with people who are like us, the butterfly effect is less likely to happen. If, instead, we connect with people from richly diverse backgrounds, both social and professional, all of a sudden there is a ripple effect in your network that can lead to amazing outcomes.

As an example, a business coach from BNI asked me for a favor. That favor led to my doing a project, which led to a speaking engagement, which led to my meeting our friend Jack Canfield, and that led to my meeting somebody else which led to my being invited to Necker Island and meeting Richard Branson. I spent a week on Necker Island with Richard Branson and had the opportunity to meet a number of other amazing people.

SJ: That reminds me of another of your concepts I find particularly valuable. You believe that being generous in your social networks is what really makes them come alive, and makes them enjoyable as well.

IM: In BNI we have a philosophy that givers gain. If you want to get business, you have to be willing to give business. You have to be willing to help other people. It’s a part of social capital theory and it’s known as the Law of Reciprocity.

The Law of Reciprocity is a transformational law, not a transactional law. A good friend of mine, Dr. Wayne Baker, says, “You can’t use the Law of Reciprocity transactionally.” He calls that coin operated networking: I’m going to put the coin in because I want the candy or “It’s really nice to meet you, Stephen, and I need this from you right away.”

If you make networking transactional, it doesn’t work. It has to be transformational. It has to be truly an example where the sum of the whole becomes greater than the individual parts. When you get people working together, helping one another and building that social capital, the results become exponentially greater.

I believe that networking is about trying to help other people. For example, in my book Truth or Delusion, we pose a series of questions and then ask, “Is this truth or is this delusion?” One of the questions is “Can you network anywhere, anytime, anyplace, even at a funeral?”

Most people say, “Well, of course that’s delusion. You can’t network at a funeral.” And I believe it’s not a delusion. It’s truth. You can network anywhere, anytime or anyplace, but there are a couple of things that you have to know. One is you must always honor the event. Walking around at a funeral passing out your business card is not a good idea.

My co-authors, associates, and I, define networking as “helping other people to build their network so that they help you.” And by helping other people, I don’t mean, “Let me sell you this,” or “Do this for me.” So if networking is truly is about helping other people, then when is it inappropriate? If it truly is about helping other people, I think the answer is never.

SJ: Beautiful. I often get asked this question about networking: In this digital age, where’s the most important place to spend time? In online social networks or face-to-face interactions?

IM: That’s a great question, and I believe the answer to that is it’s not either/or. It’s both/and. BNI is a face-to-face network. We have 6,000 groups that meet every week all over the world. People will often say to me, “Hasn’t online networking really impacted your face-to-face program?” And my answer is always, “Yes, absolutely.” When did the Internet really get rolling? The mid-nineties?

SJ: Yes.

IM: In the mid-nineties, we had about 500 groups. Eleven years later, we’ve opened 5,000 groups. So as you can see, the Internet has really impacted the face-to-face organization. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. One does not cancel out the other.

I’ll give you a quick story. In Networking Like a Pro, I talk about being interviewed in Stockholm by a big newspaper. They sent this twenty-year-old kid to interview me about face-to-face networking. And he spent the first ten minutes of the interview berating me for running what he called the buggy-whip business of networking.

After he finished this tirade I said, “Okay, so why are you here?” And he looked at me and said, “What do you mean?” I said again, “Well, why are you here?” He said, “Because my boss said I had to do this interview.” I said, “But it took you an hour-and-a-half to drive here. Why did you drive an hour-and-a-half? It’s going to take you longer to get back in traffic. Why did you drive here rather than just pick up the phone and call me?”

He looked at me and without skipping a beat said, “Because doing an interview face-to-face is always better.” I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. All of a sudden he said, “Oh, wait a minute. I get it. There are elements of face-to-face that you just don’t get over the phone or over the Internet.” And I said, “You got it.”

So it’s not either/or; it’s both/and. I’m a believer in online networking. I’m active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Ecademy. The power of social media is that it increases your touch points in networking. It allows you to stay in touch, today, in a way that we couldn’t do when I started BNI in 1985.

However, I’m a believer in face-to-face connection. There’s something about shaking somebody’s hand, looking them in the eyes and having a conversation. Online media is a good way to stay in touch with people over time. It’s also a great way to have people follow you if they’re interested in what you’re doing. So it’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

SJ: What do you think is the future of networking and BNI now?

IM: I think face-to-face networking is going to continue. In some ways the Gen-Xers and the Millennials are going to be desperate for face-to-face networking. It’s a skill set they haven’t learned and it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Online social media is going to continue, but there’s going to be a gap in people skills and networking skills that organizations like BNI and other networking organizations will be able to fill.

SJ: I agree with you.

IM: You know, Stephen, we don’t teach this in colleges and universities. We have people with bachelor’s degrees in business that don’t have a clue how to network. Most professors teach what I call sterile marketing. They don’t understand the power of networks and how they work. They think it’s soft science and most of them have never run a business, so they don’t understand the value.

I just did a survey for my next book and we asked business people, “Has networking played a role in your success?” and 92 percent said yes. When have you ever seen 92 percent of any group of people say yes to anything?

SJ: That’s amazing.

IM: And yet we don’t teach it in colleges and universities.

SJ: Can you say something about how being well networked helps in career advancement and finding a job?

IM: Every survey I’ve seen in the last twenty years has indicated that an overwhelming majority of jobs are now being filled by referral not by advertising. I know USA Today did a survey a few years back, and it was an amazing number, like 75 or 80 percent. So that fits within intrapreneurial, internal networking.

SJ: I’ve seen 80 percent. Have you heard of the 1993 study called “Star Performers at Bell Labs”?

IM: It doesn’t ring a bell!

SJ: They wanted to find the qualities of star performers that produced the great discoveries and patents. They controlled for IQ, so it wasn’t a factor. The two things that made the biggest difference were being involved in networks and being proactive in work style, like just “get it done.” For example, what did someone do when they got stumped? They didn’t go to a library or do a study. They picked up the phone and in five minutes had a new direction. So they had diverse networks and a proactive response to challenges.

IM: Wayne Baker wrote in Achieving Success Through Social Capital that people with a powerful personal network are healthier. When I read it I thought, Really, Wayne. Please. That can’t be true. That’s crazy! Then I read the evidence. He looked at people who had a powerful personal network and what they did if they had a health challenge: they didn’t just rely on what their doctor told them. They started talking to their friends, associates, to people in their networks.

They rallied around the person and were an amazing resource for expertise (again, it’s that diversity) in areas that the individual alone didn’t have. This opened a world of options to help them with their health issues. It makes total sense, but I would never have thought that.

SJ: I’m not sure if this also came from Wayne Baker but there’s research that shows that a healthy social network builds your immune system, as well, because we’re social creatures, and we’re not meant to be isolated.

IM: Wayne also talked about a concept I love: the proximity effect. It turns out that proximity makes a big difference in one’s network. He quoted from a study at a university which polled close friends. They asked them, “Okay, so you’re very close friends. Why?”

They said, “Oh, because we have similar interests. We both like basketball. We both like playing games.”

“How did you meet?”

“Oh, well, we’re roommates.” Or, “We take two or three classes together, so I see him three or four times a week.”

What’s interesting is that it’s the proximity that actually leads to the overlapping areas of interest.

SJ: Yes, and it also creates diversity, because a roommate or somebody living down the hall might be someone you would otherwise never meet.

IM: That’s true, but people’s natural tendency is to hang out with people that are like them. An example is race. It’s very important to strive hard to break those boundaries and to include people from other races and educational backgrounds in your network. I see it often with highly educated people who don’t want to hang around people who are not highly educated. Conversely, the uneducated hate hanging around with people who are highly educated because they think they’re snobs.

SJ: Well, it also happens with people’s political or religious beliefs, as well. People get siloed. You only seek information that reifies your beliefs.

IM: Very true. You see so many people who are very religious and they never want anyone around them who don’t agree with their version of spirituality. Again, we have to strive to open our networks to a diverse group.

SJ: Thanks, Ivan. You’ve made a great contribution. I hope that the people reading this interview will get excited about BNI, go to your website and see all the resources that are available for them. That’s at

IM: My pleasure. Glad to help. People can also go to my blog. I have a lot of free content up there every week, including videos and articles on networking. You’ll find articles on what we talked about here, today: VCP Process, the butterfly effect and diversity.

In what ways, big or small, have you added value to your networks? Please leave your story in the comment section.

Stephen Comments on Relieving Workplace Stress

Marcia Crawford’s character is modeled on a number of excellent HR professionals I’ve worked with over the years. Some people enter Human Resources to bring order to compensation, benefits, legal compliance, and the administrative facets of HR. Others are drawn to the profession because they want to contribute to and improve the experience of employees in the work environment. They see the world of work as a place for people to bring out the best in each other and evolve personally and professionally.

Some HR executives have training in psychology, but the scope of their interest includes not just individuals but the organizational systems in which they work and the rigors of running a profitable business. Marcia’s passion and expertise are on the human development side of the continuum. She feels for Dan and his organization, and she understands the business impact of a failed project.

In this chapter Marcia, VP of HR, confronts a common situation. Brilliant, hard-working, driven executives can be blind to the costs of their abrasive management style. Lost productivity and revenue, attrition, and even share price devaluation are very real consequences of the way Dan operates.

Because Dan’s knowledge and expertise are critical to the project’s success, replacing him is not an easy option. It would be ideal to keep Dan and develop his leadership style. Marcia knows that coaching is often the intervention of choice for executives like Dan who cannot take time off to attend training. Coaching can give Dan the one-on-one training that only uses content that is pertinent to this mission critical project.

Previously, Dan had rejected coaching, but now with his limitations staring him in the face and his new health concerns, he is suddenly amenable.

Though coaching is highly cost-effective, it still requires financial investment. Like most HR executives, Marcia knows some of her colleagues view executive development as a cost, and not always a justifiable one. She believes good executive development produces a competitive advantage for her company. But mindful that others disagree with her, she needs Dan’s coaching to produce demonstrable results.

Marcia selects from her network of coaches three possible matches for Dan’s needs. Dan has agreed to interview them.

Let’s see how that turns out in Chapter 5.