CHAPTER 46 – The Calm

“Things are good now,” Dan told Michele. “My worst fears about the new org structure  haven’t materialized.  In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.  In these six weeks Catherine has shown herself to be a good partner and a positive force in keeping us organized,  so I’m able to  focus on strategy, quality, and technical execution.  My team has learned to play nicely with hers, and I spend more time at the VP level making sure that their perceptions of our progress match reality.”

“How’s that going?” asked Michele.

“For the most part it’s good, except, of course, for Bob. He publicly complains that we’re not giving him the functionality he needs.  If he had his way, the system would automatically order pizza after it compared all the menus and prices in fifty states.”

“When’s the last time you talked to him?” she said.

“That’s a problem.  I keep making appointments with him and he blows me off at the last minute.  The people he assigned to the project are B players at best, and they do the same thing with Carla. When she does meet with them, they come armed with a new list of desired features. She’s having a tough time making any progress at all, and if Carla can’t make headway, no one can.”

“What about Catherine?” she said.  “What does she have to say?”

“She’s trying to stay neutral, but I can tell she’s bothered by it. Their feature creep jeopardizes our milestones,” he said.

“So, what do you make of all this?”

“I don’t know.  When the system goes live, every transaction and process in the company will be visible.  Maybe there are some things Bob doesn’t want to see the light of day.  Time will tell.”

“How’s your leadership stacking up against your chart of old and new behaviors?” asked Michele.

“I’ve almost completely dropped my old style, because I’ve seen how the new ways always produce better results. But the real shift is how I respond when I’m frustrated. For the most part, I can dissolve tension before it takes me down the path to an old behavior. Then the new behavior seems like a viable choice.  I feel calm underneath – happy, actually, more of the time.  I’m excited about delegating and watching people grow by taking on more and learning as a result.  My peers and direct reports have noticed the change and tell me they appreciate it.

“Things are different at home, too.  I make time for my family, and I’m enjoying them a lot more,    I’m getting more sleep.  I’m losing weight.  My doctor is happy with me.  My wife loves me.  I’m only working fifty-five to sixty hour weeks.  I’m cured.”

“Congratulations. You’re really making progress. All your hard work is paying off,” she said.

“Yeah, in six months we’ve done a lot,” he said.  “So, if we continued, where could we take this?”

“It depends on your goals.  If you want to move through further stages of development, deeper into post-heroic territory, there’s a lot we could do.”

“Like what?”

“For instance, a hallmark of high stage leaders is   their ability to easily imagine themselves in the shoes of their key players and stakeholders.  Because their time horizon expands as well, they understand and care about the ripple effects of their decisions – how they affect individuals, communities, society, and the planet for generations to come.  As you grow in positional and organizational power, you gain the leverage and the desire to make a difference. You confront bigger challenges that demand greater humility and clarity.  When your leadership stops being about you, you become exponentially more effective.  Dan, you’ve taken the first step on that path. And if you choose to, you can continue.”

“Why stop now? I mean, I’ve got the humility thing nailed. What’s next?”

Michele laughed.

“Seriously, I’d like to keep going. Any thoughts about what my next challenge might be and what it might demand from me?” he said.

“I don’t know, but I believe it will find you.  At least that’s what Grandfather says.  Just as trouble never lasts forever, neither do periods of calm.  The trick is to enjoy them both.  Then neither success nor failure can distract you.”

“Distract me from what?” he said.

“Unattached and full appreciation of life.  From that place, you choose the right timing of useful actions as a leader, a father, and a husband.  There’s no shortage of joy to be had in living and leading wisely, without self-importance.”

“I’ll get right on it,” he said.

 Click here to read Chapter 47.

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CHAPTER 36 – Half Moon Bay

Michele Teaches Dan About the Nature of His Mind

The morning fog had nearly burned off.  The sun warmed their backs and cast diamonds of light on the expanse of ocean below.  From their perch on the cliff, the sea appeared nearly flat, rhythmically extending waves and foam to the sand, then drawing back into itself.  Save for the sound of gulls and the sea, the morning was still.  The salt fragrance of seaweed and water settled on their skin and softened the air.

They sat this way for some time, not talking.

“Dan, look to the horizon and fix your gaze there.  Let your body feel the expanse of the sky.  You don’t need to breathe any special way.  The breath will take care of itself.  Feel the space of the universe outside you.”  Michele waited until Dan settled even more into stillness.  She continued to instruct him slowly, leaving a generous silence between her phrases, so he could follow and complete each step she offered.

“As you look at the sky and the sea, relax your eyes…especially the area behind your eyes…let all tension in the eyes dissolve….  Now imagine that the entire brain, with its billions of cells, is mostly space…there are the cells, the neurons…the molecules that comprise the cells…the atoms that form the molecules…and at the subatomic level…it’s mostly space.  Feel the space inside the brain…and let its neural activity diminish…until you rest deeply in that space.  Grandfather says there is as much space inside you as there is outside.  Feel the space inside… and simultaneously feel it continue outside of you to the horizon…and behind you…above you…below you… around you in all directions.  Now rest in the continuity of space – inside and out…as though the apparent barrier of the skin itself is only space …just rest in the awareness of it…without having to say what is inside or outside… effortlessly rest there…is…only…space…all phenomena arise within it – your body…the ocean…the sky…

“Notice your breath as it comes in…and as it goes out…like waves extending and returning…like an undersea plant moved by ocean currents…the breath moves you…this breathing has no breather… it is stillness manifesting as breath. Let yourself rest in that stillness and in the expanse of space…from the deepest place inside you to the horizon…just rest, without adjusting your attention in any way…phenomena arise within this field…including thoughts.  They are like images appearing in a mirror…They come and go and the mirror remains clear…the true nature of your mind is like the mirror…pristine…just rest as the mirror and  whatever arises,  let it arise freely and dissolve on its own.

They sat quietly for another ten minutes.  Michele taught Dan how to rub his palms together, wash his face with the chi from his hands and with his palms moving in circles, spiral the energy at his navel.  When he looked settled she said, “How are you?”

Dan searched for a response and felt the strange absence of wit.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said.

“I know what you mean.”

After a few more moments of silence, Michele said, “Dan, since you have to drive home, let’s talk and move around a bit until I’m sure you’re ready to get behind the wheel.”

They stood, stretched and looked out over the bay.  “Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning,” he said.  Michele smiled and looked out over the water.  She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.  “I agree.”

“Dan, ordinarily I wouldn’t explain what we just did.  I’d give you some time to be in silence with the experience.  But I need to be sure you’re grounded enough to drive, and since small talk doesn’t seem appropriate either, let’s talk about it now.”


They sat down again and Michele began, “This experience is more profound and fundamental than words can express.  But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to approximate it with words.  Lao Tsu says,

‘The source of life is as a mother,
Be fond of both mother and children,
But know the mother dearer,
And outlive death.”

Click here to hear poem set to music. 

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“‘The source of life,’ the mother, is the ground of all being, the space in which all thingsa arise.   These phenomena – oceans, cars, trees, thoughts, you and I – are the children.  When you ‘know the mother dearer,’ you cherish the space rather than cling to what arises in it. You can enjoy phenomena, the children, without attachment. Like a mirror that is not stained by images that appear in it, the true nature of your mind is this unchanging, pristine space.

“The Tibetan Buddhists describe the capacity of the mind to rest in and be nourished by this space as ‘the mind’s secret, too easy to believe.’  It is meditation without meditating.  Since this ground of all being is always present, there is no state to enter.  Just relaxing into awareness is the easiest and, in fact, the only way to get to know it.  They call it resting in awareness.

“But what about all the instructions you gave me?  Weren’t you talking me into a state?”

“Yes.  Some of that is necessary in the beginning to point out the awareness.  Remember when I instructed you to not do anything, but just rest in an open awareness?  At that moment there was no technique, only resting.  Techniques can orient you toward awareness, but then, you have to let them go. Resting in awareness is an acquired taste.  Once you get the scent of it, it becomes easier and easier to let go, drop the thinking mind, and simply exist in the present.

“Being around an experienced practitioner helps, too.  Just as worry is contagious, so is awareness.  I know this from being around my grandfather.  I’ve learned more about meditation by watching him in the garden than any other way.”

They sat silently.  Michele said, “How are you, Dan?  Can you drive?”

“I think so.”

“You might think that as soon as you engage in ordinary activities, you’ll lose the sense of awareness.  But gradually, you discover that you can fully function while your mind rests in awareness. It actually improves my driving.  I’m acutely aware of the space around me and my car.  I can easily anticipate the moves of other drivers, and I’m relaxed.  Once you get used to awareness, driving becomes more safe and pleasant. What do you think?”

“It sounds fine until some fucking moron cuts me off.”

“Ah, I see you’re quite yourself again.  Very good.  I trust you to drive home safely.”

Dan clasped her right hand in both of his and looked at her squarely.  “Michele.  Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

They walked together down the path to their cars.  Dan’s ride home was peaceful and moron free.

Click here to read Chapter 37. 

Have you been able to integrate this kind of awareness in your daily business life? Please comment.

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CHAPTER 28 – Teaching Pigs to Sing

Dan and Carla have a 1-1 Meeting

Dan and Carla Meet

Dan waited for Carla in the conference room.  She arrived carrying a notebook and a thermos of coffee.

“Hi, Dan,” said Carla, taking a seat next to him.  She wore cotton slacks, a golf shirt, and leather running shoes to this and almost any meeting.  People said she carried her weight well, but Dan thought that missed the point.  He’d seen her on the tennis court.  With her stocky frame, she managed to cover the court efficiently, and she moved like a cat at the net.  But it was her serve that demonstrated how much power she could unleash.

“Hi, Carla,” he said, turning toward her.

Dan thanked her for having taken the time to give feedback to Michele.  He told her about the significant themes from the feedback and asked for her comments.

“Dan, we’ve known each other for a long time.  You don’t have to be so formal with me.  Why don’t you just tell me what you want to work on, and we’ll talk?”

“Sounds good, Carla.”  He pulled the chart from a folder, handed it to her and said, “These are the five key behaviors that I’m working on.”

Reading aloud, she said,

Context: in meetings with senior executives, where Dan’s direct reports are presenting data…

Dan…A: (Old Behavior) interrupts his report and takes over the presentation.  Result: The direct report feels publicly humiliated in front of his or her superiors, unmotivated to make future presentations, and perceives the working environment as oppressive.

Or, B: (New Behavior) Dan allows his direct report to present the data and handle all follow-up questions.  Dan only comments if his direct report truly needs help and in that case he is both supportive and honest.”

“I’ll take B any day,” said Carla.  “I know Peter would, too.”

“That’s what I’m shooting for.”

“This sounds good on paper, here in our private, calm conversation.  We’ve had a lot of beers at Dempsey’s a few days after you’ve blown it.  You were nice and rational then.  Do you think you can pull it off when you’re in a critical meeting and you see data that is wrong or a slide that makes you want to scream?”

“That’s the only time it counts,” he said.

“You know that one about why you shouldn’t try to teach a pig to sing?”

“I have a feeling I’m going to hear it.”

“Well, that’s why I’m working with Michele.  She makes her living teaching pigs to sing. Carla, take another look at the chart and see what else pertains to you.”

Carla began reading.  At first, she skimmed.  Then, she slowed down and mouthed the words as she read.

“I like this one,” she said.

In meetings with his staff, Dan adopts the following leadership style…

A: (Old Behavior) listens to status reports, one at a time, processes the data, and tells each individual staff member how to proceed

B: (New Behavior) Dan states the frame and the rationale for the meeting.  When appropriate, he helps team members understand the project more broadly, beyond their own contributions and concerns.  He encourages the group to collectively look at their interdependencies and how they might help each other.   He invites the team to brainstorm and build on each other’s ideas.  Dan encourages the contributions of others before he states his own opinions.  As much as possible, he relies on the emerging wisdom of the team.  If he needs to make a decision contrary to their ideas, he says so and gives the rationale.  He may be open to discussion on these decisions.  In this way, he builds the team’s capacity to function at a higher level of autonomy and develops team members into future leaders.

“Now, that’s good,” said Carla.  “That would make my life much better.”

“According to Michele, it would make everyone’s life better, including mine.  How would it affect you?”

“I see things that you don’t, Dan.  I could’ve told you that the milestones you set for this project were way too aggressive.  You over-promised and we, predictably, under-delivered.  We ended up feeling oppressed by unreachable goals.  I tried to say something about the deadlines, but you brushed it aside.”

“I know, I remember that.”

“If you’d engaged us in the decision making we would have had more realistic goals and we would have been more committed to them.”

“Yes, that would have saved us a lot of grief.  Let’s see if we can operate,in the new way going forward.”

“Dan, I feel like you’re sincere in wanting to change, but even if you pull it off, it may take a little while before people come out of their defensive crouches.”

“I’m planning to have a two-day off site meeting where we redesign how our team functions.  Hopefully, that will help us all reset.”

“We could use a reset right about now.  By the way, I think Peter could use some TLC.  He’s not a happy camper.”

“Is there anything specific I should know?”

“Nothing that you can’t get from talking with him directly.  But if you want to keep him, a little appreciation from you will go a long way.”

“Thanks, Carla.”

“One more thing.  Whatever you and Michele are doing, in spite of what I said before, I see a difference.”

“As the lead singing pig, I appreciate that.”

Click here to read Chapter 29.

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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.

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CHAPTER 19 – Building Team Trust

The next day Dan and Michele sat side by side in the Thoreau room for their 8:00AM meeting. Dan drank coffee, and Michele sipped her Grandfather’s tea from a travel mug. On the table before them, lay the report.

Pointing to it, Michele said, “How does it seem to you today?”

“A little more reasonable. I can see where they get their opinions.”

“What are they telling you?” she said.

“My staff respects my knowledge, but they feel oppressed by me and the project. They think I work them too hard. One person used the words ‘slave driver.’ Two of my non-technical superiors are very concerned about the viability of the project, and a third feels out of the loop. Someone else said I was condescending and opaque. They also doubt that I understand how the project affects their business. And my peers don’t think I listen to them either. They think my teams don’t cooperate with theirs.”

“And what do you think?” said Michele.

“It still bothers me to read it, but I also think if I were in their shoes, I might feel the same way. Anyway, whether their opinions are justified or not, they feel the way they feel. I can’t really argue with that, can I?”

“No, it’s never worth arguing with them; better to just move things forward. But first, remember, you’re now at absolutely the most difficult point in this process. You’re sitting with some hard feedback. You still have many of your old emotional reactions to people and situations, and it’s still too early to form a complete vision of where you want to take your organization. Plus, you have little proof that anything I have to teach you will work.”

“Hey Michele, don’t hold back. Tell me the bad news.”

“This is the lowest point. It gets better from here.”

“How will that happen?”

“While you’re waiting for your vision to take shape, you build your capacity to inspire trust and lead your stakeholders forward. You build that trust through listening, partnering, and delivering what you promise. Your work with the ALIVE skills will give you the resilience, clarity, and courage to earn trust quickly. Even though there are no visible signs yet, we’ve already set the process of change in motion by interviewing people. As you begin to act differently, they’ll notice.

“Hey, that all sounds good, but I need practical next steps. I’m at a loss here. What am I supposed to do?”

“This report is the starting point for building trust. First, you meet with your stakeholders and acknowledge the messages they sent through the interviews. You thank them for the time and thought they put into the feedback. You share the main themes that emerged, and you let them know that you want to create, along with them, a collaborative working environment that will be productive and rewarding for everyone. Later, you may want to hold an offsite meeting for your entire team, but first you meet one on one with everyone who gave you feedback. You ask if they would be willing to tell you what it’s like from their side of the working relationship; and you listen. You don’t defend, debate, or rebut. You simply listen to what they say, without taking it personally.”

“Sounds like I’m going to hear a lot more complaints,” he said.

“You will, but I promise the conversations won’t be that painful – not if you have a clear idea of what you want to create in these meetings. But you’re the one who has to have them, and if you don’t want to have them, it will show. Remember, you’re not the only one who has faced the problem of building and rebuilding trust. Stephen M. R. Covey devoted an entire book to the subject called: The Speed of Trust. It would be an excellent resource for you right now.

“The most fundamental question is about your intent: Do you want to build an organization where people can exchange information and learn without fear? Do you want to build trust?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK,” he said. “I’ll be a good leader, Coach, honest I will.”

“I like your approach – kicking and screaming your way into mature leadership.”

“Hey,” Dan smiled. “We need to utilize my strengths.”

“Indeed we do. By the way, did you have a chance to try what I showed you yesterday about smiling with the breath and moving the joints?”

“I did some last night at bedtime. I slept better, and I woke up this morning with more energy. And I practiced it this morning in the car on the way to work, during a conference call. C As I listened to the latest litany of problems, I was less frustrated.”

“Good. Soon, I’ll explain how you can apply what you’ve learned in other practical ways,” she said.

“Can I use it to lose weight?” he said.

“As a matter of fact, you can.”

“Did your grandfather teach you all of this?”

“Not all of it, but I guarantee he would have a lot to say on the subject of listening without taking things personally. It’s an essential theme for him. “Why?”

“Because listening is one of the central elements of tai chi. I can’t really explain it. You’d have to see it to understand it.”

“I’d like to see that,” he said. “Is it possible?”

“You mean see my grandfather?

“Yeah. You sound surprised.”

“I am. Grandfather is an acquired taste. I’ve never taken a client to meet him before, but if you want to see him, he teaches a class every Saturday morning in Golden Gate Park – Master Wu’s tai chi class, as his students call it. Do you want to go?”

“Would you meet me there?” asked Dan.

“Sure, but I thought you worked weekends,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to cut my hours. How about this Saturday?”

“OK,” said Michele. “You’d probably enjoy it, but be warned. Though an encounter with my grandfather is always valuable, he is unpredictable. You’re sure you want to go?”


“We can meet at 8:30. I’ll e-mail you directions. Now, let’s dig into the report.”

Click here to read Chapter 20.


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Tara Brach: The Monkey Mind

Dragons-at-work-Tara-Brach-Chapter 16 interview

Tara Brach

Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and the upcoming book, True Refuge-Three Gateways to a Fearless Heart (Bantam, 2012).

Tara is nationally known for her skill in weaving western psychological wisdom with a range of meditative practices. Her approach emphasizes compassion for oneself and others, mindful presence and the direct realization and embodiment of natural awareness.

SJ: We’re looking at Chapter 16 which opens with Michele returning home from work to find her Taoist Grandfather watching The Sopranos on TV. Their conversation moves from the Sopranos to how to trap a monkey: Simply place a peanut in the hole of a tree. The monkey will reach into the tree to seize the peanut, but holding onto it, his hand is now too big to remove from the hole. Refusing to release the prize, he is trapped.

Tara, what drew your attention as you read this chapter?

TB: I was immediately captivated that Grandfather watched The Sopranos on TV because I really enjoyed The Sopranos myself, and it’s a juicy parallel to Dragons at Work. Tony Soprano was absolutely addicted to anger and to control. It’s his modus operandi to get what he wants in the world: through violence, lashing out and trying to control other people’s lives. In a less criminal and more corporate context, that’s what’s going on for Dan. He’s trying to manage his project by controlling, grasping and lashing out.

SJ: Yes. Dan is caught, trapped by his own limitations and behavior. What else are you drawn to?

TB: Well, clearly this is creating suffering for Dan. We know that he’s had a health scare, but it’s also creating suffering for the people who work for him, for his family and for himself. His life has gotten really small. Dan, like the rest of us, is trying, in some way, to be happy or find gratification or feel better in his life, but his strategy to control people isn’t working. And neither is his the way he’s running his project.

For me, one of the high points is when Michele gives Dan a taste of how to relax. If he can learn how to relax, he might be able to break the pattern by interrupting it. The word interrupt is a really important word. Every one of us gets caught in a chain of reaction that causes trouble for us. We have it with our thoughts, our feelings and our behavior. And if we learn to pause in the midst of it, if we can interrupt it, then we have a possibility of contacting inner resources and we can change the reaction.

In my work with people, I call this the “sacred art of pausing.” If we can stop in the midst of the reaction, if we can pause even for a short amount of time (and there can be different signals to stop) then it’s possible to interrupt and make a change.

I have a favorite line from Viktor Frankl. He said, “Between the stimulus and the response is space, and in that space is our power and our freedom.”

SJ: That’s wonderful.

TB: Yes. I remember hearing it at one of my meditation classes. We have a lot of people involved with 12-Step programs. One of them has sponsored so many people that he’s practically famous as an AA sponsor. He told me that he’d first heard me talk about the pause a few years earlier and then said, “Learning to pause for five seconds is as helpful as a year of meetings.”

SJ: Earlier you mentioned the ability to recognize when you need to pause; that there are signs that you’re going off track. What do you see with Dan?

TB: Michele is drawing Dan’s attention to certain flags that will help him recognize he’s in trouble. He’s in a chain of reactivity and there’s so much confusion. He needs a simple way to bring himself back to a resourceful state. I use a process with the acronym RAIN.

First, you Recognize. You simply recognize Okay, this is what’s going on. That pause allows whatever you’re feeling to be there. You’re just stopping. You’re not trying to change anything because the space you need is not there. If you immediately try to change things without pausing and allowing, you bring the same energy to what’s next. So, it’s recognize and allow.

And then you need time to investigate what’s happening. That’s the “I” of RAIN. And I’ll add that one has to investigate with kindness, because if there’s not some quality of gentleness, you again won’t be able to really see what’s going on. My sense is that’s the process Dan is going into.

When you pause, recognize, allow and investigate with kindness, that brings you to “N”, which is non-identification. That’s what I love so much about Grandfather – he actually names it. He notes that you’re moving away from being identified with all the cravings and the wants – I want this, and I need it that way, and you have to do it my way. If you’re not identified with all the wanting, you’re freer to come from a larger sense of your being.

SJ: In my experience, the more I enter that space, the more familiar it becomes and the easier to access. And that affects my sense of identity, as well.

TB: That’s exactly it. For me identity is the best word. You become more familiar with that space where you’re just present and aware and relating to what’s going on. It gives us more of a sense of our real being – that we’re much more than that self that was lashing out or hanging on.

I sometimes share a story that really touched me about a man in the Army who had a really bad temper.

A soldier was sent to a mindfulness-based course for anger management. In the mindfulness training he learned to notice the flags that let him know when he’s about to go off. And how to recognize the feeling and then allow whatever it is it to be there. Just pause, find that space, investigate, and so on.

One day he was off duty. He went to the supermarket, piled up a whole cart of stuff, and got into the check- out line. In front of him was a woman with just one item, and she had a child in her arms and she’s taking her time. She and the clerk are oohing and aahing over the child, and this guy’s temper flared. He’s thinking I’m a busy guy. I’ve got things to do. This woman has only one item, and she and the clerk are just oohing and aahing over this little baby. He started feeling really angry.

And then he recognized the flag and he remembered his training. He paused, and he went inside and began RAIN. He began to notice what was going on, recognizing that underneath was that familiar anger, that agitation. I’m not going to get where I need to go and get everything done. He felt his breath. He calmed down.

When he opened his eyes, he noticed the child was kind of cute. When it was finally his turn, and the woman and her child had left, he said to the clerk, “That child was really cute.” The clerk beamed and said, “Oh, that’s my child. My husband was killed in Iraq last year. My mom brings the baby every day so I have a little chance to be with him.” He realized how much he was missing what was happening for other people, and for himself, when he was lost in that chain reaction of anger. The story perfectly illustrates the power of pausing and deepening our attention and coming home to a truer sense of who we are.

SJ: How did your own meditative practice affect your ability to pause and connect with others?

TB: In this chapter Grandfather talks about the monkey trapped by refusing to let go of a peanut. In my own life, the peanut I was grasping was this need to prove myself worthy. I was racing around busily trying to convince everybody I was worthy and not finding, in that pause, that Hey, here we are together. The love is here.

In Chinese script, the word for “busy” is similar to the word for “heart killing.” I realized that in trying so hard to prove I was okay I was armoring over my heart. I now call that the “trance of unworthiness.” I’m not alone in this – so many people feel inadequate, and they spend so much time trying to prove themselves.

My process was sensing the flags of feeling the “not okayness,” or that something was wrong with me, or something was missing, and then letting that be a reminder to pause. Then I would use the mindfulness practice to just recognize and allow the feeling of “not good enough” however it arose, feeling the fear of failure, or whatever it was.

In this way, I deepened my connection with those feelings. I learned I could just be with the feelings in my body until I could hold those feelings compassionately. First I developed a sense of being present with the feelings. As I practiced more, that presence became very compassionate.

That way of attending became more familiar to me as a way of being – more real than the self that was trying to prove herself. And that is the end of RAIN. I was no longer identified with that unworthy self. I was resting more in a kind of presence. I went through thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds of that, of in some way catching the flags of “not okay” trying to prove whatever it was and pausing.

SJ: You write so eloquently about that in your books. What I love about your teaching is how you use your own experiences as examples. You’re willing to reveal yourself. Some teachers seem inaccessible because they seldom share anything about their own process of growth.

TB: Well, mine were so in my face, I couldn’t avoid them. I learned, and continue to learn from my own foibles. But I love this Lao Tzu piece you chose, Stephen. I find in the moments when we’re not so lost in the trance of “what do I need to do to be more successful?” or fear of failure… in those moments it becomes crystal clear that we’re in it together. We’re in this boat, and if there’s a leak on your side it’s the same boat so it’s my leaky boat, too. The less I’m focused on what’s wrong with me the clearer I am that we’re all connected. Then it becomes much more natural to spontaneously want to take care of us, not me.

I love this line: “one who recognizes all men to be members of his own body.” The world lives in our heart. There’s not really anything outside. It’s all part of us. So, for me, meditation has been very powerful in waking up that understanding.

SJ: Can you say a few words about your new book and how it’s a continuation or an elaboration of your first book, Radical Acceptance?

TB: Radical Acceptance primarily addresses what to me is one of the most pervasive kinds of suffering: that we’re often at war with ourselves. In my twenties it became clear to me that I wasn’t my own best friend. I was at war with myself a lot. Radical Acceptance is the inquiry of how do we befriend ourselves? How do we forgive ourselves and really embrace this life beyond our own small concerns?

Over the last few decades, along with almost everybody I know, I have faced huge changes. This body got older. I encountered sickness. I encountered the loss of beloved people. I’ve watched myself and other people lose our memories and deal with various major life losses.

The inquiry of my new book, True Refuge, is how, in the face of the greatest losses, we find a sense of peace and freedom and real happiness. That was my compelling inquiry when my health took a major nosedive. I lost a lot of my capacity to walk up hills and on sand and I couldn’t swim. I was very attached to being outside and moving easily, and I felt a huge amount of grief around that loss. I remember one particular day where that question arose. No matter how much loss there is, how do I find a sense of peace and happiness, no matter what?

That’s the inquiry of the book, and I use my own story and what I’ve discovered about true refuge. And I like the word “refuge,” because so often we take what we might call false refuge. We try to take care of ourselves in ways that in the short term might give us temporary relief, but don’t really give us a deep sense of peace. And so True Refuge looks at how we come home to the love and the awareness that can hold our lives.

SJ: Thank you, Tara. As always, it’s a pleasure to speak with you, and I look forward to reading your new book.

To find out more about Tara’s work, teaching, books, and CDs click here.

When have you been able to successfully pause and expand your compassionate awareness? Has this self-reflection helped you in your professional life? Tell us the story in the comment section.

CHAPTER 16 – Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?

Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?“What are you watching, Grandfather?” said Michele.

With eyes fixed on the TV screen he said, “I’m improving my English.”

Tony Soprano, a mafia boss, was meeting with friends at his bar, Ba-Da-Bing. One of the members of his gang fretted over a complicated career decision, and Tony offered wise counsel about achieving happiness through the execution of familial obligations.

“Ah!” said Grandfather at the episode’s end. “Very Confucian. And how is Dr. Melfy?”

“Just so you know, Grandfather, Dr. Melfy is a psychiatrist on that show. I’m an executive coach.”

“Yes, I know. And how is Dr. Michele?”

“I’m OK,” she said. “I’ve been doing interviews for a client and he’s getting some pretty harsh messages from the people around him. I wonder how he’s going to react when he reads the report.”

“What kind of messages?”

“The picture that’s coming back is that he’s very bright, very driven to achieve, and that he pushes people too hard. He pushes himself way too hard.”

“Why does he push?” asked Grandfather.

“He prides himself on having all the answers, and now he’s got a big unmanageable project that’s more complex than anything he’s dealt with in the past. It’s like he’s grabbed the tail of a large animal that he can’t tame and he can’t let go.”

“That reminds me of the story about monkeys and how to trap them. I know I’ve told you the story before,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “I’d like to hear it again.”

“Why don’t you tell me? How do you trap a monkey, Dr. Michele?”

“You find a tree with a hole in it, a hole just big enough for the monkey to get his hand into. And then you put a peanut in the hole. The monkey reaches in, grabs the peanut, but now his clenched fist is too big to pull out of the hole. So, he’s trapped, because he can’t let go of his prize,” said Michele.

“Yes. There is a wonderful, spacious forest all around him, and he is trapped in a tiny prison of his wants. There are birds, lizards, flowers, magnificent trees, and he can enjoy none of it,” said Grandfather. “What peanut does your client grasp?”

“He wants so badly to succeed, and he insists on doing it his way,” said Michele.

“And what will you do for him?”

“Because his mind is so strong and because he is scared now that he might have heart problems, I’m showing him things to relax his body-mind. Maybe, if he can interrupt his angry responses, he can make wiser choices.”

“Good to start there. It will make him feel better and he will make some progress that way, but it won’t cure the disease,” said Grandfather.

“What would you do?”

“He needs to dissolve his small self and live in the awareness of his true Self. Until this is done, hope and fear will continue to disturb his mind, and even success will not bring peace. As Lao Tsu says, (Grandfather recited in Chinese. This is a translation).

How can success and failure be called equal ailments?
Because a man thinks of the personal body as self.
When he no longer thinks of the personal body as self,
Neither failure nor success can ail him.
One who knows his lot to be the lot of all other men
Is a safe man to guide them,
One who recognizes all men to be members of his own body
Is a sound man to guard them.

“That’s how we need our leaders to be,” he said. He sat back in his chair, and looked at his granddaughter. His eyes softened.

“That’s pretty advanced, Grandfather,” she said. “I’m just trying to get him to stop yelling at people.”


“If stupidity got us into this mess, why can’t it get us out?” — Will Rogers.

Please comment.

Click here to read Chapter 17.

Click here to read the Interview with Tara Brach on the Monkey Mind.


Dragons at Work
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CHAPTER 13 – Office Politics on the Links

Dragons At Work Office Politics on the LinksThe first hole at the Alameda Hills Golf Club was a par 5 dogleg to the left with traps surrounding the fairway and an elevated green 435 yards out. For the last five years, Bob Shaw, VP of Customer Service and George Corbett, the company CEO, slipped away for their Thursday 3:30 tee time.

They met eight years ago in Stanford’s executive MBA program and stayed in touch. When a slot opened for VP of Customer Service, George recruited Bob for the job. They played every Thursday they could, sometimes with others, or like today, in a twosome.

The morning fog had burned off and left the freshly cut grass green and aromatic. The clear sky, low wind, and 78 degree temperature made this a perfect day for the game that kept them in turn elated, frustrated, and mystified, but never indifferent.

George teed up and addressed the sparkling white ball. At 58, he no longer swung for distance. Starting from a methodical back swing, he hit the ball simply, made good contact, and sent it out 175 yards into the fairway. “I’ll take that,” he said, picking up his tee and moving to the side to observe Bob’s drive.

Bob’s tee shot sailed 260 yards. The men watched the ball in flight and on its descent, when its mid fairway position was guaranteed, Bob said, “And I’ll take that.”

On the way to their second shot, George asked, “How do you think the information integration project is coming?”

“Time will tell,” said Bob.

“You sound hesitant.”

“So far, I’m not encouraged. That doesn’t mean Dan can’t pull it out of the fire in the last stages. But his team hasn’t been especially responsive to my team’s needs. What’s more, the early tests have been disappointing.”

“This isn’t trivial,” said George. “We’ve made promises to the street about how the new system will give us a competitive advantage. I don’t want to have to face them and say, ‘It didn’t work.’”

“I know. If this fails, I’m looking at a melt-down in customer service. Frankly, I’m worried,” said Bob. “Still, maybe Dan can really deliver the goods. He’s famous for the flying catch.”

“Maybe, but we’d better have a back-up plan. I’m an insurance guy and don’t like overexposure to risk.”

“I’ve had some thoughts about that,” said Bob, “but it might be too early in the game to be thinking this way…”

“What do you have in mind?” said George. “We don’t have to act on it, but I need to know there’s a Plan B.”

“Plan B is hire someone with more experience than Dan has with large integration projects.”

“You mean push Dan out?” said George.

“No, his knowledge is useful. We need him for now. We could hire someone above him.”

“Do you think Dan would go for that?”

“We can start the new guy in a consulting role, position him to learn about the project from Dan. Once he’s up to speed, hire him over Dan. Then if Dan leaves, it won’t hurt us.”

“Do you have anyone in mind?” said George.

“I know two excellent people, but it’s premature to talk to them.”

“Bob,” said George, “without making an offer, I want you to explore this further with them, and let’s see what happens.”

“You don’t think it’s too early?”

“I hope it’s not too late.”

“OK, George. I’ll make the calls.”

Click here to read Chapter 14.

Click here for Rick Brandon’s interview on Office Politics and read his take on who’s playing whom among George, Bob and Dan.


Dragons at Work
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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.

CHAPTER 12 – The Abrasive Exec: What People Say Behind His Back

Dragons At Work The Abrasive Exec: What People Say Behind His BackCarla popped her head inside Peter’s office door. “You busy?”

Peter looked up from his computer screen and stared back at it again. “Like a little beaver,” he said.

“Like a little beaver that got a public flogging?” she said.

“That would be me.”

Dragging a steel chair over to Peter’s desk Carla sat down. “Pretty intense meeting, huh?”

Peter sighed. Around him lay stacks of files, and a small whiteboard on the wall listed fifteen carefully written items and their deadlines, the first item checked. A shelf was thick with software manuals and programming books. Although only thirty-two, his thin body stooped slightly from years at the computer. He turned to face Carla.

“Carla, I’m outta here. I put in unbelievable hours, and I gotta tell you, just thinking about preparing for one more of Dan’s meetings, I start to sweat. I can hardly look at the guy. I’m not built for this. I gotta bail. Give me one good reason to stay.”

“Credit card debt?”

“Hey, I’ve got to save myself. I’m ready to jump, even though I have zero leads. I was never Mr. Networker.”

“Peter, I know Dan can grind you down,” Carla agreed. “And you seem to be his favorite grinding object right now. I know what that’s like. I survived it.”

“I thought you and he always got along.”

“Not in the early days. Dan rode me pretty hard until one day I’d had enough. I told him we needed to do a reset. I wanted to work under conditions where I could succeed and feel free to tell him the truth without getting punished for it. If he couldn’t do that, I said I’d find a new job.”

“What happened?” he said.

“You could see him boiling, but he calmed down. We went out and had a few beers. Over time, he learned to trust me. He still gets testy sometimes, but he’ll only go so far.”

“Carla, there’s trouble brewing in this project that I’d never tell Dan about. Let someone else bear the bad news. I’ve hunkered down through enough of his shit storms to know not to start one.”

“You think that coach can help him?” he said.

“Maybe. It’s too soon to tell.”

“Well, she didn’t stop today’s beating,” he said.

“We don’t know what was said afterwards, Peter. She’s his coach – she’s not going to lead a mutiny.”

“And I’m not about to lead one either,” he said.

After a moment Carla said, “Peter, if I had a vote, I’d cast it for you staying. You do good work.”

“I appreciate that.”

“Who knows? If Dan becomes easier to work for, we could learn a lot from him.”

“So far I’ve learned to cringe.”

“Well, that’s something,” said Carla.

Click here to read Chapter 13.

Click here to read the interview with Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International (and the father of modern networking!) to read about social capital.


Dragons at Work
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