Porcupine personality

“If you will change, everything will change for you.”  Earl Shoaff

Some professionals have the porcupine effect on others.  An encounter with them will leave you with painful prickly quills,vowing to avoid them at all cost in the future.  Funny thing is, they often do not realize they’re so prickly or that people drift quietly away from them.  And, when they do have a glimpse of it, they’ll rationalize it away as the other persons problem.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you could be more effective and successful if only you had more competent people around you. Effectiveness and being surrounded with more capable people has more to do with you, than it does with them.

When it comes to attracting and leading high performing talent, remember this:

  • People over the “principle of the thing”
  • Factor in feelings or the facts won’t matter
  • Clothe every directive with empathy
  • Helping is more productive than determined inquisition

And, while we’re on the subject,  if you know you have a porcupine effect on colleagues and staff, just change.  Today!


3 tips for really smart professionals

Exasperated with one of his top producing partners who demeaned a director in front of team members, the Managing Partner declared, “he always has to be the smartest guy in the room.”

Being smart, accomplished and successful in the professional service firm can be a burden.  In some, it produces an impatience with those who are not quite as quick or capable.  You will here them say things like, “I just can’t work with ‘B’ players.”

Here are a few tips for those who have to be the smartest guy in the room:

  1. Everything does not revolve around you. Sorry, but it’s true.  When you have this kind of self-focus you alienate yourself.  Play smart and stop it.
  2. You’re not an accomplice to ignorance (necessarily). I know, your staff reflects on you, but don’t take their mistakes so personal.
  3. Give a compliment to a colleague or staff member on their win or success daily. An authentic leader shows happiness for others’ accomplishments in genuine and sincere expressions.

If you have to be the smartest guy in the room, be smart about it.  Lift others.


Technically brilliant, socially abrasive

Mark Twain is attributed with saying, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.  I said I didn’t know.”

The fastest and most effective way to attract followers is to be an authentic leader.  Have you ever heard anyone get excited about following a know it all?

Being bright will earn you respect, but it doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve heard it said of partners and managers, “he is very smart, but he is so abrupt and difficult to work with no one wants to be around him.”  Technically brilliant, socially abrasive.  A recipe for disaster.

Jim is a very successful partner in one of the Big Four accounting firms who will retire this year.  Jim has a very high IQ and holds multiple Masters degrees.  When he first began his career he realized that he was not very effective with people.  He said, “I usually had a quick response and knew the answer to most problems.  As a result, I would shut down dialogue when in a team meeting and people began to withdraw and just wait for me to give them the answer.”

By the time Jim became a manager, he learned to “play dumb”, as he called it.  He taught himself to ask others to help him figure problems out and would tell them he wasn’t sure if his approach was accurate.  Jim said an amazing thing happened.  People would jump right in and began to help him figure things out.  Over the years, this technique became an authentic practice for Jim and he became an esteemed partner and leader with many followers.

It takes a disciplined, self-confident and humble person to play dumb and ask questions even when he or she knows the answer. In my mid-twenties I met Jeanette Groepper, a wise teacher and business owner.  She would always ask questions that you knew she knew the answers to.  This was her way of learning a persons thought level and understanding of a situation.  I’ve observed many leaders who just can’t restrain themselves when it comes to flaunting their intelligence.  This will hinder them from becoming the leader they might have been.

Knowledge must be tempered with wisdom if you hope to attract talented followers.  Don’t be too smart.