After serendipitously crossing paths as guests on the same radio program on day—Judy and I having a passion and love for networking—we naturally connected with each other. Judy has graciously agreed to grace us with her expertise in a series of guest blog posts. Every Wednesday January 7-February 11, I’ll post one of Judy’s tidbits that will all make us better professionals.
Protecting Yourself from Leeches, Psychopaths, and Bad Actors
Part of creating a powerful network of great connections is protecting its members from the potential harm caused by people I categorize as leeches, psychopaths, and bad actors. In business and life you are pretty much guaranteed to run into such people, but they aren’t necessarily that easy to spot. In fact, they may seem powerful and charming—until you find yourself ruefully, or angrily, swearing never to let yourself be taken advantage of again.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about three kinds of people that you want to keep out of your network. Consider this a public service announcement that is designed to help you recognize the “bad apples” before you ever take a bite.
Leeches can be attractive at the beginning because they need your help—to find them clients, referrals, or suppliers; to solve a problem in their business; to loan them your car keys or something more substantial. They’re great at taking, but they never give anything in return. They will drain you and your connections of whatever they can, and then they’ll be on to the next victim. The only way to get rid of leeches is to cut them off completely just as soon as you can get free.
Psychopaths can pour on the charm and be extremely attractive and expert at manipulating the rest of us, but they’re acting strictly out of self-interest. They are, in a word, predators, quick to blame anyone but themselves, and with no remorse if they cause others pain. Prisons are full of psychopaths, but then so are governments, entertainment businesses, and industries. (According to psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, CEOs are actually more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits than any other profession.)
While in business you may have to deal with psychopaths, I certainly would avoid having one as a close associate. With a psychopath, forewarned is forearmed: you must go into any business relationship with them with great care—and a good attorney by your side to double- and triple-check everything.
Bad actors are people who flunk the character test. They may have great strengths and expertise, but they end up breaking their commitments and cheating you of your money, time, or power. You can’t trust them as far as you can throw them—but usually you don’t know that until you’ve had the misfortune of trusting them first. If you discover you have a bad actor in your network, kick the person out immediately, and warn others of your experience with a simple “Run, don’t walk” caution.
Poet Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” By steering clear of leeches, psychopaths, and bad actors, you are protecting not only yourself but also your network from serious damage to their businesses
Judy Robinett is the author of How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+150 Rule (McGraw-Hill, May 2014), a book that provides instant, effective strategies for meeting the people you need to know and bonding with them fast to further your goals and theirs. Robinett is a business thought leader who is known as “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex.” She has been profiled in Fast Company, Forbes, Venture Beat, Huffington Post, and Bloomberg Businessweek as a sterling example of the new breed of “super connectors” who use their experience and networks to accelerate growth and enhance profitability.
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