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French Version

Hey ! I'm Important !!! By Ms. Fay Niewiadomski

I sometimes wonder if so called 'important people' know how much harm they themselves do to their image and their business. They appear to be completely unaware of the fact that the only two things they achieve by being always inaccessible are personal ignorance and exposure to manipulation by others. I am sure that this must sound bizarre to most such persons, because if they knew what impact it had on their image they would not cling so fiercely to this pathetic form of behavior.

In this article, I would like to share some observations, comments and insights gathered from a wide variety of sources precisely on the subject of how some executives attempt to communicate a sense of their importance to others.

A frequent comment heard from fellow-Lebanese who travel abroad is their amazement at the behavior of international senior executives who return calls directly or through their assistants. They express even greater surprise when this person whom they perceive as 'important' actually speaks to them directly and respectfully. The tone of voice and attitude they use when describing their experience suggest that they are very positively impressed by this unexpected behavior.

The fact that many senior executives do not act this way in Lebanon and in other developing countries is not a matter of cultural difference, so much as part of the economic and social structure of such societies. People get jobs and positions based on WHOM they know rather than on WHAT they know. It, therefore, becomes a matter of survival for people who got a job this way to isolate their 'patron' as much as possible from others. They see it as protecting their source of income.

This 'income protection' requires the development and refinement of 'hypocrisy' to a fine art. They see their main function as 'pleasing and praising' their source on income. They thus become 'YES-men and YES-women' of the highest order. It is a matter of survival. In return, the ' important person' gets a serious case of 'tunnel vision' whereby he or she really believes that they are as wonderful as all their 'YES-people' say they are.

Another observation is that most of those who make themselves so inaccessible are usually very insecure persons who achieved their own current status by means other than personal qualifications or talent. This makes them want to keep people far away from them so that others do not discover the 'truth'. In doing so, however, they are now at the mercy of those around them who will filter and edit information as it suits them. Telephone messages and written correspondence are selectively filtered according to the 'agenda' of the individual(s) in control, or the gatekeepers.

These 'gatekeepers' of information and communication flow are then in a powerful position. They can decide what to let through, what to discard and how to 'slant' a message to their advantage. If they are 'trusted' by the senior executive they are in an even stronger position to manipulate that person to their own advantage or the advantage of persons whom they favor. So where does that leave the 'important person'? Vulnerable to abuse maybe' A quick review of the 'betrayals' and 'assassinations' in history will reveal that it was the trusted assistant or bodyguard who did the job on the 'boss' starting with Judas.

A lot depends on the integrity of these 'gatekeepers' and on the 'important person's' ability to detect irregularities. The bigger the 'important person's' ego is the more susceptible he or she is to manipulation. This is not to say that there are not a lot of successful and very busy people who really do not have a lot of time to spare.

However, the difference is that if they are really competent and have a healthy ego they do not have the need to prove they are important. Other's know it and respect them for their achievements. These people are also 'customer conscious' and recognize that they do themselves no favors by being obnoxious to others or giving their 'trusted assistants' the go ahead to be even more offensive to others.

People who understand that their worth is in their abilities and their competence do not have a problem in responding to others and do not have a need to insulate themselves from contact with others. Of course, people whose time is in demand have to be selective about whom they see and how they do it. However, they need to do this in a way that preserves their good image and recognizes that people calling on them are all potential customers. Everyone has a circle of acquaintances, relatives and friends to whom they transmit information and attitudes that will be accepted as more 'true' than any commercial, paid messages they put through the media.

Returning a telephone call or responding to a letter is far cheaper than a TV commercial or a newspaper advertisement, and it is more unusual. It will therefore do a lot to enhance the image of the company that makes it a practice to return calls and answer letters. Then maybe it will no longer be a matter for amazement when it does happen here in Lebanon. Very few people, if any, are fooled by the façade of 'importance' that so many try to create. But, then, hypocrisy is as natural as breathing to so many. It is a matter of survival after all.


January 13, 2003

Ms. FAY NIEWIADOMSKI (fay@ictn.com)

ICTN - International Consulting and Training Network (www.ictn.com)

Beirut 15-01-2003
Fay Niewiadomski

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