In the 90s, I held a relatively influential position in one of the big media companies in Germany – a former consulting client of mine. As a side entrant and the youngest amongst them, other high-ranking executive officers eyed me critically.

Many rumors and suspicions about me made the rounds. In my naivety, I believed I could clear away all reservations and win over the officers with my professional work performance. At that time, I failed to understand that people judge others not (only) by their professional performance but above all by their social-emotional behavior. As an only child & performance-oriented youngster, I largely lacked social intelligence.

Most people who spend long hours working together want to know their colleagues intimately. Knowing someone better makes it easier to assess a friend from a foe.

The true value of knowing others better became partly clear to me when the publishing house experimented with a new magazine concept. They asked me to do a family exposé – and I agreed, although I knew the exposure was something that I wouldn’t enjoy. One day, the development editor-in-chief, with a photographer in tow, showed up at my home. They took pictures of me, my wife, our children with our dog, our house, and our mobile home. Interviews were conducted. Finally, the story was published in a test edition of the planned magazine. The edition was distributed within the company to assess the overall concept.

The magazine didn’t make it to the newsstand – after all testing, the concept was considered too risky.

For me, however, the home story – artfully arranged by the owner of the publishing house to help me get acquainted with existing management – was a complete success. Many of the previously critical officers spoke to me at meetings and on the phone. Some, who were unaware that I had three young children, a playful Bearded Collie, and a retro mobile home, now had some points of reference for conversations with me. They easily struck up conversations around my family trips with the mobile home, active children & dog. Some asked questions about the carpentry work in the house. The rumors stopped, and the suspicions dissolved as a result. They were interested in my personal details – in me as a part of their team.

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