The Asset / Liability Quotient with Ana Athanasiu

With a long personal experience about the asset and liability of personality traits that offer both extraordinary value and harsh lessons, Ana Athanasiu, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area of California, is an internet pioneer who had a vibrant career in telecommunications and software development. Best known for the work she did on teams at Sun Microsystems in the mid-eighties — they invented XML — adding speed and usability to internet browsers. Able to retire in 2002, she’s spent the last 14 years raising kids and supporting business executives, local non-profit endeavors, and sole-proprietorships toward market and financial solvency. She also co-manages her family’s real estate and stock speculation engagements. She is now studying Transactionalism with Influence Ecology and is working on advanced degrees in ethics and behavioral economics and data science.

In this episode’s talk, we address the asset and liability aspect of Transactional Behavior — where our greatest assets, if not tended to, can also be our greatest liability.

Below you’ll find a transcript of this podcast episode that has been edited for your reading pleasure. You’ll also see links at the bottom of this post where you can find more information on the people and ideas mentioned in the episode.

by John Patterson
Produced by: John Patterson & Tyson Crandall

“Where am at now after having studied with Influence Ecology is being able to see that the treasure, that the performers are, that they actually will, first of all, they’ll always make me look good. I don’t want to be in a conversation where we’re talking about a deal without actually my favorite performers.”

John Patterson: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are in the world. I’m your host, John Patterson, the co-founder and CEO of Influence Ecology. We are the leading business education in transactional competence and ability that gives people a superior advantage in meeting their aims. Broadcasting from Ojai, California, this podcast features case studies, stories, and lessons from business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs who found real solutions, real results, and real satisfaction, not only with work, career, and money, but in every area of life.

You’ll hear how these ambitious professionals found that those who transact powerfully, thrive. Our featured interview today is with Ana Athanasiu. She lives in San Francisco in the Bay Area of California and is an anomaly in some regard. She’s an internet pioneer who had a vibrant career in telecommunications and software development, best-known of the work she did teams at Sun Microsystem in the mid-80s when they invented XML adding speed and usability to internet browsers.

Having retired in 2002, she spent the last 14 years raising kids, supporting business executives, local non-profit endeavors to get market and financial solvency. She also co-manages her family’s real estate and stock speculation engagements.

She has much to say about the asset and liability of being a savant, her worth, and in fact, she offers a unique perspective on what I refer to as The Asset/Liability Quotient, the equation many people struggle with in being weird or different or having that different offer about the extraordinary value and sometimes harsh lessons. She’s now studying for advanced degrees in ethics and behavioral economics and data science.

Our Guru Talk today will address the asset and liability aspect of Transactional Behavior where sometimes our greatest assets, if not tended to, can also be our greatest liabilities. Ana, thank you so much for being here and welcome.

Ana Athanasiu: It’s my pleasure, John.

John: Good. Well, let’s start with your early life. I think your early life, like many people, it starts out with discovering a lot about yourself. You’ve said some things that you found out that you were weird? I think you used that word weird or different. Tell us about that discovery or what that was like?

Ana: Well, I don’t think it occurred to me that I was weird or different even if someone said something when I was young, but I think that human beings, we at high school and that’s where things become accentuated. Right inside of that time period, higher demands were made on me educationally. What I noticed was that I could smoothly sail through anything mathematical and I could speak articulately, but I couldn’t accurately– When I was writing a persuasive essay, that my style was too harsh or too dramatic or there were just ways in which I presented my cases that made it hard for people to actually accept what I was asserting.

I also used words that were unusual or out of the ordinary or rare and so I began to have this experience of something being off. Socially too, really smart kids were great with me or really outcast people and even popular people, but there was nowhere where I could really be at ease or had this experience of belonging which, again, a lot of people haven’t experienced of it, but in actual concrete, grades, and effectiveness and any desire to participate or belong to a club, it was definitely challenging for me to have membership and be fully valued.

John: How come or what did you experience that made that difficult?

Ana: Well, first of all, me having a point of views in always situations, I always have a point of view, it’s very quick in coming, I assess very quickly whatever I’m dealing with and then there’s no boundary between my point of view and me actually saying it or speaking it. If something was awkward or wrong or inaccurate, I was quick to point it out really not much sensitivity for people doing things either inaccurately or from my perspective not going to produce the result. Well, that’s not going to work. I’m really quick to declare it, not very patient with people making decisions I thought were not going to produce the necessary result.

John: It sounds like not from malice, but from fact, or from obviousness or from desired health, those kinds of things, yes?

Ana: Absolutely. It was what I thought was going to be valued about me, was that I could quickly assess a situation [chuckles] and don’t include that paragraph and that document or don’t do the spread of the school newspaper this particular way because it wasn’t going to be clear what people are trying to get done, I thought that that would be helpful and appreciated and welcomed. Wherever I went, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that they weren’t even asking for that type of help from me or wanting it until after. [laughs]

John: Yes. For those who participate here at Influence Ecology identify with the personality of inventors. Is that correct?

Ana: That’s correct.

John: Okay. All right, good. Just say briefly in your own words what is that mean?

Ana: Well, I spend a lot of time considering options, I evaluate very quickly what’s happening in different factors in any situation like who’s involved, what’s their personality like, can they get the work done, or what is the work that needs to be done? I always notice when something is missing. I’m always saying, “Well, that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work. That’s missing.” Then I’m always suggesting ideas for resolving it. I sit around and think about what we could do that would make a difference.

For me, in this environment, I was always saying, “What was broken and what would make a difference?” It was hard on others because I wasn’t always saying what was working and what should be left alone or what they had done well. I wasn’t focusing there. I couldn’t be helpful there.

John: Very clear. We can already hear some of the ways in which that’s an asset and a liability. In your notes, you said something about the actual physiological state of your brain. What did you say there?

Ana: [chuckles] Even my grades were in the middle of the road, there were A’s and A pluses and glorious references over there and calculus, and then there were very poor grades over in history, say for example. Even applied physics I had trouble with. Later in life when my family has this experience of frustration with me because also I had a lot of hyperfocus when I’m solving a problem, I really shut down any other inputs to me and I’m really rude like, “Leave me alone. I’m ignoring you.” I really think through my problems, but it’s extended, hyperfocused. It’s hard on people around me.

My family has eventually said, “We really need you to be evaluated. You must have something weird.” What they asked me for was to deal with whether I had ADHD or something. When I finally went and had an evaluation, what they basically said was I had a learning disorder that was very different than normal learning disorders and that is that I have a lot of talent in my left brain, my ability with language, my ability with numbers, really logical, practical matters.

My left brain was seven standard deviations from my right brain which is a part of your brain that you’re using for graphical knowledge and it’s the part of your brain you’re using to actually get the gist off of things to read people’s faces and know what they’re experiencing and take a look at physical environments and effectively evaluate how you need to move in the environment and what to do so you don’t trip or fall or hit a wall or something like that which was quite common for me when I was young, I was running into walls and things that protruded in the environment or whatever.

It was probably a non-verbal learning disorder, but it’s just left-brain way faster than my right. My right brain is average, by the way, so it’s not so bad, but I’m very dominant.

John: [laughs] Yes, that one is just running so much faster.

Ana: It really just dominates. It’s very difficult for me to slow down and try to think from the visual perspective.

John: One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about your participation here is that you’ve learned over the years to account for the difference in the way that you see the world or perhaps are seeing by others and in fact, I often will refer to your cohort as your social interpreter. [laughs]

Ana: Right.

John: If you know what I mean, and I’m referring to do– can you care to talk a little bit about that?

Ana: Sure, inside of studying the personality types, inside of the transaction cycle, One of the things I saw was what exactly I could look for in others in terms of skills that was going to help me compensate for being harsher than I need to be, being overly hard on the people around me. What I began to do, and there isn’t just one person I use, but although in the ecology I have a strong reliance on one of my colleagues and friends that is in courses with me. I’ve specifically asked her to read at the same pace as me and talk through the work so that I’m really understanding it from normal perspectives as well as from my own. I’ve had an aide to help me for many years with my family the same way. When I’m about to think through a problem, I’ll often have an aide come over and look through the problem with me, really express it, really study and design my transaction.

It started with something as small as dinner parties because I had to become a high social person at the status level I was at. I always have people there near me to steer me if I say something inappropriate, they’ll often be ready to say something compensating. [laughs] Or just touch me quietly or ask me a particular question to help me not leave other people with something inaccurate.

John: I think it’s a very useful study because for many people, they don’t understand that the asset and the liability of certain traits and as we teach it, again, with different personalities and inventors asset and liability is their ego, a performers asset liability is relationship, for example. One of the benefits of your life’s journey is that you’ve already utilized the help of the people to help you where you’re not, where there’s a liability to something that’s also your asset. I think that’s both fascinating, but also extremely smart.

I just wondered if there was anything you care to speak about in your journey here at Influence Ecology about that aspect of your journey and what have you learned and what are you continuing to learn about the asset and liability in it and how you might account for it.

Ana: That’s a great question, I’d love to. When I worked in engineering, I had fewer problems, because engineers are very factual people. They don’t have a problem with telling you when you’re doing something inaccurately. They’re very much about accuracy. I was able to still thrive in those environments because they just appreciated, we each appreciated that sort of straight kind of talk. What I discovered was I wanted a bigger life, I don’t just want to build widgets for people. I want to give value in other areas.

One thing I learned about in engineering was they taught us about personality types. We studied Myers-Briggs and things like that. All I could really use them for was like a stronger reason why someone was doing it wrong. While you’re this personality type, you’re performers in particular, you guys are too busy trying to sell this product to people before we’ve even built it and they’re busy trying to build this clientele before we even have a set of features that are nailed down for them. It was like I could just make them wrong like those marketing people and they’re always selling what we haven’t even built.

Where I’m at now, after having studied with Influence Ecology is being able to see the treasure that the performers are, that they actually will– First of all, they’ll always make me look good. I don’t want to be in a conversation where we’re talking about a deal without actually my favorite performers there to keep the mood positive, to not have anything I’m saying that’s really factual and deadening to actually not have it take the deal down, like if I don’t like the price of a building or I think that they should fix something or whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish.

I think that studying, not just the personality types, but the whole transaction cycle, like knowing that now is the right time for an invitation, which I’m very weak at, I’m not an inviter. I just tell people what I want them to do and I have that ego thinking that they’re going to just say, yes. I take my performer with me into that environment and we plan in advance about what I’m not going to talk about and not going to say, and we have a little rubric about what they want me to talk about and what I’m not supposed to talk about and then we make an agreement also about what I’m not talking about those concerns, you will have to treat them and I need to see you treating them and whatever gentle and gracious fashion you’re going to and you need to tell me, are you going to treat them at the point that we’re signing contract or are you going to treat it when we’re just sharing with them the opportunity?

We really have to pound that stuff out so that I don’t kill deals for them. At the same time, I know how to use them. I know this is the right job for a judge. I have an amazing judge who looks over my contracts. Man, you should see what we can get handled when we’re looking at the contract and really making sure that we’ve nailed down the terms to be satisfactory to my super judging personality. I’m pretty judging but people who really are that style in the transaction cycle, they love to help me that way too, they love to come in and speak about what’s wrong and I don’t even have to do that job and they’re really happy with it.

John: Right. What was it that attracted you to studying Transactionalism.

Ana: I had that great career and then I set it aside for family and also to develop myself and develop people outside of the engineering environment, like thinking I could help out in nonprofit sectors as well, as well as raising my kids. It’s really gotten to the point where my kids are flying solo, my spouse is flying solo and I found myself not having found a nonprofit that I could correlate with, that really moved me, that I could really fully engage in. I decided to be in Influence Ecology because I wanted a structure to work in because it’s a longer course and because we turn in measures. I wanted the structure to work in where I would develop a legacy opportunity and also reengage in a genuine career with that being a focus, that I was going to go back and really be valuable to a larger enterprises, not just individuals and sole proprietorship. That’s what drew me in.

John: If you’d like to decode the mysteries of an ambitious life, you can register for the Influence Ecology webinar called Ambitious Living: The Eight Defining Principles. This free one-hour webinar offers eight principles practiced by the most successful and effective men and women we know. To give you a taste, here’s one of the principles. It’s called Accurate Thinking.

The essential idea is this. You and I, are always transacting to produce a better income, influential identity and satisfying work. These situations money, career and work are but three of 14 unavoidable conditions of life. If you don’t think accurately about these conditions and how you’ll satisfy each of them, you will likely produce hardship for yourself and your family. How do you think accurately about these and other conditions of life? Attend that webinar to find out more.

Once registered, you’ll receive the 2016 edition of Ambitious Living, a 12-page guide offering a blueprint for the eight defining principles, each of which asks important questions to help direct your aims. To learn more, you can find the link in the show notes for this podcast at or from your mobile phone, you can click the image art for this episode to find the link to register. Okay, back to the show.

When you began to study here, what did you discover and what attracted you to really engage? In my memory of your first participation, you were appropriately cautious. You did your homework, you made sure that you looked at the measures that we reported people had, you had many conversations and then you began participation. When people are first participating, their mind is still in consideration and at some point, they’re all in. I know you’re all in and so I wanted to find out what happened, or what is it about this that has you be all in?

Ana: The first thing about Influence Ecology that drew me was that you all reported income benefits to your people who studied with you. No one says they can give you 100% or 50% increase in your income. It’s just unheard of. I was in consideration like, Is that true? Now, I didn’t join because I needed help with my income. It’s just that I also saw that you worked on career and at the level of work and I had a sense that legacy work would be completely appropriate with you all.

What I was watching for in the environment was did the people that I was studying with, did my group do well financially? I noticed that even though I wasn’t at work at income, I did really become confident of you all when I discovered in one of my reports that my income on a particular transaction had changed. It was a very particular real estate client transaction that I decided to change how I was operating in it. I think it was just a decision to sell a building and this time when I sold the building, I hired someone different. I hired a performer to actually present the building and manage the offer and I hired the judge to review the contract and I watched it go through the transaction cycle, and I watched it produce vastly more income than I had expected.

going through the course. It took about the length of the course to fulfill on the transaction. I got to watch it go through the full cycle and I got to watch what I did differently, who I hired, what we talked about, how we presented the building, how we engaged potential buyers. I watched it produce these amazing results. That was probably really the cinching moment, was watching my own transaction do really well, combined with watching the classes, you present the measures at every course about how the whole class was doing. I don’t want to be on teams that lose.

For me, the team was winning, and I saw that the team was winning and I saw that it was valid, that it wasn’t just somebody blowing smoke in my ear. I was really pleased. That’s just me looking at the results. Again, that’s the harsher side of me. I can tell you what was provided, they provided the value but, in the end, I looked at the numbers and they tell me how it went.

John: Really good. I think in some conversations that you and I have had, you have expressed an interest and a desire to study the roots of what we teach, which is transactionalism. I’m curious about how you came to understand that, what that means to you, and why it matters to you.

Ana: Wow, that’s a beautiful question because it touches on something I care about deeply. What I realized is that the philosophy is a very significant impact on people’s lives, that we’re all living philosophically with a particular ethical system and we’re operating with certain beliefs about life, like the existence of the current as like what people just blindly agree to and don’t even know, and that’s being sold to us.

What I discovered was that for me, the philosophies that I live by, and the ethics by which I live are really important. What I saw when I read one of the books that you all had us read was a thesis on transactionalism with a philosophical history. I discovered that it had history and field science dealing with the sciences of field, which is modern physics is based upon et cetera.

What I discovered was that the time we spend comprehending what we could believe philosophically or how we could act philosophically, and then practicing it in reality, really is part of where I’ve been able to be successful. I do operate very ethically. I will not continue participating in any manner that actually creates an ethical breakdown for me and I won’t compromise what other people want me to do when I really have thought through why it’s problematic.

What I’ve discovered is that by living consistently with that, that’s really the source of my ability to be effective with money and to be satisfied with my relationships. You just don’t lie, cheat or steal, as some people might say. For me this have a big deal value on not wasting other people’s time and that goes very far in our industry, in our world because there’s a lot of call for our time from the world and people know that when they’re with me, I won’t be wasting their time.

Anyway, that what has me moving into the field of ethics and also studying the field of biases, which it was often called behavioral economics or decision economics. It’s about dealing with us as biological people, which I think is what I really missed growing up. I didn’t really get that people were going to have biological responses to my rudeness. I just didn’t have any rubric by which I could evaluate that and know that a particular thing I was going to say was going to cause a breakdown that was a little too much for people to tolerate emotionally. It’s really been a gift for me to take the time to explicitly study systems of thought and then inside of the beginning of studying transactionalism historically. I really get that it’s so much more than tit for tat. It’s really not that at all. It’s nowhere close to it. It’s really about designing transactions for everyone’s success.

John: That leads to my next question. I’d love to know, in your own words, what is transactionalism?

Ana: That’s great. In my own words, what is transactionalism? What I work from fundamentally in terms of seeing myself as transacting and always transacting in life is that I’m not alone. It isn’t just me, and it’ll never be just me in life, there’s always going to be other people. There’s going to be my family, there’s going to people in my neighborhood, there’s going to be where I work and who I work with. Fundamentally, I cannot relate to myself if it’s to be it’s up to me, or it’s only about what I want. I treat myself like the field of honor, not honor the individual.

I always have to check whether what I’m going to say is going to work not just for what I think is best, but for what– whoever I’m working with considers best. For me to be transacting is to take the time to consider, not just my own conditions of life and what I’m going to do to fulfill them but in fact how me doing that impacts the people around me and taking the time to have the necessary conversations with them so that we are working together toward agreed upon aims. Even if they’re transacting with me for money because they got to feed their family just to continue to check and make sure that we are working together and transacting powerfully, which means being clear and focused about what we’re doing.

John: That’s great. Now let’s take that full circle back to the asset and liability quotient. Your own journey and coming to understand both the asset and liability of your own biology and of your own personality and of your own way in which you transact as an inventor, taking all of that full circle. What do you hope to continue to gain in your transactional competence?

Ana: What’s most important to me is that I’m always practicing, that I’m always studying and always practicing. Because the hubris that comes from starting to think I’m a master of transacting, just because money works out for me, is really inaccurate. That working in these other areas of life, where philosophy or the legal, like politics in the area of governance, that I want to be free to make a difference in the areas of life where it’s not automatically easy. In particular, in the areas, say, for example, governance. How do companies act ethically is a really important question for me. I think working for a venture capitalist at some point is going to be in my future.

What I want to do is be partnered with them in terms of their ethics about how do we use data in the world in a way that helps people doesn’t just sell them one more pair of glasses. For me to participate in Influence Ecology and continue to study with you all is more of a practice of remembering to think through the transactions to begin to master the different kinds of conversations you have to have depending on what you’re doing with someone. Whether you’re proposing new policy versus enforcing policy at a company, for example.

For me, the great interest and reason for continuing to participate is to make sure that I just am always questioning and checking my work to know that I am taking care of more than just my own needs and my own agenda in any matter.

John: Great. Well said. Why do you think people ought to be concerned with their own transactional competence?

Ana: I can only think that I want them to know that they’re accurate. There was an old social thing where they wanted you to be confident. There was a thing about developing your child’s confidence and being encouraging and being supportive. One of the things I’ve observed is that I cannot by force of will feel confident, that my only access to true confidence is in fact competence, like the actual having seen myself engage and be successful in an endeavor. I believe that people are genuinely interested in competence and that we don’t want to just feel better because we got hugged and drank a beer with friends and they told me it was all right that it didn’t go perfectly whatever endeavor I was up to. I think that we would much prefer to be competent.

My perception is that the models that are presented in Influence Ecology, courses of study are accurate models. That because it’s constantly suggesting, you guys are constantly suggesting that we question and evaluate what we’re automatically believing from the current as well as whether or not we did think through all of the details of whatever really important transaction we’re about to engage in, be it marriage or a merger and acquisition. In either case, you really want to be clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you will know you’re effective and successful and also how to do it in a way that partners and maximizes the availability of our social groups and all of the skills that exists in the world around us.

John: That’s beautifully said. All right. Well, anything that you care to jump up on a soapbox about?

Ana: Well, funny. The soapbox that I’m thinking about right now is hubris. The hubris that here I am I live in the Bay Area. California is a very wealthy country in its own right. Here in the Silicon Valley, and there’s so much intelligence and so much wealth, and so much power. What I want to harp about in my own current, the current I swim in it looks like that is what I want to say to us is, it’s not helpful that we presume that we know everything. That’s my biggest breakdown in my current is that we really think we know here in the Silicon Valley. We really think we have the answers. It results in things like big data where all this information is floating around highly public in the world.

People can take any piece of data they want, they can grab it about you and they can make it mean anything they wish. I just would like us to become more humble about what we’ve offered to the world. Treated a little bit more like Pandora’s Box than it is that we gave free communication to the world, have enabled people to collapse geographic locations with a cell phone or whatever other time-bending we do by making things still faster in the world. I just want us to be a little more circumspect and to not by how smart we are as if it really handles everything.

John: It’s great. Well said. Ana, it has just been an absolute pleasure to spend time with you just now. I always find it a treasure. Thank you for all you’ve contributed to us. Anything else you’d like to say?

Ana: I just want to say thank you. I just think that the one who asked the questions has a lot of power to impact the environment around them. Here I am with you asking me questions. I really get how you set out in this conversation to let me say some things that I really want to offer the world. I thank you for forming questions that really do such a fine job of helping me see where I can make a difference.

John: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. It’s what I love most about this entire process. It’s been great.

Ana: Thank you, John.

John: As I said today, we hear a Guru Talk by co-founder Kirkland Tibbels, which addresses the asset and liability aspect of transactional behavior where our greatest assets, if not tended to can also be our greatest liabilities. Here’s the talk.

Kirkland Tibbels: When you consider, for example, the inventor’s asset and liability of ego, it would make perfectly good sense if you know that inventors step out into the future point in a direction and say, we’re going that way. You’ll make perfect a good sense to understand that that personality has to have a pretty big ego to declare something that doesn’t exist and produce a vision for people to be willing to follow that individual into something that doesn’t exist yet. That takes some breath. Step out there and say that thing is possible. I declare and assert that if everyone goes in that direction does what they are supposed to do, we can achieve this vision. A possible way to live our life that would have us be better today than we are right now.

To expose themselves in a way that opens themselves up for all kinds of criticism, all kinds of assessments and you name it. When those visionaries that we all know so well, point out there and say, “We’re going to the moon. We’re going to invent a technology that has never been invented.” In fact, nobody knows this but they want it. They just don’t know they want it yet because it hasn’t been invented. We’re going to go do that thing, that’s a visionary, that’s the ego. That’s the asset of that personality. It’s a damn good thing we’ve got people like that. We live better lives because of it, but at the same time, that ego will run the show to the point that it will overshadow and cause problem for the rest of us, who are attempting to do the work. Take the action to make that vision something into a mission that other people can follow, work that we can actually get done and declare and pass certain judgment on that being acceptable and satisfactory.

That’s a huge asset and it’s necessary, inventors must recognize and those of us who work with inventors on a regular basis must recognize that it is also a liability we’ve got to confront.

What of the personality that is relationship oriented? We’ve got to have people who are mission driven and who can have a dialogue in the moment with other individuals where people can see themselves on a mission and in the ideal situation following a vision set by someone like an inventor. A performer’s job is to construct narratives that have people see themselves playing roles and fulfilling the functions required to commit to and do the work in action that produce the satisfaction of many people. While inventors are global in their perspective, performers are local in their perspective.

They are mission driven and their asset is relationship. They know about producing moods and using influence that anything is possible if enough people will go along with it. We need people like that. We have to have people who know how to do that and they live and die by their relationships. As an asset it’s pretty easy to see we need people. We need lots of people to be willing to consider our invitations and our offers and be willing to commit, that’s their job. That’s also their greatest liabilities because they don’t want to give up those relationships. They don’t want to produce consequential environment that threaten those relationships. They hang on to them for dear life.

For many performers like me, way too long too often. Who’s going to do the work by the way? [chuckles] All that, everything and anything from the vision and the mission, from the great ideas. We’re going to go to the moon to here’s all the people that we need to go and they’re lined up, ready to go. Who takes care of the day-to-day activity, the work in action? Who produces the deadlines as currency? Who through alliance and force gets the job done, holds people accountable? In many times is the rigor that’s necessary on the factory floor to get the production taken care of. That’s your producer.

Their greatest asset of course is that they want to be included. They need to be included and that inclusion has them the vision and mission accepting. They want to surround themselves with people who are big thinkers. They want to satisfy the work required of those transactions.

John: You want them to be included. [laughs]

Kirkland: You want them to be included. You need them on that wall. They must be included. If they’re not included–

John: Watch out. [laughs]

Kirkland: You’re in serious trouble. They get belligerent about it even. They’re people oriented in a way that is different than the performer. They build alliances. This is important to understand that they build alliances to get things done. They are the rigger of production, but at the same time, that inclusion biology can be problematic because they’ll think they want to be involved in places where they don’t belong. It’s our job when we transact with producers to make sure that they understand what they’re being left out of and why? They’ll accept that.

What they don’t like is to find out after the fact that they weren’t included in something where they have to be left responsibility of getting the job done. That’s a terrible mistake on your part if you do that. If you go have a meeting and you’ve gotten into the tactical apparatus of a transaction and you walk out and you tell your producers what you’ve just decide without them being in the room, tell the truth, John. It’s brutal.

John: Never. It is brutal. It’s very brutal. There’s the liability is also when they burden a transaction for the need to be included where it ought not happen. Not a part of that as well.

Kirkland: A lot of people misunderstand that the mood of determination and rigor as being negative. Well, I would accept that it’s certainly not a bed of roses being hammered with deadlines and requests, which is the way that producers move can be unpleasant sometimes, it’s necessary but being included is the Achilles heel of every producer. One of the biggest mistakes we will make in dealing with a producer is this whole inclusion biology. They need to be included in anything that’s going to include them where they’re required to do the work and take the action to fulfill on the transaction. Keep that in mind when dealing with a producer.

Then when we get around to the judge that most skeptical and critical and often confrontational personality, we bump up against standards. The assets of standards is that if we follow along the rules, the laws, the regulations, the expectations, the standards, the ethics, the codes of conduct, that we all agree we would when we engage to this transaction in the first place, we end up better off for it. The general public those with whom we engage on a regular basis, our business partners, our superiors, our subordinates, our employees, our vendors everyone sees a consistent representation of who we are as an enterprise operating by a standard.

Those standards include quality. They include consistency, commitment. They include a number of things. Those standards, we pay bills at a certain time, we make our payroll at certain times. Ethics and standards. That is the asset of having a highly critical, confrontational skeptic who is always concerned about whether or not the enterprise and the individuals in it are holding to that standard. That, to me, is probably the easiest one to see, maybe ego, but this one tends to be a pretty easy one to see, how it can also get in the way when it’s time for innovation, when it’s time for some creativity, when the standards become bureaucratic, when they become too narrow and they begin to choke the possibilities that exist in reinvention, then it becomes a problem.

Judges will hold on, until their last breath, to every single standard that gets put in place unless you are working with them continually ongoingly to recognize which standards are appropriate, which ones work, which ones are becoming outdated along the way. The mistake to make with the judge is not to have that dialogue on a regular basis. Ideally, allowing the judge to bring up the standards that ought to be put in place, when they ought to be changed, rather than taking the same route of you making that determination, Mr. CEO, Mr. President, and then you letting them know that. That’s a terrible mistake, just like the inclusion of biology of a producer. That’s how judges respond to being told what to do when it comes to standards.

When you make a rule and you give it to the judge, they’re going to hold tight to that rule. If you’re going to make an amendment, include the judge in that work.

The Influence Ecology Podcast is produced by Influence Ecology, LLC in Ventura, California. This episode was recorded May 1, 2019, and was produced by Tyson Crandall and John Patterson. You can find a transcript for this and other episodes at This episode is made possible through the assistance of the Influence Ecology Faculty, Staff, Mentors, and Students around the world. Co-founder Kirkland Tibbels and our colleagues comprise an international collective of professionals who are active in the development of the philosophy of Transactionalism and the discipline of transactional competence. Kirkland is considered a leading philosopher and authority in the field and he has authored more than 500 papers on the subject, study, and discipline.

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Influence Ecology is the leading business education specializing in Transactional Competence, having published and contributed to the only comprehensive text on the subject, Transactionalism: An Historic and Interpretive Study by Trevor J. Phillips. Co-Founder Kirkland Tibbels has authored more than 500 papers on the subject, study, and discipline of transactional competence and is a sought-after lecturer at universities, major corporations, and civic organizations around the world. 

Influence Ecology’s curriculum includes conferences, webinars, online tools, podcasts, and mentorship utilized by men and women in over seventy countries around the world. Our membership includes an international assembly of accomplished professionals, faculty, and peers from a variety of countries, industries, and cultures.