Every three to five years I do the world-leading TTI test to measure my self-development. It’s an amazing test that is 95% accurate but takes only 15 minutes of answering multiple choice questions.
Excerpt from my TTI 2013
You can see that my passion for social good was one standard deviation higher than normal. On the other hand, I was not individualistic at all which was one standard deviation lower than the normal. Here's how it played out
In 2013 my ‘empathy’ score was sky-high. But please read this in the context of the time. I was living with a family that required most of my ‘upside’. Their sense of entitlement for having me in their family was balanced out by me with a heavy community involvement, where the majority of profits I was investing in CSR activities over fulfilling my family's conspicuous desires. I couldn't afford nepotism. At the time, my investments were also protecting my market positioning which other family members failed to see. I was building a de facto monopoly over local communities.
TTI basically measured the opposite as it was an individualist test taken in a collectivist culture. In developing countries it is political power that brings most of the mindfully rewarding upside of managing society. So I played along at the time.
You can imagine that exiting this situation was a difficult path to take. Not everybody was allocated a family in line with the standards imposed on our society by foreign TV and education that created a wide gap between the past and present generations. Hollywood impacted our SEE mindful state severely. My family's collectivist behavior was normal only 30 years ago in the Southeast European region. Change happened too fast for most. I wasn't forced to focus on the international market because of powerful economic & political clans I competed with at the time. It was my family's cooperation with them, behind my back.
But that was the situation and I had to grow to adjust to a new world my ancestors never expected. Below is what my scores looked like in 2018 when I was clearly set on a path towards an individual, and not collective fulfillment. Excerpts from my 2018 TTI:
My empathy scores in 2018 were far lower than the ones from 2013.
You could see that my empathy levels were still in the ‘normal range (6.7) from 6.5 to 8.5, while some years back they were like the rest of my scores, around the top 5% percentile (>9.5). I had to adjust to grow and survive. This doesn’t mean I’m not nice, nor that I cannot understand the ‘emotions of others’ but that I can fire people without a blink of an eye, nicely, if they have fundamental flaws in their character. I do understand ‘secondary benefits’ and other manipulations, I just don’t tolerate them as they hurt results.
There is a difference between being nice (Bill Gates) and obtuse (not firing non-value adding people or not removing toxicity from your personal life). You can be nice and successful. I’d say that most self-made UHNWI are nice by default. Nice means doing what you say, being polite, not aiming to hurt others, respecting the dignity of others, and not raising your tone of voice often.
Without being nice HNWI wouldn’t have been able to establish important partnerships that lasted for a lifetime. But they surely weren’t obtuse, to self-sacrifice their wellbeing and their company’s goals because of cognitive bias. Yet, here is where 2 of the last 10 companies I advised were.
One was an Australian B2B service company where the need to be nice conflicted with the need to fire people who were obviously stealing from him. This ended up with a form of passive-aggressiveness that ultimately crippled the company’s growth to preserve the feeling of belonging. The same feeling towards self-destructive people I had to get rid of to balance myself out.
Another recent client was a tech company with a very distinct North European cultural heritage. They were raised in abundance where ‘personalities’ and ‘preserving face’ came first. They didn’t want to say anything to anyone about what they should do and how, as they were raised to ‘be free’ and have ‘self-management’ that should lead everybody to do the right individual actions to reach collective success. Obviously, this couldn't work in an international setting.
Both companies had a cultural issue where being ‘nice’ wasn’t suitable for business and hurt the companies’ results. The trade-off they chose of tolerating damage was a lose-lose and only provided ‘psychological benefits’. The cultural scope limited proper decision-making. In their cultures, people weren’t allowed to explicitly express how they feel or what they think about a business relationship. So, they would maintain a losing trade at their own expense, or they would tolerate non-value adding toxicity because of their fear of ‘hurting somebody’.
If you are tolerant of ‘evil’ (slackers, thieves, people who want to take more than they give…), nepotism, incompetence, this will spread in your organization. Like cancer, it will start to multiply its killer-cells and attract like-minded destructive organisms.
When I started working internationally, I had to adjust culturally. I was impressed by the American expressionism of making everything explicit. I realized the benefits of being explicit about everything in my talk with a potential board member (Alexander Lowry, JP Morgan at the time). He was totally explicit about his wants and needs and that made me think ‘this communication style is seriously value-adding so I have to develop it’.
Now I’m totally explicit about everything. Not holding important things back raises your EQ (as proven with tests). Look at my improved awareness scores:
So, you can improve other metrics if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, but your 'empathy' must go down a notch. Otherwise leaches and monsters will get you and eventually kill your business or start extorting political rents. This is exactly where some (not all) companies get things wrong. Especially after the original founders leave. They let nepotism and evil spread in their circles and turn to rent-seeking over value-creation. Corporations oftentimes become the new 'families' where even being with a major character flaw gives you an advantage compared to 'outsiders'. It's funny that the same corporations that broke our collectivists families apart, espouse the same sentiment of nepotism and clanism on a much higher level.
Finally, to conclude the concept that being nice doesn’t mean being obtuse, here’s what Bill Gates said to someone we all know also for not being nice (Steve Jobs).
When Jobs accused Gates of stealing his idea, Jobs was yelling, "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!" and we know yelling is not nice while this line of text aims at building ‘guilt’, which is emotional manipulation.
I presume at this moment Bill wanted to give Steve an Oscar for his act.
As Walter Isaacson reported in Steve Jobs' biography, Bill Gates said:
"Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbour named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."
Bill Gates response was articulate, reasonable, and nice, playing down Steve Jobs' emotional manipulation.
Being nice pays big time. Being obtuse doesn't.