“One Degree of Bacon” Why Words Matter And your Reputation and Behavior, Count Even More.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. 

Even in the big planet we call earth, life exists like it’s one small town.

My friend Wendy Yanowitch’s saying that “Life is made up of six people and lots of mirrors” plays out in my world weekly, and I suspects plays out in yours as well if you start watching the connections.

If this small world theory is really the case, it means that what you say, and even more important, what you do, sticks with you wherever you go.

Here are three examples:

  • I worked with an exec coaching client this week on how to make their first impression with some members of a board of directors a positive one. Turned out one of the board members was a former colleague from 15 years ago from a totally different business. Not only could I help my client think about how to work best with this board member but could  use my name as a likely friendly intro.
  • Someone asked me to provide information regarding somebody’s employment transition from a non-profit on whose board of trustees I previously belonged. Small world? Turns out one of the members of the exec committee of the board could handle the inquiry directly; they’d worked with the inquiring person 20 years ago in New York City.
  • Rodney Byrd, a colleague from my first job out of grad school three decades ago at USC in Los Angeles joined me for dinner in Boston this June with New Haven-based, Gina LaRocheof Seven Stones Leadership; I would be helping Gina facilitate a leadership team offsite the next day. Turned out that Rodney had just had a job interview. Who with? Gina astutely figured out that Rodney’s interview had been with the head of a university leadership team, the same person we’d be working with the next day.

My world, in short, is no smaller or bigger than anyone else’s. I probably have less LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends than most people who do the social media thing. The circles I run in look a lot like yours.

But in San Francisco, the epicenter of a metropolitan area of over 7,000,000 people, it’s rare that a week fails to pass by when some surprise connection doesn’t make a guest appearance.

The idea that there’s at most six degrees of separation between any two people on our planet of 7 billion souls, which morphed into the trivia game The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon  - is an understatement. Facebook claims their research shows 3.74 degrees of separation between any two people on FB. 

3.74 is closer than 6.0, but take some good advice; you’re better off if you assume it’s one degree of separation.

This is not a case of Santa Claus is going to “find out whose naughty or nice” proposition – though Christmas retailers will be harking their wares soon enough.

It’s a case of doing the right thing and the smart thing. Assume that whatever you say and do counts and is known. High transparency and not in the Mitt Romney tax return kind of way.

Turns out words matter. And your reputation, a by-product of your behaviors, counts even more.

Kevin Bacon would be proud.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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