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The Emotional Manager - A Stern Show Lesson

So… I am a Howard Stern super-fan and as a true super-fan I think about Howard’s show constantly, even when I am not listening to him. What amazes me is that there are so many parts of the show that can translate to everyday life and even to business concepts. This might take a little set up, but hang in there…

One of my favorite characters on the show is Sal Governale. Sal was a stockbroker 20 years ago but always wanted to break into comedy. He, as I, was a super-fan of the Howard Stern Show. So much so that Sal started calling the show to prank Howard’s long-time producer Gary Dell’Abate. Eventually, Sal joined the Howard Stern Show and has provided many memorable show moments. 

As I was driving home a while back, I heard a replay of one of Sal’s most memorable moments on the show: The Emotional Friend saga. Sal is married, has 3 kids and treated his wife like crap. How bad did it get? He wrote songs about how he wants to punch her until she expels her bones. Great fun for the air, but not so fun for the wife who is the butt of the joke.  In addition to that Sal was constantly embarrassing his wife in his personal life doing stuff like dropping his pants at weddings, being obnoxious and not paying attention to her. This obviously led to his marriage going into a downward spiral and eventually his wife finding herself an emotional friend.

What is an emotional friend you ask? Well, it was a male companion in which she developed an emotional (not physical) relationship with. She constantly talked to him about her problems, her feelings, her life. He started to provide to her what Sal did not. Eventually she fell in love with him (still not physically) and could not have him NOT be a part of her life.

Eventually Sal and his wife worked it out (after a lot of on-air therapy), however the concept of an emotional friend stuck with me. I started to think about it in relation to my direct reports and clients. Did my direct reports have emotional managers? Did my clients have emotional vendors?  Was someone other than me providing them with what they needed?

The consequences of your direct reports having an emotional manager (other than you) can be dire. For one you will probably not get the performance and results you are expecting from someone that is not getting what they need from you. The extreme case is the same that could happen in a marriage: gradual distance and eventual separation. Will you continue to leave your direct reports unfulfilled to the point they decide to move on? The effort you will spend finding a replacement and starting a new relationship will probably be much greater than the investment you need to make in your current relationship.

The same could be said about your clients. In my years in marketing I have seen countless times where the accounts that work seamlessly get much less attention than the problem child account. This would happen regardless of the revenue amount the accounts brought in. The seamless account could be a $30MM account while the problem child account could be bringing in $5MM, it didn’t matter. The squeaky wheel got the grease. Now, what if that seamless account started getting breakthrough advice from a different vendor? What if someone was putting more of an effort to provide them with the insights they didn’t even know they needed? Eventually the seemingly perfect account, that required little attention and brought in high returns, will start to pull away. If they start getting what they need from someone else, they will move on.

So what can we do about all this? Self-awareness is the first step. You need to evaluate all your current relationships, client or employees, and determine how much effort you have been putting into making the relationship work. Instead of pointing blame or focusing on the negative, concentrate on the positive. What can you build on? What can you provide that you are currently not? Invest in the relationship. Don’t take your partner for granted.

After reflecting on the show I took some time to evaluate my business relationships. Was I giving my direct reports the attention they deserved? When we had our 1-1s, did I care about what they were going through or was I only preoccupied with my agenda? The truth, as always, was somewhere in the middle. Although I did not push away my direct reports, at times I got so busy that I put their needs aside. I was worried more about the tactical than the development. Bottom line rather than emotional line.

I immediately took action and started to cultivate those relationships as if I would cultivate my marriage. I started to listen more, and to talk less. I started following through on my promises. I made sure that when I was talking to them they had my undivided attention. Little by little my relationships started to become stronger. I was able to have more meaningful conversations. I started to provide to them what THEY needed, and we all benefited from it.

So what should you expect? You should expect that it will take time to mend those relationships, just like it took time for Sal to reconcile with his wife. The payoff is immense though. Your relationships will flourish. You might find that there is more there than you originally thought. All the while you will be doing this with someone you have already invested in, and that you want to partner with. So go out there. Show people the love. Keep those emotional managers out of your relationships.

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Andre Wyse Mello

Andre Wyse Mello is a business coach and a Howard Stern Show super-fan. He has been in leadership and marketing for over 16 years. To connect with Andre please visit wysecoaching.com.

Andre Mello