The Dirty Truth About Leverage

Collaboration is not selling out. It’s leverage.*

The Dirty Truth

There is a lot of “conventional wisdom” that…well…simply does not sit well with me. As someone who has facilitated hundreds of leadership workshops, I can tell you a great deal of those bits of “wisdom” are alive and well in the businesses of every size, industry, classification, and postal code I have been lucky enough to visit.
In this post, however, I’m going to lay one on you that is an absolute truth. Are you ready for it? Here you are:

100% of “zero” is still “zero”.

Just around the turn of the century (e.g. When the stock market peaked in 2000), I shifted the focus of my finance career from selling retirement plan services for a regional bank to working as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. At the time, Merrill was known for having perhaps one of the most robust training programs of any Wall Street brokerage firm. Shortly after my arrival, however, there was a dramatic shift in several key areas.

    1. The stock market “bubble” popped.
    2. Our office’s Regional Vice President left to run a different office for the firm. (Leaving us without clear, local leadership for several months).
    3. Merrill Lynch’s culture began to crumble as the very training program I had signed up for was gutted in early 2001 by a new head of the U.S. brokerage division (the same person who later was named as one of the “Worst CEOs Ever” by CNBC, primarily for his role in the financial debacle that led to Merrill’s forced purchase by Bank of America c. 2007…but that is another story entirely).

To be fair, business moves in cycles. I just happened to make a significant career move to “the right place at the wrong time”. It happens. Perhaps it has happened to you. Hopefully, you learned some lessons from the mess you encountered, and have moved on to find greater success. If you are on that journey back, now, then this next piece of the story is especially for you.

The Reality

Bad EmployeeDuring my time as an adviser in the financial services industry, I was spoon fed a pretty hefty dose of  “scarcity mentality”. As a trainee, we were often lied to by other producers offering to “help us get some business in the door” before our licenses were approved by bringing in accounts for our family and friends now, not realizing they were simply scraping the first year’s production credits off of the incoming assets, leaving us with not much to work with when they eventually DID turn the accounts over.

A culture of fear, mistrust and urban legend combined to keep us uncertain of who we might turn to for good advice and guidance. So, most of us did what we thought was best. We kept our heads down and did the best we could figure out to do on our own. Truth be told, I was able to apply much of what I’d learned to help build a quite healthy practice once I took my talents elsewhere, but the real lesson wasn’t clear until much later.

The Lesson

If you study very successful business people, you’ll find something interesting. They seem to basically be insulated from many of the ebbs and flows of economics, instead capitalizing on the opportunities that down economic turns provide. I don’t mean to suggest these folks never lose money, I simply draw out that their lifestyles are not as impacted by the ups and downs the media highlights on a daily basis.
In fact, some of the most consistently successful people I know cannot really describe WHAT they do, as much as that they always seem to have a project moving forward. How is that possible? They have leverage. They have a different way of looking at the world. Instead of trying to win in a zero-sum game, they focus on building win-win solutions for the benefit of all involved.

The Challenge

FREE SIGNI want you to adopt an “abundance mentality”.  Here’s are a few easy tips to make the shift:

  • Let go of the feeling that you have to “control it all”, and shift your emphasis on contributing in a way that leverages your talent toward a greater goal.
  • Start splitting deals you find with successful people from whom you can learn. They will give you the road map to learning a skill you want or need to develop, and you’re compensating them for their time and mentorship by sharing in the result. Maybe it’s money. Perhaps it is happiness. Your fellowship or teaching them a skill they want to develop as a trade may be all that need be exchanged.
  • Focus on helping people eliminate pain from their lives by connecting them with people who have strengths that compliment what they are able to do for themselves.
  • Learn more about your customers and clients. Instead of selling to them, bring them customers and clients. They will often repay you with referrals to YOUR business. When that happens, repeat the cycle and you will truly see exponential leverage work in your favor!

Share Your Success

Take a minute to share a success story below by answering this question: How have you used leverage in a positive way to grow your business, improve relationships, or find joy in your life?

Cover Shot for CONNECT! Book

*Find this and many other connection hacks in the book: CONNECT! 77 Idea Chargers to Generate High Voltage Results TODAY!


  1. Lois Creamer on May 2, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Great post Scott! Your positive attitude has also served you well!

    • charger on May 3, 2014 at 9:01 am

      Why thank you, Lois! It is easy when you surround yourself with great people!

  2. Vlad Collak on May 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Scott, I love the post and absolutely agree with you. It does not have to be a zero-sum game.

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