I-players overrate their skills and abilities
This technique is at the essence of the I-method. No matter how good the player is, he represents himself as somewhat more qualified. It is not necessary to represent himself as the best. This is where Ray in the illustration goes too far. The trick is for the player to overstate his skills and abilities only slightly. If he does it effectively, the claims will seldom be contested. If he calls himself The Greatest, it is likely that someone, somewhere, sometime will test him. If this happens, it is put up or shut up time. The I-player does not want this type of confrontation.
In the illustration, you see how Bud simply makes himself the judge without claiming that he is the best judge. At that level, no one tests him.
Using I-Play and the overstatement technique are effective ways to move on to bigger and better things. Nick is a young associate in a large accounting firm. Through the normal course of events, he has obtained several small accounts and the busy work of the more senior associates. His peers complain about having to do the uninteresting work of the senior people, but Nick actively asks for such assignments.
Over time, he talks with the senior associates more and receives additional complex and interesting assignments. His approach is always to be into things just a little over his head.
When asked to do something beyond his ability, Nick seldom defers. He passes only if he thinks he cannot bluff his way along. He usually manages to hang in there until he learns how to do the assignment or gets someone else to tell him how.
Once in a while, things turn out badly. At those times, Nick comes up with ways to move the responsibility to other people or point to special circumstances. The net outcome is that Nick is rapidly moving up in the organization. The trick is that he is doing this while seldom knowing what he is doing. The moral from this I-player’s point of view is clear. – it is easier to be a good player than it is to be a competent accountant.
I-players are not concerned about the motivations or interests of others
To use this technique effectively, the player must pull off a nifty deception. The I-player needs to seem interested in people, their motivations, and their interests. If this does not happen, others see him as cold and uncaring. The message to people must be, “I care about you and only have your best interest at heart.”
Here is the deception. The I-player only concerns himself with personal goals and interests. The game is to develop a level of trust and inattention that blinds other people from seeing what is happening. Within this blind spot, the player does his work.
An example is instructive. Mel Lewis wants to be on the committee that recommends contract renewals for faculty. His motivation here is interesting. He is also on the committee that reviews teaching assignments and schedules. His goal is to get a schedule permitting him to keep his outside consulting job. This is how he plays the I-game.
First, he spends a few months cultivating relationships with two or three members of the contracts committee. This gets him the desired appointment. Next, he spends a lot of time talking to Dave Ryner who is up for contract renewal.
“I know you are up for renewal and that, with the cuts and all, you are on the cut list. I like you and want to do everything I can to help you stay.” There is no cut list but there will be some cuts.
Mel keeps his promise and votes for renewal of Dave’s contract. It would have been renewed anyway. Dave is relieved and grateful. Now comes the payoff.
As Mel expected, Dave gets the schedule Mel wants. It is now time for Mel to close the deal. In a warm and sincere voice, Mel says to Dave, “I’m surprised and disappointed you took my schedule after all we have been through together. I guess you had your reasons. I just want you to know this won’t affect our friendship, though. I’m glad you were able to stay, although I’m not so sure about me since I’ve lost that consulting job. You know how it is with a family. It takes a lot of money. That is not your problem, though.”
The bind for Dave is real. Whichever way he goes, Mel wins. If Dave trades schedules, Mel keeps his consulting job. If Dave does not trade, he still owes Mel one. Having markers out there is almost as good as winning today. The successful I-player may loose one now and then but mostly he wins.
I-players are above it all
This ploy works best when combined with the two above techniques. First the I-player represents himself as somewhat exceptional in the ability and skill departments. This enables him to justify being separate from or above everyone else. Second, the player cares so much and is so concerned that he has to stay distanced. This is the best position for him to be maximally helpful. He is definitely above it all.
The trick is to avoid appearing too good to get involved or to participate. Others must not see the player as someone who will not get his hands dirty. The idea is to become somewhat of a father figure or mother figure, as the case may be.
Frank is a very skilled I-player who manages to stay above it all, most all the time. His approach is to talk little, appear to listen carefully, and to take detailed notes. He frequently says, “I’ll get back to you on that one.” This enables him to avoid getting into the middle of things or into a position where anyone tries to deal with him as an equal. Interestingly, this includes his organizational superiors. When he does get back with people – which is about half the time – he says, “I can, or can’t help you with this one.” Almost no matter what, he ends up with others seeing him as leaning down to do them a favor. Sure, it is just a little trick but most effective. Over time, the number of people who see themselves as owing him favors grows, even though he has done virtually nothing for any of them.
I-players do not look beyond simple self-interest
This is critical for I-players. The technique is a version of not being concerned about the interests of others but is important enough to receive separate attention. It is more than a general observation about the behavior of I-players. It is a mandate for I-players who are successful.
Beverly is a heavy equipment operator for a construction company. She is a first class I-player, which accounts for much of her success in her chosen vocation. Vick is her oiler and is responsible for keeping her machine in good running condition.
One Thursday, Bev notices that Vick forgot to complete part of his task and wonders whether to do it for him or just let it slide.
Her impulse is to spend the five minutes it takes to do his job. She can let him know she did him a favor and then collect the marker some day. It also is tempting to let it slide, knowing that one time is not going to hurt anything. She can still let Vick know she knows, giving her the upper hand – at least a little.
What is her choice? The debate takes her about two seconds. Bev shuts down her machine and finds herself some shade. Within a few minutes, the whole job is shut down because of the importance of Bev’s machine to the project.
Within a couple minutes, the Superintendent walks over and asks, “What is this all about? Why are you shut down?”
Bev takes another swallow of coffee and says, “My oil light is on. Someone will have to check it.”
The superintendent asks, “Didn’t Vick take care of it?”
Bev says, “I have my hands full operating the machine. I will get someone to take care of it, though, if you want me to help you out.”
The superintendent says, “Someone better take care of it! I sure don’t have time for this . . .”
Matter-of-factly, Bev says, “You got it, Boss.”
Is the boss upset with Bev? He does not know who to be upset with. Is Vick upset with Bev? No, she did not point the finger at him.
The winner is Bev and there are no losers. No losers unless you see the company and its production schedule as losers. This possibility is not important to Bev or to Vick for that matter. The best part of the play for Bev and Vick is that, even if the Superintendent talks to Vick about what happened, Vick can blame it on unexpected problems with the equipment. For this, he still owes Bev one.
It is a two for one trick. Bev has a marker from Vick and a favor due from the boss. As you see, Bev simply pursues her self-interest.
I-players use themselves as the standard for everything
• If the player is interested, what others say and do is interesting
• If he is frustrated, things are a mess
• If something affects the player, it is important, and if not, it is irrelevant
• If the I-player likes it, it is good, and if not, it is bad
• If the player is happy, things are going well, and if not, things are falling apart
• As the I-player goes, so goes everything and everyone
Machell is a manager of a small department in a medium size company. The secretarial support and data management for her staff are handled by a central support unit. Machell knows that about half of the support staff are new and there are serious problems with the company’s computer system. There are recurring filing problems, data discrepancies, and unusual slowness with typing. These problems are frustrating to Machell and contribute to some problems for her staff.
On the other hand, her staff is working on some new activities and projects. This places some new paper work and data demands on them. Within Machell’s operation, there are some problems that contribute to the difficulties with the support unit.
Machell does not so much as give a passing thought to sitting down with the support manager and figuring out better ways of dealing with things. A skilled player like her does not consider such ridiculous time wasters.
What does she do? She promptly calls her superior and vents her outrage with the crisis in the support area. “You are going to have to do something about this crisis!”
“What would you suggest, Machell?”
“I don’t have time to straighten out other people’s problems. I don’t know what you are going to do about your problem. All I know is my staff can’t be expected to work under these conditions.”
Right on, Machell! You play “I” to perfection. Define a small problem as a crisis, and then point your finger at someone else and suggest that it is going to bring things to a halt. The payoff is that no matter what problems Machell’s staff have now, they are because of the crisis that is not her fault or responsibility. No matter what happens, Machell wins. That is exactly the position the I-player strives for at all times.