May 12, 2022

158 How to Become a Referrable brand, Access Anyone and Build Meaningful Connections with Michael Roderick | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

158 How to Become a Referrable brand, Access Anyone and Build Meaningful Connections with Michael Roderick | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Michael Roderick, founder, and C.E.O. of Small Pond Enterprises and host of the Access to Anyone Podcast. Michael Roderick shares practices and frameworks on connecting with others more effectively and becoming a referrable brand. Michael also shared that organizations can use the same lessons to make their brands stand out. Finally, Michael Roderick shares his thoughts on how we can become memorable both as individuals and organizations.

Some highlights:

- The importance of building connections and how to do it well 

- Michael Roderick going from high school teacher to a Broadway producer

- How to share your message in a way that keeps others interested

- Michael Roderick on organizational branding

- How to make yourself and your message memorable 

- How to develop deeper connections

- Michael Roderick's principles for creating a referrable brand

- Becoming more memorable through L.E.S.S.

- Michael Roderick on the "Giver's Fix"

- The value of weak ties and how to tap into them

- How to stay connected with your network

-Mark Sanford Granovetter, an American sociologist known for his theory on spreading information in social networks known as "The Strength of Weak Ties."
-Dorie Clark, an American author and executive education professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
-Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and bestselling author

 Connect with Michael Roderick:

Small Pond Enterprises Website

Access To Anyone Podcast

The Referability Rater 

Michael Roderick on Facebook

Michael Roderick on Twitter

Michael Roderick on LinkedIn

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:


Mahan Tavakoli: 

Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming, Michael Roderick. Michael is the founder and CEO of Small Pond Enterprises. Michael went from high school teacher to Broadway producer in less than two years. And that's what started his journey on how to access anyone, not with gimmicks, but real effective frameworks that Michael has put together on how we can become a referable brand.

He has a great podcast called Access To Anyone, and I really enjoy this conversation as Michael shares, tangible ideas and thoughts on how we can become more referable and memorable both as individuals and organizations. 

I'm sure you will enjoy this conversation. Hopefully take a lot of notes and put some of what Michael shares into practice. I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. There's a microphone icon on You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast. Tuesday conversations with magnificent Changemakers from the greater Washington DC DMV region.

And Thursday conversations with brilliant global thought leaders like Michael. Now here's my conversation with Michael Roderick.

Mahan Tavakoli:

Michael Roderick. Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Michael Roderick: 

Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I can't wait to talk a little bit about how to access anyone and becoming a referable brand. Before we get to that, we'd love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted who you've become Michael

Michael Roderick: 

I'm originally from Rhode Island and Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union. It is a place where pretty much everybody knows everybody. And the thing about growing up there is that there's really just this aspect of you're already in a family. You've got your family, but then like you've got your school, and everything is very close knit. And I think that is just something I've always carried over. 

One of the things that came up when I was offered a job in New York and a bunch of my friends said, “Hey here, you're a big fish in a small pond. You go to New York and nobody's going to know you.” And I said, I'm going to create my own small ponds when I'm in New York. That's really how I started thinking about things. 

I really started thinking about, okay, who do I, bring sort of build around me. Like how do I get to know folks? And then what can I bring to the table? What can I bring that's going to be interesting enough that other people will want to talk about it, that other people will want to share it, that other people will want to introduce me to others. And that became one of the main things that I always start with. Think about, no matter what industry I was working in, I was always thinking about this aspect of how do I make this more interesting. Because I do think that we get so focused on access, we get so focused on how do I get in front of people that we don't spend enough time thinking about what am I going to say that's going to make them want to actually continue the conversation?

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What an outstanding way to think about it, Michael. The definition of a pond in your friends' perspectives was the size of the city and definition of the pond the way a lot of people think about it is the industry you operate in, or the people you compete with. You found a way to build a small pond that you were able to access in New York city. 

You went to New York city as a high school teacher and transitioned to a Broadway producer. How were you able to do that? There are people that give up their lives to go to New York city to be involved in Broadway. As a high school teacher, you were able to make that happen.

Michael Roderick: 

I was always interested in theater. I was always involved in the world of theater, in certain different capacities. When I came to New York and I started teaching high school, I was running the drama program. I was doing a lot of theatrical types of ventures, but I also decided to get my masters in educational theater at NYU. And NYU is loaded with all sorts of theatrical types. There's all these different divisions. There's all these different shows. 

One of the things that I found, and I think this is something that just goes across the board, is that in the theatrical world, people love to be the performer. They love to be out front. They love the notoriety. But they don't necessarily like the work that goes behind all of that. All of the logistical stuff of actually putting the show together, raising the money, doing all those different types of things. 

I realized that, and I was always the type of person who enjoyed that background piece of how does this all work? How does this all get put together? So what I did was I started producing a lot of shows on the smaller scale for the NYU kids. So anytime that they had a show or a project that they want, one of the actors wanted to do, they'd come to me, they'd hire me. And I would help them develop it while I was still teaching.

The thing is I became really well known within that 99 seat and under small theater community to the point where I was on a first name basis with most of the houses that basically people would go and rent the theater. So all these different places, I knew the people who ran it and managed it.

And this is how this all ended up happening. I was sitting in one of those houses, there's a place called theater row. And I went there. I was in one of the theaters and I was watching a group of Broadway producers speak. And it was a panel where they were like, we're bringing Broadway producers to talk. And I was like, wow what they're doing is fascinating. It's so interesting. 

And the general manager at that space who I had known pretty well said to me, “Everybody's going to line up at the end of this and try to meet these people. And they are all going to be at our Christmas party.” And a couple of weeks later, I get an invite to the Christmas party and there's a group of producers at this Christmas party.

And now, I was working on another show at the time and I saw one of those producers and I had this moment with myself where I was really nervous to go up and interrupt a conversation at that, up until that point, I had never really interrupted any conversation in these large group settings, and I said if I don't go up and interrupt this person, then I probably am not going to become a Broadway producer. And I had that conversation with myself. I just went up to this woman and I basically said “I'm so sorry to interrupt, but I saw your panel. I really love what you do. I really love the business. I think it's such a fascinating world.” And she said, “Who are you? What's your story?” And I started telling her a little bit about my work and how I taught high school and I was producing these shows. She said, “What are you doing tomorrow night?” I was like, “I'm on the wait list for yet another show here in the city. What do you have in mind?” She said, “You're going to come with me.” And she brought me to a cocktail party at the Broadway league, and I got to meet a bunch of other Broadway producers. And as a result, I ended up just getting to know a lot of folks in the Broadway space and learning a ton about the industry. 

And I learned that most Broadway producers who are on the way up are focused on credit. A lot of the time when a Broadway producer will do is go to another producer and say, “Hey, I'm going to raise this amount of money for you. And if I do, you're going to give me credit. I'm going to be able to put my name on this show. I'm going to be able to also be a producer on the show.”

I took a moment. I said, okay if everybody's after credit. What if I didn't ask for it? What if I just went and told other producers that I was interested in getting better at raising money and not worry about having my name on these things. What happened was I had all of these producers who would give me deal flow, give me paperwork for projects, because I wasn't asking for the credit at that time. I got to know all of these projects. And when I went to investors, I had a portfolio of shows to show them as opposed to just one, because I knew all of these different producers. 

I ended up raising money on all these different shows. And eventually my name got around the industry where they were like, he's raised money, he's done it. He's been effective. Less than two years later, I got offered my first opportunity to have a Broadway credit where that the producer came to me and said, “I've already seen that you can raise money. I want to offer you credit on this show if you can raise the money and find the team, et cetera. And I said, okay. And that's how that shift took place. It was that aspect of first building that community, getting to know those people and then identifying that moment where everybody was looking for credit. And I said, okay, let me try, just not asking for it. And that really ended up being thing that, moved the needle most.


Mahan Tavakoli: 

That is such an incredible story, Michael, and we can spend hours just talking about that. I do want to take a few minutes and unpack some elements of that story. You had built a network, you had built a community, you had built a track record. You also had the confidence in that instance to go up and break into the conversation.

However, when you did, you must have said something or done something that had peaked the woman's curiosity to invite you the next night to go to that party. What was it that you said or did and what is the process with that to get other people interested in engaging you and bringing you along to that success?

Michael Roderick: 

Yeah. You hit it on the head. It's the curiosity piece. And everybody that was coming to talk to her was going to say that they were a producer or that they were in theater and that they were trying to build their business in theater.

And what I said was I started with I'm a high school English teacher. And she was fascinated and she was like, oh, tell me more about that. And we talked about my love of theater, my work with my students, the fact that I brought students to go and see Broadway shows, and the fact that I had my students writing their own shows together.

I was tapping into something that not everybody else was talking about. And I think that was probably the thing that created that curiosity that caused her to just see me in a very different light and think, oh, this is somebody who I want to know. I want them to know these other producers, because I wasn't what everybody else around me was.

And I have this whole thing about I think it's important to go where you’re awesome, not where you're ordinary. When you are in an industry and everybody in that industry is saying the same things and doing the same stuff, then you are basically always being measured against whatever the accomplishments are of the people in that industry.

But the second that you bring up some other aspect of what you do, then all of a sudden you're fascinating to that audience because they don't know anybody in that world, or maybe they know one or two people in that world. And they're like, wow, I want to know more about you and what you're all about.

I really think that had I not opened with the fact that I was a high school English teacher and that was how I got into all of this. It might've been a very different conversation.

Mahan Tavakoli:

I would imagine so, and part of what you did was you show genuine interest in her and then share a genuinely interesting part of your own story that allowed her to engage. 

To also talk about Michael, becoming a category of one in a crowded world. And that was, in that room, a very crowded world of people that wanted to be producers and be associated with the types of projects you wanted. What lessons can we learn from your experience in sharing your uniqueness to become a category of one?

Michael Roderick: 

I think the thing is that we almost never dive as deep as we could. A lot of the time we categorize or when we try to come up with what makes us different, we don't actually go that deep. 

Somebody might say that they're like in leadership and that could mean any number of things.I like to think about it. I call them container words. So there are these words that we hear and everybody nods their head and they're like yeah, yeah. That makes sense. But everybody's got 20 different definitions of it. And leadership is a classic container word, where it's literally like, we could define it in so many different ways, but the second somebody says, I'm going to put the word servant in front of it. Now we have a whole different kind of situation. And now let's say, I'm going to focus on servant leadership specifically within the world of middle managers. Now, we've we've dialed it down even more. 

The thing is whatever you have whatever your thing is, you want to start to think about how do I dive deeper and get more specific because the more specific that you get, the more interesting that thing becomes, because it doesn't feel like it's just another category.

Notice, I didn't just say I'm a teacher. I said I'm a high school English teacher. Think about the specificity of that. And think about how that puts a picture in your mind. If I say a teacher, there can be all sorts of different dynamics, different types of things that come into your head, different definitions. But if I say high school English teacher, you start to develop a very, clear picture of what that person looks like. 

And that's the thing I think that most often, and this happens all the time in messaging and language, we don't take the time to explore a wide range of vocabulary that we could use.

So if we use those container words, the way I like to think about is open up the container and find the contents, start pulling out all of those other words that could describe what it is that you're doing or what it is that you offer and think about all the different ways that you could be specific because you will get people's attention. They will be far more curious if you take the time to dive deeper. And most of us don't.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Michael, while we are going to mostly talk about how this plays a role for the individual and teams, it's such an important point for organizations also in terms of their branding. 

One of the biggest challenges that I see is that the organizations don't want to limit their brand appeal and their messaging, wanting to communicate that everyone is a potential clients and therefore not appealing to anyone. I think the messages that you share with respect to access to anyone and this branding while relevant to the individual, they are just as relevant to organizations in how they brand and communicate their message to.

Michael Roderick: 

Yeah. And the thing is it's obvious you want to serve and have as much reach as possible, right? It's something that you're interested in, but the thing is, if that reach is general, then nobody's going to talk about it, it's general. Yes, it could reach a lot of people, but who's going to talk about that. Who's going to have that conversation? You've always got to think about that aspect. 

And the thing is, I often like to talk about the fact that most of the time, when people talk about this targeting conversation, they like to focus on the idea of a target market, and say, okay, we work with this specific group of dog walkers in Peoria who also happened to be lawyers or whatever the scenario is. And the thing is target markets can be lovely and there's a lot of different types of things that you can do. But what I like to think about is the idea of a target problem. 

What is a problem that people are experiencing that you can really dial in on that. Caused people to say, oh my God, I need to know that organization. I need to know how they solve that problem, oh, you're speaking directly to me. Now I'm like, I want to know who you are. I want to know more about it. And the thing is I could be in multiple industries, you could still get my attention, even if I'm in a completely different industry, if you've dialed in that target problem, and then it's oh, okay. They're the ones for that. They're the ones to help me serve. Think about that. Or go in that direction. 

If we even look at Apple when everything really took off. The thing that happened was Apple really did at the very beginning, identify a target problem, which was that everybody at the time that the iPhone was coming out, the iPad, all these different types of things, everybody at the time was really struggling with individuality because we were all getting into this place where we were in these super crowded markets and everybody was trying to sell their stuff and put their stuff out there.

And there was this craving to be the individual and Apple seized on that. And like literally by calling it, the iPhone, think about what that does to you mentally. If they just said this is the new Apple phone, it wouldn't have mattered. It was because it was the iPhone is because they, oh, this is true. This is for me, this is all about me. But what they were doing was they were identifying a target problem because everybody felt like a commodity at that time. And it's a universal thing. There's so many instances where we get worried or concerned that we're going to fall into that commodity area. So if somebody can offer us the opportunity to get out of that commodity area, it’s such a powerful thing.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is powerful. And part of what you say is also helps with that referrability in that it matters even more when people talk about you or your organization when you're not into rule. This also relates to individuals wanting to become known referable brands.

Michael Roderick: 

100%. And the thing is those individuals, you want to be in a situation where people mention your name in other places, and they're only going to mention your name in other places if you bring something to the table that other people say, I have to tell other people about this, And have this conversation.

I'll often say to people, if you want to be a thought leader, you need to take the time to develop leading thoughts. If you do not have leading thoughts, you were not going to be seen as a thought leader. It's just not going to happen. You, as the individual have to sit down and say, what do I have to say? What do I have to communicate? What do I have to share? And then you want to continue to refine that. Eventually people are able to just share your idea. And it's simple for them to share it, it's easy for them to share it. And once that happens, the same thing as how we are on this conversation will happen where somebody else is going to share the idea.

They're not saying, “Hey, Mike has this company,” they're not saying any of that, they're saying “Mike shared this idea about referrability and you should chat with him. You should check out his stuff,” or whatever the scenario is. And that as an individual, especially if you're jumping between jobs, you can't use your past job as your credibility, use your ideas as your credibility. 

And I think people struggle, they get concerned. They're like my ideas aren't new, no ideas are new. Let's just lay it down as flat as possible, no ideas are new. They're just positioned differently. Ideas are not immune to positioning. You've got something you think it's interesting, sit down and say, how would I position this? Go deep, call it something that is yours. And even though the concept has been out there, people have heard about it. They've seen it. It doesn't matter. It's how you're positioning it. It's how you're thinking about it. And if you as the individual, how are you positioning yourself? Are you positioning yourself as somebody who's jumped a couple of different jobs or you position yourself as somebody who's been in each of these professions. And you found this thing that you understand that you've locked into, that, you know that you're going to present to other people, this big idea that you have, which person do you want to hire?

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That uniqueness that makes you memorable. I think about it, Michael, my father used to wear Paco Rabbane cologne. And to this day, whenever I smelled a whiff of Paco Rabbane, it's as if my father is right there with me. 

And part of what you say is, what is that message? What is that smell where people see a need? They say, you know what? This is right up Michael's alley, or you need to seek out Michael. 

Being memorable and clear enough where people come to you rather than you needing to go to them. The question is how can people become memorable? How can that messaging be memorable in what is a crowded world? 

I understand and I agree it doesn't need to be totally new breakthrough. There are very few if none of those, but the messaging does need to stand out and be different than memorable. How can we do that?

Michael Roderick: 

The way that I like to think about memory is that if you want people to remember you more, you focus on L.E.S.S. And that is language, emotion, simplicity, and structure. 

I'll start with language. The reason why most people know who Shakespeare is and very few people except for English majors know who Christopher Marlowe is that Shakespeare added new words to the English language.

If we go into the dictionary, there are words that were not there before, because Shakespeare invented words. And what do you think people were doing when they were walking around talking about his shows, they were using those words. The thing is language has a lot of power when it comes to memory, because if somebody uses a word and we think, oh, I've never heard that word before, that word then gets wedged into our memory and we start using it. And then people start to ask where did you hear that? Or where did you see that? What is that? 

The very first thing, if you want to think about being memorable, take the time to look at the words you're using, if you're using forgettable words, you're not going to be memorable. Always start from there. Start from that aspect of what is the language that I'm using. And is it something that people would easily remember and want to keep in their mind? Or is it just another throwaway word? Is it just another container word that just matches me up? What's sort of everybody up?

Mahan Tavakoli:

Does it therefore need to be these big convoluted words that people don't understand? What is it with the language that we should be using that contributes to that less framework that you talk about?

Michael Roderick:

Yeah. In essence, it doesn't have to be a convoluted word. It actually could be a very simple word. And it doesn't necessarily even have to be a new word that you come up with. It can be a new combination of words. You can take a concept and just tweak it a little bit. And all of a sudden people are like, oh, that's really interesting. That's something that's really sticking in my head that I'm starting to think about. And when you do that when you just tweak things a little bit, or you try some different language, you can actually test that in the market. You can see what do people repeat? What do they talk about? What comes up over and over again? 

And then once you start to notice that and you say, okay, these are the things I need to keep using. These are the words that seem to really land or sort of the way that this is being presented. This stuff really works in my world. And when you start to figure that out, then you can start using that for interviews, for conversations. And what happens is people then go and they start using those terms. They start coming up with those types of things.

So I'll give you an example for myself. I talk all the time about this concept I call the Giver’s Fix. Now, notice before I even get into the explanation of it. The contrast in the statement, if I'm a giver and I'm a thoughtful, helpful person, why would I be needing a fix, which is often associated with drugs and all of these different types of things. Already, I've got you curious, right? I've got you saying what is the giver's fix? 

The Giver's Fix is when you love to give and you love to support and you love to help others. And to you, it becomes like a drug. It becomes like getting a hit of a drug, just an addict would. What ends up happening is you get so caught up on that feeling of giving and that feeling of helping everybody else that you don't ask for the things that you need. Just like the addict who is pumping themselves full of something that is giving them a rush, but actually not sustaining their body. You as the giver are getting drained and falling apart because you're not taking care of yourself. 

Now, what does that do? They're going to be people who just heard this who were saying, oh my God, he's talking about me. And notice what happened just now, because that ties to the next concept of emotion, solidifies memory. I can trigger your emotions. If I can suddenly make you feel something while explaining something, your brain becomes like a sponge and it sucks up all of that information. And it gets to the details. 

There are people who are listening to this podcast who will remember just the Giver’s Fix. They won't remember a of other pieces of this whole thing, because they felt the emotion because they had this moment of oh my God, that's so me, that's what's going on.

And we don't do that nearly enough. We very, very rarely. How often does somebody explain a concept to you and tie it to an emotional state? How often?

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Very rarely, Michael felt the emotion in my own body, as you were describing that. In part, because I have some of that, and I know a lot of people, including a lot of listeners of this podcast who are involved in community-based organizations, they look for that Giver’s Fix. But as you said, it is not an intellectual concept. You didn't explain it in an intellectual way. You connected it to the emotions, which to your point, we are going to remember this elements even weeks, months later.

Michael Roderick: 

Exactly. The thing is, if you come up with language and then you imbue it with emotion, get people to feel something. What's going to happen is they're going to remember those details much, much faster. 

But the next challenge that you have is the fact that idea needs to be carried. And the fact of the matter is our brains can only hold so much information at any given point in time. That's why you need the next thing, which is simplicity. 

And academics for all of our lives have always rewarded complexity. When we were in school, we were smart if we knew the biggest words. We were smart if we wrote the biggest papers. We were successful, if we were complex, it was always all the way up through college and sometimes even beyond. 

Think about grad school papers that are like this thick, right? It was always about complexity, but the issue is the memory rewards simplicity, because we can only hold so much information at any point in time. If the idea or the concept isn't simple, isn't something that we can easily carry with us. We'll forget parts of it. We might not share it. We might mess it up when we try to explain it to somebody else. And all of those things keep us from being referred. 

We all know that person who has a really wonderful service, but they've come to us and said something. And we've been like, man, I don't know how to explain it to my friend. I feel stupid making that referral or mentioning that. So I'm not going to talk about it even though they've got the best service in the world because they complicated it too much for us. And we feel like I can't spend half an hour trying to explain to everybody what it is that this person does because they spend a half an hour trying to explain it to me. 

Same with companies. How often does a company or an organization have this long explanation of what it is that they do. Are you going to go and read some, your mission statement? If you're referring a company or a referring organization, you're gonna be like, here's their mission statement, Here's their like front web page. No. You're going to try to come up with one sentence to help people understand what is that about or what's that story. 

The simplicity is so important from a memory standpoint. And we have to ask how many points am I trying to get across? How much information am I trying to give people? And do they have enough room to carry all of that information? I can't say to you, when you say, how do we become more memorable? If I said we've got 34 ways that you can be more memorable. And I start breaking down all of these different ways. You'd be asleep. The show would be over. People would just be walking away. And it's because our brains can only hold so much information. 

And that ties to the very last piece, which is structure. And our brains require order in order to process information. We don't read a book by starting in the middle and bouncing back and forth. Unless we're reading one of those, choose your own adventures. We start at the beginning and we go in a logical progression. 

The thing is, if we don't give people a structure, we don't give them a logical progression they're not going to remember the material. They're just not. And we saw this all the time in school, we were given structures to remember information. Anybody was in a math class and please, excuse my dear aunt Sally. As your way of remembering the order of operation. And that was the thing. 

We needed the structure, we needed the order. We needed to understand those types of things. If we don't give our audience a structure, they're way less likely to share it, because again, they don't want to feel like they're missing something or they're forgetting. 

When I say, if you want people to remember you more, focus on L.E.S.S. Language, Emotion, Simplicity, and Structure, I'm giving you a structure to share that information. And even if you don't remember all of the pieces you're going to remember the word L.E.S.S. And if you need to, you're going to go and search and try to find the rest of that answer, because it's a very simple structure. It's very, straightforward kind of thing. 

When we do this, we're basically making it so the memory of the other person is on our side. If we're not focusing on these things, we are making it less likely that they're going to remember. We're making it less likely that they're going to connect this information. We're making it less likely they are going to refer, or they're going to talk about it. If we're not paying attention to these things.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

As we go through this, Michael, one of the things I urge everyone to do, and I will go through this process myself also is not just listen to it and say, wow, that sounds great. L.E.S.S Language, Emotion, Simplicity, and Structure. But to try to spend five, 10 minutes on a piece of paper, whether for ourselves individually, or for our organization and ask ourselves, how are we communicating our message so we are more memorable. 

What is the language we are using? How do we connect with emotions? How can we keep it simple and simplify it and add some structure to it? Because what I find is that intellectually it's easier to nod and say, aha, that makes sense. As Michael says, it’s a lot harder to do it.

Therefore for us to become more memorable and for our organizations and teams and the messaging to become more memorable, we have to take a little time, then go through this process.

Michael Roderick: 

And you're bringing up one of the most important pieces of this which is this aspect of this is simple, but not easy. This is something that's very straightforward in terms of what to do, but you can spend a lot of time really digging into this. And the fact of the matter is most people won't, which gives you a completely different advantage.

If you're even willing to spend a couple of minutes thinking about one different word that you'd use. You're probably 10 steps ahead of most of the people who never think about what words they're using and that's just a little thing. Now, imagine going through all of these elements and really thinking about it in regards to how you're communicating, who does that, who takes the time? Not a lot of people.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It has a lot of power. And the other thing that you mentioned on top of this is therefore, when we have this straight in our own minds, we are more capable and able to connect with others and become memorable. 

You say this, and I love it, Michael, because I see it on a daily basis on LinkedIn. And when I get a chance to go to in-person interaction, same thing. You say, we have spent so much of our time worshiping reach and ignoring depth.

On LinkedIn, it's how many connections I have and people connecting with standard messages. I see we have some connections in common. Let's reach connect or meaningless sales pitches. How can we use this L.ES.S, language, emotion, simplicity, and structure, and build on top of it a deeper connection in reaching out to our network because to balance that you also talk about the influence and power of weak ties.

Help me understand the value of those weak ties and the need to go deeper. How do those concepts interplay with each other as we want to become more memorable?

Michael Roderick: 

The thing is there's this concept known as the law of weak ties and it was originally introduced basically where there was like a college study that was done. I think the professor who did it was his last name was Granovetter. And basically the study that was done was with two groups of college students. And one group asked their close friends and family for jobs. And the second group asked people that they barely knew for jobs. And the second group outperformed the first. and the theory was that the people who are already sort of part of our circle or close friends and family have very similar circles. As a result, we either already know them or the opportunities are about the same. Whereas the weak ties, the people, we don't know that well, have the access to all these other circles that don't necessarily know the people that we know and that side of things. As a result, our idea or our thing, getting introduced to that, circle that's outside of ours, there could be all sorts of amazing opportunities that happen as a result of those weak ties. We never know who somebody else knows. You could have a very basic, you've got a bunch of people within your sort of circle of folks and you're looking for a job and you're finding something, you're getting offers or you're getting things at the same tier at the same level.

And then you go to your yoga class. And you let somebody know in your yoga class that you're looking for a job and that person who is next to you doing downward dog says, “Oh, my cousin has been working at Google and there's a couple of openings over there.” Whereas you've been struggling over here trying to get anything close to that. And all of a sudden it's like, boom, you get an intro to this hiring manager. And in some cases you get the jobs faster than anyone else because it's relationship oriented, right? It's a friend basically saying you should hire this person. And it's a whole different ball game.

So the thing is when we increase the number of weak ties that we have, we basically create significantly more opportunity. The problem is that people take that concept and they think that more is better. Think about it from the standpoint if I have thousands of weak ties then I'm going to create all of this opportunity for myself.

But what that misses is the aspect of depth. And if you're going to really move forward, you have to have a relationship where somebody is not just oh, okay. Yeah. I kind of know you, right? You have to have a relationship where they're willing to go to bat for you. They're willing to have a conversation with you. They're willing to do things. And the fact of the matter is you can't do that with thousands upon thousands of people, whether you get forced to do it or it just happens. There is no way to avoid the fact that no matter how many people you're connecting with, and no matter how many weak ties you're bringing into your circle, you will only have a finite amount of time to develop relationships.

And you can either choose to just develop a bunch of random relationships that have no depth and hope that one of these things ends up leading to an opportunity, or you can really think about who do I want to develop a deeper relationship with. 

And the thing is LinkedIn specifically, I think most people end are focusing on relationship acquisition, and that's a very popular thing that you see. Relationship acquisition, where everybody wants to get as many followers, get as many people as possible and not enough people focus on relationship retention. Where you really think about who do I want to develop a relationship with? Who do I want to grow with over time? And that's one of the biggest issues. And you will have more influence, you will have more people who want to help you and want to support you if they feel like there is some depth to the interaction. 

If they don't feel like there's any depth to the interaction, then they're not going to do anything. Especially not respond. And that's why most of the outreach that we see is so poor because there's no depth to that interaction. 

You know, here's me saying that I think we should talk to each other with no contacts with no information whatsoever, but you take even a couple of minutes to have a little bit of depth within all of that, take a couple of minutes to read somebody’s thing, talk about and be honest with them about like why you're reaching out. You'll stand out instantly from, everybody else.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It's a powerful point, Michael, and something that is so often ignored, the fact that we can get pretty much anyone's email address or LinkedIn information or phone number. It becomes another cold transaction and knowing in most instances and ignored in other instances, And even when people accept the connection or ignore the email, it doesn't lead anywhere. It's worth taking the time and the effort to nurture certain weak ties in order to spend a little effort into it. That increases the potential of positive relationship back and forth. 

The point that you make resonates with me, because as we talked about before, also, on a daily basis, I get these messages like everyone else does. There's nothing special about me, and people haven't taken 20 seconds to look at the profile before sending the message. And I wonder, what are they assuming they want to come out of this. The point that you make is that yes, weak ties are important, but weak ties that there is some connection and some relationship behind not just weak ties of reaching out to thousands, trying to connect with them.

Michael Roderick: 

And the thing is, there are lots of people out there teaching stuff. And they're basically telling people, here's the deal you send bunch of automated messages or hire a bot and communicate with all these people. And you're always going to get like a hit of folks who are like, oh yeah, no, I think I could use XYZ service kind of thing.

There always somebody who sends money to the Nigerian prince, there's always somebody who's going to do it. But the thing is there's always that aspect. People will then look at that and think, oh, okay. So It's just a numbers game. I got to reach out to enough people. And if I reach out to enough people I'll convert enough stuff, et cetera, et cetera. But the thing is once you've burned through those numbers, you got nothing left at the end of it. There's no relationships. And the thing is you might convert a handful of people from a big blasts or cold outreach, and you might land some business. Like it may happen, but what comes after that? What happens after that? You're going to have heck of a time going through the sales process. 

When you're contacting somebody cold, it is literally just a kind of a shot in the dark, you're going to have to spend a bunch of time educating qualifying going through that whole thing. But if you just take the time to understand, who somebody is, you're going to know from either that back and forth little interaction or a couple of conversations, or even if you do get a chance to do a call, you're going to know pretty quickly if they're in your customer area, if they are actually interested in what it is that you have to offer, if they know people who might be interested in what it is that you have to offer, and you can vet whether or not they're like going to be helpful and are all of those different types of things.

You can really start develop much more comprehensive relationships, which are going to lead to much, much better deals much, much bigger opportunities. More things are going to happen if you take the time to treat people right. And I think that's the thing. 

I often like to say people love to feel useful. They hate to feel used. If you can help somebody feel useful, if you can help somebody feel like they're contributing to your experience to your life, whatever the scenario is, then they're going to feel a lot closer. 

I remember I would have people ask me, oh do you know anybody who does such and such? And I'd always tell him, I don't know any anybody is. I only know someone, but you've gotta be specific about what these problem points are like, what these people are looking for, help me understand what you're really going to be able to do for somebody else. And then I'm happy to refer. I'm happy to talk about it and I'm happy to share it, but I need to know what is it actually going to provide for the other person? If you just have services and they’re general services, it's not going to really work.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

There are a couple of the pillars that you've talked about and address that this one, Michael. One is for people to remember you more, you need to think in terms of L.E.S.S, language, emotion, simplicity, and structure. 

The other one, which is important. And all of this is built on the fact that there has to be a sincere desire for connection and a relationship. It can't be transactional. While technology has made certain things easier that doesn't necessarily mean we should automatically just reach out to people without the effort and the work to build that relationship. 

You also mentioned with respect to whether it's for individuals or teams, this works also on organizations, three principles to creating a referable brand and you use the acronym A.I.M there. What is that? And how can we use that become more referable?

Michael Roderick: 

Sure. It's Accessibility, Influence and Memory. We've talked about memory but accessibility is likely the first hurdle that most people deal with. And accessibility really ties to this aspect of 10 people, understand you, or are you in what I like to refer to as the echo chamber of the enlightened. Where you're using all the same words as your industry, and everybody else is patting each other on the back, but the outside person has no idea what you're talking about.

So accessibility is all about thinking, how am I making sure that people really understand what's going on? That not just the people in my industry, not just the people who are adjacent to the industry but the dentist around the corner understands what it is that,my company is offering. And then what I'm putting out there. Accessibility is huge and it's always the first hurdle where almost always too close to our own stuff and we explain it poorly. 

Once you've gotten past that point of accessibility, and you've gotten to a point where people are like, okay, yeah, I get it. It feels straightforward. I understand it. Then you need influence. And the thing is that most people think about influence in the context of persuasion. They think about it as I'm going to influence you. I'm going to get you to do something. But what you want is for people to do something without you asking them to, and the only reason somebody's going to do something without you asking them to is if it makes them look good.

You always want to think, how would this thing being shared, make the other person look? And if you can craft something and make it that thing makes other people look interesting when they share it, they're going to share it. You always want to think, what would the experience be like if somebody else shared my idea, how would they look cool.

We spend way too much time trying to figure out how to make ourselves look cool. And the thing that we always want to think about is how do we make other people look cool? Because once you do that, you unlock so many opportunities. And this ties to relationships too. When you make other people look good, they want to introduce you to people. They want to connect. They want to do all sorts of things, because most people are not thinking about that for them.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What a powerful, message Michael, and something that I hope everyone listens to repeatedly and thinks about. I've been fascinated for years at business school, had to read Joseph Campbell's hero of a thousand faces. I don't think I really understood it to read it for business school. And over the years I understood it a little bit better and have understood the communication of the stories.

How in many instances as Donald Miller also talks about the need to be the coach and a guide rather than the hero in a story. This is a powerful point where people want to share messages that makes them look good. Not makes you look good. And there's so often that we are sharing messages that make us feel better about ourselves. If the intent is to become a referable brand, we need to listen to Michael Roderick rather than continue sharing messages that have us as the hero. 

Michael, the other thing that you do is your superpower in my view is that you look at patterns and you take those patterns and turn them into frameworks. As you have explained here, whether it is with less, it is with AIM. These are all patterns of effective behavior that you have in many instances, implemented yourself. And in other instances helped others and implement, and you've put them into frameworks that we can all learn from and implement. I think that is a real superpower. 

My question is how were you able to come up with this superpower ability? At what point did you realize, hey, I see patterns should be turned into frameworks?

Michael Roderick: 

It comes from education, I taught high school. And one of the things that you always had to do is you had to start to take a lot of the time, a very complex topic, or you had to take something, an entire book and to boil it down to one thing, or you had to boil it down to serve a breakdown, this is what, this is a metaphor for. This is how to think about these things. 

Basically I started to ask myself, if I had to teach this, how would I talk about it? And every time I would ask that question, things would get distilled down and then I would do a talk, do a presentation, do something where I kept that in mind. And I was like, if I had to teach it, if I wanted to make sure that people got it, if they used it, how would I have to do it? And that's, what's really always made that shift for me is I always ask myself, if I were to teach this and I wanted people to actually do it, I wanted them to implement it. Just like I want my students to succeed, not just hear something and not do the work. What could I do? How could I break it down? 

And then the thing is like in the world of education, frameworks are a very, powerful tool. If you can help somebody understand, this is how this works and you give them something simple, to remember to break down, they will go and share it and they will go and talk about it. So I'm always, anything that I'm doing, I'm always asking myself, what is the lesson that gets extracted from this? And then what can somebody do? What's the lesson, what's the homework really? And if I had to break it down and this actually, you're literally hearing something new because this is me putting a couple of pieces together. What's the story? What's the lesson. What's the homework. Ultimately, that's really what it comes down to. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You do this well, because you do it with the intention of people actually applying it. I have very good friends that are in consulting firms. In many instances, the frameworks they share are meant to show sophistication and complexity. The people at the 116th PowerPoint slide say, we need you to come into the organization and help us with this issue we're having. The frameworks the way you think about Michael, and you communicate it. You make the frameworks accessible so we can all use these frameworks to be able to become more referable brands. 

I wonder Michael, are there leadership resources, practices that you recommend most specifically with respect to people wanting to become those referable brands? As I believe every single one of us needs to become in this next era of work.

Michael Roderick: 

I recommend people read anything any of Dorie Clark's books, because Dorie is a perfect example of a referable brand herself. She's always taking the time to craft things in this actionable way. If you read a Dorie’s book, you're like, you have the roadmap. And she's taken the studies and she started breaking it down for you. I always say if you're looking for that way of thinking and you want to watch somebody do it in real time, read one of Dorie's books, because you'll see the model. You'll see the process. You'll see how it goes. 

Another person who does this very well is Adam Grant. The thing is if you want to be referable, I would say yes, read the books, think about the resources, but I would look at who in your world is referable and who in your world is getting shared. And then I would watch what they're doing. I would take the time to look at their content, look at their process, look at the way that they're choosing to position things, because that's what's going to really inform this for you. That's what's going to really help you. 

So I would say read any of Dorie's books, read Adam Grant's books, but also watch them on social media, watch how they become referable, watch how they present those things, because there's this classic saying in copywriting of success, leaves, clues. And there's just hundreds of thousands of clues that are sitting there waiting to be found in all of your social feeds when it comes to these people who really take the time to craft these very specific models and frameworks and ways of doing things.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I learn a lot from you every time I listened to you, Michael, and most specifically this time you made a lot of different points including this last one. I hadn't reflected on. I've followed Dorie Clark's work and love Adam Grant's work. I had reflected as much specially on Adam Grant on the flip side of the process on thinking about how he has become such a referable brand. And I'm going to think about it more because you are right on target with respect to what I see his messaging. I want to share his messaging. I'm one of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. You've thrown down the challenge for me to now look at Adam Grant in a different way, in addition to enjoying his content.

Michael, how can the audience find out more about your work, your consulting, your podcasts, how can they connect with you?

Michael Roderick: 

Sure. my podcast is just called Access To Anyone and it's a You can go to, which is the main website. 

And then if referrability is of interest to you, you can check out and that's where you can basically answer a bunch of questions and see exactly where you are going in a good direction on the referrability side and where you might want to do some work and then I'm all over the socials. You'll see me at LinkedIn and on the book of faces and you know, all the, different places. Always feel free to just reach out and say, hello.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Michael, I really appreciate you joining this conversation on Partnering leadership.

Thank you so much, Michael Roderick.

Michael Roderick: 

Thank you so much for having me. This is an absolute blast.