Any good police officer will tell you that criminals identify easy targets. No self-respecting gang member, rapist, or thief will attack someone who appears to be confident, self-assured, and looks like they can take care of themselves. Why risk it? Instead, they will scan for people who look timid, weak, scared, or unable to defend themselves. That’s who they will go after.
Employees, suppliers, rivals, and others will do the same. It isn’t something that operates at the conscious level, but just naturally happens. So if you look like a victim, you will become a victim.
I can’t count the number of times I have had a CEO complain that a former employee was suing them for some bogus reason, or that a former business partner was taking advantage of them, or that a business rival was stealing their people. Why were these bad things happening to them? It’s simple…because they looked like an easy victim. They never gave anyone the impression that they would fight back, defend themselves vigorously, or even pre-empt a rival’s move. When a predator (lion, hyena, panther, wolf, etc.) scans a herd of cattle, they try to identify the weakest member. That’s the one that will take the least effort to run down and kill. They focus on that particular animal, and go for it. A disgruntled employee is just as ruthless. They will figure out if you are weak, and if they think you are, they get an ambulance chasing lawyer who works on a contingent fee, and come up with some bogus wrongful termination or discrimination suit. They figure you’ll want to avoid a major conflict and settle easily. The attorney is happy because all he/she has to do is send you a few threatening letters, and you roll over like dead wildebeest.
Resilience and Strength
Business rivals or former partners will act the same way if they think you are weak. They may be after something else, but their intuition is the same. You are a victim because you act like a victim. You seem timid. You worry about how people feel about you. You dread the thought of being sued. You avoid confrontation or risk. You have successfully painted a target on your back, and invited your enemies to come after you. Bullies never pick on someone bigger or stronger than themselves.
In studies, convicts have been asked to state why they targeted a certain person. The studies came up with some interesting results. Most criminals will say that they picked the person as their victim because that person walked meekly, held their head down, and never made eye contact. They were easy prey. On the other hand, few attackers went after someone who walked briskly with their shoulders back, head held high, and looking very alert. They seemed capable of defending themselves, making the attack too risky. Perception means everything to a predator.
So think about how you look to your employees, business partners, competitors, and others. Do you look like an easy victim? Are you someone that looks like you are afraid or unwilling to stand up for yourself or your company?
Think about the perception you may have given of yourself over the years. Think about how you react to bad news or threats. Think about the way you have dealt with confrontation in the past. Have you set yourself up as a victim? Do people see you as an easy target? If so, it’s time to change that image.
Standing Strong and Leading By Example
People need to know that you are in control and fully capable of defending yourself and your company. They need to see you, the CEO, as the strongest person in the company – someone who doesn’t back down when challenged by a threat. You are not an easy target. In fact, coming after you is probably a stupid thing to do. This doesn’t mean you aren’t compassionate or caring. It simply means that you are not someone who is going to roll over when you are attacked. If someone wants to take you on, they will regret that decision.
If you have been perceived as weak, it may take some time to change that perception, but you must change it, because if you continue with that image, others will see you the same way, opening more lawsuits and attacks. Once you get rid of that victim image, people will begin to leave you alone. It simply isn’t worth their effort to come after you. In fact, it might prove dangerous to them.