LMSM 58 | Name Dropping


Frank has been dropping Ian’s name for years, hoping to steal some shine from his golden career. But is this an effective tactic when building a career or business? In this episode, we look into the reasons why people do this and how to respond when you come across one.

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Are You A Name-Dropper?

Why People Drop Names And When They Do

Are you the name-dropper? I sure hope not. Most people hate name-droppers. In this episode, we get into why and what type of people do this, what you should do, how you might handle it, and get to the bottom of it if you have a name-dropper on your team. If you are new to this show, please click, subscribe, and follow along with us. If you have been tuning for a while and you haven’t given us that five-star review on Apple Podcasts, it means a lot to us.

Frank has name-dropped Macho Man, who we are not been friends with a long time since deceased. God rest his soul. This episode is about name-dropping, and the reason why we are talking about it is a good friend of mine that I worked at GE with McCauley brought up to me and he said, “Do you remember when you had that card from Jack Welch hanging up in your cubicle?” We started talking about it.

Frankie was nine months with the company at GE. I had been to 2 or 3 different leadership classes. People knew I had gone to Crotonville, which is the big leadership place. People also knew that Jack Welch was always hanging around Crotonville going to these classes. I also had a signed copy of Jack Welch’s book Straight from the Gut. I think we received them at this leadership class that gave it all to us as part of your indoctrination on the leadership team.

You still have a little bit of catch-up in your beer and also from lunch. I had this Jack Welch autograph. It was well known that Jack Welch wrote personal notes to people all the time. This is well known as something he did a lot of. When I’ve got back from one of these leadership classes, I was a slapdick that no one took seriously at GE. I’m not in some leadership class but I did know what the hell I was doing in this little crappy cubicle.

I didn’t have a lot of respect around the office. I wrote myself a fake card from Jack Welch that said something like, “To Ian, that was one of the most impressive presentations I have seen in 40 years with this company.” I did the trace like you would do with your parents’ signature when you’ve got a bad report card, so I traced the Jack.

I even used the same kind of thick pen that he used when he sent his letters. I hung it up in my cube so that everyone who walked by, it was right in your face a signed letter from Jack Welch. McCauley knew me for five years and never brought it up and believed it was real. Everyone in the office believed it was real that I had got a letter from Jack Welch.

Those who name-drop try to give themselves a little bit of authority that they don’t genuinely have in the company. Click To Tweet

Maybe this is perceived and maybe I started selling a little more so as was part of it but I truly believe that I started getting a little more respect in the office when I hung up a fake letter from Jack Welch to the point where I would name-drop Jack all the time when I was at GE. It was hilarious. People would come by and ask what Jack like. I made it seem like he was my boy.

The reason why I did this is the reason why anyone drops names and why people do this. I was young and insecure. I didn’t have any name of my own in the company, so I was trying to steal some fame from the most famous guy in our company and largely in the business world in general. I didn’t have a body of work that was impressive. The only way to try to get a little attention before I started producing something for my company was to do a little bit of name-dropping. Apparently, it worked because McCauley bought it for a while and thought I was a lot bigger deal than I actually was.

The genesis of this is where did it come from and why you do it? Why do people do it? What you see when you are young in your career is there is the name-dropper. The name-droppers are never usually the fast risers. They are not the people who are in the leadership program and getting promoted a bunch of different times.

They are the people who are in their mid-30s or the 50s that are in a mid-level role, don’t think too highly of themselves, have desires, and know don’t have the chops, so they are constantly doing things to make you feel they are better than they are because they have imposter syndrome. They drop these names to justify why you need to listen to them.

What you realize when you are young is you look up to these people and say, “These people are impressive. It’s incredible. Look at their network.” What you realize is they are faking it until they make it, and most of these people can’t actually make it. Ian took a prank, gave himself a little credibility but probably took down the letter when he started to win awards and do things well when he replaced the fake accomplishment with real accomplishments. We have talked about how the internet is written in pen.

If you do these things and you post them on the internet, get your ass in trouble, and you may not ever be able to live it down. What used to be a prank or your teacher used to say, “Be careful, this is going on your permanent record,” is starting to. What was a harmless prank can give you a little bit of inertia but at the same time, you’ve got to eventually earn it and you are going to outkick your coverage if this is your only move?

LMSM 58 | Name Dropping

Name Dropping: The name droppers are never usually the fast risers. They’re not the people who are in the leadership program and getting promoted.

Let’s talk about who does this. Young folks without a lot of experience do this but where I have seen people who do this the most are usually folks that are in support function roles like HR, accounting, analysts, consultants, folks that don’t have any real authority or genuine power within the organization that is maybe frustrated that no one is listening to them. Their job is built and maybe they are dotted line managers or folks who are channel managers, marketing where they don’t have any direct reports but they have to influence a larger organization to do things the way they would like it done.

They get frustrated because they can’t use logic or persuasion. They are not persuasive enough to be convincing that their ideas are the best for the company, so they get frustrated and say, “CEO said so or the Chief Operation Officer or our Director is going to be pissed if we don’t do this.” They will name-drop or they will say, “I was in a meeting with the CEO and he said we have to do this.”

They are trying to give themselves a little bit of authority that they don’t genuinely have in the company, and it normally comes off as desperate. I have found that it never influenced me much. It irritated me. Did I miss anyone in those cohorts I was talking about or did you feel different when folks did this, Frankie?

It usually comes from people who realize they don’t have any power who you have summarized or people who aren’t essential to driving the bottom line. They are being honest with themselves, so what they do is they try and wedge their way into these rooms or conversations where they can utilize, force or fake the authority.

What I have learned is the people who are the ones who did the name-dropping the most were the ones who got fired first in recessions. The people who were walking around and talking about these initiatives. The reason they are name-dropping is that they can’t put a compelling enough argument together themselves and sell it down the channel.

What they do is they say, “The CEO said this, trust me. I’m getting it from God,” instead of, “The company’s mission is this. This is how I interpret the vision and how this has been beneficial to us. This is how we can rally around it, and we can accomplish this and stand out.” That is leadership versus trying to force things down to people’s throats. What you realize in a lot of instances is people are smart. They might be gullible a time or two.

When you “fake it ‘til you make it” you miss the truth that gives you the chance to actually grow and get better. Click To Tweet

As my dad taught me, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” You hear this from somebody you take the initiative, it doesn’t land the way you thought it did, and this person telling you this is directly from the CEO, you start to doubt them because they don’t have any authority, so you start finding people who do.

I will take one when I start with NVR. I was with our mortgage company and my job was to convince the home building operations that they wanted as much of their business with my mortgage company as possible. We called that capture rate. What percentage of new home sales was coming to our captive mortgage company? When I first started, I found myself a little bit because a lot of guys weren’t on board. I found myself name-dropping a bit.

Sometimes a Division Manager might look at me and be like, “Why would I want my business with you?” At the time, we weren’t doing a great job. I would be like, “I was hired by the CEO because he wants capture rate higher. It’s more profitable.” He has been very clear. I would say his name, Paul Saville. I would say it over and over. I was in a meeting where we were talking about this. It’s not a topic and not on his agenda. I had to do that early because I hadn’t fixed the business.

At first, it was like a, “Because we said so.” If I would have done that for ten years straight, I would have been fired. They would have had me out like, “This guy, all he ever does is say someone else says I have to do it.” Over time, that persuasiveness turned into, “Why do you want your business with us?” It is because we are better than everyone else and we close our homes on time.

When we give you approval, it’s worth it because we make applications faster, your reps like us, and we will eat a point of revenue to get your deal close. That’s why and we had to do all those things. Over time I quit saying, “It’s because Paul Seville or the CEO said so.” I switched to, “This is what’s in it for you.” I did it a little at first because it served me but I knew I couldn’t do it long or I would have flamed out.

Putting it differently, when you came in, you didn’t fully understand the vision or the mission. You were being told what to do. You didn’t know how to sell it yet. You didn’t understand the true benefits of it. You didn’t understand everything, “This is what I’m being told. I’m going to drop the names because I needed you to shut up and listen to me.” At first, you were manipulating somebody else’s agenda, so you name-dropped but what happened is it didn’t become someone else’s agenda. It became your agenda.

LMSM 58 | Name Dropping

Name Dropping: If a manager has to always say, “‘cause Frank said so” they don’t have the respect of their team. They’re trying to buy their respect.

When you owned it and it became something that you believed in, you no longer need the drop names because everybody knew you knew what you were doing, where you are coming from, you could be quizzed or questioned. In my line of work, dropping names doesn’t happen a lot. Ian asked me if I’ve got dropping names.

When I meet with the mayor or with city council people, does it matter? I meet with some pretty rich investors. Do you use the names? The answer is very rarely. I will tell a couple of people or tell stories about how the mayor candidates will text or call me from time to time because I’ve gotten to a point but it’s not a tradable currency. What is a tradable currency is proof sourcing or social proof.

Ian and I raised money and we talked about other people who are in the deal. When he and I talk about deals that we are doing, we might drop, “We are doing this with so-and-so.” The other thing I do is help run a very large and successful mastermind group. What I talk about to vendors, suppliers, subcontractors, and clients, I drop my network in a way that leads them to believe I know what I’m doing.

I don’t use specific names or call-outs but what I will talk about is I know this because I’m incredibly well networked nationally. I have seen this in San Diego, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. I have the proof source, the data to back it, and my own opinions to further the argument. Let me banter about a cool name. That’s proof sourcing versus name-dropping. If you get the proof sourcing, to me, that’s when you get through a different point in your career.

I think there are times where name-dropping is important to let people know that you are in a certain circle and that you are working on something. I will take probably the biggest name that I have been involved within a couple of years, Shaquille O’Neal. We did a podcast episode because it’s interesting. It’s frigging weird that I’m in Virginia and I’m now in Atlanta with Shaq having drinks and talking to him.

I don’t talk about Shaq all the time because it would be embellishing the relationship. I had one great meeting with them for two hours. It took me six months to get it, and it’s going to take us six more months to get back into that dude’s calendar because he’s busy, and I am not terribly important to him. 

You’re going to get further faster with honesty. Click To Tweet

I don’t see how it would serve our company or me by trying to embellish that like, “Shaq is my boy and we are talking all the time.” If we would have brought a camera crew and taken two hours of B-roll, and I spent the next six months posting one-minute snippets of it to embellish the fact that I’m always with Shaq, that wouldn’t serve me. That’s not real.

It’s going to get you internet fame. The name-dropper of the ‘90s sounds like an Instagram person of the 2020s. It’s the person who’s taking a picture with a toilet bowl or seat next to their head, so it looks like they are flying somewhere incredible when they are standing somewhere behind a fake backdrop behind them. When I’ve got into this line of work, there were two things people said to me all the time. I already had pretty good credentials and chops, but I stopped that and I was on my own.

I no longer work for a company. I had to build my own momentum. People would say fire, ready, aim or fake it until you make it, over and over. I bought into it for a little bit but what I realized is I don’t want to fake it until I make it. I want to be honest and understand what I’m not doing. When I fake it until I make it, I miss the truth that gives me the chance to grow, to get better, and to say, “I suck at this,” and someone goes, “I used to suck at it. Can I help you?” Those are things you miss when you fake it until you make it.

When you can own up to that honesty piece and you can put it in a way that gives you, you are going to get further and faster with honesty, in my opinion. You can use these things to sell an agenda. You can use it to prop yourself up but if it’s the only thing you are good at, the only thing you use over time, it’s going to fly.

You can’t overuse it and the context matters. I’m going to stick on Shaq because when we did our presentation for TechCrunch, we had a slide at the end that said something like, “Shaq owns 40 cars and wants to buy the first 40. You could be the 41st.” The more we did it, the more we couldn’t make it seem natural. It felt forced, and people would be like, “Why the hell do they bring up Shaq for this? That’s the weirdest thing.” David found a way to bring it up in Q&A that was smart.

Someone asked, “Can you get that thing out of the cup holder?” David said, “Shaq lives in Atlanta and we met with him to talk about this. He could get it out of the cupholder. He’s got really strong hands. Most humans could.” It was subtle. I thought it did the trick. It answered the question like, “If you have a hand like Shaq, you are getting it out.” He name-dropped a little bit but it fit the context, whereas we took the one slide out where it felt like, “We are trying to show off that we know Shaq.” He did it subtly and it did the trick, I thought.

Name Dropping: If they had to drop your name, something’s wrong in the team dynamic between the manager and the people who report to them.

This is what David did. To get into TechCrunch, 20,000 companies want to get in. They pick twenty. To get into TechCrunch, you have to boil down your entire pitch in six minutes, not including Q&A. What he did is he found his best stuff. His best stuff had nothing to do with imposter syndrome and what you are not creating your intellectual property. When you are competing at that high of a level, you don’t get that high if you are faking it.

What he did was really smart. He name-dropped Shaq in a way that was social proof, not as an arrogant kid trying to fake something to get liked by others. It was strategic and smart. What we want to dive into here is that. Use it to your advantage when there is an advantage to be made or gained, not out of vanity because it won’t get you anywhere if you use it for that.

Social proof is so critical when it comes to selling and persuasion. I believe it’s one of the most powerful forces in sales and marketing. If you and I are raising money, it’s not name-dropping because most people want to know who else is in this deal. Are you guys in this deal? Are you putting your own money in? Who else is in it? I will share with other people that are in the deal as long as they are comfortable with it because they are going to see it anyway. When the cap table comes out, they are going to see who bought what and how many shares they’ve got. I will tell people so-and-so is in it.

That’s an effective way of making them feel comfortable because my job is to make them feel comfortable to put it in, and it’s the same in sales. Social proof is not as that. That is one time where I think name-dropping makes sense and doesn’t feel forced. I saw people doing this sometimes where they would embellish things that happened when they were in the room with me.

Someone would say like, “Ian said and did this, and he wants us to do this.” They were doing it too much, and if I caught them doing it where someone else would tell me, “I was with Kim and she said you said this.” I would be like, “That meeting didn’t even happen.” Something is going on under where they don’t feel like they have authority or respect from their team.

If they always have to say, “Corporate said or this is Frank’s dictate,” even in your company if a manager has to always say, “Because Frank said so,” they don’t have the respect of their team. They are trying to buy your respect so they are mooching off of you. If you were to see that, I would hope you will go to him and say, “Why are you always saying Frank said? You are the boss. Do you feel like you don’t have the authority or power to make decisions? Don’t say my name anymore. Say you believe it because it’s the best thing for the company and customers.” Help those subordinates feel empowered that they don’t have to drop your name because if they had to drop your name, something is wrong in the team dynamic between the manager and the people who report to them.

Use name-dropping to your advantage when there is a good advantage to be gained, not just out of vanity. Click To Tweet

The last thing is this. If you get to a place where you are in incredibly cool rooms, realize you weren’t always in, and most of the people there can’t relate to it. I can tell you stories about being in the room with the mayor. You don’t care. The CEO of our company was an owner of a professional football team. He would always drop what it was like to hang out with the coach or the other owner, and this guy was a big Republican donor or the president. He goes, “Do you know how W is?” It’s like, “I don’t. I have absolutely no understanding of that.”

You can do it in a way that’s aloof and turning people off or you could say, “The president told me that was so cool that you might like,” and tell a cool story. That makes you part of the group and not an outsider. I think this is a powerful thing and properly wielded. I want to get corrected on my diction and vocabulary properly wielded. You could use it to your advantage but done improperly, you are going to find yourself on the outside looking in because people will know you are a fraud.

That’s a great one. Our Chairman who is a part-Owner of the Redskins also could use it in ways that were incredibly disarming and great icebreakers because most of the people he was in front of Redskins fan so they would be like, “What do you think of the new first round?” I remember one time he asked about, “What do you think our new first-round pick?” It was LaVar Arrington.

He’s like, “He’s a great kid. You are going to love him. His smile lights up the room. He was talking about his neck. His neck goes from shoulder to shoulder as his grip.” All of us were transfixed, staring at him like, “Tell us more.” Those are good moments to do it but you are right. He would have other times where it could turn you off a little because you didn’t feel like you related to it.

It’s almost an acceptance thing like people have to be interested enough for you to be in that name-dropping mode if you are in a room like that. That’s a perfect example. One thing I’m not going to quit doing is dropping your name when I’m around because it gives me a little bit different respect. I can see the way people look at me a little more when I say I was talking to Frank Cava and they were like, “You are in a circle. You have made it that you are hanging out with that guy with the DV and that gray-looking beard.” If you have been name-dropping Ian Matthews and Frank Cava, we want a 5 out of 5 on Apple Podcasts. Give us that survey. Don’t just name-drop us. Name-drop us in the comments, so we know who said it. We love all of you. Frankie, it’s great hanging out with you.


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