A 'lovecat' calls for compassion in the cubicles

Nice smart people succeed.

So says Yahoo! executive and self-proclaimed "lovecat" Tim Sanders, author of "Love is the Killer App."

A killer app, in dotcom jargon, is a great new idea - or application - that becomes so popular it transforms or destroys the original business model.

And according to Mr. Sanders, an energetic, sideburn-wearing, dotcom veteran, the killer app that will change today's corporate culture - and help its proponents win business and influence friends - is love.

Despite the new-age touch to his philosophy - and the evangelical zeal with which he promotes it - Sanders's brand of "bizlove" is grounded in solid, practical steps.

The way he sums it up: "sensibly sharing your intangibles - your knowledge, your network, your compassion."

Sanders encourages people to step up and passionately develop and share all three.

"If you're confident in yourself, [certain] that you rock 'n' roll, then you can be a lovecat," he says. "Be a grower of people," he adds, and more tangible success will follow.

On his own motivation:

"I feel like Martin Luther nailing a note on the church door. When we did this book it was for a few thousand people that I call 'lovecats,' [people] I met in my business life. I really wrote the book so that people out there would know that there's somebody else who thinks the same thoughts they do, and they do not have to be ashamed to be nice, and smart, in business.

"Now that the book is out, I get 100 e-mails a day. I used to think when I got a response it would be people saying, 'I used to be a cynical jerk, but now I read your book and I'm an optimist.' That's not what I'm getting. The e-mail I get is, "You have put into words what I've been trying to tell my friends for decades."

On the power of compassion:

"It's a very contagious thing.... When [psychologist and author Abraham] Maslow carefully pointed out to me that people are good, and when they do bad things it's because they're coping with unfulfilled needs, I was a different manager overnight. I was a different employee overnight. I stopped saying, 'buyers are liars,' 'my boss is a jerk,' 'the employees will abuse you.' And I said, 'So, what is my boss going through?'

"It helped me understand."

On his hopes for the book:

"I hope I provoke a conversation in the cubicles of America where other voices like [mine] rise up to say the system is wrong.... I'm saying, 'You don't have to make work impersonal. You don't have to distrust people. You don't have to live cynically.' People like to [possess] youth, and a lot of this book is about becoming young again.

On the people it will reach:

"This book resonates the most with people that are predisposed. People who say, 'I live in a world of abundance. I think people are good.'

"Those are the people this book will resonate with, and what it does is structure it for them. It says 'OK, now that you want to be a knowledge-sharing person, here's how to buy books, here's how to read them, here's how to think about them, here's how to use them.' I do the same thing on network [and] on compassion."

On choosing models:

"Close your eyes and ... think of the three business people you most respect, you most admire, and you would be proud for your son to grow up and be.

"It will not be [fictional Wall Street villain] Gordon Gecko. It will be: 'I want that person to be [Southwest Airlines CEO] Herb Kelleher. I want that person to be [Body Shop founder] Anita Roddick.' They're going to go through a list of ... smart people who have been known to be generous."

On 'tough love':

"You can be tough. [Former General Electric chief] Jack Welch is a lovecat. He's what I call a tough love- cat. He takes care of the business, but he is a grower of people. Ask Jack Welch what he is most proud of in his career - I've heard this. Not the stock. Not the return on investment. What is he happy about? About those thousands of managers that he's brought along. I'm not talking about sacrificing. I'm talking about sharing."

On changing a company:

"I've seen [change] happen at a couple of old-world companies that I know of. I've seen a [corporate culture] revolution occur from the inside of Walgreens in the past five years, where it's almost bubbled up like a proletariat revolution.... And if it happens from the top and pushes down, the bottom is so receptive to a superior way of life, it just happens faster."

On receptivity in a still-shaky economy:

"When times are tough, people are searching for answers, and when it's hard to put food on the table, you search for meaning. So in a down economy, I think people become less [materialistic], which makes it easier for them to take on softer ideas. I found people are much more receptive. I think it's actually easier than when I wrote the book."

On how using the approach launched him:

"The first person who really started everything for me was another sales representative at Broadcast.com named Kyle Smith. He asked me for help because he had a deal with a huge company called World Color. I thought, 'Wow, he asked me for my help, I'm going to share my knowledge.' So I spent 20 percent of my time, without getting any commission or dollars, working on this account.

"Later on, Kyle decides [I've] got to meet this account's biggest customer, who's [author and management guru] Tom Peters. So then I meet Tom Peters, and ... I develop that relationship. And Kyle says, 'You've got to meet this speaker's bureau,' which led me to Jan Miller, my agent.

"Everything comes from Kyle. And if I had just said, 'Look, I've got business to do, you're going to have to take care of yourself,' I would [still] just be a sales rep somewhere."

On responding to skeptics:

"[I tell them], 'So what you're telling me is, it's a dog-eat-dog world?' And they say, 'Sure.' And I say, 'Do you want to know what my strategy is? In a dog-eat-dog world, I choose to be a cat. Have you ever seen a dog try to catch a cat?' And I've also never seen a cat on a chain. Bad guys will still win in business. But my point is that it's not 'lions: 35; Christians: 0.' In the business world it's like 'lions: 17, Christians: 17.' And if it's a tie score, why would you take the low road?"

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