Lion Taming: Working Successfully with Leaders, Bosses and Other Tough Customers

Lion Taming: Working Successfully with Leaders, Bosses and Other Tough Customers

by Steve Katz

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"This original, innovative and memorable book that will give you insights on how to work with leaders and executives."—John Glenn, United States Senator and former astronaut

Do you feel that you need a whip and a chair to work effectively with your boss, client, customers, or others? You know the dangers—a growl if you throw them a compliment and a roar if you ever look for thanks!

Lions are the people in all organizations who wield power and influence. They act differently because they think differently. But that doesn't mean that they have to be difficulty to work with! Lion Taming will help you get inside their minds, so you can communicate and work more effectively together.

Based on in-depth interviews and research into real lion tamers as well as the experiences of numerous people at all levels of the workplace, Steven L Katz shows how the secrets of the center ring can lead to a great performance in the office.

Prey, the Enemy or Ignored: Lions make an instinctive calculation the minute any living thing comes into view: You are either prey, the enemy, or ignored. Lion Taming shows you how to avoid all three of these and earn a place in the pride.

The Lion's Four Senses: Every lion in the workplace views things through four senses: Dominance, Territory, Social Standing, and Survival. Understanding these senses, and how to make use of them, will give you a leg up in working with your lion.

Sticking Your Head in the Lion's Mouth: Lion Taming shows you how people stick their heads into the lion's mouth in the office, why it shouldn't be done, and how to avoid it yourself.

Lion Taming Is Really Lion Teaming!: Ultimately, the purpose of lion taming is not just to survive. Lion tamers and lions work together to achieve something that neither could achieve alone. Together, you can leap through the hoop of fire!

Lion Taming also contains more than 75 secrets of the lions tamers and numerous strategies for working with the lions in your workplace, such as:

  • Approaching the lions so the lions will approach you
  • Closing the gap between attention getting and attention using
  • Establishing trust and rapport
  • Building the Lion Team in your office!

Lion Taming is the ultimate guide to everyone's "real"job: working successfully and achieving results with leaders, bosses, and other tough customers!


  • Establish your presence, authenticity and credibility in the eyes of leaders, bosses, and other tough customers
  • Identify the lions around you, and separate the good ones from the bad ones
  • Get inside the lion's skull by learning about The Lion's Four Senses and The Lion's Instinctive Identity
  • Decode the lion's social worlds: the hierarchy and the pride
  • Avoid being the prey, enemy or ignored, and become a very influential member of the pride or organization!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402234590
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Steven L. Katz has worked for more than twenty years as a right-hand executive and senior advisor to leaders and executives across the worlds of business, politics, government and non-profit organizations. From Capitol Hill and the White House to boardrooms, clients, and customers, the author has developed the art of lion taming and added it to the lexicon of leadership and the workplace. Steven L. Katz has degrees in anthropology, history, and law. He lives with his family outside Washington, D.C. For more information go to

Read an Excerpt

How to Handle a Difficult Person in the Workplace

Excerpted from Lion Taming by Steven L. Katz © 2004

Secrets of the Lion Tamers
The number of accidents suffered is in direct proportion to the lion tamer's attentiveness.

Are you ready to take a step or two in the lion tamer's shoes? Can you begin to change your self-perception and self-image to that of a lion tamer and identify those around you who are the lions? This is one part of the lion tamer's approach that you can adopt quickly. You do not have to tell anyone you are doing it. It is your decision. You are merely adding another professional dimension to the way you think while you are at work, not overtly changing it. However, you will see that it does change your job because of your approach, the response, and the results. It is not role playing. Your personality and that of the people who are the lions will come out. The metaphor of lion taming has a way of helping because you can already visualize it in your mind, gaining the intellectual distance you now need.

How do you do it? As we will begin to see, many of the lessons and experiences of the lion tamers apply directly to the steps we all need to follow in the workplace.

Lessons of the Lion Tamers
Lions May Have Your Full Attention, But It's Not Easy Keeping Theirs
Evidence that lion tamers possess unique wisdom lies in their ability to distill knowledge from every bead of sweat earned in the ring. Kevin Patton trained lions and then acquired his own formal graduate education in biology. Perhaps only a college professor who trained as a lion tamer could be so succinct, precise, and accurate in describing the ways in which working with lions and people in the workplace are parallel experiences:

"Choose your battles. Know the difference between when it is vital to have the lion's attention and when it is just convenient. If you see every situation as vital, all your energy will be spent on 'attention getting' and both the lion tamer and the lion will burn out quickly. Lions are not going to simply be soldiers on parade for you. Work on the steps essential to achieving goals and leaping through the true hoops of fire in the arena!"

"Animal Instinct in Reverse"
Just like real lion tamers, you must have the intuition to react faster than the speed of thought to handle a variety of situations and characteristics. "Animal instinct in reverse" is what lion tamer Dave Hoover has called it. You use all of your senses-visual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and psychological-just as you would in building any relationship. But in working with lions, there is less room for error. Get your points across quickly, but if you do not talk to them they will assume that you have nothing to say. Lion taming requires a highly focused, disciplined, and self-aware approach. You must be in control of yourself to a greater degree than you are ever in control of the lion. The footwork can be intricate, the setting dynamic. Keep in mind that you must achieve this from up close, from where the lion can smell you and reach you!

You can't fake it. The lion's own instincts and split-second reactions are at work. You must stand your ground without causing them to flee, bluster, or attack. You must do so consistently and repeatedly. Just as in the wild, whether we see a lion standing still or on the move, we know that they have the capacity to change reality, to restructure the social order-sometimes permanently. They know it too. As any lion tamer will tell you: Lions are never tame. You need strategies to deal with that.

Lions Like to Use Their Strength

Secrets of the Lion Tamers
Lions look for opportunities to test.

Lion tamers in the workplace must be sensitive to how the lions handle groups of people in whose eyes they want to establish that they are the lion. This is continually part of the lion's focus. Lions are distracting in a very powerful way, and lion tamers both in the center ring and in the workplace can lose their focus. Sometime even the most skilled and practiced real lion tamers can face trouble. When things are going well with the lions, it is possible to forget how changes in the atmosphere, setting, or others around them instinctively change the lions' outlook and cause reactions much faster than a lion tamer can process what has happened.

Consider the common situation in the office when the lion tamer assumes that the one-on-one relationship that takes place in the privacy of the boss's office will prevail with the lion in public. As one executive commented on the president of his company: "He's great one-on-one, almost acts like a friend, but with a group of us he's a completely different person-watchful, chest out, ready but we're never sure for what!"

Even in working with some of the best bosses, the truly good lions, the difference between working one-to-one compared to being in a group can lead to misinterpretation, misjudging, and falling into a deep and invisible crevice-the equivalent of the lion's jaws. As soon as others are involved, both the lions in the steel-caged arena and in the workplace shift into hierarchical high gear. You and everyone else are a potential challenger to their reign. This extends to the lion's other interests related to their status and prerogatives.

In the workplace, not all the vulnerabilities are created by the lions. Sometimes we create the vulnerability and the lion pounces! Unfortunately, things can go terribly wrong even if the lion tamer is someone who possesses an in-depth catalog of information, experience, risks, and strategies in their minds. Even such highly skilled people are capable of misjudging the lion as "tame." For that reason, so many real lion tamers who are injured are often heard commenting, even as they are carried off on the stretcher, "It is a good animal. It wasn't the lion's fault, it was mine."

Lessons of the Lion Tamers
"Nero's Crush"
Even some of the most experienced lion tamers, such as Clyde Beatty, have unintentionally landed in harm's way. Beatty's favorite lion for many years was a large male named Nero. When Beatty and Nero were alone in the arena, Beatty could get as close as he wanted to, even "riding" the lion around the ring. However, as soon as Nero was part of a lion group, his senses of dominance, hierarchy, and other natural lion desires kicked in, including sexual dominance-a known and very serious hazard in lion taming.

Unfortunately, Beatty was not aware that Nero had developed a crush on one of the lionesses, and Beatty innocently stood too close to the object of Nero's passion. In what became a famous attack that almost ended Beatty's career, Nero instantly leapt down from the top seat in a fit of jealous rage, tearing into Beatty and almost ripping his midsection apart. Beatty lived, returning to the arena after a long recovery. He even reenacted the attack for a scene in the movie The Big Cage.

What lessons can we learn from this story? We must be aware of our own learned behavior so we can anticipate the behavior of the lions in the workplace and respond properly. This includes whether the lion is standing still, saying something, or heading for the door. The ironies abound: just when the lions seem to be a paragon of strength and ferocity, they can also display a sense of raw hurt, pain, or anger. You have to listen carefully to even the loudest roar to make the right interpretation!

Lions Need to Roar

Secrets of the Lion Tamers
The quiet ones may take the most handling; the roaring ones are often not so bad.

Lions in the wild and workplace like to roar. We have all heard it, but we do not always interpret it for what it means in lion language. The volume is unmistakable, but the meaning is not always clear. Sometimes its very nature and the related emotions even prevent us from listening. Where does that leave us, and what are some of the best ways to react?

Understanding what the lions are really saying goes a long way toward providing the knowledge of how or whether to answer back. When people in the office roar, are they hurt or angry? Are they hungry or getting excited? Are they attacking to kill, as it seems, or merely roaring as a reaction to even the simplest thing-at the unexpected, or at someone encroaching into their space or their "turf"? Are you the target or merely the nearest set of ears?

Take, for example, the company president who acknowledged economic pressures that might slow the company's growth, but ignored the advice of his financial executives and business strategists to refocus the company, significantly reduce the number of employees, and close most of the sales offices. Their advice was to shift from being "the cutting-edge company that keeps its customers out front" to a more targeted market with a few solid products that "gives its customers staying power in tough times." The president roared at every idea, lashing out, threatening to "begin the downsizing right here!"

What should the executives have done?
(a) Do nothing;
(b) Hurt the company president back;
(c) Go around his back and prove he was wrong.

You have probably witnessed all three happening, but the correct answer, for the moment, is (a) Do nothing. Let him roar-he's a lion! It is at that very moment that the communication is really beginning, not ending as some people believe. Even if you have to let the lion cool down or give both the lion and the subject a rest, you have captured their attention. Don't let the matter die! They know there is a problem. That is one of the first things that lion tamers learn to listen for. Stay close enough to sense what the lions are reacting to, what are they telling you. If the roaring made you stop listening, walk away, and never come back, then you are not doing your job as a lion tamer.

Secrets of the Lion Tamers
They like the sound of their own voices.

Real lions roar to communicate-roaring a deep resonant sound on a regular basis to strengthen their communal bonds. Their roar is perhaps most deep when they want to mark their territory, keeping the interlopers out while helping stray members of the pride find their way back. They roar to make sure their own reign is recognized, all the way to the boundaries of the kingdom and beyond.

Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., home to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, is a veritable island of lions. Hundreds vie every day to rule a far-away land. They roar day in and day out on the floor of the House and Senate, in the lions' dens of offices, and in committee and subcommittee rooms stacked one on top of each other. Press releases and statements fly left and right as the lions in Congress declare their territory-show interest, take credit, preserve, protect, or destroy.

In the workplace, the lion's roar manifests itself in many ways. Consider the senior manager who likes nothing more than talking on the speaker phone with his door wide open. Or the boss or CEO who likes to spontaneously call people on the organization's staff-at all levels of the "org chart"-at home, just because he or she can. Or the new boss who requires everyone to read a favorite "best selling" management book. Other lion's roarings are heard, seen, and read about every day: companies staking out markets, politicians and other leaders establishing their cause. The press release is the megaphone for roaring. From individuals to companies and organizations-is the roar for real? Is it bluff and bluster to keep others away or is there a true capability and commitment?

The "Reorg Roar"
People and organizations roar in order to stake out their territories all the time. Many people throughout companies and organizations feel the roaring as the leaders and executives try to govern and manage. It is not always obvious what is going on. Even experienced managers and executives have lost valuable time before recognizing that they are dealing with a lion-a roaring lion. In fact, not too different from the lions in the wild who take over a pride and territory, one of the first things any new leader or boss in a company or organization does is begin change the social order to their liking.

Consider the case of the vice president who successfully led and managed a large division of a well-known international company. That is, until a new senior executive arrived and decided that nothing was right: responsibilities, turf, positions, divisions, and technology. Morale dropped, projects drifted, and growth stalled, and it was everyone else's problem except the new boss.

As a new reorganization plan takes shape, the lion's territorial roar will echo through every hallway, phone call, and email-and back again to the lion's ears. Sometimes it begins subtly in a roar that builds with a rumbling sound, other times it is a forceful swipe of a claw or even produces a bigger fight.

The vice president was consumed by the internal turmoil of the reorganization. His meetings with his new boss were even more tumultuous as he tried to explain the impact of the restructuring and identify past successes that may be jeopardized. Many lion-like traits were apparent. But one in particular-the lion's roar, in this case the territorial roar-finally sparked the realization for the vice president that he really was dealing with a lion.

In this case, the realization in the mind of the vice president that he was also dealing with a lion meant one thing: you don't realize that you are a lion tamer in the office until you have to say "no" to the lion! However, the challenge that he found himself facing also provided opportunities. The vice president needed to achieve several objectives at once-
goals that began to define him as a lion tamer to the lion he recognized sitting at his boss's desk. He was one of the few people with regular access to the new boss. So he realized that there was a mutual need between them, and did not have to be negative when saying "no."

Table of Contents


Part One: Lions Are Never Tame
Chapter One: Lions Are Never Tame
Chapter Two: Getting inside the Lion's Skull
Chapter Three: At the Top of the Food Chain
Chapter Four: Bringing Out the Lion Tamer in You

Part Two: The Art of Lion Taming
Chapter Five: The Art of Lion Taming
Chapter Six: Courage, the Whip, and the Chair
Chapter Seven: The Lion's Pedestal
Chapter Eight: Sticking Your Head in the Lion's Mouth
Chapter Nine: Lion Taming In Action: A Case Study

Part Three: Lion Taming Is Really Lion Teaming
Chapter Ten: Lion Taming Is Really Lion Teaming
Chapter Eleven: Bringing Out the Lion Teamer In You!
Chapter Twelve: Performing in the Center Ring
Chapter Thirteen: Building the Lion's Team

Conclusion: Take Your Bow

Summary of Secrets of the Lion Tamers
About the Author

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