The Tasmanian Devil Effect

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There are many pretenders out there – folks who lack the character or discipline to follow through on what they say they are going to do. At times we get caught up in their flair and flamboyance, which becomes a smoke screen that hides what they are truly about. I like to refer to this as the Tasmanian Devil Effect. You know, the cartoon character that appears in Looney Tunes segments (Bugs Bunny being the top dog, um… rabbit). I refer to it this way because Taz spins so fast, creating a tornado-like cloud of dust that shimmers and catches your attention as he whizzes by, but when he stops and the dust settles, you realize it’s just a myopic creature with selfish intentions. 

I admit, I have been duped a few times by folks who appear to have substance and honor, only to learn as time goes by and the dust settles that it’s all a facade to mask their hidden agenda or inadequacies. So don’t beat yourself up for falling into the trap, it happens to the best of us. Instead, learn from the experience in two ways: First, note the traits of the pretenders, and second, make damn sure you are not one of them. 

Not being a poser is easy; do what you say you are going to do. That’s pretty much it. If you tell someone you are going to do something, then make sure you do it at all costs (time, effort and money). Your word is your bond and should be more valuable and enforceable than any legal document. Of course, there are ways to rationalize and wiggle your way out of your commitments. And you can even get support from others to back up your excuses. But the fact of the matter is that the only one you are fooling is yourself. Don’t. You want to be able to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and like what you see. Don’t succumb to the crowd’s mentality. Hold yourself to a higher standard and treat “honor” as it should be, and not what others try to morph it into. Do what you say you are going to do. Period. 

For some, it is not easy to identify a Tasmanian Devil, and you could get sucked into their vortex; here are a few tips to help you recognize the pretenders among us. 

  1. When a person nods their head and says “yes” to everything you say. I don’t care how brilliant you are, there must be something they disagree with. They are playing you and trying to reel you into believing they are loyal. Also, another telltale sign is when they laugh at every one of your so-called witty comments. Sorry, you’re not that funny.
  2. When someone always tells you they can do anything, no matter what it is, and never once suggests that they may not be the ideal person for a particular assignment. This is something that should make you suspect. In and of itself, this is not an indicator, but it’s definitely something to watch.
  3. After someone states they will do something, and there are delays in completing the task, or lack of communication in the process. When someone is sincere, they typically will keep you informed on their progress. Also, not fully completing what they committed to is like spiking the ball at the five yard line.
  4. The first time that someone says, “No problem, on it right away” but does not come through should raise a red flag. Of course, multiple infractions are a dead give away, but notice how the mission is accepted. That is the key to identifying someone who is thin on substance.
  5. Watch out when folks tell you one thing and do another. If it’s blatant – sure, that’s obvious. I’m taking about more subtle nuances that don’t seem so bad in and of themselves, but are indicators of the type of person you are trying to avoid.
  6. When folks say they are going to email, call, or meet you somewhere and then do not. People are busy and it happens, but watch out for trends. Also, pay attention to how they handle the transgression.
  7. When people exaggerate and stretch the truth. Especially when it comes to making them appear bigger and more connected than they are. This one is tough, because there are many egos out there and “ego” doesn’t necessarily equate to “pretender”. But, just because someone reads an article or a book on a subject doesn’t make them an expert. Don’t be fooled by propaganda, focus on substance.
  8. Be wary of people who are disorganized, unfocused and constantly accepting more and more commitments. When folks have too many balls in the air, it’s a good clue that they don’t care if a few drop.

These are just eight of the many indications you are experiencing the Tasmanian Devil Effect. None of these alone mean anything, but if you start noticing a few strung together, then it may be time to put that relationship at arm’s length.  You do not want to invest too much of yourself before the dust settles and it’s too late.


About Lou Imbriano

Chief Executive Officer at TrinityOne ( & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College's Carroll School of Management. Former Chief Marketing Officer of the New England Patriots & Chief Operating Officer of the New England Revolution. Click here to read Lou's full bio
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5 Responses to The Tasmanian Devil Effect

  1. Isaac Bearg says:


    Great list. I think one aspect to think about is also how you as the person evaluating a potential “Tasmanian Devil” respond to these folks. To put it more clearly: When someone questions or disagrees with you do you take those suggestions thoughtfully or simply find ways to reject their points?

    When someone says perhaps I’m not the best person for this job do you think less of them even when they are correct?

    If someone keeps you informed of their progress but its not going well do you immediately write them off or consider what you could have done to ensure better results?

    The type of person we are promotes the way others respond to us.

    • Lou Imbriano says:

      Thanks for your insight and perspective. People absolutely respond to the way you listen to and treat them. In my thoughts for The Tasmanian Devil Effect is that there are certain self absorbed folks that no matter how you treat them it really doesn’t matter. These are folks that have their own agenda regardless of any circumstances. These folks can not be handled or controlled, they just need to be identified and avoided. Unfortunately, they do exist.

  2. Holt Murray says:

    Great list; I tweeted this, but its telling that many of these are also indicative of a ‘pending’ sale that is not gonna happen. That pending is D.O.A.

    • Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Holt,

      I saw your tweet and tweeted you back (you probably have noticed that by now). I really like your twist on the concept and agree that it fits with the sales process in regards to those you are dealing with to close the deal. The good news to your perspective is once you identify which characteristic is delaying the close, you should be able to create a strategy to combat it. It may not always work, but there should be steps to take in order to prevent an automatic D.O.A.

      Thanks again for both the comments and the tweets.

      My best,

  3. Pingback: Are YOU The Real Deal? « Not an Expert Blog

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