It's not just who you know, but who knows you know them

Game of Thrones' Lord Varys. Photo: HBO
Game of Thrones' Lord Varys. Photo: HBO


The central theme of the TV show Game of Thrones has dominated NSW politics for the last week and is summed up by the oily eunuch Varys: "Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

In the case of Macquarie Street, the very large shadow is Nick Di Girolamo, the "king-slayer" who dethroned Premier Barry O'Farrell.

Paul Sheehan yesterday quoted a Liberal party insider describing Di Girolamo, as "a name-dropping spiv", yet he was one who managed to ingratiate himself into the highest levels of NSW politics.

My guess is Di Girolamo is the classic watching-over-your-shoulder-to-see-who-else-is-in-the-room-type. He's your best mate until somebody more connected or senior steps up to the bar and that's the last you'll see of him.

Nick Di Girolamo after giving evidence at ICAC, the day Barry O'Farrell resigned. Photo: James Brickwood

Nick Di Girolamo after giving evidence at ICAC, the day Barry O'Farrell resigned. Photo: James Brickwood

This might be a blessing in disguise - you don't have to buy him a beer - but it still doesn't explain how people like Di Girolamo ooze their way into favour.

As has been extensively reported, Di Girolamo was spruiked by some of the most powerful men in the state as "our replacement board member" despite having a resume that seemed to consist of simply being a lawyer and eating at good restaurants.

In this respect, Di Girolamo is ahead of 95 per cent of us because he understands the nature of politics - whether in parliament or a palace - that what you do away from the "office" can often be as valuable as what you do while there.

This can be frustrating if you're a head-down, not-so-great-at-socialising personality.

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're one of the remaining 178 people in the country who've decided to actually go to work this week and not glue together the Easter and Anzac Day long weekends and thus pull a ten day, mid-year vacation out of their now sand-covered patootie.

Does that make you a sucker or next in line for promotion? In the scheme of things, does anyone even notice you're first in and last out of the office? Or are you better off turning up to work drinks every week to "get your face seen"? 

Again, this is thing the Di Girolamos of the world understand and it's why employers are so enthusiastic about "off-sites". Out of the office, you're much more likely to "open the window" and be the real you, make connections with colleagues, and form authentic relationships.

You're also much more likely to do favours and go the extra mile for people you share interests and experiences with - even something as prosaic as backing the same football team - like O'Farrell and Di Girolamo, who both are mad for Wests-Tigers.

Politics is all about relationships and in business, particularly as you reach the higher rungs of management, the relationships you forge are paramount.

Of course, the next best to thing to actually having these relationships is projecting them, like a shadow on the wall, which is why "name-dropping spivs" can be so effective, particularly in the paranoid, game of thrones that is politics. 

Pretending you have power can often be as effective as actually having it. Di Girolamo understood this implicitly: it's not just who you know, but who knows you know them.


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