“The better we understand each other, the better we all are in moving forward in our lives.” – Tamer Elnoury
I was honored to speak with Tamer Elnoury, New York Times Bestselling Author. Tamer started his law enforcement career as an undercover narcotics cop and transitioned into an FBI undercover counterterrorism agent following 9/11. Because of this work, he’s developed a thorough understanding of the human condition and what makes for a genuine connection.
With his unique perspective and background in dealing with heinous people and events, Tamer has much to contribute to the improvement of business operations and how we connect.
When we think about undercover work, the first images that come to us may be from fictional depictions in shows and films—fake mustaches, overdone accents, pulling weapons from hidden places in the nick of time.
Reality is much more nuanced and a whole lot more complex. “The best part of my job was the psychological part.” Tamer shares, “Doing long-term undercover work well requires real human connection. You can't fake it, because I'm not an actor.”
Tamer had no intention of selling poison, committing devious crimes, or any such thing—but the human connection had to be real. “You had to find a way to connect with their humanity and not what they were doing or trying to do. Otherwise, it would never work.” Tamer shares, “And that's the part that I fell in love with, was getting into the minds of my subjects and finding a way to connect with them on a human level.”
Those experiences equipped Tamer with the philosophy he uses in his keynotes and is the core of how he helps corporations connect with their customers and employees.
“Whether they sell a service or a product, you can always find ways to connect with your consumers better.” he explains, “The blueprint for making human connections starts from all my years of experience. And the keynote speech that I give is called `Making Radical Connections.’”
Tamer tells a story highlighting a deep-cover counterterrorism operation that lasted over three and a half years. Through examples of his preparation for that operation and how he was able to connect with a deeply disturbed person, he outlines an extreme example of how human connection impacts results.
“If I can connect with someone that evil, then we all can connect with each other to better our personal and professional lives.” he continues, “It's crucial that we all connect with each other, your co-workers, your supervisors, your subordinates, your friends, or your customers and your consumers, the better we understand each other, the better we all are in moving forward in our lives.”
Tamer’s journey as an undercover operative started with a tunnel-vision-based method, driven by making sure he wasn’t discovered—he would quickly learn that was not the correct approach.
“I never looked at things or prepared the right way. It wasn't until I dove headfirst into the drug world, and studied drug dealers and the drug trade through the eyes of dealers and sellers, that I was able to shed all my preconceived notions and biases of this world and see it from a whole new perspective. From their perspective.” Tamer explains.
That revelation is another crucial element of his recent roles in executive management for law enforcement. “I don't guide and direct like a dictator. I listen. My job, and I teach all my supervisors below me, your job is to clear obstacles from your subordinate's paths so that they can be successful.” Tamer points out.
The best way to do that is by understanding and putting yourself in your team member's shoes. What are they trying to accomplish? Strive to see the world through their eyes.
“One of the greatest traits of a leader isn't one that just expects everyone to follow him or her, it's an individual that can understand what his or her people are trying to accomplish, and put them in a position to succeed. That's what makes a good leader.” Tamer shares.
We might not be struggling through a highly stressful report after a day spent with drug dealers or terrorists, missing out on sleep, and consistently pushing ourselves past the brink of understanding—even so, the importance of self-care and self-regulation stays the same.
“No matter what job you're doing, taking care of yourself results in a better work product.” Tamer points out, “Sometimes the worker may not know his or her limitations. And it’s on the supervisors to help them understand that and to make sure they give them a path for success.”
Part of that self-care is setting ourselves up for success not only regarding sleep and proper nutrition but when it pertains to relationships. “I can't think of a job or a career or a skill set in life that doesn't require human connections.” Tamer shares.
We can cultivate that connection—and with it, an improved performance—by being intentional through our conversations and taking time to engage with others.
“It's imperative for you to go out of your way to have these day-to-day conversations because you'd be surprised how much you're missing.” Tamer explains.
How can you deepen a connection this week? When was the last time you went out of your way to connect with a team member or even the barista at your favorite coffee shop?