Relational Intelligence at Work
on December 5, 2023
Hey, it’s Jeremie Kubicek here.
We’re excited to have you for this week’s edition of the Relational Intelligence at Work newsletter, where every Tuesday you’ll get an email straight to your inbox from myself or my business partner, Steve Cockram.
This newsletter's primary goal is to support you on your personal growth journey, and to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to excel as a leader.
With that being said, you’re in for a treat today with one of my craziest stories to date… a close call with the Russian mafia.
It was 1993.
I was 22 years old living in Moscow, Russia with some colleagues while we were building a business together.
In order to figure out the housing situation and find a place to stay, we worked out a deal with one of our local business partners in Russia.
They would provide us with housing. And we would provide them with teachers for their school.
It was a three-story flat, and our group had the upper two levels to live in… and it happened to be right above an Armenian mafia group.
Every time we would come and go, we had to go through the main level to get upstairs.
So, as you can imagine, we got to know the mob bosses and the members of the Armenian mafia pretty well.
Growing up an only child like I did, you learn to deal with difficult people and with bullies, which was what it felt like having the mafia living right below us.
The leader of the group, Andic, was an interesting character. He enjoyed the fact that we were starting an Economic school which taught capitalism, but he was definitely someone you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.
And oddly enough, he only had two fingers on one hand… the thumb and pinky.
In the mafia, if you were found on the wrong side of your territory in another mafia’s area and they caught you, they would cut off a finger to send a message to not come back to that side of town.
And somehow, Andic got caught three different times, hence why he lost three fingers on one hand.
As time went on, we got to know the mafia members a little better and Andic usually came to me when he needed something because I could speak a bit of Russian.
The First Encounter
One night, my colleagues and I were having a little get together with some Russian friends in our flat.
It was dark outside as it usually was in Moscow when Andic comes running into our flat and into MY room… he has a gun to his side and closes the door behind him.
I ask, “Andic! What is going on!?”
He goes over to the window overlooking the driveway below and I follow him.
We see two black Mercedes Benz cars pull up outside.
Four men from each car get out and I can see they all have guns… pistols, Uzis, and AK47s.
At this point, I’m thinking this is literally just like a James Bond movie. It’s snowing outside. And there’s about to be a gun battle between this mafia group that just pulled up, and Andic and his goons.
But Andic is still in my room and all of my colleagues and friends are here. This is not good.
All of the sudden, Andic takes out a lighter from his black trenchcoat and lights it up, holding it near the window as if to signal to someone.
I look out the window and see more lighters… one behind the tree, one behind the dumpster, and one across the street.
Andic’s men must have gotten out in time too before the group in the Mercedes showed up.
They were planning to do a double ambush if something was to happen.
The guys below checked the first floor, no lights on, door was locked, nothing… so they got in their cars and drove off.
Shortly after realizing the extremity of what could have happened to my colleagues, friends, and myself, I scolded Andic right there in my room, telling him to never do anything like this again, and to never put us in this kind of danger again.
Our relationship went south after that.
The Second Encounter
3-4 days later, it’s the middle of December and most of my group had gone home for Christmas, leaving the flat pretty empty besides myself and Mark, a new intern.
And funny enough, it was Mark’s first day back with us at the flat.
It’s snowing outside again, very festive, when we get a knock on our front door about 10PM, which was odd because we weren’t expecting any company, and definitely not at this time of night.
So, I go to the door, open it, look out and it’s Emma, who is Andic’s mistress…
She’d been beaten to a pulp.
Her face was covered with bruises and she was all bloody… Andic had beaten her with a bat.
And she looks at me and says, “Andic is killing me. He’s going to kill me tonight. You have to help me. Please, help me Jeremie.”
In total panic, I make a split second decision and bring her inside the flat and lock the door behind her.
I tell Mark to go clean her up while I come up with a plan.
While Mark’s helping her, I can hear two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs towards our flat.
We hurry and hide Emma on one side of the flat, the girls side, and shut the lights off, keeping the lights on over on the guys side of the flat where we were.
I can hear them approaching the door and then I hear a knock.
I look out through the keyhole and see it’s two of Andic’s henchmen. I knew these guys, but didn’t like them.
So I open the door, knowing ahead of time exactly what they’re here for.
I ask, “What do you guys want?”
“Is Emma here?” they say… sounding more like a statement than a question.
I respond acting confused “No, why would Emma be here?”
They proceed to tell me, “No, she’s in here.”
Again I respond saying. “No she’s not, do you want to look around?”
Slightly panicking, I lead them through the guys' side of the flat where the lights were on, showing them that there was no sign of Emma here.
After not finding her… they left.
And about 30 minutes later, we get another knock on the door.
I go to the door, open it, and there they are again… “Guys, what do you want now?” I say.
At this point, we had moved Emma back over to the guys side where they had previously checked.
They both look at me in the doorway and go, “We want to see the other side.”
So Mark and I lead them into the other side and show them Emma's still not here.
Looking back, I’m thankful they weren’t the smartest guys in the world.
After no sign of Emma, they leave again.
And again for a third time…. They come back 20-30 minutes later.
I stand outside the doorway with them and they tell me Andic won’t let them back into the flat downstairs until they’ve checked the entire flat all at once.
I tell them, “No, it’s not going to happen.”
And again they leave.
At this stage Mark and I are working on any possible plan to get out of the situation, knowing we can’t keep this up forever.
We dressed Emma up in my clothes with my coat and ball cap. We thought about having her climb out and down the window using bed sheets but decided that’d likely end bad.
There’s only one entrance into the building and since they didn’t see footpaths in the snow leading out, they assumed she was upstairs in our flat.
Our Last Stand
Long story short, later in the night Andic comes up with a bat and tries to break into our flat…
Mark takes a peek through the keyhole right as Andic hits the door with the bat.
We’re both freaking out, knowing there’s a good chance this doesn’t end well for us.
Mark goes over to his computer and starts sending emergency emails.
I start to pace around thinking of a way out of this...
And after things seemed to calm down and Andic left, he sends his men up one last time.
I tell Mark, “show them every single square inch of this place.”
I put Emma in the bathroom and hid her behind the washer. I turned the shower on and in my boxers I got wet enough to look as if I had just taken a shower.
While I’m doing that, Mark is showing them around the entire place, and I can hear them outside the bathroom door saying, “Who’s in there? What’s in there?”
And all of the sudden, I had this rage come over me.
I’d been playing defense all night up until this point… it was time to play offense.
I fling open the door in my boxers, towel on my head and go, “Are you kidding me? What are you doing here? Do you really think Emma’s in here?” I even said, “do you want to see if Emma is in my boxers and acted like I would pull them down.”
Needless to say, they left.
And that was the last we saw of them.
It’s approaching 2:00am now and we know Emma cannot stay here forever. Mark and I tell her she has to leave… and needs to do it while they’re all passed out drunk in the middle of the night.
We finally go to bed and fall asleep, I wake up around 5:00am and see Emma is still here.
“You have to go now!” I tell her.
And she does… heading down the stairs dressed in my clothes and ball cap and makes it out of the building safely.
And that was the last we saw of Emma.
About a week later, there was a big gun battle and most of Andic and his men had been killed or fleshed out… leading to a new Azerbaijani mafia group moving in down below. New bullies.
When leading others, you have to have a certain mindset… you have to decide if you’re going to help people or help yourself.
You have to decide to fight for the highest possible good of the other person... as described below in one of our tools from the GiANT Toolkit.
As Emma was standing there in the doorway, face bloody and bruised, I had a decision to make.
She needed support and I had an opportunity - am I going to fight for her highest possible good, yes or no?
And following decisions like these, there’s consequences…
In my case, the consequence turned out well for us and Emma.
And while most of us are not fighting the Russian mafia everyday… or ever, you all have to decide if you’re going to help people.
So, as you continue through your day, always consider the decisions you make each and every day, and whether or not you’re willing to fight for the highest possible good of other people.
How do you fight for the highest possible good of other people?
Do they need more support? Or more challenge right now?
What role do you want them to play in the team?
Are they clear of the expectations you have for them?
How do you help them get to the next level?
No matter how big or how small, as a leader, you have the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the people around you.
That’s all for today’s message. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
If you’re ready to take your leadership journey to the next level, I’d highly recommend you grab of copy of our newly released book, The Communication Code.
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