People have been asking Dr. Misner what his position, or BNI’s position on current political events. What Dr. Misner has discovered over time is that talking politics or religion in BNI is not a good idea. Our mission in BNI is to help people increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.
Dr. Misner has always been active both politically and spiritually–but neither of these is pertinent to BNI. Political and religious issues can be extremely divisive. There are many great venues for expressing political and religious beliefs. BNI is not one of them. BNI is an international organization with chapters all around the world and members who belong to every religion. It can only succeed if it focuses on its mission.
That isn’t to say that BNI members shouldn’t have strong political or religious views. We just need to keep them out of BNI meetings.
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Complete Transcript of Episode 495 –
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube, which features Dr. Ivan Miser and many networking experts. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you today?
I am in Houston, Texas today. On my way to Houston. I am speaking at a coaching conference this week. I am excited to be there. I do presentations all over the world. If you are part of a big company and looking to being in an outside speaker, let us know. I am always happy to go speak at these events.
That would be a good referral for you.
Yeah. That’s a great referral for me. It needs to be an organization that has a budget. With as much travel as I do, I don’t do free presentations anymore. But if they have a budget, reach out. I will put them in touch with somebody.
So that is where I am this week. I am in Houston speaking in an organization that is very active in BNI. So today is an interesting topic. Politics, religion and BNI.
You know, I decided to do this topic right now because of all the things that are going on in the world. More than ever, I am getting asked about my position or BNI’s position on people elected to office or things that are going on the world like the European Union and what is going on with the UK. So I am asked what our opinion is.
I think it is really important to say that talking politics and religion in BNI is not a good idea. The topic has been for many years brought up to me occasionally but it has been brought up a lot lately. So I thought it would be time to to a podcast on it.
Before I did my graduate work, not a lot of people know this. I did my graduate work in organizational behavior. I received a bachelor’s degree in political science. As a political science graduate, I was really interested in politics. And I still am.
But I don’t discuss it in BNI. Why? Because it gets our eyes off the ball. IT takes us away from BNI’s mission. Our mission in BNI is to help people increase their business with structured, positive and professional referral marketing program. This is our mission statement. Positive an professional referral marketing program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality professionals.
That is our mission. One of the reasons BNI is the world’s largest, most successful networking organization in the world is that we stay focused on our mission. Anything that takes us away from our mission, I believe, is a distraction. And there is no bigger set of distractions for a referral organization than religion and politics.
So I think it is important for everyone to understand that I have been a registered voter since I was 18 years old. Since I was 18, I have voted in every major US election as a citizen of the United States.I have voted in every major election since I was 18. I have also been very active spiritually in my life. However, neither of these personal practices are pertinent to my BNI membership.
Throughout my life, I have been involved in many local, state, and national political campaigns. I also have pretty well-established religious beliefs. However, you don’t and you won’t know my political or religious views unless you are a close friend. People might be surprised about some of my, particularly political, views. You know, you just may or may not expect them. I don’t discuss them.
I think this is really important because it is not appropriate for me to espouse those opinions at BNI because it could be decisive and it could distract from our mission in our organization. I understand that there are political and sometimes religions issues about which we have strong feelings. I certainly have some.
However, I believe BNI is not the place for such discussions because they are almost always divisive. It takes our eyes off of what the purpose of the organization is, which is namely referrals based on professional relationships.
By the way, this is one of the reasons why in the very beginning of the organization, I set it up so that we didn’t invite outside speakers to participate in BNI meetings. Generally, they either want to sell a product or a service or they want to promote a political or civic decision.
If they want to sell something, they should join a chapter. If they want to promote a political or spiritual decision, they need to speak somewhere else. It’s appropriate if it is the right venue for that and there are many.
BNI operates in countries where almost every religion in the world is practiced. The countries that we are in, I cannot think of a major religion that is not represent in the countries that we have chapters in. We are in countries that represent virtually every political system in the world.
We wouldn’t be effective if we focused on anything else other than our mission. Helping business people get more referrals through referrals. We are proud of our emerging legacy of bringing people together. Many business members have, I think, maybe contentious religious and political positions. But in BNI, it is important that they focus on the mission of relationships and referrals.
This doesn’t mean that members and for that matter people who maybe visit BNI chapters- this doesn’t mean that they are apolitical. I am sure that many members and visitors have strong political and religious beliefs. Their opinions just don’t belong in a meeting, on our podcast or in a newsletter.
I think it’s really. Important that if we want to stay on mission as an organization, we stay off these topics at BNI meetings. You know, Priscilla, shouldn’t we kind of all know that already? Everybody, all my life, has said if you really want to anger somebody, jump into politics or religion with them, start talking about politics or religion.
That’s certainly the case, I think, in BNI. I know this is – in and of itself is controversial because people are like, “Well, I have the right to talk religion. I have the right to talk politics.”
Yes, you do. In most countries of the world, you do. Just not in a BNI meeting, please, because they tend to be divisive and not something that brings people together. That is the reason that we avoid politics and religion in BNI. What do you think, Priscilla.
I totally agree, Ivan. I think it would be extremely divisive if people started talking about their position on politics and religion. BNI seems to me to be a very inclusive organization and non-discriminatory. I like that about BNI and I think it’s kind of important to maintain that.
You bring up a good point. BNI is meant to be very inclusive. I have for years said that when you bring people into the organization, be very selective about who you bring in. But when I say that I mean be very selective about bringing in a high quality business professional not based on religion, gender, politics. You know, really quality business people. That’s what you want to be selective on. Certainly not ethnicity or any of those other things.
So look, I understand when people really get upset because they can’t espouse their views because they feel strongly about views they may have. I get that and I commend them on having those strong views. I just also know that those strong views become divisive in a BNI chapter. I know that because I have seen it. I mean, how do you think we came into this position? We know it because we saw it happen in chapters.
You know what? You are welcome to those positions, just outside. Take it outside, please. Not in here.
Well, I think that given that BNI is all over world, you have to have some kind of policy like that.
Yeah. It’s interesting- it has been out practice since early on in the organization. I would love to hear those of you who have maybe had a bad experience and why it is important to take this position that we are all about business and referral marketing and helping one another and supporting one another. Maybe if you have had a bad experience, tell us about it so that other people can see how it could potentially be divisive to the organization.
Well, that’s really all I have for today, Priscilla. It will be interesting to see how everyone responds to this particular podcast. I think it’s a very important on in this day and age. Probably more important than ever right now. I have been talking about this topic for many years. That’s all I have for today, Priscilla. Thank you.
Okay, that’s great, Ivan. Thanks so much. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by The Networking for Success Channel on YouTube. Thanks for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us again next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.