Every day we interact with dozens of people. Often those interactions are fleeting and unmemorable. Freds, however, don’t use people as a means to an end; they use relationships to build a foundation for success. They understand that all outcomes are created by and through interactions with others. So they become students of social psychology. They understand that strong relationships create loyalty and are the basis of partnerships and teamwork. The best Freds build networks to develop distribution channels for their talents, and they strive to work well with others, whether one-on-one with a customer or in a team with colleagues.
Remember that the quality of a relationship is related directly to the amount of time invested in it. Make sure you give some of your best time to your relationships.
The Seven Bs of Relationship Building
In today’s technology-driven world, relationship building might be considered a lost art form. Most of us have never been taught how to go about building relationships with others. Whatever we’ve learned, we’ve picked up through observation of role models rather than from conscious learning.
We were lucky if we had good role models when we were growing up and not so lucky if we didn’t.
Do you want to improve your relationships at home and at work? The following principles will definitely help.
1. Be real. Besides his extraordinary customer focus, Fred the Postman was so inspiring because of his uniqueness. He was who he was. I never got the sense Fred was trying to impress me by being anybody but himself.
This is the direct opposite of the prevailing wisdom in our culture today, which is “fake it until you make it.” The intent is to become who you want to be by acting as if you are already that person. The only problem with that strategy is that you’re a fake!
Try this alternative: Always do your best at being yourself. Sure, you should aim to improve, try new things, and add value. But let these actions come out of who you really are, what you truly believe in, and the things you are committed to.
The prerequisite for relationship building is trust. At its most basic level, trust is built on believing that someone is who he represents himself to be.
2. Be interested (not just interesting). It may be true that interesting people attract attention, but I believe interested people attract appreciation.
When I first met Fred, he quickly introduced himself, but the focus was on how he could best help me meet my needs. I instantly liked Fred because he showed a genuine interest in me, not because he was interesting (although I’ve learned over time that he certainly is). If Fred had spent time telling me what a great mailman he was, the outcome would have been different.
People are flattered when you express an interest in getting to know them better, not out of morbid curiosity, but in an effort to help or serve them more effectively. Appreciating the people we serve, I believe, increases the value of our service to them.
3. Be a better listener. When you take an interest in and listen to people, they provide important practical information you can use to create value. For instance, listen carefully to your boss, and you might learn that he or she hates to read long memos. You now know that you can improve your working relationship by providing a brief summary. Or at lunch ask a client about her family. You may learn that her fourteen-year-old son has a hobby that one of your children enjoys. Offering to exchange information about that shared interest will add both value and depth to this relationship.
People are flattered when you make an effort to get to know them and seek information on how to serve them better. Understanding and appreciating what they want increases the value of what you can provide for them.
4. Be empathic. If you’re interested in others and make the effort to truly know them by listening, you’ll better understand how they feel. This is empathy. The need to be understood is one of the highest human needs, but too often people who know us either don’t care or don’t make the effort to understand how we really feel.
Two thousand years ago a wise man named Philo Judaeus said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle.” Not much has changed since. His counsel is the essence of practical empathy.
5. Be honest. I summarize all business strategy into this simple idea: Say what you’ll do, and do what you say. In other words, make no promises you can’t keep. Don’t create expectations you can’t fulfill. Avoid overrepresenting and overpromising. Be a man, woman, or organization of your word. That’s integrity.
6. Be helpful. Little things make a big difference. Lots of small things cumulatively make a huge difference.
Years ago my friend Ken taught me a neat way to be of service to strangers. If I see one person in a group taking a picture of all the others, I offer to snap the picture so everybody can be included.
Even holding a door open is an indication of Fred-like behavior. So remember your manners, and people will remember you.
7. Be prompt. Time is the one thing many people have far less of than money. Helping them save time by being prompt and efficient is a gift of great value.
Here’s a test: What percentage of your interactions with others is transactional as opposed to relational?
Transactional interactions focus primarily on results, sometimes even at the cost of relationships. People who value results over relationships are often called “direct.” That means they go directly for the outcome, making others feel devalued and even used.
Relational interactions recognize the importance of how people are treated in the process of achieving results. This type of interaction doesn’t ignore the outcome, but it does recognize that the means are an important part of the end. Fred the postman was living proof that how you deliver the mail affects how people feel about the outcome.
Not every interaction needs to be relational. Sometimes a lack of time or the situation just doesn’t allow it. For example, in an emergency or crisis, getting people to safely evacuate a burning building may require harsh, direct instructions.
Jimmy Buffett once said (and I paraphrase): It takes just about the same amount of time to be a nice guy as it does to be a jerk.
More often than not, you and I can be more Fred-like by taking time to focus on the relational aspect of our interactions. It doesn’t take much extra time or effort to be interested and demonstrate the value we have for others, especially those on whom we depend for mutual success.
And that is the essence of building relationships, whether business or personal.
For more information and resources, go to www.fredfactor.com