There is a leader on my team who is what I call a "relational entrepreneur." He is one of those guys who knows everyone, and everyone knows him. There isn't someone he can't get to, even if he has to connect two or three people he does know until he finds a connection which opens the door.
He is incredibly valuable to the team and Southeastern University. Our ability to continue to grow and expand our non-traditional learning opportunities, on-campus experiences, and overall influence is impacted by our ability to tap into a network who can partner with us to drive things forward. This team member understands and practices good relationship habits, and it pays off for him and other again and again.
Part of what makes him so successful at building, growing, and sustaining relationships over time is the systematic follow-up process he has in place. He's worked this out over a long period of time and has it down to a science. The system itself is less important than by his personality and the type of people in his relationship economy. It's more important that he has a system in place.
You might think his system is just about finding and starting new relationships. That's called prospecting, and there is only a short-term value in such an approach. This leader's approach begins with prospecting and extends through a substantial learning about the individual over time—so much so he can deliver relevant, timely, and specific information on a regular basis moving forward. And as he has invested in these relationships, they also invested in him.
WHY DO AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS MATTER?
· Because people connect with people. Relationships are about people connecting with people—not books, seminars, or podcasts.
· Because leadership is about relationships first. You can do all the right things, but if you don’t do relationship well, you will be less effective.
· Because influence is not programmatic but diplomatic by design. You can’t tell people what to do without authority. But if you build trust with another person, it will boost your capacity to influence them even if you don’t have authority over them.
· Because collaboration drives innovation. Two minds—especially of different professional disciplines—always uncover untapped opportunity. Your best ideas will always be perfected when discussed with others.
· Because interdependence trumps individual capacity to achieve anything. At the root of your desire for relationships lies your understanding of your need for others. You must become vulnerable and lean into the strengths of the other person to fully maximize your ability to cultivate your success over time.
INVEST IN THE RELATIONSHIP ECONOMY
Authentic relationships are rare which is why they are so valuable. So many times, you meet people who are just interested in talking about themselves or burdening you with their problems. I’m not talking about the times when you are in need. I’m talking about the times when people are consumed with what matters to them, and they conclude others should be concerned with the same things.
Cultivate is a great word when you think about relationships. While many people use the word cultivate with slightly different meanings and contexts, I can tell you it means to invest, grow, and develop over time. That sounds like an excellent strategy for establishing, building, and growing authentic relationships over time.
Authentic relationships require a long view, just like investing for retirement. But before you jump head first into cultivating relationships, let’s outline the rules of engagement.
A FEW THINGS ABOUT AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS
· They are based on respect for humanity. The individual is the primary building block rather than a personal agenda.
· They are driven by a desire to connect. Human beings were designed to be in relationship with one another from the beginning.
· They are grounded in the unique realities of the other person. You must accept people for who they are rather than who you want them to be.
· They are others-focused rather than self-focused. Good friends don’t make it all about them.
· They are propelled forward through meaningful interactions and encounters. You must add value to the other person; otherwise, you’re wasting their time and yours.
The greatest investment you will make will not be in your education, profession, or even your retirement plan. Those are all good things, but they are not the most valuable assets you will accumulate in your life. Those things come and go. What you are worth on paper, the size of your house, the brand of your cloths, nor the logo on the front of your car are as valuable as the people in whom you invest your time, wisdom, and experience.
RELATIONSHIPS—SPEND AND INVEST WISELY
Relationships are the currency of life; you should spend wisely. Projects come and go. Houses are lived in for a period of time. Jobs are held for only a season. But the people you choose to pour into are the ones who will carry you in their hearts and minds forever.
You can tell a lot about someone by attending their funeral. The stories people tell about you are the evidence of the deposits you made in them. I've learned not to judge someone by the number of people who attend their funeral but the quality of stories shared by those who did. Your ability to influence others is greatly impacted by your skill at building and growing authentic relationships over time.
Everyone wins when you invest in others.
CHALLENGE: List the top five authentic relationships in your life right now. What are you doing to add value to their lives? How can you begin to practice the principle of authentic relationships today?