Since she'd been referred by a good client, I rearranged my
schedule to accommodate a phone meeting for what she described as a
"pressing decision" about a potential business endeavor I had
experience with. The day before our appointment, the call was
confirmed and it was verified that she would call my office at the
When the time arrived and no call came, I was surprised. Fifteen
minutes later, still no call. In fact, it never came. Nor did an
email or text message or fax or voice mail canceling our appointment.
With all the devices we can use to communicate, it's interesting we
But what bewildered me most was her lack of basic relationship
understanding. She'd leveraged a relationship to get access to
someone she wanted perspective from, but when the contact-door was
opened, her lack of business etiquette closed future doors.
You see, when my client asked a few weeks later how the conversation
had gone with Julia, he was distressed to hear of her behavior, and
commented about his reluctance to ever again offer her a business connection.
The nineteenth century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote,
"A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait." Julia
certainly showed hers. Her manners broadcasted that her orientation
was about "getting" something. Her networked-relationships were
disposable when she got what she wanted, which I assumed she did from
But people who are winning at working see relationships and
networking through "giving" lenses. Around the same time as my Julia
experience, I received an email from someone I didn't know,
introducing herself. She mentioned she had heard me speak at a
conference a few months prior, and thought I might be interested in a
recent study on employee engagement, which she attached.
A few weeks later, I heard from her again, this time with interesting
links to additional research. By the time I got a third email a few
weeks later requesting a few minutes of my time to discuss an idea, I
was happy to return a favor. We've had several conversations since
and are developing a mutually beneficial business relationship.
People who are winning at working understand relationship basics.
Common courtesy, mutual assistance, timely communication are tools
they use to build, foster, and enhance their relationships. They
understand their relationship approach is a reflection of their
foundational principles. And those principles start with giving.
What I know after a twenty-five year career is this: relationships
matter. It's the relationships that pull us through in times of
conflict, challenge, and organizational change. It's the
relationships that create unimagined possibilities and new
opportunities. It's the relationships that draw us to our work and
provide a life of meaningful connections.
Ultimately, you get what you give. People who are winning at working
see that law of reciprocity as a foundational principle that guides
their relationship actions and contributes to their relationship
results. Want winning relationships? Apply the basics.
© 2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books;
January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on
webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in
management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to
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