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Relationship Basics

By: Nan S. Russell




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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 arranged time.

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 still don't.

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 someone else.

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 receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at http://www.nanrussell.com