Stay in Business Forever by Building Deep and Meaningful Relationships

Stay in Business Forever by Building Deep and Meaningful Relationships

People have asked me on multiple occasions, how I can come up with something to write about every week on my blog. They ask me what my thought process is, and what my creative process is. Here is my answer. I enter the mental conversation that is going on my head at that moment. On Friday, for example, I was thinking about how IT leadership is still severely unbalanced in terms of gender representation. By the afternoon, I was thinking about the most effective ways to work with douche-bags. By the end of the weekend, the mental conversation that was going on (today) is recognizing how to connect with people, by building deep and meaningful relationships. It applies to people in your career, marriage, and among your peers. This is truly the secret to creating longevity in your career. This is truly how to stay in business forever.

I’ve been reading John Maxwell’s ‘Everybody Communicates, Few Connect.’ John reinforces the fact that communication is passé. Building longevity in your career and in your relationships requires you to connect. This applies to whether or not you’re delivering a presentation, or if you’re chatting with your kid. Here’s a glimpse of the mental conversation that normally goes through people’s minds:

  • “Why aren’t people listening to me?”
  • “What are they thinking about me?”
  • “Why aren’t they following me?”

Notice a commonality? Yep. Me, me, me. So if you want to want to get into somebody’s mental conversation, you have to first get out of yours. As John Maxwell wisely wrote, “Everybody communicates.” Even my dog who can’t speak a word of English or any human language for that matter can communicate. “Few connect.” It’s connecting with people that counts. It’s going that extra mile, remembering their name. It’s remembering that they don’t like eggs and not serving it when you bring breakfast in for your team. Actually, when I think about it, dogs are great connectors. Connecting doesn’t actually require verbal language. Dogs can connect just by cuddling up beside you when you’re sad. They’re such amazing creatures, and so pure in spirit.

As Zig Ziglar so famously pointed out, “Help enough people get what they want, and you will get what you want.” One of the stories that I stood out for me from that book was a short anecdote written by a nurse. She mentioned in her second year of nursing school, she was writing an exam. She blasted through the questions. Then she reached the last one. “What is the name of the lady who cleans the building?” She thought it was a joke. She left it blank and handed in her exam. Someone in the class asked her professor whether or not that question counted toward the final grade. To her dismay, her professor replied, “Absolutely. In this world, everybody is significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” That lesson stayed with her forever and to this day, she remembers that the name of the cleaning person was Dorothy

Joe Gagliardi, of Recruitment Partners, tells me that after interviewing a candidate for a job, he will always go to the receptionist and ask Ashton what she thought of the individual. It’s like watching how people treat their server in a restaurant. You can tell a person’s true character and how much he values people over himself by how he treats someone who is serving him.

Even Small Moments of Connection are Significant

Often it doesn’t take a huge conversational event to create a moment to connect. The other day coming home from our Chinese Lion Dance lesson, my 5 yr old asked, “Mama, does the world have a brain?” This to me is a glimpse of what goes through his little preschooler mind. And it’s nothing short of philosophical. So we spent the next few moments discussing the collective intelligence of the entire world’s population. I illustrated how each person has a mind and the ideas that they invent create amazing things in the world. That is how the world has a brain. Even the plants and soil and animals all work together to do their part. Everyone works together; everyone contributes. Because everyone in the world is connected, everyone in the world is part of the world’s brain. He sometimes astounds me with his thoughts.

Enter the Mental Conversation of your Audience

At the time of this writing, I’ve been taking an internet business course from Jeremy Frandsen and Jason Van Orden. One of the first things that they teach is to find a problem in the world and solve it. The question becomes, how to find said problem? What solution would solve it? How do you deliver the solution in a manner that is best digested by your audience? All roads point to “Enter the mental conversation. Act on it.”

More easily said than done. I know. The million-dollar question is, “How do you even go about doing that?”

What Would You Do?

In 550BC, the Chinese philosopher Sun Szu wrote in the Art of War, “Zi gei, zi bei, back jeen, back sing,” which means “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Sometimes all it takes to understand the problem is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. It requires empathy and a little bit of elbow grease. Scott Schertly tidily illustrated in his article on

Do your Homework:

This is also related to number 4 below. It takes effort and preparation to enter the mental conversation of your audience. Start with the easy stuff: demographics, commonalities of why they are all here. For example, in one of my keynotes that I delivered for the CPA society (back then it was CMA), I gazed into multitudes of people. I realized that they had the following things in common:

  1. They’re all CPA’s.
  2. They all live in Alberta
  3. Most of them worked in industry (as opposed to being an auditor)
  4. Everyone had to go through the grueling examination process and professional program to come out with the CPA stamp on their foreheads.

That’s what I was able to determine even without doing any real homework.

Get Personal

Get to know your neighbours. I’m not telling you to go and creep their facebook page. Simply engaging in conversation about their life outside of work or their interests is effective. With all of my teammates and clients, I have come to know their family situation: how many kids they have, where they grew up. I sometimes even know what their kids’ names are. Now, I know that it’s not until you’ve reached a certain level in your relationship that people will tell you their kids’ and spouses’ names. So, it’s actually an honour to know the names of their family members. It means they like you and trust you enough to share something that is near and dear to their hearts.

Probing Questions

Have you heard of a comedian named Milton Berle? (I hadn’t until Scott mentioned him. I actually had to Google him.) He was famous for his one line zingers: “You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think” and “I just filled out my income tax forms. Who says you can’t get killed by a blank? “ are but two glimpses into his brilliance. Milton Berle was especially good at testing the waters of his audience by asking probing questions and then delivering appropriate one-liners from his mental inventory.

Know what They Know

Nothing substitutes for doing recon for the subject on which you’re asked to consult. If you can’t offer any more value than your audience already knows, what good are you? The same thing goes for perspective. If you can’t offer a fresh perspective for your client, what value do you serve? In the wise words of Sir Winston Churchill, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

Here’s another way of looking at it. In my own experience in building an internet business, I live by this philosophy: In my mind, free advice (especially from a reputable source) is accessible to anyone who seeks it. Therefore it’s the standard. It’s not premium because premium costs money. Hence if you’re not employing the free advice in some manner, or worse yet, if you don’t even know about that free advice, you’re substandard. I know what you’re going to say, “But there’s a lot of BS out there.” Yea, there is. You still have to sift through the BS to find the gems. But not doing it makes you fall behind.

Don’t be a Star

Nobody cares about your mental conversation. They’re all too engaged in their own. They’re not here to see you. They’re here to extract information from you in order to make their lives better. So you will do well to remember that it is always all about them. Case in point: Back in the early days, when I pursued becoming a motivational speaker, I was engaged to deliver a seminar on relaxation and achieving peace of mind at MacEwan University. In my naiveté, I hadn’t bothered to use any external sources in my research. All of my anecdotes, all of my material and exercises had come from my own experience. For the full 90 minutes, I had regaled a number of stories and examples only from my own life. I got crucified in the reviews. They absolutely hated it! They thought that I was completely self-absorbed, and spent the entire 90 minutes talking only about myself. That pretty much marked the end of my short-lived pursuit as a motivational speaker. Lesson learned: Focus on them. It’s all about them. Even Scott agrees with me. If you focus on the material, presentation, and how the material applies to their life, you keep the spotlight on them. This works 100% of the time. And you won’t look like a pompous twit.

What if I don’t have a Team?

Leadership aside, this, my friends, is the key to building relationships in any area of your life. Whether or not you trying to build a dream team in your organization, or even finding the love of your life, 10 times out of 10, when you enter and engage in the mental conversation of your audience, you will connect to them.

I think that motivating your team is more than just high-fiving them on a job well done, or bringing them food as bribery… though food has always had a good success rate for me. It’s entering the mental conversation in their heads and engaging it.

At the time of this writing, Malala Yousafzai was just awarded an honourary Canadian citizenship. “I am Malala” was one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Despite her young age, she addressed the Canadian Parliament eloquently, with humour and a powerful message. Her message to the children of Canada was that you don’t have to be as old as the ‘very young Prime Minister Trudeau’ to make a difference. You can lead where you are. I echo this message. No matter where you are in your life, in your career, you have the opportunity for leadership. As long as you’re working among people, you have an impact on them.

Cat Lam
Human Performance
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Catherine (Cat) Lam, CPA-CMA is the founder of, a leadership and professional development blog. Energetic, ultra-positive, and having a genuine approach to ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: April 17-21

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: April 17-21

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on, April 17-21, 2017 

Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!

1. Market Keeping You up at Night? Look for the Right Hedge

Like so many others in the industry, I was wrong. For years, I was certain that the bull market was nearing its end. I thought the market was over-extended, and that, surely, the wild equities run was coming to an end. But everyone else was bullish, and perhaps rightfully so. And while I’ve watched equities continue on their spectacular rise, I do think now is the time (really!) to put a hedge in place. Here’s why. Here’s how. — Adam Patti

2. How to Manage Bond Market Pain and Seek the Gain When Rates Are Rising

The realities for fixed income investors have changed. How is this being reflected in markets? Bond investing has become increasingly difficult over the past decade. Markets have been heavily distorted by ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing, as well as by extreme risk aversion in response to the global economic crisis and the eurozone debt crisis. — Nick Gartside

3. Seven Reasons You'll Fail as a Financial Advisor

Is being a financial advisor worth it? I am an optimistic person and I encourage other people to keep a positive mental attitude (shout-out to Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone). However, by taking a good, hard look at the negatives in life, we can successfully pivot towards the positive aspects that will help us achieve our goals. — James Pollard

4. The Secret to Turning Every Prospect into a Client

How do you treat one of your most valued, existing clients? Here’s a list of some things that come to mind. — Andrew Sobel

5. Why Do Clients Change Advisors?

According to many advisors I speak with, the only clients that leave are those who have died. And while attrition may not be a big problem in this industry, I have to assume that at least a few clients change advisors without doing so via the funeral home. — Julie Littlechild

6. Why You Should Focus on Getting Referral Sources

I was talking with an advisor last week about how to get into conversations about what he does. He was relaying the story of going jogging with a friend who could be a good client but is, more importantly, connected to a large network of people who fit this advisors ideal client description. — Stephen Wershing

7. How Big Picture Thinkers Seize More Opportunities in 7 Steps

Big picture thinkers are not unicorns - rare and mystical. And they were not born with the innate ability to think big. They do, however, pay attention to the broader landscape and take the time to think, analyze and evaluate. — Jill Houtman and Danny Domenighini

8. 5 Actions to Build Your Reputation

Your reputation is who you are and how you show up, Monday to Monday®.  Many of us take our image and reputation for granted.  Give careful thought to the kind of reputation that you would be proud of Monday to Monday® and that would resonate with your purpose and priorities. — Stacey Hanke

9. How Are You Poised to Begin Welcoming GenZ to Your Workplace?

The generational changing of the guard is a fact of life as old as time. Young replaces old in responsibility, importance, control and culture. Outside of the family, the workplace is perhaps where this is seen most regularly by most people. — Shirley Engelmeier

10. Are Price Objections REALLY Price Objections?

Next time you hear your prospects give you price objections, it’s not because of the price. The give price objections because they don’t know the full value proposition that they’d be paying for. And it’s not based on their need, or your features and functions. It’s based on the buying criteria they want to meet internally. — Sofia Carter

11. Understanding the Economic Value of Transition Deals

Last week we wrote about the economic rationale behind going independent vs. moving to another major firm as an employee. As a follow-up topic, we thought it prudent to analyze transition packages attached to big firm moves and peel back the layers of the onion to show the components of these deals. — Louis Diamond

Douglas Heikkinen
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IRIS Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues to ... Click for full bio