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You May Be Developing Too Many Relationships​

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You May Be Developing Too Many Relationships​

In a major study I conducted of nearly 3000 professionals, 91% said that trusted professional relationships were extremely important to their success. Guess how many were “very satisfied” with those relationships? Only 30%.

So, what’s going on, and how do we bridge this “relationship gap”? Read on.

Welcome to Part I of my four-part series on building the relationships that truly matter for your career success. I’m sharing this to inaugurate the release of my new eLearning program, called Building Relationships That MatterI spent a year developing this state-of-the-art multimedia course, which is a masterclass on how to build the trusted relationships—with different key stakeholders—that you need to thrive.

When Fewer Is Better than More

In our culture, having a large number of relationship connections is a badge of honor. The media breathlessly reports on the millions of Instagram followers of this or that celebrity. Among professionals, there is also now a lot of bragging about the number of LinkedIn followers/connections that they have accumulated.

In interviewing thousands of successful professionals, I’ve learned that there are actually about 15-25 key individuals—not hundreds of superficial contacts—who will make a disproportionately large contribution to your success. This is a small group of people who trust you, believe in you, are committed to you, will vouch for you, and will help you when you are in need. These are the individuals who can make a big impact on your career and life.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there can be great value in having a large and extended network of both personal contacts and online social media connections. However, for overall job and career success, these will not cut it for you.

Here’s a striking but actually common example of this: an old client of mine, based in London, was a top rainmaker in his field. He once told me that nearly 20% of his lifetime revenue as a banker had come through one lawyer in New York City—and vice-versa—the lawyer had also received many of her client opportunities through this executive. That was a transformative relationship for both of them. In our terms, this lawyer was a catalyst relationship for my client.

Do you know who your “critical few” are? You should focus most—perhaps 65-85%—of your effort deepening these key relationships. These are those 15-25 individuals who will constitute your success network. They may include your managers/bosses, selected colleagues, mentors, thought leaders in your field, clients and customers, and executive influencers in your organization.

The Fuel for Your Relationships: Generosity

To build the relationships that matter, you need to master two attitudes and seven skills. The wheel, below, outlines these.

Attitudes Skills

I’ll conclude by highlighting the very first one: Generosity.

If trust is the universal lubricant for relationships, generosity is the fuel that gets them started and keeps them growing.

We admire people who are generous with their time and resources, and in our hearts I think we wish we could be more like them—but…the truth is, many of us find it difficult to go beyond what we could call a limited or superficial generosity.

Consequently, we are stunned at acts of deep generosity, such as when 86-year old Oseola McCarty–who washed clothes for a living and lived in a tiny house–decided to give away her life savings of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund scholarships for low-income students.

For our purposes, I define generosity as the willingness to give freely of your time, expertise, experience, and social capital in your relationships with others. When you are generous, it sends a clear message about your character and values. Generous acts attract others into a relationship with you, and help build long-term trust.

Generosity is powerful, but I don’t think most of us are as generous in practice as we’d like to be. Here are three barriers that can get in the way:

  • A “me” focus
  • A lack of role models
  • The fear of being taken advantage of

There are many ways that you can express generosity. Help others out at work. Give freely of your time, wisdom, resources, and social capital. Give just to give (which is authentic generosity), not to get something in return. Cultivate your own gratitude—it will make it easier to be generous to others. Also, be generous in acknowledging others’ successes and accomplishments.

Just released: my new Building Relationships That Matter digital learning program.

Related: Fresh, Thought-Provoking Insights on How to Lead

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