Relationships Are A Matter Of Choice, Not Chance

Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.

Customer Appreciation

John E. McGuirk, the director of the Performing Arts Program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, said, “The ability to form friendships, to make people believe in you and trust you, is one of the few absolutely fundamental qualities of success.” I agree. If you’re trying to lead a company, build a team, sell to a client, or improve your home life, you’ll have a lot more success if you know how to build relationships with all those people.

Fortunately, relationships are not a matter of chance. They are a matter of choice. They depend more on you than the other people. Here’s what you do.

1. Make client relationships a priority.

You tend to achieve your top priorities. So even though it may be hard to find the time, you’ve got to make those relationships a priority. If you don’t make them a priority, relationships tend to die … just like businesses tend to die.

Becky Haxen of Blue Lake Sport could have let that happen, but she refused to do that. She told me: “I just want to thank you for helping me find my life and save my client relationships. Some months ago I found out my husband had terminal cancer and he died a short time later. I not only lost my husband but my business partner of the last 31 years in a retail store. My life was turned upside down when he died, but I had a responsibility to our employees to make sure the business survived. To make matters worse, a large national competitor opened to the public the same day he died.”

“Then I ordered two of your products, your book on ‘The Service Payoff: How Customer Service Champions Out serve And Outlast The Competition” and your audio CD series on ‘Mind Over Matter: How To Let Your Subconscious Work For You Instead Of Against You.’ I was still riding the mood waves of grief and stress when your book and CDs came. But I have faithfully read and listened to them for over a month every chance I have. I really feel the changes that have come over me are due to these wonderful resources. They are just what I need.”

2. Be a giver.

Be kind without expecting kindness. Be loving without expecting love in return. As the great Roman philosopher Seneca reminds us, “There is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.”

Dr. Albert Schweitzer knew this. He was one of the greatest men of the last century. In his twenties he had already established a reputation in the academic world as a renowned organist. At age thirty he decided to become a medical doctor to the people of Africa. It was not an easy decision, but he was a giver.

In order to fulfill his mission to the poor, he gave up a promising academic and musical career. He entered an uncertain future, in an unknown land, far from the world he knew. He went to Africa with no expectation of personal reward, but life gave him the best gift of all, the love and respect of millions of people worldwide.

Quite simply, when you give to others, they often give you their friendship in return. They give you their cooperation, their business, their loyalty, and all those other things you need.

3. Be appreciative.

Perhaps no one does it better than legendary football player Peyton Manning. He is truly a man of letter … the handwritten kind. As Manning puts it, “I don’t know who qualifies for a letter, necessarily. It’s probably just somebody I played against for a long time or guys who played the game the right way.”

Former All-Pro safety John Lynch said he treasures the letter he got from Manning upon his retirement in 2008. “I was so touched that the very first letter I got when I retired was from Peyton,” Lynch said. “It was a handwritten note that meant more than the gift ever was. He sent a case full of Silver Oak. It meant so much to me because of the respect I have for him. I still don’t drink it. So there’s a case of Silver Oak in my wine cellar to this day from him.”

Manning said the habit of writing letters, as opposed to relying exclusively on email, is a holdover from childhood. “My mother sent me an article one day on the fact that the handwritten letter was becoming a lost art in the text-messaging and e-mail world,” he said. “My mom said, ‘Hey, just so you know, when sending a thank-you note, if someone hosted you at their home, or sent a wedding gift, or a thank-you gift, an e-mail is not acceptable. A handwritten letter is what you must write. So I’ve got to give credit to her.”

When Manning was in high school, he was flooded with recruiting letters from college coaches. The first thing he would do when he read a hand-signed one was lick his thumb and rub the signature to see if it smeared, checking if the autograph was penned or stamped.

“I remember when I got my first handwritten letter from [former Florida State coach] Bobby Bowden, telling me he really enjoyed watching me play,” he said. “Boy, it had a big impact on me. He took the time to write that letter. I knew it wasn’t his assistant writing it.”

You’ve heard the saying that love … or friends … make the world go round. That may not be true, but they sure make the ride worthwhile … at home and on the job.

ACTION: Do five things this week to show your appreciation for others.