Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.
If you were to look at my brochure, it outlines the nine different programs that I deliver. On the cover you would see my goal. It reads, “Peak Performance…all the time…no matter what!” It’s my goal for every one of my presentations, and it’s my goal for every one of my audience members. That’s why I speak, and that’s why I write these “Tuesday Tips.”
Of course, there are many components of Peak Performance, but none of them is more important than the relationships you build on and off the job. As John McGuirk says, “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 customer, or improve your home life, you’ll have a lot more success if you know how to build friendships with all those people.
That doesn’t mean you have to socialize with all those people. And it doesn’t mean you have to become the best of friends with all those people. You don’t have the time, and it wouldn’t always be appropriate anyway.
“Friendship” can be more of a spirit than an activity. And if you want to be a peak performer, you must learn how to create that spirit.
The benefits are enormous. As Andrew Tawney wrote, “Friendship is surely one of life’s special miracles. When two people are united in friendship’s spirit, the relationship assumes special light and life-giving qualities unlike any other. Friendships give richness to life and promise to the future.”
The trouble is some people don’t have enough “friends” on and off the job. As one person said, “I didn’t have many friends as a child. Oh, I had an imaginary friend, but he was always busy.”
And other people don’t know how to create that spirit of friendship. It’s like the loser who spent $10,000 to get rid of his bad breath and found out people didn’t like him anyway.
So what gets in the way of you having all the friends you need and developing all the friendship spirit you desire? I think there are five barriers.
First, you may be too self-sufficient. Friendships are built when you and another person help each other. But if you’ve got the attitude of “I don’t need anyone…I’m tough…I can handle it,” you won’t have as much success in your business or your marriage as you could have.
Second, you may have the wrong priorities. You may be focusing more on making money than building a strong partnership with your customer, for example, and that, in the end, will cost you money. It’s like the newly married man that asked his wife, “Would you have married me if my father hadn’t left me a fortune?” “Honey,” the woman replied sweetly, “I’d have married you no matter who left you a fortune.”
Third, you may be too busy. It takes time to develop good relationships with your teammates, and it takes time to create a spirit of friendship with your customers. It takes time to have a real conversation and listen intently. Most people don’t take the time or at least say they don’t have the time. One executive told me she had moved fourteen times in her career. In fact she said, “I move so often I don’t bother to say ‘hello’ anymore to my neighbors.”
Fourth, you may lack the necessary communication skills. You may not know what to say. Or you say the wrong things. As one pundit said, there is no evidence that the tongue is connected to the brain. And you may not know what questions to ask. So you end up doing things with people instead of talking to them. That’s why you should check out my book on Brave Questions.
Finally, you may not be real. A sales manager one time told his team, “If you’re going to be a phony, be sincere about it. Look deeply into one eye.” Don’t expect that approach to build a spirit of friendship.
It’s like the time I gave the keynote address at the meeting of a financial organization. I was surprised to hear them praise the quality of their investments, but at the same time I found out that many of the sales reps didn’t even own the investments they were telling others to purchase. In fact I owned more of their products than many of them did. That’s not real.
Fortunately, friends and the spirit of friendship 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.
MAKE FRIENDSHIPS A PRIORITY IN LIFE. You tend to achieve your top priorities. So even though it may be hard to admit your need for friends, you’ve got to make them a priority. You’ve got to make decisions considering the impact it will have on your friendships.
For example, if you choose to move to a new location being offered by your company, consider the impact it will have on your friendships. People always say, when they move away, that they’ll keep in constant contact. But the truth is, the frequent visits, phone calls, letters and e-mails become less and less frequent, and in more cases than not, the friendships die. The friendships die unless they are a true priority.
Then, 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.
Finally, for today’s Tip, (you can read more about this topic of friendship next week), BE APPRECIATIVE. Everyone has qualities that can be appreciated. An old Arabic saying states that a real friend is one who blows the chaff away and nourishes the seed which remains.
How true! Everyone has some chaff or some unlikable qualities. They’re not hard to see. But when you are appreciative, you overlook the unlikable qualities–if possible and if appropriate–and recognize the good things you notice.
Perhaps no one said it better than TV star Donna Reed. As a youngster I used to watch her television show, a good, clean, upbeat family show. As an adult I remember her wisdom. Donna said, “When you handle yourself, use your head. When you handle others, use your heart.”
Action: You can never have too many friends if you want to be successful in business or successful in life. So take a look at the five barriers to the spirit of friendship. Then rank order the five barriers from 1 to 5, 1 being the barrier that is most true of you and 5 being the barrier that is least true of you. Now write down one action step you’ll take to overcome your number one barrier. Be specific. Make it an action step that you can start to implement this week. Now go out and do it.