One of the biggest ways that entrepreneurs get into trouble in their careers is that they forget a simple truth: all of business is about personal relationships.
The experts often talk about campaigns and markets and market share and volumes in terms of measuring success, but these are all merely abstractions. What we really experience are relationships, and these are either cooperative and successful or uncooperative and frustrating.
Relationships are integral to us as human beings. They’re the water that we human “fish” swim in. So to make human society work for everyone, there are all sorts of relationship rules in place — rules that are likely no different than they were 3,000 years ago.
My personal relationship “rules.”
For the past 40 years, I’ve practiced my own relationship “rules” based on four habits anyone can master. Each of these four habits can provide any individual with tremendous credibility — and as an entrepreneur, this is a characteristic I definitely want to cultivate.
- Show up on time. If you agreed to show up at a particular time, always be on time. In fact, why not be five or ten minutes early? I strive for ten minutes so I’m completely focused and completely relaxed.
- Do what you say. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, do it. If not, get back to them to and ask if it’s possible to rearrange things or to come up with another solution. Not extending this courtesy can cost you your reputation.
- Finish what you start. If you’ve promised someone you’ll do something, finish it — never leave it hanging. Gain a reputation for always finishing what you start.
- Say please and thank you. One shows respect, and the other shows gratitude. A person who is respectful and grateful has enormous credibility in all their relationships.
At Strategic Coach, we call these The Referability Habits, but they’re important not only to being referred in a business situation, but in countless everyday situations throughout our lives where credibility is important.
I can think of people I know who are very talented, very smart, well-known for their accomplishments, or just really amazing and impressive human beings, but who don’t practice these four simple habits.
I’ve noticed that after a while, people don’t want to work with them anymore. In spite of their enviable traits, doors are no longer open to them. The reason is that they don’t act in a way that continually increases their credibility and reputation, which are at the heart of any strong relationship, both business and personal.
Everyone wants great people to say great things about them to other great people. For an entrepreneur, being referred in this way is how we grow our companies. If you could put in place four easy habits that with practice could make you highly referable, why wouldn’t you at least give it a good try?
Not one of these relationship habits requires any sort of special skill or talent or great intelligence. It does require a certain degree of mindfulness and, of course, the desire and effort to practice four habits that will stand you in good stead for a lifetime.
“All of business is about strengthening your most important relationships.” #DanSullivan
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Interesting vs. interested.
Once you’ve established credibility, consider the value you bring to the relationship. It’s a common line of thinking that being interesting is a very worthwhile trait — and I don’t disagree. But, I’ve found that being interested has changed my life much more dramatically.
As a six-year-old, I spent a lot of time with adults, and I learned that I could be very successful in adult company by asking good questions. This was in the 1950s, and I knew people who had lived before there were cars, before there was electricity or the telephone. A simple question like “How is it possible to live on a farm when you don’t have electricity?” was good for 40 minutes of “conversation,” which I found fascinating. (It might even have involved milk and cookies.)
So I learned very early in life that people love being asked questions about themselves because they love talking about their experiences. Often, they don’t even realize that they’ve been the only one talking because they’re talking about things that mean a lot to them. This invariably translates into them finding you an intelligent, fascinating person, which is a solid base for long, trusting relationships.
Habits for a successful life.
The five habits I’ve talked about here all work to strengthen our relationships.
The four Referability Habits establish and maintain your credibility with others. And the habit of always being interested — asking questions that allow the other person to talk about their experiences and explore their thinking — will always draw people to you. These are habits that establish great relationships in any situation on the planet, every day of your life for the rest of your life.