A Real Relationship Means It Is All About Them

“And that, sir, is why you are a true leader. You follow through, you are transparent and you remember that relationships matter and build them. I am honored to have your friendship, never forget…Thank you!”

The statement above was from an old friend, and I must say it made my day. For me, the operative part of the statement is “relationships matter and (you) build them.” Before social media we were somewhat limited in our reach. Today we can build networks domestically as well as internationally. With the advent of social media, we all have contacts, some literally in the thousands. However, I tend to think sometimes the number is the chase and not the actual relationship. We see people boasting about the number of contacts they have. They boast of reaching a certain plateau. That is just like holding up the old “phone book” and proclaiming these are all the people in your town that you are connected to.

Are you really connected?

On Twitter you can even buy followers, which has to be for the most desperate. Imagine if you were to meet someone and they whisper, “I can get you all the friends you need.” We settle on a price and, voila, now our friends number in the hundreds or thousands. A true act of desperation. Someone announced the other day that they had reached the plateau of 10K followers. But I ask how many of those could you send an email and get a response? We all know that some folks will just ignore all messages, but percentage-wise we should be able to get some movement out of our network.

Relationships matter

Whether it be Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, if you have contacts, it would make sense to really connect in some way. Think of your contacts as seeds that are planted. You nurture those seeds by watering, weeding, fertilizing, etc. Our contacts should be treated the same. If you are just “collecting” to see the numbers, there is absolutely no value in it for the long term. The one with the most contacts does NOT win unless you have made the connection.

In the end we are all in this together. In business, we all have CRM systems of some sort. For the uninitiated a CRM is “a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”  Well your contact list is your own personal CRM.

So many people tell me in their hour of stress — job loss etc. — that they have to start spending more time on LinkedIn, etc. and build up their contact list or even update their profile. What always amazes me when I hear this is that I know they spend a large amount of time on Facebook. Sometimes people tell me they do not really connect with others because they always want something. My answer to that is: what goes around comes around; my father’s favorite saying was, “You build the well before you need the water.”

What you sow you shall reap

Real success, the kind that exists on multiple levels, is impossible without building great relationships. Real success is impossible unless you treat other people with kindness, regard, and respect.

A great relationship is beneficial to all; in other words it works both ways. In business terms that means connecting with people who can be mentors, who can share information, who can help create other connections; in short, it does not mean going into a relationship wanting something.

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The person who builds great relationships doesn’t think in terms of what she wants; she starts by thinking about what she can give. In other words, how can I be of service? Giving should be seen as the best way to establish a real relationship and a lasting connection. Approach building relationships as if it’s all about the other person and not about you, and in the process, build relationships with people who follow the same approach.

How to get what you want

This approach fits into something that I have always believed in. There is a universal truth that states the true path to get what you want is to give or help someone else get what they want. It is not about you, but about them. When you give, you get. What you sow, you shall reap.

Every relationship, however minor and possibly fleeting, has value. Somewhere along the line you may need to reach back and touch one of these connections. If you groomed and built the relationship, it is — and should be — just a matter of connecting with your request. For the ones that do not reciprocate, no worries, because the percentage of successful givebacks will far outnumber the ones that do not

People who build great relationships nurture them and help them grow. The returns are phenomenal.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.