Building Relationships: You Must Dig the Well Before You Need the Water

Six years ago, Fred had a friendship with a rep for a small brand. The brand’s contribution to our sales was insignificant, so going to a dinner with him during a shoe show, when there were hundreds of other brands there, didn’t make a lot of sense. But it was still something Fred prioritized, based on the friendship. A week after the dinner, Fred’s friend became president of a major brand we had been trying to get.

If you’re focused on friendship as its own reward, serendipitous stuff just happens. I know that sounds weird, but I can tell you for our 12 years of existence, it’s actually how a lot of stuff happens.”

That story was told by Tony Hsieh in an interview about his former co-worker Fred Mossler, who helped him start Zappos.

Focusing on friendship as its own reward is a very powerful statement, especially in this difficult economic climate. So many times we are befriended by people only because they know that we know someone they want to connect with. We have all gotten requests from friends through LinkedIn wanting help.

Are we building real relationships?

I have a contact that seems to only email or light up my phone when she is asking for a favor. It starts with the “how are yous?” and ends with “can you do XYZ?” It’s so sad.

Building relationships is not hard work, but more importantly, there is no shortcut. The process should be genuine.

LinkedIn has allowed all of us to take our relationships to a hyper level, but so many times, we don’t get a sense that folks are really interested in building a real relationship. Yes they want to connect, but in many cases, they do not think enough to even personalize the connection.

And then there are the ones who prize themselves on being open networkers, with thousands of connections, but who you would be hard pressed to get an email or phone called returned from most of them. So my question is, where is the strength of the connection?

We have all been thrust, whether willingly or unwillingly, into an economic climate that forces everyone somewhere along the line to reach out to someone. There was a post here on TLNT that spoke to the power of referrals in hiring, however as a piece of advice, you need to stay close to people and your connections.

Organizations build relationship with all their customers. Imagine the success of a company that only connects with their customers when they are engaged in a sale, and other than that, they are not concerned and could care less. Today, a company like that would not be successful for long.

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Organizations MUST connect with employees

Better still, imagine an organization that does not connect with their employees, one that is only concerned with your work output and that’s it. Imagine working in that one-sided environment.

This modern relationship model also takes place in our families. Imagine a family that only connects with each other when they need something? That is not a family that will last in the sense of being a family.

This past Friday, I sat in on the HR Rockstar Tour sponsored by Achievers. By the way, when this tour comes to your city, be sure and attend and hear excellent presentations by both China Gorman and Josh Bersin.

China told the story when she was CEO of a company, and any time she had an interaction with her group as she traveled the country she would always make sure to send personal notes to those she talked to. That may not sound like a herculean task but what she found was that as she visited those offices later, she saw the notes prominently placed on the recipient’s desk, pinned to walls, taped to doors. All of that happened because she built the personal relationship.

What can we learn from this? It’s simple: dig the well before you need the water.

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.