Avoiding PeopleIt happened TWICE this past week: executives I haven’t heard from in YEARS suddenly reach out from nowhere to “catch up!”

“I met you when you were just starting your business, which has certainly taken off,” wrote one in an email. (She’s referring to an encounter 13 years ago.) “Congratulations! I wanted to talk with you about what I am doing. I also wanted to see about getting an intro to XYZ person. Thanks, Sandy”

Newsflash: Sandy, I don’t know you! A look through your LinkedIn profile summoned a memory that you were rude, inconsiderate and “high and mighty” in your last role (or maybe that’s several roles ago now). In short, you weren’t very nice to me!

People have long memories. Sandy clearly missed that day in “Employee 101” training where the topic of business relationships was mentioned. She certainly should have learned by now that people do favors or prioritize tasks for people they know, they like, and they trust!

In my experience, there are three fundamental types of relationship builders: Givers, Takers and Investors. Givers are the saintly men and women among us who purely just give; they get something euphoric from acts of generosity. Most of us can’t be pure givers because of our worldly obligations, i.e. kids, tuition, mortgage, elderly parents, etc. God bless those who can.

Takers are the worst, and both of these executives this past week, who only reach out when they want something, are examples of that. Takers appear in their time of need, most commonly need of a job, money, or some other scarce resource. The conversation quickly reveals a perception that they occupy the center of the universe. Sandy, above, has NEVER called and asked, “David, how are you, how’s your business, and how can I help you?” The problem with Takers, similar to any addict you may have known in your life, is that they will continue to TAKE unless you stop the madness. So in our conversation, I actually (albeit discreetly) called her on it.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see executives of your caliber make is to go dark when they are in an operating role,” I said. “Unfortunately they forget about their biggest asset, which is their portfolio of relationships. If someone hasn’t heard from you in a decade and you suddenly call, most people will be less than receptive in helping! Give me your address and let me mail you a copy of my book, Relationship Economics. I hope you find it of interest and value.”

I like to think this places me in the third category of relationship builders: the Investors. You see, relationship Investors fundamentally understand that it is much easier to make a request if you begin by giving, investing, and taking a genuine interest in the success of others.

Sandy’s probably a lost cause. But you can do something abut becoming a relationship Investor. Reach out to three people in the week, ahead—perhaps relationships you may have neglected recently—and offer to be an asset to their efforts. DON’T EMAIL THEM! Pick up the phone and call, or go see them, or offer to meat for a meal.

Relationships are a contact sport, not for the faint at heart. No prize goes to the spectators who only jump in when the water just perfect for them!

Nour Takeaways

  1. Business relationships develop between people who know, like, and trust one another. Once that base is established, requests for favors or priority are welcome—not before.
  1. There are three fundamental types of relationship builders: Givers, Takers and Investors. Givers are generous without self-interest. Takers are the opposite, expressing self-interest without generosity.
  1. Investors, as the name implies, begin by taking a genuine interest in the success of others.
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