People who are important to your professional and personal success, such as customers, advisors, business acquaintances, and suppliers, want to feel good about their relationship with you. Why is this? Because this relationship is a two-way interaction that is both meaningful and personal—it’s about engagement. This type of engagement happens when those individuals feel like they matter to you in ways that go beyond providing goods and services. Meaningful connection occurs when people feel like an individual instead of an insignificant statistic.
When those who are important to your personal and career success become more than a mere acquaintance, they become your advocates. When you have developed the relationship of the advocate, then you can count on that person for a lasting, productive relationship. Even more importantly, when you create an advocate relationship, something very special happens: people will say great things about you when you are not around. And nothing but good can come from that.
Let’s embark on creating the exceptional relationships that can change your career and your life for the better by calling to mind Abraham Maslow. We are all familiar with Maslow’s theory of the human hierarchy of needs. Right? You’re not? Okay, here it is a nutshell: as human beings, we have basic needs that must be met before our higher needs can be addressed. The highest human need, according to Maslow, is for self-actualization—the desire to become the best you can be.
Want to be the best you can be? Why not? Sounds like a reasonable goal. So how is that working out? What are your options for breaking through to a higher level of success? Well, three choices come to mind. Let’s see. You can work harder. Ask yourself if you can honestly say that you are already working pretty hard. Are you kind of dogging it at work? My sense is, probably not. Your competition probably works pretty hard too. And by the way, we all face competition. It makes no difference if you work for yourself, for a company, or volunteer your services. We are all selling something—a product, a service, or a point of view to someone—and so does your competition.
Now let’s see. You can work longer hours. There’s an attractive choice—not! Once again those you compete with can do the same—work longer hours. A third choice is to work smarter. You can acquire new knowledge by going to conferences, take courses, and scroll the Internet for the latest information that may be of help to you. So can your competitors. There is nothing in those three choices that are likely to separate you from the pack.
There is, however, another option. This choice requires you to step outside your mental comfort zone. It requires that you think a bit differently than you normally do. This requires that you take a different course of action. After all, what good is new knowledge if you don’t act on it?
The choice I am referring to is this: implement a systematic method that allows you to maximize the value you provide those individuals who are important to your success. Those individuals are your stakeholders, who I identify as anyone who can have a positive or a negative impact on your business, career, or personal goals.
Why do we need to maximize value to other people? I do not believe you can achieve your highest level of career success without having a cadre of individuals who not only value your work skills but who believe in you and who enthusiastically support you. Let me put this another way: to generate the greatest value you can bring to your potential advocates requires that you have access to people who are smarter and more successful than you currently are. This book provides you the tools to do just that.
Most business professionals today miss opportunities to take relationships with key decision makers to a more highly valued level for two reasons: they don’t think about it, and they don’t know how. I am convinced that the few people who attempt to enhance their business relationships do not take the necessary steps to reach the level which this book explores.
This book is not about just connecting or just collaborating or just thriving with stakeholders. In the pages that follow, you will gain knowledge through a systematic seven-step method for taking relationships to a higher, more meaningful level. These seven steps demonstrate how you can provide a unique, unmatched value to those individuals who impact your life and your career.
When you achieve the relationship level I am talking about, three entities benefit: (1) you, (2) your stakeholders, and (3) your organization. When you create a more highly valued relationship with key individuals, you are making your stakeholders more successful. And when you make your stakeholders more successful, you become more successful. Now let’s get started.