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The framework

In this section, we will establish a framework for building lasting relationships. There are some important issues that concern ALL of us in our everyday lives that you may want to remember when you meet someone.

#1. Everyone is managing multiple projects

I am assuming that we are all interested in developing relationships with powerful people. There is one thing in common defining most powerful people—time. As we handle multiple projects simultaneously, we have developed the chronic ailment of lacking sufficient time to give each of our project—and powerful people are no better off (at least this should be comforting!).

#2. Everyone wants to be listened to:

While we are interested in talking about what we think is interesting, many times our audience is distinctly interested in something else. A good way to clear the clutter is for us to give in—and LISTEN. We are now with an upper hand because we know what the other person is interested about, and can quickly engage their attention if we can contribute to their interests.
Round one to us! Now, let’s move on to the framework.

Now, here are the steps to outline the relationship building framework:

  • Identify What Matters
  • Provide a Time Advantage to your relationship (dT)
  • Provide a Performance Advantage (dP)
  • Provide a Performance AND Time Advantage (dP.dT)
  • Design a Two-Way Street
  • Build fairness from ground-up
  • Communicate with Clarity

#1. Identify What Matters

In the first few minutes of your meeting, your only job should be to listen and understand “What Matters” to your new-found acquaintance. While this may look like a big task, all you need to do is to LISTEN. You will be tempted to talk but listen. Otherwise, there is very little chance that you will talk something that will be of interest to the other party. Remember that you will never get absolutes – neither on where the person is or where he wants to go. That is not the objective. When the person talks about some of the projects that he or she is working on, you have to start inferring from these projects to understand what matters for the other person.

#2. Provide a Time Advantage

Once we identify what matters to the other person, our first job should be to explore if we can make an impact on this relationship from a time viewpoint (dT), where the time to achieve a goal is reduced by the benefit of the relationship. Let us suppose that the person has some ambitions to reach certain goals in certain timeframes. The impact of our relationship could probably help the person achieve these goals in lesser time—providing a “time” leverage to this relationship. This is probably one of the most powerful benefits we can explore to offer.

#3. Provide a Performance Advantage

The other way to make an impact on any relationship could be in terms of performance. What could you do to stretch the person’s goal a bit higher? Suppose the person wanted to be at $5M mark in five years time, with your help, could the goal stretch to probably reach $5.25M? This is another powerful additive to the relationship that only you could possibly bring (dP).

#4. Provide Performance and Time Advantage

How about combining the two? You can also add value on both dimensions – Time and Performance (dP.dT) In other words you can help the person reach higher goals in a shorter time. What could be better? Now you probably are in the rare bracket of people who will be adding REAL value to the relationship.

#5. Design a Two-way Street

What could the other person do in return? Of course, we know that you know about your primary driving forces in play. The best long-term relationships are mutually beneficial and neither party “uses” the other party for a one-sided benefit. Could the other person make an impact on time or in your performance or on both dimensions?

#6. Build Fairness from Ground-up

Once you go through the above five steps, it is not rocket science to decide if both parties (you and your new-found acquaintance) will be happy when they answer the WIIFM question in context of this new relationship. If one of you is making a difference the size of a parking lot and the other is making a difference the size of a football field, you know that it is not a fair game–and no point in pretending it is. One of you will figure out that it’s not—sooner than later.

Note: What if this is not a fair game, but you still want to get into this relationship–when you can’t give enough,equal to what you will receive? There are many things that you can do, but two things come to my mind:

Build capacity: You should do this anyway, but in this case it is extremely important to DO it. Build enough capacity to ensure that you CAN at some point give back enough

Give First: You can always give without expecting a return. Take time to give without expecting a return for some time. You can build enough equity in the emotional bank account to start a serious relationship.

#7. Communicate with Clarity

Remember that you are not drafting contracts to set up a new relationship.

You should be able to nicely communicate to the other person that you ARE an opportunity for him or her. Better yet, you should be able to communicate that you are NOT coming in the way of their opportunities. You won’t have a lot of time to communicate this – so investing in improving your communication skills – oral, written, non-verbal, email, phone or whatever medium you can think of – is always a great investment.

Even the best intentions are wasted if they can’t be communicated with clarity.

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