February 27, 2007
When I was leadership coach at Yahoo!, I often began manager orientation with the following saying: "You will accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people, than you will accomplish in the next two years -- trying to get two people interested in you." (Adapted from Dale Carnegie).
This is SO true in our business life. Too often, we have weak relationships at work because we are transactional with people. We get busy, and often forget to build (or maintain) any common ground.
When you meet someone on a plane, and the two of you start talking over dinner, you often find several hobbies, alma maters and passions in common. Your bored, it is a great past time. The more you find in common, the more enthused you both become (psychologically, it's validation). By the time the plane lands, you are FRIENDS.
The next day at work you are fighting off tasks and don't chit-chat with cubicle or division mates. It is easy to sit next to someone for several years and find out later that you don't have a relationship with them. The best you've done is to find out their wife and kids name and routinely ask them, "how's the wife and kids." It happens to people all the time.
Today, I gave a lecture at a leadership event for a major bank. I talked to managers about the value of developing personal connections at work to improve morale, culture and retention. I had them do an exercise called the FiveByFive. Download a PDF worksheet here.
Here's how to it do the FiveByFive
On the left side of the page, you see a headline: My Stash of Hobbies and Passions. Write down in the provided spaces, five passions/hobbies you have besides your obligations (work, family). And beer doesn't qualify as an answer! You may only have one or two off the top of your head. Go back in time and recollect your past passions when you had more time. Dream forward into the future, when you'll have spare time and will finally take up (playing guitar).
One the right side of the page, you see a headline: My Frequent Work Contacts. Write down in the provided spaces, five people you see frequently in your worklife. Underneath each name, write down two hobbies or passions they have besides their job or family. Many of you might struggle to finish this part of the exercise. You may have to ask them. But finish and come up with two hobbies/passions per frequent contact.
When I was writing the book, we took a group of over 1000 people and had them do the five by five exercise. Over time, they checked back and we closed the loop on 100's of participants. In almost three out of four cases, they found a connection between one of their top five passions (You run for exercise, your employee runs in local marathons) and one of the passions of the five people you see frequently in your business life. In almost one third of cases, it was a NEW connection that didn't exist before the exercise!
If you start to match passions, you will build an important layer of shock and stress absorption into your business relationship life. When people are connected at the passion level, they are connected at the emotional level too. In many cases, respondents found themselves thinking differently about how relationship oriented they really were in their business life.
Recommended action: Do the FiveByFive exercise. If you find a connection between one of your hobbies/passions and the hobby or passion of your frequent five -- talk to them about it ASAP. Offer to join them if its a close connection. You'll find that the quality of your relationship with them will grow from this thoughtful investment of your time. Bookmark this post and later, tell us in comments what happened!
Exercise is an excerpt from The Likeability Factor: How to boost your L Factor and Achieve Your Dreams.