Note from Bob:
My Friends, Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, last week released their latest book, Power Relationships – 26 Irrefutable Laws for Building Extraordinary Relationships! I devoured the book this past weekend – it is a “Must Read!
I am pleased with Andrew and Jerold’s permission to share Chapter One with you here – you will also quickly see that a big part of “Building Power Relationships” is asking powerful questions!
Let us introduce you to the First Relationship Law. The story is about our friend Bill Jenkins. One day he got a wake-up call that changed his life.
Bill is a partner at a prestigious professional firm. He’s bright and personable and holds two science degrees from top universities. In the past, he had so-so relationships with his clients. Mostly mediocre, he tells us. But something changed.
Within two years Bill rose to become one of the top rainmakers in his organization. He accomplished this transformation because he dropped his old beliefs about how to connect with his clients. He began following a new set of relationship laws.
“I had a client in New York,” Bill explains to us. “He was the regional CEO for a large multinational corporation. I would see him about three times a year. One day, when I’m leaving his office, his executive assistant, Deborah, pulls me aside. I’ve got my briefcase in one hand and a large PowerPoint presentation in the other.
“‘ You know,’ Deborah begins, ‘My boss really enjoys having a conversation with you. You ought to come more often.’ “‘
Well, I’m delighted he enjoys our meetings,’ I tell Deborah. ‘I do come fairly regularly. And we really prepare for these sessions.’ I nod towards the thick presentation deck I brought with me.
“Deborah looks around, to see if anyone else might be listening. ‘Your competitors are coming more often,’ she says, now in a lowered voice.
“‘ Thanks for that information,’ I tell her. ‘But I do feel like we have a good relationship. And I bring him lots of first-class analysis.’ I shake the slide presentation one more time to draw her attention to it.
“She now leans toward me, whispering. I feel like she’s about to share an enormous secret . ‘I must tell you, my boss has confessed to me that he views those PowerPoint slides as the price he has to pay to have a good conversation with you!’
“At this point, I am stunned. I start thinking about all those slides I’ve dragged into my client’s office!”
“What happened next?” we ask Bill.
“I reflect long and hard about this encounter . And I begin to change how I interact with the CEO and his other executives. I start seeing him more often. Our meetings are more casual and personal— sometimes over lunch, occasionally for coffee in the early morning.
“I start learning much more about his agenda, including his personal goals and ambitions . Because I’m seeing him more often, I’m in the flow of his daily life and can add more value to his day-to-day challenges.
“I still prepare for our conversations, but I don’t often bring the PowerPoint slides. I start offering more ideas about his overall business challenges and growth opportunities.
“And as I learn about additional issues his company faces, I’m able to introduce other colleagues and expand our work. The CEO begins to see my firm and me as contributing to his company’s growth strategy , not just as a spare set of hands to do operational analyses. Our discussions become more wide-ranging. We both seem to find our time together more enjoyable.
“Within two years,” Bill tells us, “this becomes one of the largest revenue-producing clients at my firm. And I never go back to my old style that was all facts and figures. Never. Facts and figures might be an important part of your work, but they don’t take you to the highest level of relationship building.”
“What was your biggest insight?” we ask him.
“This is what I realized that day: You build strong relationships through great conversations , not one person showing the other how much they know. Some of my beliefs about what my clients valued had been wrong.”
Bill’s experience reinforced something we’ve observed for many years . The underlying assumptions you have about what leads to a good relationship make a huge difference in your behavior. And some of your assumptions may be the wrong ones.
Follow the right laws, however, and you build a vital network. You develop deep connections with clients, colleagues, influencers, family, and friends. You create an abundance of power relationships. Bill Jenkins did, and so can you.
Bill gives us the First Law of Relationships for this book: Power relationships are based on great conversations, not one person showing the other how much they know.
How to Put the First Law into Practice
“Power relationships are based on great conversations, not one person showing the other how much they know.”
Restrain your urge to impress others. Improve your conversations and you’ll grow your relationships. Use these five strategies:
1. Evaluate your current conversations. How many of them meet the criteria for being great? For example, do your conversations help you and the other person:
- Reflect and sharpen your views?
- Improve your understanding of a problem or challenge?
- Learn more about each other?
- Feel moved or fulfilled?
- Leave the discussion energized and wanting more?
2. Stop presenting or pitching to others. Turn every presentation —be it to a client prospect or to your boss— into a true give and take. Pause every four or five minutes to ask questions, probe for understanding, and create dialogue.
3. Start actually listening and responding. Other people know you’re listening when you ask thoughtful questions about what they just said. When you synthesize and affirm. When you share relevant examples. When you empathize.
4. Bring passion and emotion into your conversations, not just facts and analysis. Ask, “How did you feel about that?” as well as “What did you think?”
5. Make sure you’re talking about the right things. Don’t be afraid to ask someone, “From your perspective, what’s the most important issue we should be talking about right now?”
Authors of Power Relationships: Jerold Panas & Andrew Sobel
Jerold Panas is the world’s leading consultant in philanthropy and the CEO of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, the largest consulting firm in the world for advising nonprofit organizations on fundraising. He can be reached at Jerold Panas
Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on building long-term client and other professional relationships. He can be reached at Andrew Sobel