You may have heard people say that in business, it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts. But when you really think about it, relationships are a meaningful part of both our professional and personal lives. The people we meet, befriend, collaborate with and fall in love with all play a huge part in shaping our futures.
Of course, there are good relationships and bad relationships, but then there are power relationships. These are the ones that support us through difficult times, nurture our talents and propel us to accomplish amazing things. In short, they’re the sort of relationships that can make our dreams come true. But they’re also rewarding in that they require us to give, support and help the other person grow as well.
According to the book, Power Relationships by Andrew Sobel, there are 26 laws on how these most rewarding of relationships work. The book shares more on all of these laws and shows you how to form the kind of partnerships that can help define a career and a life.
If you’ve ever watched an awards show, you may have thought about who you would thank if you were up at the podium accepting an award for your work. The average successful person will say they’ve had around twelve to fifteen vital relationships in their careers. We can call these power relationships.
So how do you form them? Well, you can start by making sure you have great conversations. But this brings us to another important aspect of forming power relationships: never be afraid to ask a question.
Years ago, the author was helping to organize the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting in Alliance, Ohio. In an effort to raise the event’s profile, he came up with the idea of trying to book a legend of commerce, J.C. Penney, to be a guest speaker.
At first, he asked the manager of the local JC Penney store to help connect him, but he refused. Determined, the author decided to call Mr. Penney directly, and just like that he was soon talking to the man, telling him how much he enjoyed reading his autobiography. He then explained how honored the town would be if he would speak at their meeting.
Thanks to that initial heartfelt conversation, Mr. Penney not only accepted the offer but became his mentor and a lifelong friend.
Some people like to make new friends every chance they get, while others are content with a small group of loyal friends. When building power relationships, you want to focus on quality over quantity.
It’s always better to have a small network of committed people than hundreds of contacts. Think of your personal network as a group of twelve to fifteen apostles, with everyone dedicated to helping one another succeed and supporting one another’s projects. Good people to have in this network would be collaborators, donors, advisors and anyone who’s willing to go the extra mile to help you out.
It’s also better to create this network now – before you find yourself wishing you had one.
You never know, a strong relationship now could pay off big time later on down the road. This is exactly what happened to Petri Hawkins-Byrd, who worked for years as a courthouse bailiff in Brooklyn. During that time he nurtured a friendship with one of the judges, Judy Sheindlin. Fast forward to years later, Byrd found he had an amazing opportunity waiting for him in Los Angeles: as the bailiff for Sheindlin’s wildly popular TV show, Judge Judy.
Now, this doesn’t mean that a person’s power or success should be the determining factor in whether you choose to connect with them. Instead of focusing on what position they happen to have now, you should concentrate on connecting with people you really like, and who share your interests and values.
At any rate, it’s rare for people who find success later in life to bring a newcomer into their network. You’re much more likely to benefit from having started a power relationship with someone early on, prior to their success.
Another tip for building a strong and useful network is to make sure it has people whose ideas and characteristics are different to yours.
Think of the differences in the power duo of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. While Jobs was a charismatic and brilliant salesman who could charm anyone, Wozniak was a technical wizard who was in his element around other engineers. They were quite different, but they wouldn’t have created the Apple technology empire without each other.
By creating your own diverse network early on, you’ll be setting yourself up for personal growth as well as some amazing future possibilities that you could never have predicted.
When people think about the benefits of networking, it’s usually about what they can get out of it. But when it comes to power relationships, it’s all about what you’re giving.
This is why another rule of power relationships is to give people your confidence and unwavering belief. Power relationships are also strengthened by helping someone accomplish their agenda.
Along these lines comes another law of power relationships: acts of kindness and selflessness often create the most powerful bonds. Even small acts, like holding a door open or checking in with a colleague to see if they need help, can significantly strengthen a relationship.
So, if you want to forge powerful relationships, think about how you can help the other person by offering support and learning about their goals, priorities and needs – both personally and professionally. Chances are, your generosity will come back around.
Check out my related post: Do you have emotional intelligence? – Part 2