Unemployment has hit 9.7 percent. So, who's got your back? That's the question New York Times best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi says you should be asking yourself, particularly in this economy. The answer, he adds, comes through the development of something called “lifeline relationships.“ These are people with a vested interest in seeing you succeed. So, how do you find them? In his new book, Who's Got your Back, Ferrazzi says the first step toward cultivating these ties is getting vulnerable “” at work, at home, with yourself, and with others. “Too many people think that business is business, and personal is personal … that's just false,” says Ferrazzi. “The most successful business relationships are, in fact, personal; the best bosses care about their team, the best clients are deeply loyal to you personally.“ Recently, Ferrazzi “” who held a long career in the executive world, including positions at Deloitte, before striking out on his own “” spoke to ExecutiveBiz about how to take that first step “” smartly.
ExecutiveBiz: What's missing from our current understanding of networking?
Keith Ferrazzi: It's always been missing a realness, a personal depth. It's also missing a heavy sense of generosity. Typically, networking is about transactional relationships; what's in it for me. Networking, as I define it in Who's Got Your Back, is about establishing relationships that are authentic, genuine, and caring. You've got to go deep, you've got to do deep.
ExecutiveBiz: Your new book uses the phrase, “lifeline relationships.“ How would you define them?
Keith Ferrazzi: These are individuals with whom you can let your guard down, who give you full candor even when you don't ask for it, who bend over backwards to help you when they can, and who provide you external accountability.
ExecutiveBiz: How has the current economic downturn affected the importance of establishing these relationships?
Keith Ferrazzi: If we all had these relationships going into this downturn, we would all be weathering the current climate much better now. In fact, the quickest way out of this [economic downturn] will be for America, in a sense, to hold hands in groups of three or four and make a commitment to help each other thrive into the hope and prosperity that I still believe lays ahead.
ExecutiveBiz: You speak about groups of three or four. Why that number?
Keith Ferrazzi: With one-on-one, it's easy to let accountability fall by the wayside. With groups of three, someone is likely to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we haven't met for awhile.“ I'll give you a personal example: I've just been on this robust book tour, and the group I'm part of hadn't met for a month as a result. One of my lifelines “” there are four of us in the group “” reached out and said, “Hey, we're slipping.“ Somebody had to call the alarm. With a group of three or four, it's more likely someone will.
ExecutiveBiz: Your book discusses four mindsets “” vulnerability, generosity, candor, and accountability “” that you say are essential to building lifeline relationships. Of the four, vulnerability may be hardest to implement. Any tips to embrace that mindset smartly?
Keith Ferrazzi: It's about practice. Pick a few places and practice being more real. Let your guard down a bit. Let somebody know your concerns. See how much closer and loyal people become.
ExecutiveBiz: Obviously, though, you shouldn't share with everyone, particularly in a corporate setting.
Keith Ferrazzi: Despite the fact it's become vogue to think so, the truth is very few people out there are proactively going to hurt you. That said, the answer is go with the people you feel safe with. What will happen is you become more courageous, you will feel safer, you broaden your circle. Eventually you get to people you would never have expected sharing with. You find they were ready, willing, and waiting to be held in trust.
ExecutiveBiz: How does being vulnerable translate into being a better leader?
Keith Ferrazzi: Let's start with the opposite: When an executive pretends to be invulnerable, he is sending a terrible message to the rest of his organization. It's a message of, “If you want to get to the top, cover your butt, and pretend everything is great.“ Then you have an entire HR organization having to deal with people not embracing growth or success. Leaders need to be human and people need to trust their leaders, you don't trust anybody who isn't human.
ExecutiveBiz: Once executives have read the last page of Who's Got Your Back what's the next step?
Keith Ferrazzi: Two things, actually. I would point people to this place called Greenlight Community. We've created an online community whose sole intent is for people to help each other be successful in their careers. Go taste it. Second, reach out to one person this week and say, “Hey, let's catch up.“ Go deeper than expected. Taste the success of that. It'll be contagious.
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