Business is all about relationships, isn’t it? We need strong relationships with:
- Employees. We set policies and give direction, but it’s our employees who do the work and get stuff done. We will get their best, most energetic, most creative efforts only if we’ve nurtured the right relationships with them.
- Vendors. If we’ve taken the time to forge strong relationships with them, when we really need them to perform for us, they will.
- Customers. We don’t want customers to bolt at the first bump in the road or for a few cents difference in price. With a good relationship, they won’t.
So it behooves us to learn everything we can about building strong, lasting relationships. Below is an idea for building relationships that you will probably find surprising . . . maybe even unorthodox . . . but if you’d like to learn about it, please read on.
“In your business decisions, risk only money . . . never people or relationships.”
- Jack DeBoer, Businessman
Al Ritter is a friend and colleague who speaks and consults on leadership issues, and who has also published several books on leadership. In one of those books, “The 100/0 Principle,” my friend Al takes a very counter-intuitive position. He says that the secret to forming strong, enduring relationships is to take 100% of the responsibility for the relationship. That’s counter-intuitive because most of us think in terms of a 50/50 relationship wherein both parties share equally in the responsibility for nurturing the relationship . . . if you trust me, I’ll trust you back; if you treat me with dignity and respect, I’ll respond in kind; if you’re a good friend to me, I’ll be a good friend to you. But Al says no, if the relationship is important and you really want it to work, the way to do it is to take 100% of the responsibility for the relationship on yourself, expecting nothing in return from the other party. Let me repeat that. You discipline yourself to expect nothing in return. Pretty crazy, huh? Well, maybe not so crazy when you hear the thinking behind it.
Here’s the problem with a 50/50 relationship as my friend Al explains it. We enter the relationship with the expectation that the other person will hold up his or her end of the bargain. When that doesn’t happen, we feel betrayed, frustrated, disappointed, and even angry . . . not the sort of feelings on which to build a good, long-term relationship. On the other hand, when we take responsibility for 100% of the relationship, we can avoid those negative feelings . . . there are no unrealized expectations to trigger them because we didn’t have any expectations in the first place.
One of the keys to this is dogged persistence. You need to continue to nurture your 100% of the relationship even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. Be the better person. “Kill ‘em with kindness” as the old expression goes. Or remind yourself of the Ed Harris line from the movie, “Apollo 13” when he said, “Failure is not an option.” This is the way we forge relationships with our children, isn’t it? We offer them our unconditional love. They may disappoint us or anger us from time to time, but we love them anyway. Al would suggest this is the 100/0 principle at work. It’s the “no strings attached” principle. The more “strings” (expectations) you attach to the relationship, the less likely that it will flourish.
In his book, Al makes a much more powerful case for his 100/0 principle than I’ve been able to do in a few words here. It’s not a big book, and it’s a very easy read, but it’s packed with compelling arguments that support the 100/0 principle, thoughts for how you can implement it, and stories that demonstrate the power of it. You should read it. Even if you think your relationship-building skills are pretty sharp, you’ll find something in “The 100/0 Principle” to make you even better. Guaranteed.