Adam Grant introduced Keith Ferrazzi as someone who “fundamentally shaped the way I think about relationships…turning upside down the way I about networks.” Living up to his reputation, Ferrazzi kicked off the Authors@Wharton series last week by quickly pointing out that we as a society would be better off if we got back to connecting to others like we used to. The connections we make when we put down our phones and start a conversation could be the most important connections of our lives – they lead to your dream job, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, marriage, and even a better relationship with your family. Ferrazzi’s point is that everything you aspire to happens with and through others; stop thinking you can be successful by being a tribe of one.
Ferrazzi’s first book, Never Eat Alone, was read by a lot of people who didn’t do much with the information. This “pissed him off,” so he wrote another book titled Who’s Got Your Back. He wanted people to behave differently so in the new piece he provided a method for putting his rules and principles into action which is to develop a Relationship Action Plan.
It’s a quite simple yet deliberate and methodical approach: 1) lead with intimacy, 2) be generous, 3) be transparent, and 4) have accountability. The first step is probably the scariest, and even Ferrazzi acknowledged the “open sphincter panic” that set in when he asked everyone in the room to share how each person reacts under pressure and a defining moment in each person’s life with the neighbors sitting next to them. Pretty deep for a first conversation with a complete stranger, but after about five minutes everyone was having real, thoughtful conversations; they had developed connections quickly by leading with intimacy. In a fast-paced world where you may literally only have the length of an elevator ride to make your pitch, this is a powerfully affective approach.
Ironically, giving to others leads to getting what you want (a recurring theme for those in Diamond’s Negotiations class). Ferrazzi explained his quick ascension up the Deloitte ladder through his unwavering service to the CEO (with whom he eventually developed a father-son relationship). He repeatedly asked “what can I do to make you successful” and followed-through. He demonstrated that when you authentically serve someone, they actually start to care about you. And that this service genuinely pays off.
Being transparent and accountable sounds obvious in order to develop meaningful relationships, but think about how many “relationships” you’ve had where these two values are missing. As Ferrazzi points out: “just give a damn”. Unfortunately too many of us don’t, so really think about the relationships in your life and prioritize the top 25 people who are most important to your success. It’s a system. Follow it, and you will be happier and more successful. It sounds sleazy, even clinical, to approach relationships with a strategy, but Ferrazzi’s passion and energetic storytelling made his audience believers. In my case, I know the next time I find myself standing next to Warren Buffett I’m going to share a moment of vulnerability, offer to be his slave, and one day we just might become BFFs.