You will never hear me downplay the importance of building strong one-on-one relationships. They are essential to developing the trust that is essential to great leadership. But I’ve noticed that we typically overlook a vital aspect of this process – something I call second-hand relationships.
When we’re developing a relationship with someone – a client, a friend, a coworker, a family member – we rightly spend time with that person. We get to know them, and we strive to create a bond of trust. The strength of the relationship is largely dependent upon how we treat that person – things like what we say, how we say it, and how well we follow through on our promises.
That’s powerful and important stuff. But imagine how quickly it can fall apart if that person sees us as a disingenuous fraud. Whatever trust we’ve built will be blown to smithereens if we fail to also develop strong second-hand relationships.
For instance, if you take someone to lunch and treat them like a king or queen, but talk disrespectfully to the waiter or gossip about a co-worker, then you plant a seed that there might be times when you gossip about them or when you might direct your rudeness in their direction.
Not long ago a friend of mine stopped into an auto repair shop to see about getting a spare tire fixed. There were a couple of sales agents on the floor and one of them began the process of helping my friend. In that process he asked a couple of questions and made a few suggestions to the other sales agent, who responded by rolling his eyes and dismissing every suggestion. Here’s what my friend saw in this second-hand relationship: These guys might be experts about tires, but they don’t respect each other and that makes me wonder if they will respect me when I’m not standing right in front of them.
Whatever trust we’ve built will be blown to smithereens if we fail to also develop strong second-hand relationships.
Every interaction we have is an opportunity live our values for others to see. And they often see them even when we don’t realize they are looking or listening. That’s why it’s so important to realize that all people matter – it makes our second-hand relationships something everyone can look at and trust.