July 26, 2012 – Continuing last month’s article on meetings, let’s consider how meetings are the building blocks of relationships. And since today would have been my dad’s 87th birthday, I’m gratified to share another of dad’s lessons in the process.
When we hear the word “relationship,” we often think of romantic interactions. But consider, what does the word really imply? While making reference to marriage and romantic interactions between people, dictionaries also include references to connections between people. So, relationships equal connections.
Following this definition, we can have relationships with loved ones, family members, friends, business partners and other associates. Even divorcing couples who have children come to realize that ultimately they will remain in life-long relationships with each other through their children.
Now, how do we most effectively develop and maintain relationships? Clearly, identifying common interests is the first step. For if we have nothing in common, what would be the basis of our connection? That is the easy step. The more challenging aspect is cementing and maintaining the relationship – the connection.
I learned this lesson as a young attorney. First, from my dad, who always advised me to join and get involved with Bar Associations as a means of furthering my career. For all my dad’s strengths, he was shy with strangers and not particularly a “people person.” And so, although dad advised me to get out and meet people, he himself didn’t do so and to a certain extent his lesson didn’t take immediate root with me.
A few years later, during my first year living and working in Israel, the senior partner I worked for assigned me the task of researching and writing a lengthy memorandum on the developing telecommunications field and then set up a meeting with the government attorney in charge of this field. On the way back to the office the partner asked me whether the meeting was productive. I answered that the meeting went well, however we didn’t learn anything we didn’t know before. “So did we gain anything from this meeting” asked the partner? I answered that no, there was no benefit derived from the meeting. “Ah, but there was a benefit” responded the partner. Prior to the meeting the partner and the government attorney knew each other by name; however, they never met in person. The partner taught me that now, having met in person, they have established a relationship which will allow them to work together towards a common goal.
This was an invaluable lesson in business and in human relations. We do business with people we know and like. And like a romantic relationship, business relationships need to be cultivated. They require effort. That work is productive is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Each time we meet, our relationship is reinforced.
And this was the missing piece from my dad’s lesson.
This seems so obvious, yet many people – many business people – remain reluctant to embrace this method of relationship. They believe that face-to-face meetings are unnecessary and that the same result can be achieved through e-mails and telephone calls. Such people are missing the boat. Attempting to maintain business relationships without regular face-to-face meetings is similar to attempting to maintain a long-distance romantic relationship. While it can be done, at best it is challenging. At worst it is a recipe for failure of the relationship with all its consequent pain and collateral damage.
More recently I had the opportunity to merge these two lessons. Following dad’s advice, I became an active member of a local bar association. A few months later, I was asked by another member whether I’d be interested in discussing joining her firm in the expansion of its mediation practice. Adopting the partner’s advice, I was open to meeting with people, and so I began a series of meetings with the law firm’s partners, together with another mediator who was also asked to join the firm. After months of meetings and planning, our efforts were actualized.
Although short-lived, the lessons remain: Face-to-face meetings build relationships and create opportunities. Thank you dad, for this lesson. I only wish you were around to see it bear fruit.
Consider then Create the Possibilities.
Adam J. Krim www.driveconsulting.net