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John Maxwell on Leadership
Managing the disciplines of relationship-building
By John Maxwell. February 19, 2013
I think a lot of the time we take relationships for granted. Because of that, we don’t always give them the attention they deserve or require. But good relationships require a lot of effort. To keep me on track in my relationships so that I’m investing in them as I must to make them successful, I practice this discipline: Every day I make the conscious effort to deposit good will into my relationships with others.
That means I give more than I expect to receive, love others unconditionally, look for ways to add value to others, and bring joy to the relationships I hold dear. Every evening, I evaluate this area of my life by asking myself, “Have I been thoughtful toward people today? Would they express joy that they have spent time with me?” If the answer is yes, then I’ve done my part.
If you want to improve your relationships through your everyday actions, then do the following:
Put Others First
The best way to start off on the right foot is to put others first. The most basic way to do that is to practice the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you take that mindset into all your interactions with others, you can’t go wrong. But there are also other ways to show people they matter and that you are interested in their well-being: Walk slowly through the crowd, remember people’s names, smile at everyone, and be quick to offer help. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Don’t Carry Emotional Baggage
Few things weigh as much as old hurts and offenses carried day after day in a person’s life. If you want to enjoy your time with other people, you’ve got to get rid of that kind of stuff. You can’t keep score of old wrongs and expect to make relationships right. If someone has hurt you and you need ot address it and get it out onto the table, then do it right away. Resolve it and get beyond it. if it’s not worth bringing up, forget about it and move on.
Give Time to Your Most Valuable Relationships
Most people give away their relational energy on a first-come, first-served basis. Whoever gets their attention first gobbles up their time and relational energy. That’s why the squeaky wheels instead of the high producers at work consume so much attention and why so many people have nothing left to give when they get home from work. Your family provides the most valuable relationships in your life. They should come first as you plan how to spend your time. After that should come your next most important relationships. It’s a matter of practicing good priorities.
Serve Others Gladly
I once heard an airline executive explain how difficult it is to hire and train people for his industry. He said that service is the only thing they have to sell, but it is the toughest thing to teach because nobody wants to be thought of as a servant.
Helen Keller said, “Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others.” I think that’s true. The longer I live, the more convinced I am that adding value to others is the greatest thing we can do in this life. Because of that, when I serve, I try to do so cheerfully and with the greatest impact.
Express Love and Appreciation Often
After I had my heart attack, a lot of people asked me, “What was your dominant emotion? Was it fear, panic, questions?” My answer surprised many of them. In fact, it really surprised me. It was love. More than anything else in those moments of pain when I wasn’t sure whether I would live or die, I wanted to tell the people closest to me how much I loved them – my family, the people who work with me, longtime friends. I learned that you can’t tell the people you love how much you love them too often.
I think many people believe that the best way they can help others is to criticize them, to give them the benefit of their “wisdom.” I disagree. The best way to help people is to see the best in them. I want to encourage every person I meet. I want them to know the good I see in them. I practice the 101% Principle. I look for the 1 thing I admire in them and give them 100% encouragement for it. It helps me to like them. It helps them to like me. And what else could be better for starting – and continuing – a relationship?
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