Secrets of Success, Week Three – Relationships

Welcome to week three of my Secrets of Success blog series. If this is your first time reading, I won’t keep you in suspense: the secret of success is determined by your daily agenda. That means the key to your long-term success is found in your daily short-term decisions. When you choose to make wise decisions in key areas each day, you experience significant growth over time. That growth is what fuels your success.

I’ve chosen to focus on three key areas where your daily decisions make the most impact. In week one, I wrote about making good choices for your health. Last week, I wrote about choosing to make personal growth a priority each day. Today, I want to move you beyond yourself and turn your attention to the people around you.

I’ve said before that the best leaders surround themselves with great people. In fact, the Law of the Inner Circle says that you can only fly as high as the people around you. After all, you can’t soar with eagles if you’re surrounded by turkeys! And while that statement is true, there’s a flip side we should pause to consider: what happens when you’re the turkey?

Let me illustrate with a story.

A manager sat down with two of his most valued employees to discuss a complaint from one of their clients. It seemed that the client hadn’t received some crucial documents, and the two employees were blaming each other for the failure. The manager wanted to get to the bottom of things.

“Well, Fred,” the manager began, “since you’re the account manager, I’ll let you start. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“It’s simple,” Fred said. “Bill didn’t listen to me.”

The manager turned to Bill. “Bill, what do you have to say?”

“Fred’s out of his mind. I can tell you every last word out of his mouth,” Bill replied.

The manager turned to Fred. “How do you respond, Fred?”

Fred said. “I gave him some specific instructions regarding how the final documents were to be sent. Let’s see if he can remember them.”

The manager looked at Bill. “Well, how about it, Bill?”

Bill smiled and began rattling off a long list of specifications, down to the type and amount of postage to be used. The manager was impressed.

“That was amazing. I doubt I could remember all of that,” the manager said. “It seems like Bill listens to you just fine, Fred.”

“Really?” Fred asked. “Then ask him for the address he was supposed to mail it to.”

The manager laughed. “That shouldn’t be a problem. Bill, what was the address?”

Bill looked at the manager blankly. “I don’t know.”

The manager was astonished. “You just proved you could remember every word that came out of Fred’s mouth! How can you not know the address?”

“Simple,” Bill said. “Fred wrote it down.”

Imagine this story if you and your spouse were in place of Fred and Bill. Or maybe you and one of your children. Chances are you’ve experienced something similar and learned the story’s truth: if we want to be successful, we have to connect with the people around us. Truly connecting with others is essential for our relationships.

Because it matters so much, I want to share four simple actions you can do each day, with everyone from your spouse to your kids to your co-workers. Hey – you can even do these four things with perfect strangers! If you want to transform all of your significant relationships for the better, you need to:

Listen – spend time trying to understand the perspective of others. Don’t rush to talk or solve problems; give them your full attention, your open mind, and your reservation of judgment.

Encourage – ask questions that draw out the opinions of others. What do they care about? What do they see? Why do they think or feel the way they do? Good questions help you uncover great insights.

Reason – carefully think through your response. You want to consider how the other person will react to your ideas. Don’t just rush to get an answer out; take time to reason through your ideas.

Respond – share your ideas with the other person, making sure to include your reasoning and how you took the other person’s ideas into account. Follow up with any action you propose.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just four little things. But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll recognize the need to improve in at least one area. Taking time each day to be deliberate with others can be the key to changing a relationship for the better.

I learned this the hard way early in my marriage. Whenever Margaret and I would get into a discussion, I was always preoccupied with being the one in the right. Finally, after I’d “won” another victory, Margaret said, “John, you’re winning the arguments, but you’re losing me.”

Wow. That hurt. But it taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me to be intentional about my relationship with Margaret, and to make connecting with her the priority. I’ve done everything I could every day to become a better listener, and a better husband, with every passing year.

My friend, you can make each relationship you have better with just a little bit of effort each day. The more you value and connect with the people in your life, the greater your potential to see great things from those relationships. The secret is making connecting with others a daily priority.

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