How to Build Healthy Lifeline Relationships

 building realtionships

(Excerpted with permission from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Who’s Got Your Back?)

There are four core mindsets—which can be learned and practiced—that form the behavioral foundation for creating the kind of lifeline relationships I’m talking about.

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Generosity. This is the base from which all the other behaviors arise. This is the commitment to mutual support that begins with the willingness to show up and creatively share our deepest insights and ideas with the world. It’s the promise to help others succeed by whatever means you can muster. Generosity signals the end of isolation by cracking open a door to a trusting emotional environment, what I call a “safe space”—the kind of environment that’s necessary for creating relationships in which the other mindsets can flourish.

Vulnerability. This means letting your guard down so mutual understanding can occur. Here you cross the threshold into a safe space after intimacy and trust have pushed the door wide open. The relationship engendered by generosity then moves toward a place of fearless friendship where risks are taken and invitations are offered to others.

Candor. This is the freedom to be totally honest with those you confide in. Vulnerability clears the pathways of feedback so that you are able to share your hopes and fears. Candor allows us to begin to constructively interpret, respond to, and grapple with that information.

Accountability. Accountability refers to the action of following through on the promises you make to others. It’s about giving and receiving the feet-to-the-fire tough love through which real change is sustained.

The real key to establishing close relationships with people you consider your trusted advisors in your career and in your personal life is how these Four Mindsets work together. The process starts with generosity. It jolts people out of traditional transactional do-for-me-and-I’ll-do-for-you relationships. Actively reaching out to and helping others gives us the opportunity and permission to take a relationship to a deeper level. This allows us to explore intimacy, ultimately to the point of being vulnerable and open with one another. If we’ve created a safe space, a place where we feel safe enough to say candidly what we think and feel, we can take greater risks in the relationship. It can lead to making a commitment to mutually support one another through thick and thin and to hold one another accountable for doing the things that will allow us to achieve our dreams and destinies. Taking such risks can lead us to create more than just friendships—we can create lifeline relationships to a better future.

This process is iterative: The more you give, the deeper you get, and the more profound your sharing becomes. That strengthens your safe space, providing more freedom to be vulnerable and candid—which opens the relationship even more deeply. Trust builds incrementally, by stages, growing deeper and stronger as the mindsets are practiced more sincerely and passionately.

In the years since I brought these mindsets into my own life, we formalized them at FG as well and have helped our clients create such lifeline relationships in their own careers, leading to greater success both personally and within the group, division, or organization. It’s been a truly inspiring experience. These groups range from corporate board members to senior executive teams, from high-potential young leaders to relatively new employees. We’ve used the Four Mindsets to reinvigorate entire sales forces.

But whoever the individuals and groups are and however they are viewed from the outside, within the trusted circle of advisors they’ve created and the mutual support they offer, they are peers.

That’s worth repeating: peers. Equals. Even though one of them may have clear organizational authority—and the title and decision-making power to go with it—each member functions as a highly respected equal, offering up creative ideas, candid feedback and criticism voiced with authentic concern for the others’ interests, and rigorous attention to accountability around goals, goal setting, follow-through, and of course results. Each member has free, open, and respectful permission to call the others out when they are falling short (because we all fall short, and most of us, as I know well, tend to do so repeatedly).

Have you developed a relationship by using one of these mindsets?

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