Best Practices for Great Relationships
by Robin S. Sharma

"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster and do it with no thought of reward. Your life will never be the same again," wrote Og Mandino, the great inspirational thinker. In this age of blistering technological change where computers are obsolete the moment they come to market and business models that have governed commerce for decades have been rendered useless by the Web, one time-honored principle endures: how high you will rise in business will ultimately come down to how well you treat people. The more prevalent technology becomes, the more prominent it will become to master the art of developing deep connections with the people who surround you.

You can transform the way you work and the results you see by making the simple decision to get back to the fundamentals and start focusing in building rich, mutually rewarding relationships with the men and women who are your teammates, customers and contacts. Sure high-tech communication tools save us time and make us more effective but these new forms of contact must complement rather than replace the human touch and the process of cultivating relationships. Remember, technology is nice but you cannot fax a handshake and you can't e-mail a pat on the back.

Here are five effective lessons to deepen your business relationships and, correspondingly, raise the levels of your success and fulfillment at work:

1. Stay Focused on adding value before receiving profit.

Too many people in business are consumed by short term thinking where they view a customer as a one-time source of revenue rather than as a lifelong relationship that needs to be nurtured and cared for before it will yield the win-win results you are seeking. I recently retained a graphics design firm to create a new brochure for a leadership seminar I was to deliver to a group of investment advisors. While the quality of the brochure was excellent, the agency charged me triple the going rate for the work they did. I quietly paid the invoice but vowed never to do business with that company again. Had these people not been so consumed with making a profit from me on the first transaction and, instead, sincerely committed themselves to building a long-term relationship by treating me well and delivering far more value than I had any right to expect, they just might have had a customer for life. Had these people taken the time to reflect on the fundamentals, they would have realized that someone such as me, who spends his life as an author and speaker, would generate significant amounts of profit over the long term not to mention the goodwill I would generate for them by telling every one of my colleagues of their high quality services.

2. Keep your promises and commit to your commitments.

Doing what you say you will do, when you say you would do it, in the way you said you would do it is the best way to begin to deepen your relationships and raise the level of your personal credibility with those you work with and serve. We live in a world of hype, where people say they will deliver a certain result and then, once they get the order, they never follow through on their commitment. Yet, success in business, and in life, lies in the follow-through. The smallest of actions is always better than the noblest of intentions and peak performers always do what they say they will do, even when it is not easy for them to deliver on the commitment.

3. Be Fanatically Honest.

A strong commitment to working with integrity requires a daily commitment to honesty. In a crowded marketplace where customers have never had so many choices as to who they will do business with, people will drive many miles to give their business to someone who is honest and sincerely cares about their best interests. Make some time over the coming week to reflect on how often you tell little untruths and obscure minor facts. In business, as in life, the little things are the big things and your personal conduct in dealing with others is the most important driver of long lasting success. As I recommended in my book "Who Will Cry When You Die?", an excellent way to develop an "Honesty Philosophy" is to go on a 7 day "truth fast" whereby you vow to tell nothing but the truth and the whole truth to everyone you come into contact with over a one week period. This simple exercise will give you an acute awareness of how honest you truly are.

4. Be Consistently Compassionate.

"Make it a rule never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say, 'I have made one human being at least a little wiser, a little happier or a little better this day," wrote Charles Kingley over one hundred years ago. We now live in an age when we can send missiles across the globe with pinpoint accuracy but we have lost the ability to walk across the street to meet a new neighbor. We have the ability to e-mail a thousand people with the click of a mouse but we have trouble finding the time to send a handwritten note to our most valued clients. As you enrich your relationships, always remember this cardinal rule: Before someone will lend you a hand, you must touch their hearts. The people who really succeed in business are those who dedicate themselves to astonishing their teammates and customers with their daily acts of decency and through their common acts of humanity. Set aside your paperwork from time to time and write that handwritten thank you note you have been meaning to write. Make the time to take people to lunch and get to know them on a deep personal level. Have the wisdom to schedule time for those face-to-face meetings that no technology could ever improve upon. And say "please" and "thank you". Your career will never be the same.

5. Enjoy the Gifts of People.

Everyone who enters your life has a lesson to teach and a story to tell. The question is not whether you can learn something from all the people who you interact with through the hours that comprise your days but, rather, whether you have the wisdom to look for the gifts that they bring. I have learned powerful lessons on life from taxi drivers and wonderful human relations skills from breakfast waitresses. I discovered one of my favorite books through a camel driver in Dubai and learned the value of remembering people's names from a farmer from Nebraska . It is not just the so-called knowledge workers who hold all the knowledge. Open your mind to the possibilities offered by everyone who crosses your path. Remember, at the end of the day, the quality of your life will be defined by the quality of your relationships so make them your primary priority. As noted by Richard Elder in his book "If I Knew Then What I know Now": "When you are eighty, sitting on a porch rocking and looking back on your life, how will you feel? You won't have to answer to anybody but yourself ... not your parents or your spouse or your business associates. What did you do with this gift of living? It will be an important question to you then so you should make it an important question now."

Robin Sharma is the CEO and Chief Visionary Officer of Sharma Leadership International Inc. (SLI), one of the world’s most innovative and respected leadership development firms. With a client list that includes many of the planet’s largest corporations including Microsoft, General Motors, IBM, FedEx, Kraft Foods, Panasonic, Nortel Networks and GlaxoSmithKline, SLI offers a full range of elite speaking, coaching and consulting services specifically targeted at helping individuals become leaders at work and show leadership within their personal lives. Robin is also the author of the landmark business bestseller 'Leadership Wisdom from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari' and 5 other books. For more of his wisdom visit .

Robin Sharma's best selling books are available at

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Copyright 2003 by Robin Sharma. All rights reserved.

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