Build great business relationships by being a Giver

Build great business relationships by being a Giver by Halelly Azulay on the TalentGrow blog

As I’ve explained before, I believe networking is all about building mutually-beneficial, long-term relationships.

When you build business relationships with an abundance mindset it should not scare you to give generously.

Giving helps you establish yourself as a go-to person. It helps you create immense value for others and supports your pursuit of mutually-beneficial, win-win relationships by tipping the proverbial scales in your favor.

Are you a Giver, Matcher, or Taker?

In his book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant describes three basic approaches to giving: You’re either a Giver, a Matcher, or a Taker.

Based on decades of social science research on reciprocity, Grant concludes that Givers give without any expectations of immediate benefit or gain; Matchers are always keeping score, keeping the scales consistently balanced in their interactions and ensuring that there is always some kind of mutual exchange in every interaction; while Takers are looking out for themselves, period. (What’s worse, some Takers will actively assure the other side’s loss.)

Grant’s research shows one category overrepresented at both ends of the success curve – the Givers tend to be both the most and the least successful.

Not all Givers are created equal

What distinguishes successful from unsuccessful Givers?

While they don’t keep a chit list for every interaction like Matchers, the successful Givers don’t give selflessly either. They consider their own self-interest but have a long-view perspective and understand that giving and taking occur over the long term of a relationship, not in a quid-pro-quo, tit-for-tat, transactional, or momentary fashion.

Successful Givers avoid giving to Takers, preferring to focus on other Givers and Matchers as safer value-traders.

Makes sense – they avoid getting taken advantage of this way, and assure adherence to the trader principle with others who play for that kind of outcome too.

To build trust and familiarity, put others’ interests first, but not at your own expense

To build trust and familiarity, put others’ interests first, but not at your own expense Tweet: To build trust + familiarity, put others’ interests 1st, but not at your own expense #TalentGrow #blog @HalellyAzulay

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Bob Burg, author of The Go-Giver (among other best-sellers) talked about his “law of influence” during our chat on episode 30 of the TalentGrow Show podcast: “your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.” This is a practice he says is common to all great leaders and influencers.

But as a qualifier, Bob suggests that “when we say place the other person’s interests first, we certainly do not mean you should ever be anyone’s doormat, be a martyr, or self-sacrificial in any way.”

Bob explains that, “all things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust. People will also follow people they know, like and trust. They will want to be in relationships with people they know, like and trust. They will allow themselves to be influenced by those people they know, like and trust.

"And there’s no faster, more powerful, or more effective way to elicit those feelings towards you from others than by genuinely and authentically moving from a “me” focus to what we call an “other” focus. Make your ‘win’ about the other person’s ‘win’.”

Be a Giver – the successful kind (not the sucker kind)

Of course, my suggestion is that to be a great networker and build better business relationships you should work to be a Giver – the successful kind, of course. Here’s how:

  • Give generously of your time, your ideas, and your connections to those in your network and those you want to add to your network.
  • Don’t bother counting chits or looking for in-the-moment matches. In fact, I suspect those people with a transactional view of relational giving are those who give networking a bad name. Second after the Takers, no doubt.
  • With an abundance mentality that there’s enough for everyone, and a long-term view of what mutual benefit should be, view your relationships (current and future) as ongoing value-creation trades over the long haul.

    Some of the time, give abundantly with no reciprocation expected or received. Other times, your relationship counterpart will give to you with no strings attached. And over time, if you’re both seeking to be value traders and mutually-beneficial, it will all balance out and no one will feel taken advantage of.
  • In all relationships, and especially in those where you worry there might be an imbalance of value on your end (you think the other person doesn’t have as much to gain as you do from the relationship), offer appreciation. It’s rare and valuable for highly successful people to develop a relationship with someone who is mainly a benefactor of their work and to hear specifically what that person appreciates and receive their gratitude.
    • If there’s someone that you admire, want to emulate, and to learn from, before you ever ask them for anything, give to them. Show up in their world as a person who appreciates them, boosts them, promotes them, brags about them, or comments positively on their blog posts and/or social media shares. Of course, do it in a sincere way, not a brown-nosing kind of way. Give without taking anything. Tip the scales.
    • If you do that, they will feel a great deal of appreciation for you. You will be on their ‘good people’ list.
  • Then, when you ever come to them with that one specific, concrete kind of question or request, they’re much more likely to willingly and generously give you of their time and knowledge. You’re ensuring that it’s a good future trade by giving value first and often.
  • Evaluate your relationships periodically to ensure that they continue to be mutually-beneficial, always looking to ensure that you’re topped off on the giving side of the scale and adding to it, but that you’re feeling the reciprocity over time. If not – it may be time to release that relationship and pay less attention to it, so you can focus on other, more rewarding ones instead.

Your turn:

Have you experimented with this Giver approach in relationships and networking? What’s been your experience?

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