7 Principles of Relationships

I had the opportunity to see Rita Goodroe (@ritagoodroe), business and relationship coach, speak on “Relationships Drive Success” at the Community Business Partnership (CBP) First Friday event. I attended the event because CBP puts on good events and I hadn’t done much networking in a couple of weeks. I was not familiar with Mrs. Goodroe and was a tad concerned about the direction this topic could take. Mrs. Goodroe had great energy, and gave very practical and down to earth advice. A major theme revolved around action so I thought I would share Mrs. Goodroe’s 7 principles on relationships and share their application to my life.

Before I dive into the 7 principles, let’s review relationships. We all have a pretty instinctive understanding of when they go really wrong, but we don’t generally think of what makes really good ones. Great relationships are ones where you can relax. You don’t work too hard, you don’t overthink it. You enjoy it and thrive in it. That said, do you associate relationships with things other than people? Mrs. Goodroe points out our relationships we have with money, time, yourself, business as well as those you have with others. I would say some of those relationships are even stronger than the ones you have with others.

Now that I left you with that food for thought, we can dive into the 7 principles of relationships.

1. Mindset is everything – Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to actions which lead to results. Make sure you have thoughts that lead to actions. At the end of the day, it’s the curse of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you didn’t get a good night’s sleep and wake up grumpy, you may see the grumpiness in everything. This might be as simple as seeing the overcast, low 80-degree weather as another reason to bring sadness to your day. It could be that the last 10 days were over 100 degrees and this overcast cool day was a perfect break.

I have quite 3 professional jobs since I graduate from college. One in 2001, one in 2011 and one in 2015. Some might argue that it was wise to quit the first two at the time I did given we were in the middle of the dotcom bust and a recession. For me, it was never a concern. I always knew that I would land on my feet and find a new opportunity. The alternative of staying in positions or with companies that wasn’t the right fit and suffering through my own unhappiness seemed so much more daunting and unreasonable.

2. Know your value, know your worth – It’s pretty common to underestimate your own value and worth. Unfortunately, if you act in a way that does not demonstrate your value or worth, you will probably end in a situation where you are unhappy. This might be you negotiating on rates and ending up with the wrong client. If you are not confident, the people you interact with will know and will treat you respectively.

In the late 1990s I was approached by a family friend to work at a dotcom startup. He offered me $8/hour. I was already waitressing and had another internship on Capitol Hill making $10/hour. This additional job just didn’t make any sense for me unless I was making at least $10/hour. I knew the value that was able to bring and knew what made logical sense for me at the time. The family friend was a bit put off by my initial push-back but has since hired me multiple times and become a long-time mentor. Had I accepted the lower hourly rate, I would have been frustrated and probably would have ultimately quit the lowest paying job I had at the time.

3. Establish boundaries and don’t compromise – I think we all have heard this one quite a bit, but I think as woman it can be very difficult to adhere to. As humans, we all want to be wanted so when we get approached with any offer, it’s hard to take a step back to think about it, before immediately just accepting it. If you compromise your principles and let your boundaries be trampled, you will always be at the whim of someone else. You need to stay true to your goals.

My family has a busy life. My husband and I run a consulting business, so I’m managing day to day operations and out networking while he is the primary billable resource. Time is money for him. This means he has to choose his extracurricular activities very carefully. I then must also pick up the slack for cooking dinner, shopping, and transporting our kids to their myriad of activities including karate, ice hockey and soccer. I am also active in a Women in Technology professional organization and sit on the board of the WIT Education Foundation. But I know my boundaries. I do not volunteer as team mom on any of our kids’ teams as I believe we fulfill our contribution with my husband as coach. Additionally, when I’m approached about other volunteer opportunities, I gracefully decline.

4. Put yourself out their more – Networking and “free education based marketing” are two really useful means for building your business. Speak, blog, participate in communities and meet new people. It’s important to approach these opportunities with your eyes open and thinking about how you add value for others. The more you provide to others, the more it will come back to you (eventually).

This one is hard for me. I’m definitely an introvert and need to rejuvenate alone with a book after each in person networking event. It’s something I work on everyday. While I have been on LinkedIn and have grown my connections there, I was never a big contributor. I only joined Twitter and Facebook in 2012. I did it for a purpose. Actually there were 2: figure out what it was all about and put myself out their for 2 projects I was working on – a women in tech job fair and a food blog. While I’m not as active on my food blog, I did start contributing on this one. I don’t know too many followers, but am working on building a community.

5. Make it about them, not you – You already know all there is to know about you, so spend your time learning about them. It doesn’t have to be business related. Ask about the last book they read or vacation they took. You learn a lot more about the person you are talking to, and do more to build a real connection than you would if you only asked about their business and only looked for useful tips for yourself.

Again, this is one that I’m still working on. It’s not asking the initial question, but continuing the conversation on or transitioning off that don’t come as smooth for me. I will say that some of my most unlikely friends came from having interactions that had nothing to do with business. It might be the older neighbor down the street, or the parents of the child at the daycare who just happens to be your daughter’s exact age and now 16 years later is still considered her oldest friend. If it was all about me, then these relationships probably wouldn’t have happened.

6. Don’t be attached to the outcome – This is very much about perspective. If you are constantly worried that someone won’t like you or aren’t looking for the common ground, then your outcome is probably pretty precarious. If you change your thinking a bit and ask the question “why did this person cross my path?”, you might just be surprised by the answer.

Since I quit my prior job in March to pursue my business full-time, I have been taking a broader view of networking. I’ve tried several new events and approached them with an open mind. While not all the formats were right for me, I did end up meeting interesting people at all of them. I’ve convinced myself that I just need to pull on my big girl pants and go talk to some new people.

7. Every “no” brings you closer to “yes” – As you approach new or difficult situations, look for the lesson or contribution. It’s important here to look at both what you did well, but also what you can improve on. What can I do differently to get a different outcome?

Ultimately, this is the culmination of the 6 principles. If you approach life with a positive mindset, know your value & worth so you can set boundaries while putting yourself out there more, focusing on the people you meet (and how you can help them), but no becoming attached to the outcome, you will be one step closer to your goal.

Every time I’ve met someone for lunch or coffee, or attended a new networking event, I’ve stayed true to the fact that regardless of the outcome of any discussions, I’ve taken our business one step closer to where it needs to be. In the course of conversation, people have asked about me and I’ve been able to share what we are doing. They may not need those services, or there may not be a long-term connection with the people I met, but it is one more person who knows what we are doing. We are just starting out, so exposure is as important as any thing else we are doing.

As Mrs. Goodroe reminded us all on Friday, I will remind you today: It is not enough to have just read this post. You must take action. Stop saying “you can’t” (i.e. I can’t…because I don’t have any time). Recognize how your actions impact your goals. If you don’t like what you see, then change it.

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