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It's Not Just Whom You Know

It’s often said, “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know.”

But while everyone understands the importance of developing a network of contacts, few people have mastered the skill of truly connecting with others. 

Leadership expert Tommy Spaulding shares his secrets for creating the kinds of relationships that positively affect careers, organizations and communities.  
Inspired by Dale Carnegie’s classic work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Spaulding has written a candid, revealing book that’s positioned for the realities of the 21st century.  He encourages people to move beyond old-fashioned networking and focus instead on netgiving – building relationships that help others. Networking is all about collecting contacts and using those contacts for personal gain, he explains.  Netgiving, on the other hand, is about building relationships that help others succeed.  Only when one starts with the other person’s well-being in mind, can one move beyond the surface level of social niceties and the exchange of opinions, to a level where true openness, candor, and trust reside.  It’s these “Fifth Floor relationships,” as Spaulding calls them, which create better organizations, lead to more profitable businesses, and have a positive impact on communities.

In It's Not Just Who You Know, Spaulding provides tools to put his insights into practice.  He addresses such issues as:

  • Understanding the “Five Floors” of relationships: Spaulding thinks of relationships in terms of a five-story building:  the deeper and more meaningful a relationship, the higher the floor it resides on.  All too often, however, people allow their relationships to remain where they start — on the first floor.  We need to widen our vision of whom we may develop deeper relationships with, and learn how to create those kinds of bonds.
  • Recognizing the economic value of ROR – Return on Relationships: Investing in relationships can bring powerful returns for individuals and organizations alike.  However, pressed by the demands of the bottom line, many leaders often neglect to build a culture that values authentic relationships.  This is a key to an organization’s success.
  • Moving NSW relationships (talking only about news, sports and Weather) toward a Fifth Floor level: Moving relationships to upper floors requires that people take specific, strategic actions.  These include doing one's “homework” about those one would like to become closer to; asking simple, nonintrusive questions to help develop a rapport; and focusing genuine, sincere attention on the other person, concentrating on his or her needs, rather than one's own.
  • Improving employee morale and reducing turnover:  Spaulding contends that, by developing a culture in which relationships matter, innovation and productivity increase, turnover drops and morale skyrockets. The secret to achieving such a culture lies in giving more and soaking in what others have to offer, no matter where they stand on the organizational chart.
  • Building lasting, loyal relationships with customers and clients:  Whether dealing with products, services, or ideas, the key to building strong relationships with customers and clients lies in building employee loyalty and enthusiasm.  “Happy, motivated, committed and loyal internal stakeholders become ambassadors who produce happy, motivated, committed and loyal external stakeholders,” Spaulding writes.

The lessons are illustrated with stories from Spaulding’s own life and experiences. He grew up challenged by dyslexia, but realized at a young age that relationships were his lifeline – the one thing he excelled at that would help him succeed.  With hard work and a focus on people, Spaulding became a leader in school and in his community, eventually earning two master’s degrees and an honorary doctorate.  He founded several national nonprofits and became the youngest CEO of the global leadership organization Up With People before starting his own consulting firm.  

Spaulding describes, for example, how taking the time to speak with and get to know the bartender at a small restaurant, led to his winning a coveted scholarship.  And how a chance encounter helped solve a large logistical problem for a nonprofit that he founded.  Spaulding’s interest in others has repeatedly helped him build his career, the organizations he led and the communities in which he lived.  He also shares stories about how other people achieved success by focusing on those around them.

“You never know when the next relationship will be the most important of your life,” Spaulding says. 

Spauldings new book is It's Not Just Who You Know:  Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts Into Lasting, Genuine Relationships (Broadway Books, August 2010 .


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