By Jeff Beals
Back in the 19th Century, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle told us, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”
Aside from simply being the right thing to do, following Carlyle’s advice serves your best interest.
To get ahead in business and in life, you certainly must build relationships with the “right” people, but you have to be careful. If you become too obsessed with impressing the rich and powerful, you might miss out on the many other people who have wonderful things to offer you. After all, those who are tiny in their professions today can grow to become monsters in the future.
So, as Carlyle recommended, if you want be truly great, start by taking time for all the people around you even those who seemingly can do nothing for you.
The seemingly non-powerful people in your life may have great influence over powerful decision makers. Administrative assistants come to mind. Oftentimes, a salesperson could be so focused on impressing the decision maker in the corner office that he or she brushes past the administrative assistant with barely an acknowledgment. A job candidate could be so focused on impressing the hiring manager in an interview that he or she does the same thing. Both are big mistakes.
As any savvy professional knows, decision makers tend to be very dependent upon their administrative assistants as well as their direct professional reports. If a staff member feels disrespected by a prospective vendor, the staff member will probably sabotage the would-be vendor’s chances of getting the business.
As an outsider, you don’t know the hidden relationships that may exist between the powerful person you want to impress and the staff members surrounding him or her. Treat all people like gold, because your success depends on it.
Even when you’re not in “sales mode” or “job-seeking mode,” it’s worth your while to take a little time for everyone. You never know who could be your boss someday. You never know what person at your neighbor’s cocktail party could hook you up with your biggest client ever. Constantly build relationships now to sow the seeds of future opportunity. Any relationship has the potential to bear fruit if you simply tend to it.
Finally, when thinking about building relationships for your professional benefit, don’t forget the people right in your own backyard. Too many times we are tempted to focus solely on those who are far away from us, the hard-to-reach people who we dream of doing business with. In pursuing them, it’s easy to forget about the people already around you. They might know more and could be accomplishing more than you think.
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Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics:
- “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
- “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
- “National Signing Day: What All Professionals Can Learn from College Football”