Monday, May 11, 2009

Who's Got Your Back? Building Trust in Your Life

Quick: Name three people -- who are not related to you -- that you would trust with your deepest, most intimate thoughts.

Now let me guess who you named: 1. The guy in the cubicle next to yours; 2. Someone you met online nine months ago; and 3. One of your employees.

If you're Jorge Colon or Maxine Zdebiak, it's the second choice. If you're someone else, you may be so busy laughing your ass off at the thought of trusting anyone at work to answer your phone -- let alone tell them your deepest thoughts and feelings -- that you can't think of a single person.

But according to networking guru Keith Ferrazzi, what we all need is deeper, more trusting relationships. Without them, he says, we're never going to really have the level of success we desire.

Ferrazzi says the idea for his new book, "Who's Got Your Back," came about when a friend made him realize that even though he was super busy and seemed very successful with his company and bestselling book, "Never Eat Alone," he had “few relationships with people I could really open up to, share my fears and failures and goals and dreams with, and ask for help.”

Ferrazzi began considering why such relationships were important and how they could be developed. But unknown to Ferrazzi as he was working on the book was that Colon, Zdebiak and two other people who had met through Ferrazzi's Greelight Community had already formed a close-knit group, working for months to develop a deep friendship that would transition into advising one another professionally.

“We’re basically four wheels on a car,” says Colon, a Florida-based lawyer. “Everyone has different roles they play. We end up sharing more with one another than we do with our own family.”

While the four members in various parts of the world are very close, only Zbebiak and Colon have met in person. Using Skype, having one-hour phone conferences at least three times a week and e-mailing continually, the group has encouraged one another when needed; kicked butt when required.

“Even though our relationship has been virtual, sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger. We have a real candid intimacy, and we really worked to develop that,” Zbebiak says. “I didn’t have this with other business associates. This is a very different way to build relationships. We stay in contact three or four times a week, and exchange a lot of e-mails. The connection is so strong; we feel we’ve known each other for years.”

When learning of the group, Ferrazzi sent them drafts of "Who's Got Your Back" to get their input. “It was uncanny when he (Ferrazzi) asked us to review the book, because it was what we were experiencing,” Zbebiak says. “Our group has brought me a stronger self-confidence. We have incredible support for one another.”

Much in the tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers where there is no clear leader and members support one another through highs and lows, Ferrazzi says he wants people to find that “safe place” where they can help one another achieve the success they desire.

Ferrazzi says that as many people struggle with tough financial times, being laid off from jobs or watching careers disintegrate, such close, trusting relationships are needed more than ever. “You don’t have to struggle alone,” he says. “It could be the woman in the cubicle next to you, or if you’re the boss, members of your own team, who can help you.”

Of course, this is often difficult for many people who believe that letting their guard down, or exposing their vulnerabilities to others will make them less successful, or appear weak. Ferrazzi says he learned first-hand that "struggling alone" not only hurts personally, but professionally.

"We can't do things the way we used to," he says. "Those leadership skills -- where we went it alone -- aren't working today."

Do you think relationships in the workplace are changing? How?


@MattWilsonTV said...

I'm not sure that they are changing in the workplace, but they are changing online.

Being behind a computer gives you a sense of security. Put your face out there and it's not so easy.

Meet someone for the first time in the cafeteria and you might not tell them your life story.

Emailing someone after meeting them on Twitter you might...

Anita said...

Matt, really said that so well! I don't think we can get too complacent when we make online connections. Building trust still takes time and commitment. If you're not willing to do that (or the other person is not), then it's worth reconsidering how much you want to share. Remember, while your intentions may be honorable, you can't guarantee an acquaintance on Twitter or Facebook will have the same. Thanks for posting.

Scot Herrick said...

Using the "three hearts" analogy from Shogun, this is like moving people from "what you show the world" to "what you show your closest family and friends."

You will notice the common characteristics, however, of developing close relationships. Serious communication frequently, figuring out how each contributes the relationship and trust that has been built through helping another (read: delivery). It's just not face to face.

The relationship building blocks are the same.

Thanks for sharing this one.

Anita said...

You make a very good observation: That the basics of good communication, networking and relationships are the same, no matter the technology. Thanks for posting.

David Benjamin said...

Working in a 'virtual office' removes me from what is happening in the workplace.

As Matt mentioned, we all feel a little protected behind our computers. Social networking has resulted in more relationships being developed and probably quicker with instant access 24/7.

Trust is something that is earned and I am proud to say that in a short period of time on twitter I have developed dozens of relationships where trust has already been established.

Antonia said...

I think whether or not they're changing in the workplace depends upon the profession.

I have found a community online in which I have the type of support you mention, and am very Grateful for it. As with any relationship, we have gotten to know each other slowly, building trust. I have no idea how it would translate in the "real world", but we share ups and downs, and common interest information. It's Lovely!

Bill Lampton said...

Anyone who has traveled regularly has noted how open strangers can become with their needs and problems, especially when the speaker and listener don't exchange names. The real leap of faith and trust happens when the acquaintances share names, contact information, and other details. This level of sharing is a prerequisite for genuine bonding.

Anita said...

I'm not doubting your word, but I am curious: How do you KNOW that you can trust the people you have met on Twitter? Have you tested that relationship somehow? I'd be interested in hearing more about that....

Anita said...

Ferrazzi's new book talks a lot about how these relationships become deeper and more personal with a real commitment from those involved...something I think we all miss with our networking as we move at such a fast pace.

Anita said...

I, too, have made some great relationships online, but I am still cautious. I think that's part of what Ferrazzi addresses: How we can let down our competitive edge, our appearance of being infallible, and open ourselves up to the generosity of others...and being generous in return. Even relationship-building takes time, and those who are impatient may not reap all the benefits. Thanks for sharing.

Maxine Karchie Zdebiak said...

Hi Anita,

Thanks for sharing our story.
I must tell your readers though that building the deep relationships online, are not instantanious, they take time. At at Greenlight Community, for me at least, it's based with people having bios on their page with profiles etc. Them belonging to different groups, sharing ideas and thoughts. You get to know people's values and ideas. It would take a lot longer to find out this much about people through twitter or emailing.

You and your readers should check out thoroughly, not only to truly understand how the intimacy and trust develops, but to meet a lot of very interesting people from many walks of life from around the world, and really find some great information and for support in ideas and projects.

It took time to get to the level of intimacy the four of us are at. We have (Jorge and I) have been connected since the end of September last year, and met Tami and Seb in October and November. The relationships built through the reading of each other's ideas, thoughts and chat; helping each other on projects and skype.

Enjoy your relationships, whatever they are and never be afraid to be open and honest.

Here's to your success!

Maxine Karchie

Anita said...

Thanks, Maxine, for sharing your story with readers of this blog. I think hearing it from you firsthand will help them really understand what you're doing and the goals you hope to achieve.