In the early years of my career, I did not have a correct view of life. I approached life as if it were a slot machine. I wanted to put as little as possible into it, and I always hoped to hit the jackpot. I’m embarrassed to say that I often had a similar approach in my interaction with people. I was more focused on what people could do for me than what I could do for them. As a result, I would try to make relational “withdrawals” without ever having made any deposits.
Needless to say, I was not very successful.
As I matured, I began to place a higher value on people. As I made this transition, I noticed a fascinating development: the more I gave to relationships, the more I seemed to gain from relationships. In my book, Winning With People, I named this phenomenon The Boomerang Principle. What you put into relationships has a way of coming back to you.
During my time in leadership, I’ve noticed that people fall into three broad categories with regards to how they view relationships.
Takers receive and never give. They are the people in life who have a me-first mentality. They try to extract as much as they can from the relationships in their lives, and they rarely, if ever, consider giving back.
Traders receive and then give. Traders will only send you a Christmas card, if you’ve mailed one to them. They picture relationships as an equation in need of balance. If someone helps them, they feel a debt of gratitude. If they aid another person, they expect a favor in return.
Investors give and then receive. These are the people who give purely for the joy of giving. They add value to others, not as part of a cold calculation, but as a habit. Although doing so may not earn them an instant return, in the long run they reap the gratitude and goodwill of those they have helped.
Investment Strategies for Relationships
Instead of viewing relationships as a slot machine, picture them like the stock market. To get rich, make regular deposits in people over an extended period of time. At first, you may feel like the value of what you’re putting in isn’t worth the investment. However, like the stock market, in the long run, you’ll reap dividends and earn rewards.
1) Think “Others First”
Human nature tends to focus us on personal needs, but investing in relationships requires us to prioritize others. Instead of self-advancement, think others-enhancement. Like a responsible investor, resist the temptation to “time” the relational market, using someone only for short-term gain. That’s a strategy doomed to fail. On the contrary, make a habit of adding value in relationships and trust that the long-term results will be in your favor.
2) Focus on the Investment, Not the Return
If you’ve ever purchased stocks personally, then you know the agony of watching the vicissitudes of the market. Like a roller coaster, your portfolio climbs up one day only to lurch down the next day. Instead of agonizing over returns, a shrewd investor focuses on making the investment. The same principle holds true in relationships. Don’t expect specific and immediate benefit from your relational inputs. Through time, you’ll be taken care of as long as you’re willing to invest.
3) Make Educated Investments
Not all investments yield the same interest, and not all relationships produce the same reward. As a leader, make investing in others a general principle, but be deliberate about putting energy into low-risk, high-reward relationships. Seek out talented people with teachable dispositions, and offer your relational capital to those who will make the most of it.
4) Initiate the investment
A stockbroker won’t hack into your bank account and invest money on your behalf. You have to be willing to take the first step. Don’t be stingy with your relational investments, giving only to those who’ve first given to you. Rather, take responsibility for setting the tone of adding value in your relationships.