Relationships work when you work at them.
With your clients, partners and employees.
With your friends, family and significant others.
THAT’S THE SECRET: You can’t get lazy with the people who matter most.
Otherwise your relationships grow stale.
Here’s a collection of ideas to help you squash complacency:
1. Never get lazy with your audience. Complacency is the merit badge you get for winning a marathon in your comfort zone. About ten years ago, U2 learned this lesson the hard way. Their album, Pop, sold fewer copies than any other record in their catalogue. As a result, the group made a public declaration:
“Our band is reapplying for the job of the best band in the world.”
But this wasn’t bravado or a publicity stunt – it was pure conviction. They sincerely wanted to squash the complacency they’d built around themselves.
So they worked their tails off. And a year later, their tenth record, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, sold over thirty five million copies and won seven Grammies. All because they rooted out any sense of entitlement and got back to work.
Of course, those guys can afford the setback – you can’t. Your challenge is to take action quicker then they did. After all, by the time you realize you’re trapped in the grasp of complacency – it’s already too late. You’re simply too close to yourself. Are you standing on whale fishing for minnows?
2. Stay hungry. The word complacent derives from the Latin complacentia, which means, “satisfied.” Which means the opposite of complacency isn’t happiness – it’s hunger. That is, being proactive in the way you honor, recognize and thank the people whose relationships are essential to your existence. If you want to create an emotional connection that deepens over time, consider these ideas:
First, treat gratitude as ongoing process. A calendar of consistent thankful action. Not just a trying chore or an isolated event. Second, give meaningful rewards that recognize outstanding contributions to your organization. Make gratitude palpable and recurrent by giving gifts people remember and keep forever.
Third, give compliments that matter. Show people that they’re not just important, but essential. After all, people love to hear how great they are, but they long to hear how great you’ve become because of who they are.
Remember: Success never comes unassisted. Live your life as a thank you in perpetuity to the people who matter most, and they’ll always remain by your side. Are you trying to satisfy today’s hunger with yesterday’s meal?
3. Constantly reeducate your market. Good brands evolve, upgrade and mature – but great brands actively share the highlights of that process with their customers. Otherwise people will have a limited understanding of the value you deliver. And it will become increasingly hard for them to be your advocates. Your challenge is to remind people of three things.
First, what you do: That is, your current positioning to the marketplace. Second, what you’re doing: That is, your current projects and clients in the marketplace. Third, what you’ve done: That is, your past work and successes thereof. This spectrum eliminates the question of, “Should we hire these guys?” and focuses on the solution, “How should we use these guys?” And that’s a position of diversity and resourcefulness that makes you more buyable and more revisitable.
Remember: Just because someone did business with you five years ago doesn’t mean they know who, what, where and why you are today. How many different ways can people say yes to you?
4. Deeper mindfulness plus deliberate effort. In any relationship, there’s a natural complacency that people gravitate toward. After a certain period of time, you just get comfortable with your rhythms. You let yourself go. And you figure it’s just easier to order pizza and watch a movie instead of taking the time to cook dinner and have a real conversation about something that matters.
The problem is, each of those micro moments of complacency add up. And before you know it, your relationship has degraded into a predictable, undersexed stalemate that fails to give itself the attention and care it so desperately needs.
I understand the chase can’t last forever. But that doesn’t give you permission to undercut each others’ relational ambition. The good new is, you can still be a force in people’s lives without forcing yourself in people’s lives. As my parents like to remind me,
“The secret to a long, healthy marriage is to never get lazy with each other.”
Try this: Next time you say to yourself, “I don’t want to bother her with this minor issue,” share it anyway. It’s an Share for no reason other than to remind people that they’re worth sharing to. Be being radically honest when most people would say nothing, you create an act of caring in a moment of inconvenience. Do you bother to bother?
5. Use every available tool to nurture your relationships. The advantage of technology is that it provides you with multiple points of contact. It allows you to meet people where they are and tune into their preferred frequency, instead of forcing them to conform to your communication style.
For example: Some people prefer phone calls, some prefer email. Some prefer face-to-face meetings; some prefer text and instant messaging. And some people prefer Facebook, while others prefer Twitter.
Fine. Whatever it takes. Use everything. You’re in a position where you can respond to the idiosyncratic needs of each person efficiently and expeditiously. My suggestion is twofold:
First, keep tabs on which medium people prefer. That way you can always reach them the way they want to be reached. Second, let people know ho you preferred to be reached. That way you remain accessible without violating your own boundaries.
Ultimately, and as long as you stay organized, stay updated and stay connected, you’ll be able to nurture your relationships through a variety of tools. And the risk of complacency will drop dramatically. What systems can you put in place to make sure everyone feels heard?
REMEMBER: Every relationship has a contract.
Whether it’s online or offline, personal or professional, engaged to marry or hired to help, relationships work when you work at them.
Don’t get lazy with each other.
We’re all we’ve got.
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How will you squash complacency?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor
Now booking for 2011-2012!
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