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Trimming the Fat

January 9, 2011 15 comments

There are hundreds of blog posts written on the value of networking, but people don’t talk as much about the downside of networking; like spreading yourself too thin. The past two years have been transformative for me all around, but the best thing I learned was how to “trim the fat”. To cut out anyone in my life that does not add value, does not help me to grow, learn, and does not treat me as I treat others – I treat everyone as if they’re my most important client. When I wrote “30 things I’ve Learned in Thirty Years”, the most commented on item was,

Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.

In my professional life, I made this black and white. I developed a list of traits that people I associated with in business needed to have. Those that didn’t encompass that ‘criteria’ were slowly moved to more of an acquaintance. Those that met the criteria below were and are the people I surround myself with. I suggest you look over this criteria and engage in the introspective process of developing your own. It will likely be very different from mine; but sort through your business relationships and ask yourself – do these associates fulfill me? My criteria is as follows:

1. Must be brutally honest (notice the word “brutal”). I want to know when I do something wrong and I don’t want to “corporate/politically correct” statement, I want the hard truth. Tough Love is crucial for me to move forward.

2. Must be able to ‘look in the mirror’ honestly. I want people who know themselves, their strengths, and weaknesses, and most importantly – “know what they don’t know” and not be afraid to admit it and ask for help.

3. Must hold themselves and those around them accountable. I’ve been in many situations where people ‘move up the corporate ladder’ by playing the game; not necessarily contributing to the bottom line of the company. Results oriented with an understanding of process is what I need.

4. Must not “work to live”, but “live to work” or at least be individuals that work because they love it, not because it’s forced on them.

5. Must have an understanding of the importance of communication skills and ‘treat everyone as if they’re the most important client’. Nothing irks me more than people not showing up for meetings, phone calls, etc. If you’re unable to attend, it happens – but communicate as soon as you realize.

6. Set Expectations

7. Be real – be the same person personally and professionally. One thing that I’ve found constant is people’s values and ethics. If someone is phenomenal professionally, but cheats on their spouse ( for example ), how could that person ever be loyal to you?

8. Push others to better themselves. The smarter and more ambitious those around you are, the better you will be. Bring out the best in one another.

I had always done a decent job of doing this in my professional life, but not in my personal life. I’m an extrovert and dive head first into conversations, meetings, and new friendships with the mindset that everyone can add something to my life; we can learn from each person you meet. I also committed to myself that I would be an open book; what you see is what you get. What that turned into was hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were ‘friends’ or people who expected me to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. A couple years ago I realized – I would have to make changes. It was okay to have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of “friends” as inevitably the ones that really DID matter to me – my closest friends – were not receiving the treatment I wanted solely for them; not for everyone else. I was too busy.

So I trimmed the fat. I looked over my group of friends and I asked myself, “who could I not live without?” It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I look over the people I surround myself with, my life wouldn’t be the same without them. This doesn’t mean I speak with them everyday – some I do, some I don’t – depending on how we’ve communicated to one another how we expect our friendships to work; but bottom line – I DO treat them as if they’re my most important client.

So ask yourself – are you spread too thin? Or are you able to treat the people who are most important the way you would want to be treated. If you’re not, take a moment and decide; who is worth the time and how do you trim the fat of your friendships and business relationships.

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