According to Ferrazzi, it is very possible to be “well-connected and all alone” – essentially, to be surrounded by friends and acquaintances but lacking intimate relationships. These intimate relationships, however, are a natural and essential need that is “part of our DNA.” To develop intimacy and lifeline relationships, Ferrazzi suggests learning and practicing four core mind-sets:
These four mind-sets work together to promote close relationships. Reaching out generously to others often changes the quid pro quo nature of relationships and allows people to be more open and vulnerable with one another. The relationship can then take on the characteristics of a “safe place” in which people feel comfortable speaking with candor. Eventually, people may be ready to commit to helping each other through thick and thin and holding each other accountable for continued growth. These relationships must exist between peers rather than between a mentor and a student. In some cases, however, people with different levels of responsibility may be part of the same lifeline relationship, as long as they can function as peers within that relationship.
Generosity is the starting point for lifeline relationships. In many cases, people want to be generous but are unsure of what they have to give. According to Ferrazzi, everyone possesses a “universal currency” that allows them to connect with others using simple acts, such as helping with a task, listening to a complaint or problem, or offering a simple smile or word of encouragement. In addition, everyone has a unique “personal currency” that involves figuring out what others need and want and then helping them succeed. People can help others by using their personal skills, such as their professional expertise, their ability to problem-solve, their network of relationships, their personal optimism, or even their skill in a hobby. This allows lifeline relationships to involve people of all ages, since all ages have both universal and personal currency to share.
The hardest part for people practicing generosity may be receiving generosity from others. Accepting a person’s generous actions and assistance is essential to establishing close relationships, as it gives others the satisfaction of being generous. Ferrazzi suggests that a person’s reluctance to accept help may stem from the fact that they see the world through a “lens of scarcity,” which makes them believe there is only so much good stuff (such as success, money, charity, knowledge) to go around. When there is limited supply, people may not be able imagine why someone else would want to share with them. When people can see life through the “lens of abundance,” however, then the pie gets bigger and there is plenty for everyone to share. If people can truly “give and let give,” a relationship can be formed in which both people benefit from their own success and the success of the other person. Asking for help naturally attracts people and is therefore essential to establishing a new set of lifeline relationships.
According to Ferrazzi, vulnerability is the “courage to reveal your inner thoughts, warts and all, to another person.” Showing vulnerability oftentimes includes sharing struggles, inadequacies, and fears. As such, it is a quality that can be especially tough to encourage in a business setting, as businesspeople tend to believe that showing signs of weakness can damage their careers or status within the company. As a result, it is essential to establish a safe place before expecting people to express thoughts that make them vulnerable. But vulnerability is a risk worth taking, for four reasons:
- It serves as an emotional pressure valve that reduces tension.
- The confidants become closer to the speaker.
- By talking openly, others are likely to offer help.
- People can master the art of creating a safe place.
It is best to build a foundation for vulnerability slowly, using casual situations to gradually disclose vulnerable thoughts and gauge a person’s reactions. To achieve “instant intimacy,” Ferrazzi suggests several steps, starting with the creation of an authentic environment in which an individual practices “the art of being real” rather than living up to others’ expectations. To attract others to a lifeline relationship, individuals need to suspend their prejudices and project a positive image. When an individual shares passions and talks about goals and dreams, it encourages others in the group to open up and share their own. The individual can revisit past struggles as a way to share painful moments, which can provide an opportunity for growth and learning. When individuals share worries that keep them up at night, for example, their relationship with others can be brought to a deeper level.
Candor is “the ability to engage in healthy, caring, purposeful criticism,” which makes it an essential component of effective lifeline relationships. Ferrazzi uses the stock market as an analogy: Would you invest in a company if you felt its numbers were lies? Full disclosure is necessary in intimate relationships, and providing it is relatively risk-free: friends or co-workers will think the same of a person regardless of whether the person invites candor, and candor can open the door to additional knowledge and opportunities. Based on his work with clients, Ferrazzi states that a lack of candor is “the single most corrosive cause of lackluster performance.” For individuals, candor from others gives the individual an opportunity to change their own harmful behaviors, see facts that cannot be ignored and that will not change without action, and accept the conflict that is central to personal and professional growth.
Candor in a business setting should not be limited to exit interviews or anonymous, 360-degree feedback; it should be based on an individual’s sincere desire to be a better employee. In many cases, it is the responsibility of the employee to encourage candor, as he should realize that coworkers will not want to say something that hurts the employee’s feelings or damages the relationship. To promote candor, Ferrazzi suggests nine steps for individual employees to follow. They should:
- Find people they respect.
- Create an opportunity for dialogue.
- Make it clear that the feedback received is a gift of time, honesty, and thoughtful consideration.
- Acknowledge their own faults.
- Tell the responders what they plan to do with the advice they receive.
- Avoid leading people in their feedback by telling them what they want to hear. Instead, the employee should ask the responders for specific examples of a general statement — for instance, “You don’t always listen well.”
- Proactively decide to “take it or leave it” by choosing whether or not to act on the advice given.
- Preserve the safety of the interaction by simply thanking the responder rather than reacting with anger or displeasure.
- Repay the person giving feedback by giving candid feedback in return, but only if that person is interested.
One way to encourage candor from others is to be a “straight-shooter” in other situations, addressing the elephants in the room that others avoid. While it is important to be candid, Ferrazzi reminds readers that providing feedback when angry or in response to built-up frustration is not usually productive and often avoids the real issue. Pitfalls associated with candor include: responding in ways to get back at people for their candid statements; attributing failure to a person’s performance without considering outside influences; avoiding candor because of fear of conflict or losing a relationship; using candor to shame another person; and asking just one person for feedback rather than several, which would avoid individual biases.
Accountability to others produces change that can be sustained for the long-term. Accountability within relationships allows people to set higher goals and rely on peer-to-peer support to help achieve them. Lifeline relationships grant “butt-kicking rights” to one person (or more) if progress towards stated goals is not made, and they also require solid emotional support. It is therefore important to choose the right person or people to provide accountability, since some people are not willing or able to offer the type of commitment and candor needed for progress. An accountability buddy is different than a regular buddy because that person may be forced to “hold your feet to the fire” in order to achieve goals. In some cases, it makes sense to hire a person from outside an organization or circle of friends to provide an objective assessment of progress. Some people and organizations have begun associating an economic penalty with failure to make progress; in these cases, the person is required to post a bond before beginning, and the bond is donated to charity at regular intervals if progress is not made. If progress is made, the person gets the money back.
In the business world, there cannot be too much emphasis on accountability. It is best to make accountability a two-way street for a pair of accountability buddies who commit to a formal process of check-ins on a regular basis, usually daily or weekly. Finding the right buddy is important, since not everyone wants to commit to an accountability relationship or feels comfortable giving “tough love” to motivate a person who needs it. Individual pairs can develop a system and routine that is comfortable for them, and it is often helpful to formalize the agreement in writing.
Ferrazzi uses an analogy that compares the ease and quickness of taking an elevator to the ease and quickness with which a personal dream team can be used to take individuals to the top. He suggests nine steps for individuals looking to develop one or more lifeline relationships.
The first step is to articulate a personal vision; this requires deep introspection to “figure out who we are, where we are, and what we want out of life.” The answers to questions such as, “Where do you want to be in your life and career in one year or three years?” and, “What aspect of your life do you most want to improve right now?” can provide a basic direction for recruiting and developing lifeline relationships.
Next, individuals need to identify up to three people who could be a part of a lifeline relationship. It is important for people to look outside their inner circle of friends to find people who can help achieve their goals by being generous, vulnerable, candid, and accountable. Good candidates need to exhibit the “4 C’s” — commitment, comprehension (know-how), chemistry, and curiosity — and diversity should also be emphasized, as it brings fresh perspectives to the team. The team will evolve and change over the years, with some people “graduating” from the team to focus on other pursuits and others proving uninterested or unequal to the tasks.
When assessing potential team members, it is important to practice “the art of the long, slow dinner.” This is the third step, which Ferrazzi suggests “takes the tact and finesse of a diplomat,” and it may involve an extended process before a commitment is made. It is best to experiment with some of the behaviors needed in a lifeline relationship, such as candor and accountability, to see how the relationship works before making a commitment.
In step four, individuals should start to broaden their goal-setting strategy by identifying both performance goals, such as “lose ten pounds,” andlearning goals, such as “learn to cook healthier meals.” A person can also identify stretch goals, which require a breakthrough to achieve.
Step five involves creating a personal success wheel: a visual representation that lists seven different areas of one’s life — spirituality, intellectual stimulation, physical wellness, financial success, professional growth, deep relationships, and giving back — and the goals that are associated with them. In each area, the person should identify what the goal is, when it will be achieved, and what people are needed to achieve it. Individuals need to be realistic about their time and interests, and they should note whether their motivation to achieve each goal is intrinsic (coming from inside the person) or extrinsic (coming from the external world).
In step six, individuals learn to fight under a unique set of ground rules, a crucial skill that Ferrazzi calls “sparring.” When sparring, an individual presents her goals and strategies and a trusted individual or group responds with tough questions. The purpose of sparring is not to determine a winner but rather to enable both people to learn new skills. Sparring may get heated and force people outside of their comfort zone, but if a relationship has been established as safe place, it can lead to extraordinary growth. Ferrazzi lists six rules to govern sparring:
- Remember that safety comes first; the goal is progress for both people, not winning an argument.
- The person presenting goals is in charge of the process.
- Use Socratic questioning to make a point. It is best if a responder asks questions about a goal to lead the individual to self-realization rather than the responder stating a hard opinion.
- It is up to the receiver to decide how to react to the information offered.
- Avoid pulling any punches; remain dedicated to candor.
- Allow plenty of time for thoughtful listening, and especially for receptive listening, which offers empathy.
It is often helpful to formalize the sparring process by clarifying, restating, and evaluating the issue and then reviewing, restating, and refining the goal.
The next step requires that individuals diagnose their own weaknesses. Ferrazzi lists 20 different types of self-defeating behaviors, including self-doubt, pessimism, risk-avoidance, and overachieving. He also notes that in certain cases, a strength has the potential to become a weakness — for example, when a person who successfully micromanages tasks in a small office then continues the same behavior when supervising others in a much larger setting. It is important for people to work on only one type of these behaviors at a time, since everyone has multiple ways they can improve. Ferrazzi emphasizes the importance of seeking out diverse points of view and remaining positive when working toward improvement.
Committing to improvement is the eighth step in the process. Individuals first need to make a commitment to themselves and then extend that commitment to others. Making a public commitment to improve frees a person from keeping the need for improvement internalized, forces the person to move ahead because there is no turning back, and builds intimacy with others who will respond to a person’s vulnerability.
Ferrazzi calls the last step in the process “Fake It Till You Make It – Then Make It Stick.” It is important to understand that early attempts to build a dream team may not be effective in accomplishing the ultimate goals. Because the process of building a dream team can be long and complicated, each of the steps can be small and still result in a foundation for improved lifeline relationships and the achievement of greater goals. By formalizing and practicing the process, it can be modified as needed and eventually become an integral part of a person’s thought processes and actions. Ferrazzi warns that this process will not always be smooth; team members will need to address such issues as changing priorities and graduations to other pursuits; the group becoming too close to provide candor or demand accountability; and early expectations being set too high. As the group works out its dynamics, members should focus on collaborating rather than compromising, which will prevent members from feeling that they need to give up important priorities.
Making this process structured and formal will benefit groups that are created at work as well as groups that are created by individuals outside of work. A formal process gains momentum, drives the process forward, and becomes so concrete that progress toward goals is more likely. It also creates peer pressure to succeed, encourages committed people to join the group through the self-selection process, and encourages diversity among group members. Ferrazzi notes that there is a “school for every fish,” and he cites a wide range of successful groups with different affiliations and goals, from young executives to Internet groups that have a virtual meeting every day.
Ferrazzi provides a basic outline for how people creating their own groups can structure a two-hour meeting that is similar to that of a Greenlight Group, which is the specific group model used in Ferrazzi’s consulting business:
- Reaffirmation of group vows — that were established in early meetings (5 minutes)
- Professional/personal check-ins — in which each member briefly describes their progress on personal goals and issues since the last meeting (3 minutes/person, 20 minutes total)
- Spotlight — on a new goal or issue presented by a member (20 minutes)
- Sparring — conducted by group members with the presenting person (30 minutes)
- “I might suggest” — group members offer suggestions to the presenter (15 minutes)
- Group issues — such as finalizing meeting times or the next presenter (10 minutes)
When using the Greenlight Model, success is based on group support rather than individual support. Recruitment for this type of group should focus on peers, not mentors; in particular, it should focus on people who are capable of the four mind-sets and other behaviors such as diplomacy, collaboration rather than compromise, and positive attitudes. Recruiting is a “team sport,” and it may require a formal system to accept or veto members.
Ferrazzi offers some basic, formal guidelines that are used by Greenlight Groups, though they may be adapted and customized for each unique group. Each Greenlight Group needs to establish:
- Promises that outline general group and individual goals.
- Principles that guide individual and group behavior.
- Rules of engagement that govern conduct during meetings.
Greenlight Groups also emphasize the importance of holding all members equally accountable, creating a buddy system for individual support, and having spotlight sessions that provide opportunities for individuals to articulate goals and for group members to help them achieve success. One goal for the group is to celebrate conflict rather than fear it, since conflict is a natural part of any successful group and provides fertile opportunities for individual growth.
According to Ferrazzi, these same ideas can be used to “transform the workplace” through lifeline relationships and groups modeled on Greenlight Groups. International research shows that the most successful business teams have strong social bonds, formal ways to strengthen relationships, and leaders who build strong relationships with teams. In the Greenlight Method, the company hires an outside person to form and guide groups, thereby allowing the group to remain free from internal office politics. It involves six steps:
1. Make the Case – Explicitly state the need for improvement and the possibilities for growth.
2. Raise the Stakes – Identify the outcomes and behaviors that are the focus of the group, the four mind-sets that guide the group, and a customized set of Promises and Principles that are specific to the company and tasks.
3. Bond over “Barbarians at the Gate” – Focus on the danger from competitors and the necessity for change.
4. Dial Up the Intimacy – Leaders should use personal stories and issues to lead by example.
5. Dig Deeper in the Now – Leaders and others should share current personal challenges, not business issues.
6. Getting Candid – Establish the group as a safe place by beginning with positive observations and following with areas for improvement.
These steps require that leaders and individuals be committed to long-term growth for both the group and its members. A group is not a one-time occurrence, and positive results over time provide motivation to keep groups going.
Ferrazzi concludes the book with a chapter for salespeople in which he suggests that the “lone wolf” model of selling is outmoded. According to Ferrazzi, sales groups that collaborate through a formal process are significantly more successful when judged by employee satisfaction and bottom-line sales. Managers can suggest several options for salespeople solo sales, small group teams who work together but are still compensated on individual sales, and fully-integrated teams that share revenue equally. Individuals who want to get started on a collaborative process can progress through three levels:
- Level One: Begin a Greenlight Group focused on the four mind-sets.
- Level Two: Begin to work together on sales proposals, with each member contributing their best skills.
- Level Three: Work toward shared compensation for the team, realizing that institutional support is essential.
It is possible for these teams to be virtual teams, although initial contacts need to be done in person. Virtual teams need to be relatively small (usually three to four members), and members need to be available for long telephone calls or e-mail exchanges without interruptions or distractions. Members should share personal stories and experiences to build a social bond, and they should be creative enough to modify the format as necessary. Ferrazzi notes that personal communication is critical to these virtual teams, and that lack of organizational and personal commitment and deep personal relationships can reduce the company’s bottom-line rewards, as well as the personal rewards of being a member of a committed team