Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Building Relationships and Influence... Lessons from Dad

I wrote a short blog post at Insidework:

One of the many qualities I respect in my father is his ability to build relationships. He knows hundreds of people well — and thousands on the periphery of his life — from eating and drinking and playing golf together. I’ve met several people somewhat like my father, but he’s part of a smaller subset that breeds true loyalty in relationships. How many people do you know have friends they’ve known since grade school who would sacrifice for them half a century later?

I believe there are several qualities that allowed him to build up such friendships.

* No judgment. My father never judged his friends, and openly welcomed them to his home, even during his childhood. I have listened to many of his friends tell me how they grew up eating at my grandparents’ home because my father constantly invited them. I’ve met his friends across a wide spectrum of achievement each of whom he cherished whole-heartedly.

* Incredible patience. While I like to think I followed after my father in many of his qualities, I cannot match his patience. One story is when he helped a friend gain an executive position at a major corporation. That same friend back-stabbed him on a business deal a year earlier… but my father still helped him. No one in our family could understand this. I honestly would have sought some type of revenge, but my father paid him back in kindness. Incredibly, this was before my father began following Christ, so I have no explanation but that my father’s policy was to always do good to others.

* “Influence is like a savings account.” This is a phrase my father repeated while I was growing up and it has been with me ever since. He was always willing to help others, but some things took more effort than others. It was in these situations that he taught me to weigh the costs. He told me, “Bernard, influence is like a savings account, once you use it it’s gone.”

I believe my father’s qualities are universally effective in building strong relationships throughout life. Following his principles — however imperfectly, and even when they go against the grain — has helped me create a solid foundation among my friends and colleagues at work.

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