I was watching a Boston Legal rerun the other night with Nancy.  In the scene, attorneys Jerry and Alan are realizing that they have been too busy to connect as friends.  Alan laments that he never wanted to put work before friendships.  Jerry replies,

“Friendships are little like a backyard flower garden that we plan to tend to, but…”

This rang a bell for me.  My temperament runs toward task orientation.  Give me a task and I’m on it.  Tending to relationships is work and I don’t mean that in a negative way.  Relationships can be messy; people disappoint us, as they are not available when we need them to be and yet, relationships are the key to our success in business and in life. 

– Whether it is a salesperson building customer relationships that lead to a sale;
– Or, a buyer cultivating relationships with sellers in order to ensure a steady and reliable stream of supplies;
– Or, a project manager developing relationships with colleagues so the project can be completed.

Relationships are important and they should be tended.  I remember many years ago, when I was relatively new in business, I developed a great relationship with a client named Marty.  After he took another job as a VP for a large National Bank outside my territory, I set the local sales rep up to work with Marty.  The deal was worth $500,000 a year.  The contract negotiations broke down and my friend called me in desperation.  Long story short, I was able to help close the deal for my colleague, because of the trust Marty and I had developed in our relationship.  We were able to operate at what Stephen M.R. Covey calls The Speed of Trust®. 

So how do we tend to relationships?

1. We need to commit to them.  Even with all the things that beckon and call for our attention, the time spent together talking and learning about each other is critical.

2. Make it a point to stay in touch by
a. E-mail
b. Phone calls
c. Visits
d. Lunches, dinners, coffee

3. Little remembrances like birthdays, or the mention of the book that they might find interesting, are ways to deepen those bonds.  I remember a friend sending me a tie that I commented on – it was a gesture that showed he had been engaged and remembered our conversation.

What are some of the ways you tend to relationships?

Do you have relationships that need tending?



  1. I read your post and thought back to the song “No Man is an Island”. Relationships, not tasks are the backbone of our long term happiness. But many people (myself included) focus more on tasks than we should. While for others, building relationships is as natural as breathing.

    You mentioned some techniques for building relationships above, and you could add things like:
    – a personal thank you note
    – birthday cards
    – taking a person to a ballgame or event that they enjoy

    Personally I would love to learn more about starting new relationships as much as growing the existing ones.

  2. Dave,

    Building relationships is one of those “magic sauces” that successful people have. My sister in-law knows no strangers. She can walk into a room and is quickly connecting on a genuine level with everyone.  She is a natural.

    Others walk into a room of strangers and they walk into a room of strangers. They are uncomfortable and often do not know what to do. This is where I started. That was not going to help me make any sales so I did some reading and have tried a number of things. One I have not tried but I find intriguing is a story I read recently. (I can’t remember where).

    A young man noticed that at networking events he and several others were hugging the wall, not really networking. So, he tried something different. He got a sign to hang on the wall that said, “Wall Flowers Meet Here;” they did! He met people and introduced them and they were off to the races.

    What I do when I go to meetings is, I first say hi to all the folks I know and those that I want to know. Then I look for a table of strangers or a cluster of people that I might step into and I do. When I sit down, I introduce myself and ask them why they are here? Recently I have been trying to go a little deeper in developing a relationship. I ask how long in the business and how did they get into the business.  As people, start answering others become engaged and the table soon has a conversation.

    The first step in building a relationship is extending and introducing yourself. It sounds so simple and yet so many of us resist it. In many cases, the person you are extending yourself to will be glad someone did it because now they can talk to someone and not be nervous about who to talk to. Dale Carnegie used to say something like, “the best conversationalist is one who asks questions and listens.” My good friend Keith is like that. I always feel remarkable after a meeting with Keith because he genuinely in curious and interested in my life and I know it. Love the guy.

    If you meet someone you like, and had rapport with and or that you want to have rapport with the nest step is to follow up. Bob Burg suggests with a postcard, telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them and reconnecting somehow to your conversation. I have a couple of friends I met that I wanted to develop a deeper relationship with so we tried a book club. I think that was to o formal for most.  Now it is breakfast or lunch.

    It is in reaching out and inviting someone into relationship that we develop them.

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