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What’s in it for me?

The question you should be asking is “What’s in it for them?” 

You are driving to work listening to the radio and suddenly you hear about an accident on the route you are taking to get to your destination (living in the New York area this is a daily occurrence!) Is your first thought “Oh my God, I hope those poor people are alright?” More likely your reaction was “Dear God, now I’m going to be 30 minutes late for my first meeting!” You see we all see life through our own unique set of lenses, in which we are the start of our own shows.

In order to build positive strategic relationships, we need to turn human nature 180 degrees on its head. Instead of thinking about what’s in it for me, great relationship managers focus their thoughts and efforts thinking about what’s in it for them! It’s rare that we come across people who don’t have their own personal agendas. Truth be told, we all do.

However, great leaders and great relationship managers are willing and able to subjugate their own personal agendas for the good of their stakeholders and their teams. Some people refer to this as servant leadership.

I remember telling my teams early in my tenure that they didn’t work for me but rather that I worked for them. Of course, I got the expected smirks and eye rolls when I uttered these words. But over time, many of them came to realize that I meant it. My goal was their success. My focus was on supporting their efforts.

When we collaborate with our business partners are we thinking about our objectives or theirs? How many of us have had sales call with sales executives who were clearly focused on selling their product or making their quota? How did that feel? Now how does it feel on the rare occasion when you encounter a sales executive whose focus seems to be helping you solve a business problem? How different does that feel?

You see true servant leaders focus on the needs of their clients, their people, their management and their shareholders. They look at life through the prism of helping others succeed. They realize that all ships rise with the tide. They also realize that it’s very rare for a player on a last place team to win the MVP award in their sport. These awards are usually given to the players whose teams have won championships.

Perhaps the greatest athlete of all time (certainly the greatest of my lifetime) is Michael Jordan. One of the most important things people always said about him was that he made everyone around him better. Are we focused on making others better and helping them succeed? Or are we focused on hitting our personal ICP bonus metrics? Remember the question we should ask in all our engagements is what’s in it for them…

Larry Bonfante is an Allied Partner with Snodgrass Partners. He is the founder of CIO Bench Coach, an executive coaching practice for Information Technology (IT) executives.