Note from Jason: This is the second guest-post from Pete Johnson, who is the HP.com Chief Architect. His first guest post is You Never Know Who Itâ€™s Going To Be. Pete, thanks a ton for your guest posts!
Can you lend me $50?
Seriously, Iâ€™m good for it, I swear.
I mean, I post replies on JibberJobber all the time so you probably know who I am. So go ahead and show me Ulysses S. Grant.
No? Why not?
You probably have no incentive whatsoever to lend me money, and thatâ€™s my point. Having a network of people you know is one thing, but having a network of people who feel compelled to help you when asked is a whole lot better. A key to influencing the behavior of others is what I call â€œpersonal equityâ€ and in order to utilize it fully you need to make deposits early and often.
As an example, letâ€™s look at a typical office scenario. Suppose a boss has to get across to an employee that a certain task has to be completed by a particular deadline. Consider these two different, and opposite, approaches:
â€œFinish those TPS reports by 4:00 pm or you are fired!â€
â€œYou know, Iâ€™m getting pressured from above to get these TPS reports finished off by 4:00 pm and Iâ€™d really appreciate it if you could get yours done on time. Also, say hello to your mother for me. I hope that extra time off I gave you last week was helpful.â€
Admittedly this is a bit contrived, but either approach would probably produce the desired short term result. The former is easier but relies on a very serious threat to induce the expected behavior. The latter is requires more foresight and uses indebtedness based on a prior favor to influence the employee. In other words, personal equity.
Which one builds a better long term relationship, the threat or the reminder that a favor was extended? The favor does by a landslide. If someone has already done something to benefit you in some way, you feel more obligated to return the good feelings than you otherwise would.
Case in point: this very article. In January, I connected with Jason based on a guest article he wrote on another blog. During a rapid email exchange, we soon both discovered we had a mutual goal of helping people with career development. He had this well established site focused on job search networking and I was just starting out on my blog dealing with the non-technical aspects of careers in engineering. It quickly became apparent that it would benefit me greatly to tap into his vast knowledge of the blogging world.
After realizing this, I used my day job expertise as a website builder for a Fortune 10 company and pointed it at JibberJobber.com. I praised him for what he has done well with its architecture and made a few suggestions where he could be doing things better. Whenever I can, I sing the praises of JibberJobber in blog comment areas too, which heâ€™s aware of since heâ€™s set up the metrics tracking of his site well enough that he knows where his referrals come from.
Low and behold, a few emails later I got the big question from Jason, â€œWhat can I do to help you?â€ I didnâ€™t even have to ask him, he offered. The best job search is the one where the hiring manager knows who you are and comes looking for you. The same is true of any favor and by laying early groundwork, the return offer came looking for me.
The key to building these relationships is in the sincerity of the effort. Yeah, I started doing little favors for Jason with the hope that heâ€™d return them to me, but I genuinely care about what happens to his site and believe in what heâ€™s trying to do with it. Had I just been in it for what the relationship could do for me, heâ€™d see through that quickly and Iâ€™d just be an annoyance to him instead of an asset. Instead, personal equity has developed between us because of this authenticity and weâ€™re both better off as a result (although, he might not just give me $50 either 8)).
While you have to be wary of situations where you are making more deposits than the benefits you are receiving (or could potentially receive) dictate, itâ€™s better to put into a relationship first and set the stage for a deeper interaction. That way when/if you do need something, you have some leverage to tap into based on that personal equity you already built. If you have already given to them, people are much more likely to give back to you and a broader set of career opportunities can be the big payoff.