When you meet someone they will put their best face on, their most attractive laugh and then smile at you with a pose that they have practiced in front of the mirror. “Let’s work together,” becomes a nice little catchphrase bandied about over a crouton infested lunch.
The word "synergy" is used too often in business. When the joke attempts, laughter, and small talk are over the true essence of the relationship begins. No one comes into that first meeting with all of their junk on their sleeve, but everyone has baggage and character flaws that suck (unless you are perfect, which then means you never want to work with the real flawed version of me).
Over time that baggage begins to float to the surface and manifest in the relationship. The goal in working with someone is to decipher through their garbage and then get answers to two questions. These two scenarios, if passed, supersede all of the “I’m a loyal person, I’ll never betray you, I’ll always honor our agreement and never stab you in the back seven times” verbiage that gets spewed out in an effort to impress. Those are just words, and in today's world words seem to have lost much of the power and weight that they used to carry.
These scenarios get to the point and the answers will help you determine if the people that you are working with should be the people that are close to you. It all comes down to this one question “Do you have my back?”
It's 2am and you're driving back from a business meeting that you had in a nearby city. You break down 2 hours from your hometown and you call John. Will John come and pick you up? Will he give a rat's rear that you are out there?
In my experience, most people that you want to work closely with—the internal heroes that you admire, the ones who really “have your back”—will make a plan, give you some advice, either get out of bed and drive to help you out, or at least start being a problem solver in your personal crisis. These are people you can build with, and when business becomes personal (which it usually does), you can count on them.
Let's say John is at a club/bar/party or humongous "status proving event"—you know the sort, where everyone has a "the fish I caught is bigger than your fish" moment. At this event, someone brings up your name in a derogatory fashion. Will John blend in like a chameleon or will he stand by you and guard your name from diving into the toilet?
Yes, we all make mistakes and do things that are often far from perfect. Every single one of us at some point in time will have haters, if you’re doing anything worth glancing at. Now in that setting, will John have your back? In other words will he care more about the people who are putting on their best set of clothes and covering their screwed up life with bow ties, cocktails, and wide forms of laugher, or will John stand by you regardless of how important the company?
For the record John is a purely fictional name in this case, I've liked every John that I’ve met so far. Oh and by the way, a good way to handle gossip is “Really, I'm pretty sure that is not true of him but why don't we call him and you can ask him personally?” Then whip out your phone and start dialing.
Think of the people you’re working with, or building with. Do they have your back? If you cannot answer it, run them through our two scenarios. Business is personal because it all bleeds together in the end. Loyalty is hard to find but you don’t want to work with people who will screw you.
Better to have 10 dollars among friends, then to have a million with enemies.
Have you ever noticed how similar the words 'friend' and 'fiend' are to each other? True colors will come out over time, and while people will happily declare their undying loyalty and love for you, at the end of the day you only want people that "have your back” close to you.
Actions in many cases will speak a lot louder than words. A good king is surrounded by great counsellors. A good entrepreneur or CEO is surrounded by solid partners that have his back. Work with the right people, it will save you a lot of sleepless nights, legal fights, and lost time.
Posted on November 26, 2012
by Tommy filed under