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Do We Really Understand the Power of Reciprocity?

I recently reached out to a few business leaders by email about providing a testimonial for my upcoming book on designing winning company cultures.

These were business leaders I either knew, had worked with and admired for the companies they have built.

Some responded immediately saying they would be delighted to give a testimonial, others said they would have loved to, but had to clear this with their corporate comms and understandably so.

A few however, didn’t have the decency to respond, even though I knew they had opened the email.

This got me reflecting about reciprocity and karma. After leaving the corporate world and starting my own consulting and training business, I’ve found there are people who only care about you when you are in a position to offer them business or when they feel there’s something they can get from you.

Once you are not in that position, they conveniently ignore you. There are others who are seemingly way too busy to have a quick meeting to share their thoughts, experience, wisdom or connections to help you.

Then there are those who just don’t have the decency to respond, your email isn’t priority right now. There’s 200 other emails that need their urgent attention, including the one about the seating protocol for next strategy meeting.

Now here’s the interesting thing, the tide can change very quickly. I’ve seen more leaders fall off their high horse than cowboys trying to tame bucking broncos at a Rodeo. These same people get a sobering reality check when they are shown the door.

They are now out their corporate cocoon, without a job. They start emailing their contacts for any job leads. They reach out to people for endorsements or recommendations to spruce up their LinkedIn profile.

If they are lucky enough to join another company fast, they now need your business and send you an email about their new job, ask you for your support and to help spread the good word about their business.

Guess what? What goes around comes around! So, why should anyone care about them now?

At this point, would they think about how they reacted when people asked them for a favour or their help?

It’s uncanny how many times I’ve seen this scenario play out.

We all need to seriously understand reciprocity. When you help people, it comes back to you. Your social reputation is built up through increments of ‘helpful moments’ and how ‘nice’ a human being you are.

Here’s a few helpful tips to move the reciprocity dial:

· Make the time to help someone when they ask for your advice or expertise

· Be a mentor, share you experience and guide people when they need it

· Have the decency to respond to an email or a phone call/message requesting your help or assistance. Pause and think about why that person is reaching out to you, empathize with them, place yourself in their shoes

· Give your time generously, use your position and influence to lift- up others in need and don’t think about the ‘ROI’

Remember, one day you will be doing that same call or writing that email.

The person reaching out to you could eventually be your biggest client or could help connect you with someone who could be doing business with you.

In today's hyper connected economy, everyone at every level is ‘connected’ and part of multiple networks.

Word of mouth and referrals are still the most powerful way to influence people about other people. As human beings, we never forget those who have helped us in our lives, the converse is also true.

We won’t hesitate to go the extra mile to help people who have helped us, when they need our help. When that moment for recommendation pops ups, you will be top of mind, simply because you helped another human being.

We never forget those who have made the time when we needed their help, assistance or wisdom. We want to give back and are happy do good for that person.

That’s the power of reciprocity. How much you understand and live by this rule will ultimately determine your success.

We need to move from ROI to ROR (return on relationships,) the new powerful metric for personal and business success. Having empathy and being human is a big part of the legacy of your leadership.

Understand and respect reciprocity and see what happens to you and your business.

About the author

Ashok Miranda is a Business Transformation Architect and founder of Transform and Transcend. He is the author of the book: Culling Culturitis, How To Rid Your Company of this Toxic Disease and Build a Winning Company Culture.

As a speaker, consultant and trainer, he is passionately committed to architecting a better business world by building purpose-driven companies that nurture happy and engaged employees and positively impact peoples lives.

He connects the dots between company culture, branding, marketing and customer experience and works with business leaders, owners, founders and HR professionals to transform their companies for success in the digital age.

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