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Becky Robinson


You make an important point about building a top-notch online identity. In developing LeaderTalk, one thing I am finding is that people are connecting to me as an individual first. It seems that in order to have an effective online presence, organizations need a person to represent them. Building relationships (which you seem to excel at!)is by far the best way to get good work done.


Mary Jo Asmus

I would echo Becky's thoughts. Through a mere seven years of doing the work I do, I've found your #5 to be the most important. I had no idea how to market and sell my services when I started. There is a ton of stuff out there on how to do this - none of it appealed to me,and much of it seemed too pushy. I had (blind) faith that making friends would work - and who doesn't like having friends?

So I joined organizations that I liked, met people I trusted and have made some amazing friends. I found that I could actually choose who I wanted to work with/for - not always possible when you work in a corporation - and knowing I had this choice has freed me up to focus on other things.

And yes, Steve, you do very well at making friends. I also see how natural and authentic you are at it.

peter vajda

So, Steve, a tug on your sleeve if I may.

I agree with your five elements and I have a question about the 5th. I think the conventional wisdom is that, yes, it's all about friendship and creating "relationships." So, I'm curious if "friendship" ever got in the way of a "business relationship?"

Has a client ever missed a deadline, a goal, a payment, a milestone a commitment, a promise, perhaps even disclosing the " whole truth", etc., under the overt/subtle, conscious/unconscious assumption or guise that "Hey, we're good friends so, it's no big deal?" And I'm talking about folks who are, really, really, good friends.

I believe friendship is the "secret sauce" of effective business relationships (actually all relationships), but not at the expense of sacrificing my power, integrity, values or self on the altar of friendship, and this does happen in (all) relationships.

I learned when I first started out in my coaching work 12 years ago, the hard way (not to mention in the corporate and academic arenas prior to that), that there's friendship and there's friendship and that there's a structure and framework within which friendship lives.

Early on in my coaching work, where creating positive and trusting alliances is paramout, some clients saw the nature of the relationship almost as a license to "behave badly" - not keep commitments, etc., under the assumption that I would respond with an "I understand.." and allow folks to keep on keeping on reneging on their commitments...as in those days I did believe that "the client is where s/he is" and that's OK so let it go/slide/whatever...No longer, for the most part.

Now, I feel I am empathic, compassionate and understanding, - but these qualities are wrapped in a structure of "tough love." I have clients with whom I choose to have ongoing relationships during the coaching proces and former clients 12 years later with whom I have deep relationships.

But everyone is clear at the outset (i.e,, the initial 90-minute exploratory session in which we decide if there's a good fit) that I am demanding (read: demanding) and that we have an understanding that our relationship, should it grow (or not), cannot get in the way of that - their/our commitments, and their/our taking responsibility and accountability for doing/being what we say we are going to do/be during the process. Friendship is never an excuse for "behaving badly."

So, I was just curious if friendship ever "got in the way" and led to a friendship where you or other(s)ended up being out of integrity in some way, shape or form, because "we are good friends." I have and it wasn't a pleasant experience and certainly did nothing to enhance our friendship. I'm a bit wiser now I like to think and feel...and, having become more mature and self-responsible, my friedships are much more pure and clean.

Thanks for this insightful post Steve.

Steve Roesler


I think this is something that matches who you are; you are doing the online thing very effectively. I also believe that it is a matter of time, too; writing in a way that reflects your real voice and the kind of relationships you want to generate here.

Steve Roesler

Mary Jo,

Very kind.

For those who are inherently highly relational, this approach is not only natural but quite comfortable. I believe that the key is not to allow one's self to be lured into the friendship/relationship-only trap, but to always be asking, "How can I help this person/person' business with my expertise?"

If one falls into the trap of building relationships without building a business, it can produce a lot of resentment down the road if no one ever asks, "How can we do business together?"

Steve Roesler


That is a characterization of the coaching/consulting relationship that should be mandatory reading. Period.

I'm really taxing my memory to find an instance of someone "taking advantage" of the friendship in some way. I can think of only one, and it was serious. I was brought in to design and facilitate a "new way of governance" for a Board. The guy who brought me in is someone I had served for about 5 years. No sooner do I start the participative process than he announces the structure; a change of procedure; and the fact that certain board members will be asked to step aside as a result of a new "vision." This was not a publicly held corporation so those rules didn't apply. Because I had had good relationships with the board members and had, in fact, worked with them individually to prepare for the meeting process, I was professionally embarrassed. There was no way for anyone to know that I had no foreknowledge and was blind-sided like the rest. I had been set-up to execute a set-up. I have refused to do business there since the moment we walked out the door.

The good news: in fact, the Board members did realize immediately that the Chairman had blind-sided me and we are all still friends.

My conclusion: The Chairman was my friend only to the extent that it got him something. Therefore, we were not actually friends.

There were a couple of times when people asked me to reduce my fee or, in one case, do something gratis. I simply explained that I have a fee structure that is designed to deliver equivalent or greater value to the client than the fee; if I am asked to ply my craft, then that is what I do for a living. (There are of course many instances where I will offer pro bono consultation/coaching to causes and organizations that I value. That is my choice, not theirs).

Finally, the super-upside of great business friendships. I once was in the position where I was about to buy a house, needed a few more bucks for a down payment and had an invoice out that was payable in net 30 terms. I called the client, explained what I was doing and what I needed, and he literally had accounts payable wire the money to the bank while I was sitting there. Over the course of 30 years, that scenario--for similar valid reasons--has happened 3 times. It just doesn't get any better.

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