When you think about the top business books for small business owners, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” probably doesn’t jump to the top of the list. The name itself smacks of manipulation. Yet, it is definitely a classic. And with such a strong focus on the importance of relationships and giving as part of successful selling these days, I’d hazard to guess that more than a few contemporary authors went back and re-read this classic.
Tommy Spaulding openly admits to being heavily influenced by Dale Carnegie. In fact, his book, It’s Not Just Who You Know, is a modern day version of the timeless principals of Dale Carnegie’s classic. Spaulding writes a very personal account of the importance of giving to get and being genuinely authentic in your business relationships. He explains that he was an average student growing up and suffered frustration and embarrassment from dyslexia. Yet he became CEO of the non-profit Up With People, became a New York Times Bestselling author and now is a sought after business speaker, through his effectiveness in building relationships. He’s definitely an author who practices what he preaches.
“It’s Not Just…” focuses mostly on the Why relationships are important, and less about the How. Although it does give many thought-provoking examples which can serve as an inspiration for taking some risks. While books on relationships are often “touchy feely”, what I liked about this book is The Five Floors of Relationships:
- First Floor relationships can barely be called relationships at all. This is where relationships start and includes nothing more than the exchange of the most basic information.
- Second Floor relationships involve more basic information. This relationship is oriented around NSW (news, sports & weather).
- Third Floor relationships introduce some substance. At this level, people begin to share opinions and feelings. This is where we start to learn about the personal lives of co-workers & colleagues. This is where the formality of organizational hierarchical relationships starts to break down (which can be a good thing).
- Fourth Floor relationships involve sharing common interests, goals, beliefs and causes. At this level, the relationship itself takes on value more than being based on what the parties can get out of it.
- Fifth Floor relationships are what Spaulding calls “Penthouse relationships”. This is where vulnerability, authenticity, trust and loyalty come into play. These relationships are based on a shared empathy. Especially in business, these relationships are rare. And, they take real time.
Spaulding identifies what he considers to be the key traits to real relationships including humility, vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability in particular is been frequently cited as an important element of successful teams and individuals. If you’ve not seen Brene’ Brown’s Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability in the workplace, I highly recommend it.
Spaulding’s book was written with great honesty and sincerity. Spaulding admits that some of his techniques may feel like manipulation. He is unapologetic in his remarks. Even if some of the techniques are manipulative, if approached authentically, they can lead not only to success in business but a more authentic and satisfying life.