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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Business Networking: Undoing The Lessons Of Childhood

By adding fairness to your networking agenda ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 05/05/2021 @ 8:00AM

"It's not fair!" is the wail of every child at some point. The usual response of Mum and Dad is "well life's not fair!" By the age of two we already have a well-developed sense of fairness and get regular lessons from our parents that it isn't always going to go our way. No wonder we threw tantrums ...

copyright: gelpi / 123rf stock photo

As you go through life, and if you're anything like me, you'll eventually discover that your parents were right. Life isn't fair; things completely beyond your control jump up and knock you over all the time.

"For these things, all you can do is manage your reaction and, hopefully, keep the tantrums to a minimum!"

It's when you deal with other people, in your relationships, that you have more control over the fairness. When you think about it, you judge the success of your relationship by its fairness; that both parties are giving as well as taking. If this gets out of kilter then our relationship falters.

What's interesting is that the amount you give and the amount you receive don't necessarily need to be equal. There are two principles that seem to guide whether we believe there is fairness in our relationship and both suggest that a simple tit-for-tat isn't what is important.

The first principle is that we give more value to what we receive when it is something we really need. There's a lovely quote by American author Rick Riodan that says "fairness does not mean that everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need".

So if I am preoccupied with finding someone to fix my leaky roof, then you offering me tickets to the Belgian Grand Prix may not be as welcome as an introduction to a reliable roofer.

The second principle is a really interesting one. We measure fairness on the equality of our respective in/out ratios. In other words, how much effort did it take for you to give me what I need as against how much effort I put in to give you what you need?

"This can be as important as the actual outcome!"

A warning here I think as this can be terribly subjective. What you think is easy might be difficult for me so do bear that in mind. For instance, if you offer consultancy for manufacturers wanting help to export to Europe and my client wants to start exporting to Europe, it would be easy for me to introduce you and the value of the business for you would be measured in tens of thousands of pounds.

If, in return, you spent a lot of time going out of your way to identify five people to come on a one day workshop with me, the value of which is measured in hundreds of pounds. Is that fair? What about if what you did was lend a listening ear when I was distressed with some bad news? Is that fair?

So my referral tip for you this week is to always keep fairness in mind when working with your referral sources:

  • Know the full range of interests of your strong referral sources.

  • Keep up to date with what is going on in their lives and what their priorities are right now.

  • When you ask each other for help, do add into the conversation some idea of how easy it is for you each to do this.

Don't forget to do a periodic check-in to ensure that you are both getting the ratio right!

Until next time ...



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If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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