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An Open Response to Jeff Haden's "8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do"

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Jeff Haden wrote in Inc. magazine a while back "The most successful people in business work differently." He listed the habits he had observed among these rock stars. Haden's article keeps surfacing, I presume because the desire to think and for more successful results never goes away.

Haden shared eight habits, all of which are good, and none of which are terribly surprising. What surprised me was Haden's lack of recognition of the role of strategic relationships in remarkable success.

To save you bopping over to Inc. for Haden's eight points --
  1. They don't create back-up plans.
  2. They do the work...
  3. ... and they work a lot more.
  4. They avoid the crowds.
  5. They start at the end...
  6. ... and they don't stop there.
  7. They sell.
  8. They are never too proud.

The underlying "habit" -- which I submit should really be termed behavior -- is that remarkably successful people fundamentally understand and apply the principles of Relationship Economics. They don't just master, but instinctively apply the behavior of identification, prioritization, and investment of time, effort and resources in the right relationships at the right times for the right reasons.

Let's review Haden's eight "habits" through the lens of strategic relationships.

1. They don't create back-up plans.
Haden proposes that successful people spur themselves to work harder by removing any safety nets. I respond: Commitments are made with someone, for someone, about someone. When you develop and commit to a primary plan of action, commit to the relationships involved as well.

2. They do the work...
Haden speaks of thousands of hours of effort invested to develop skills. Those hours did not occur on an isolated island. Successful people build their work on a very deliberate foundation. In my experience, the most successful people are typically collaborating with others to bring about a best possible outcome they have collectively identified.

3. ...and they work a lot more.
Forgive me if I say it out loud: have we had enough of Sheryl Sandberg-style "I leave at 5:30" claims yet? In my view, Haden has mistaken quantity for quality. Your success is not about how many hours you put in or what time of day you do them -- it's about how successfully you develop relationships that leverage your ability to get improved results from every minute you work.

Relationships are iterative; better solutions come from ideas that are baked in the oven of conversation. I was on a call with a client recently in which I proposed a new approach. Through our discussion, we collectively came up with a hybrid -- a qualitatively different approach -- that was even more impactful toward the desired outcome we had agreed on.

4. They avoid the crowds.
"Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won't do," says Haden. Finally we are singing in the same choir, and the chorus is the #NewNorm. That's my hashtag for the eight behaviors I've identified that enable individuals to capitalize on their strategic relationships. We need to bring a unique lens, a fresh perspective, to every interaction. And yet -- "contrarian" only works if you add true value, and that's where your own sounding board comes in. We all need an "inner circle," an effective core group with whom we can have candid conversations that improve our thinking and performance. To avoid the crowds, you need an intelligent sounding board and a healthy dose of pushback!

5. They start at the end...
I absolutely agree with Haden that "You'll make better decisions ... when your ultimate goal is ultimate success." But look deeper. Where did Haden's successful people learn to focus on ultimate success, and how did they hone their skill at defining and visualizing the specifics of that success? Typically from a mentor or a coach. The truth is, starting at the end is not a natural or intuitive approach. We learn it from our strategic relationships.

6. ... and they don't stop there.
Haden says, "Achieving one huge goal just creates a launching pad for achieving another huge goal." Absolutely. Leveraging their contacts and influence is how successful people achieve goal after goal. There are relationship-learning and growing opportunities in every single interaction. Unfortunately, many are not astute to a) learn from those interactions, or b) apply the learning in their very next interactions!

7. They sell.
At last, Haden specifically references relationships. But who are Haden's successes selling to? Selling is fundamentally a relationship business. The first fundamental of my #NewNorm is "Become an object of interest / create market gravity or pull." Whether you're searching internally in your organization for the next exciting project to work on, or perhaps exploring the next job within your organization or external to it, successful selling today requires a mindset shift. Push marketing is dead! There is so much noise in the market -- whatever your industry niche -- that what you do and how you do it matters less, and the results you're able to produce matters more than ever. For transformative success, your selling must be based on desired outcomes (the customer's) and relationship savvy (yours).

8. They are never too proud.
Haden exhorts us to energetically fail, apologize, own our successes, ask for help, and have the humility to take being the butt of a joke with good grace. Like "starting at the end" (#5), humility is not a natural or intuitive trait for most of us. How do successful people learn it? Through relationships with mentors, coaches, peers on a sounding board--even our mothers and spouses.

The lens of relationship economics adds depth to Jeff Haden's "8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do." I truly appreciate what he's saying, but from my perspective, he has fundamentally and consistently overlooked the contribution of strategic relationship skills to these remarkable people's track record.

Maybe because he either assumes everyone has the willingness and the ability to build strategic relationships, or like many others, he still refers to it as "soft skills," and something that should be built in all of us automatically. Omit building strategic relationships skills at your own peril.

Nour Takeaways
1. Do not overlook the role of strategic relationships in personal and professional success.
2. Successful people identify, prioritize, and invest their time, effort and resources in the right relationships at the right times for the right reasons.
3. I respectfully submit that the 8-point framework of my #NewNorm wraps around Haden's 8 points to drive even more remarkable success.

David Nour is an enterprise growth strategist and the thought leader on Relationship Economics® - the quantifiable value of business relationships. He has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possesses, large and small, public and private. Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.