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Generosity Breeds Connection – Keith Ferrazzi

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke Keith Ferrazzi, a thought leader in American business and author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back – both best sellers.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to understand the importance and  power of interpersonal connections, of networking, for business?  And especially, how did you come to understand the importance of service, helping others, as way of creating value for ones self?

Keith Ferrazzi: Keith FerrazziIt started with our own practice of doing cultural transformation in organizations, especially in sales organizations.  And I learned  that when you’re trying to build relationships it’s important to be of service. I joke that the first rule of relationships is that nobody has time for one with you!  So you better make sure that you’re reaching out with enormous generosity. We’ve been teaching and coaching that with managers and leaders. I found that people were willing to change if leaders were of service to their people; that’s what had predictive power. If you want your people to change make sure they recognize that you’re in service to them. I started looking at how could change my own behavior.  I started experimenting with things in social contexts. How can I and my family practice generosity and service?

SF: So you were connecting different domains; taking a lesson from work and applying it at home, in the community and for your own growth in ways that produced meaning for you and others. What have you been discovering?

KF: At a Renaissance Weekend, a non-partisan retreat, which my family and I have been attending, about how society can change, my fiancé said, “we keep talking about this, but let’s do something about it.”  I’m on boards of directors, but let’s do something at the grass roots level. So we volunteered for Meals on Wheels, we started in the kitchens, then we delivered meals. In the process I met a little old lady, who was all dressed up for us; we were the only people she saw that day. As a result of that experience and others like it my relationship with my own family started to change.

SF: How did this effect you?  In what ways did the experience change you?

KF: I focused on my blessings and on gratitude.  The experience melted our hearts and souls so that we were more open to each other. It’s powerful. And I decided: I’m going to bring my team from FerrazziGreenlight to this. I’ve been involved in foster care. 80% of the US prison population came from foster care.  And foster care is correlated with prostitution. These kids never learned how to trust. They were treated transactionally. They sought intimacy in prostitution and family in gangs. So we started volunteering with fosters in foster homes. And we did this with our employees and with our clients.  We started coaching our employees and clients so that they could help these kids learn to trust more. Derivative of organizational education at Intel and Cisco and elsewhere.

SF: How does sales training apply?

KF: Intimacy, generosity, candor and accountability. You need empathy (intimacy). Gain trust by leading with generosity. Both intimacy and generosity lead to candor and accountability

SF: Can you give us some examples?

KF: If you’d like to have better personal relationship with your spouse or boss, lead with generosity. Bring flowers, put out the trash; generosity of spirit and practice. Then they’ll say, “I’ll give this person a shot.” They’ll let guard down. You can deeply connect around mutual vulnerability, which leads to intimacy, which leads to trust and then they’ll tell you more about what they need; it’s a cycle. And it’s the same in the workplace.

SF: How does leading with generosity lead to vulnerability?

KF: I talk with you about my challenges, frustrations, fears, anxieties concerning my 20 year old son and that would connect us.

SF: It would. I’d tell you about my own 20 year old daughter here at Penn!

KF: We can’t connect them, but the act of sharing humanity connects us. Just because it’s purposeful doesn’t mean it’s fake. If it’s real, it’s not fake — if your heart and soul is intentional, sincere. You can connect around service which can accelerate intimacy.

SF: What are some of the major outcomes of these interventions?

KF: At Greenlight Giving I’ve seen a  16 year old girl, the child of a client, who was primarily concerned about getting the “right car” for her birthday who has been changed by the experience of our trip to Guatemala where she sees those who have so much less than she does, who are happy.  She needs to think differently. My own foster children, now my adoptive kids, lied and stole just to make sure they had enough. But the experience in Guatemala changed him so now he gives his own money to help others. And this builds customer loyalty. Through service to customers and service to each other, this builds loyalty. It opens peoples’ hearts and souls to those in need. Release the brain to exercise the muscle of empathy and care.  Grow in relationships and in collaborative potential.

SF: What suggestions do you have for listeners?

KF: Deliver Meals on Wheels. Help at a soup kitchen. Give out MacDonald’s gift certificate with your employees and ask the recipients for their stories; how did they end up needing this help. How’d they get here?  Those are “light” ways. Heavier ways include, for example, working with GM to shift their corporate culture by coaching field reps to build better networks with their dealerships.  We packaged that training to HS kids in bad neighborhoods. Teach and grow.

SF: We learn by teaching others.

KF: This is anecdotal, but those who taught were more deeply connected to the IP (Intellectual Property) on the job. Their scores with the dealerships went up. It’s how to be a better leader through service. When you have to teach others it helps to cement the learning.

SF: What’s the most important thing you’d like to tell our listeners?

KF: To learn and grow one has to experience. We are not a training company, but a coaching and experience company that helps to shift behavior. If you want to be more intimately connected, then service the most destitute to break your heart open. The more service, the more you’ll show up as the kind of person people will want to connect to.

SF: People can be afraid. How can they overcome fears?

KF: With a Sherpa, a guide. It’s totally safe at Meals on Wheels.

Keith Ferrazzi is the best-selling author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back. To learn more about his work, follow him on twitter: @Ferrazzi.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


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