If you want a friend, you need to be a friend

In second grade, I transferred to a new school, St. Gregory’s. I found out right away that I was behind in my studies. I could not ask my parents for help with my homework — my mom completed only seventh grade and my dad fifth.

But I did not let that become an obstacle to getting ahead. I found a classmate who was good at a subject I needed to improve, and I asked that person for help. The “payment” was often my mom’s homemade pizza — it was delicious and became quite famous at my school, where I traded great food for homework help.

Later in life, a reporter asked me, “How did you get to be such a great networker?” I said I learned it at St. Gregory’s on the first day of school when I forgot my lunch. I thought I would be nice to a classmate, saying, “If you aren’t going to eat half of that sandwich and apple, can I have it, and on Friday my mom makes homemade pizza, and I’ll bring you some?”

I brought a whole pizza that Friday, not just a slice. After that, I never had to bring my lunch to school again.

The lesson here: under-promise and over-deliver. Manage people’s expectations, and you’ll build lasting relationships. Give and you will receive. Focus on what others want and not on your own wants and needs. Ask questions that help you understand where others might need help. What opportunities are they looking to capitalize on?

This philosophy is reflected in a list of actions that can be applied both at work and in life called The Eight Es. They are: embrace, encourage, empower, empathize, execute, energize, engage and encounter.

Make the effort to encounter others and embrace and engage them by asking their opinions. Encourage them to share their thoughts with you and empower them to be able to do so without fear of negative criticism. There is nothing wrong with criticizing if you’re doing it to make something better or explore a different way of doing things.

But if it’s just criticism without a solution, it’s not going to help anyone. In other words, you need to empathize and show people that you really do care about them and their idea. As the conversation continues and you work through any challenges, be sure to energize them and get them excited about where you believe this hard work can lead and what it can accomplish going forward.

Once you’ve worked collaboratively toward an idea that has value, you then need to execute. This is obviously a key step. If you’ve done seven of the eight Es, but you fail to execute, nothing will get done.

The lesson here is if you want a friend, you need to be a friend. When you do that in an Eight E kind of way, others will want to reciprocate and do something for you.

Umberto P. Fedeli is CEO at The Fedeli Group