How do you take your coffee?: On The Importance of Fostering Relationships

OK, so you’re probably wondering “what is this coffee bit all about?”

So…… I guess I should probably tell you.

Find out what people like in their coffee. Write it down.  They don’t drink coffee? Cool – find out what they drink instead – write that down! That shit comes back tenfold.

Here’s how:

It all started when I was back at Goodlife Fitness in 2011. I was the Western Canadian Personal Training Recruiter, I hired trainers all over the country. It was sweet. I got to see people on their absolute best (and surprisingly worst) behaviour. I was still pretty fresh on the job, so there were tons of things I was struggling with. The biggest was probably how to have a crucial conversation – you know, when you and a friend have an argument and you have to go in to lay down the law. Yeah, that conversation. I am just a happy dude and not into reprimanding people, I always feel terrible. But my role had that element. when other hiring managers weren’t following protocol.

I forget who told me at the time, probably my team lead, April but they recommended this coffee trick as part of my relationship building with key stakeholders. Saved me hundreds of hours and millions of tears, I’m sure. First off, the whole idea is to calm the person with a simple, yet authentic act of service or kindness. With my job particularly I was dealing with stressed out, behind budget middle level managers in an industry that’s notorious for high turnover. I need to calm people down if I was going to have any influence over their decision making and get them focused on getting the right people on their team again. I was responsible for half of the hiring of all the personal trainers for every single club in Western Canada. I was only half of the equation though. The hiring manager of the department of personal training in each club was equally responsible for the hiring of those trainers and their success at the job.

As you can imagine, differences in preference as to what candidates were selected came up, and this some times lead to tension between myself (home office) and the manager (club). Sometimes, the hiring manager and I did not see eye to eye, but it was very important we made the right decision for the prospective employee, the club, and the company. I learned quickly that you didn’t have to get along, you just had to work together!

The trick April taught me about coffee, isn’t about coffee at all. I could’ve brought these people socks… the effect would’ve been the same. The whole point of knowing what somebody takes in their coffee is something for you to carry forward with all of the relationships you have. It’s the fact that you listened that matters, not the fact that they drink coffee or not or what they drink in it if they do. When I had to sit down and have a hard conversation with another hiring manager about why I didn’t feel that that employee was a good fit it made everything less dramatic if we could just talk over a coffee. Remove “work” from it for a moment and just be reasonable people. When I showed up with their coffee in hand (they could never believe I remembered…), it immediately set a tone that I was here and ready to fight for them. We were on the same team.

You’ve gotta be authentic or else others will see right through your shit… so go out and learn about people. Find out what they dig and treat them well. Business is about relationships and in my experience, the longer lasting ones are the best for both sides.

So, how do you take your coffee?

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