Most business relationships are superficial. It may not feel that way at the time, but if you've ever changed companies, you can test my assertion. How many of your old associates do you still spend time with? For most people, the answer is -- not very many. And why is that? Simply because in your next job, you develop a collection of new superficial business relationships, and those force out the old. After all there's only so much time in the day, right?
Real relationships are deeper than just the convenience of the moment. They are built on shared interests and experiences, true respect and interdependence. Superficial business relationships tend to be based on proximity, and the needs of constantly shifting alliances and power bases.
And yet, some business relationships do develop into real relationships. But it takes hard work to make it happen, and the relationship has to transcend the politics of the office. Employees will willingly sacrifice a competitor, often will sacrifice a peer, but rarely will sacrifice a friend. So finding the critical few relationships is very important to your power base -- these are the relationships you can USUALLY depend on no matter what. Mentor relationships certainly fall into this category.
I say usually, because I've seen a handful of shocking betrayals in my days in executive leadership. I can't mention their specifics, but their circumstances still amaze me. They were such complete and utter betrayals that I can only advise any power player to treasure the bonds of friendship, but make sure to continue to watch your back.
And by watching your back, I mean critically examine your friend's actions and behaviors for inconsistencies. In the really big betrayals I've known, hind sight showed there were signs, but the vicitims ignored them in favor of their faith in their betrayers.
For your other relationships, just remember these are like the alliances on the TV show Survivor. Merrily made today to be broken tomorrow when the need arises. One aspect of Survivor that has continually fascinated me is the anger felt by so many of the contestants once they discover they've been thrown over for a better deal.
The same thing happens in the business world. Don't be surprised or angry when your friend of convenience today becomes your opposition tomorrow. It happens all the time -- and it's not personal, just business.
Lastly, and I've cautioned this often, be very careful about the ammunition you put into the hands of others -- that is specifically what they will use, and what will get you in trouble.