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Resources in Social Exchange

Resources in Social Exchange
8.6
Let’s come back for a second, to the idea of what defines a social relationship, a relationship between two people. A relationship is defined by a social exchange of some sort. Resources, things have to flow through a relationship for it to exist. From this standpoint, by the way, building a network is one of the biggest misnomers out there. You don’t build a network, you earn it. You earn it by delivering value to your contacts. You build and develop relationships. You become influential to the extent that you can offer people something they need and want. Allan Cohen and David Bradford provide a useful framework for us to think about social exchange in relationships, using the metaphor organizational currencies.
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Organizational currencies help us understand the entire range of resources that can flow through social relationships and enable us to build and maintain those ties. Task-related currencies, for example, these are resources related to professional activities, to workplace, budget increases, personnel, space information, quick response time, approval, help in implementation of projects. I had a senior director in one of my sessions, one of whose contacts can override a hiring freeze when that director really needs to hire someone. In this case, that approval becomes a resource flowing through the relationship.
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We often begin our analysis of the things we can exchange with task-related currencies but this is where we often stop. Keep in mind, there are also relationship-related currencies, social favors, for example. I used to work with a manager whose son was obsessed with hockey, and that manager’s banker used to play hockey with a current National Hockey League coach. So using that connection, the banker was able to introduce the manager’s son to one of his favorite hockey players. But it takes a lot of patience, a lot of wisdom on our part to learn about someone’s family and see how we can help. We often forget about position-related currencies, those related to advancement and visibility, for example.
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Think about this, I can actually make you work harder. I can ask you to work on a presentation and deliver that presentation to senior management, and you would consider it a massive favor, a very valuable resource flowing your way because you want that visibility. In addition to position-related currencies, consider that you have a wide range of person-related currencies, such as resources related to learning and growth. You can recommend a book, a seminar, this Coursera course, for example, for someone who is leading or working in teams. Gratitude, appreciation, compliments, can become some of the most powerful resources flowing through our networks. Why do you think some of the most successful, senior, and hence, busiest executives mentor?
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Why do you think many of them are so eager to come out and talk to students?
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Being in a room with young, ambitious people, who are effectively telling you that I want to be you, is one of the most powerful compliments you can receive.
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Let me add two more notes with respect to thinking about organizational currencies and using them to facilitate an exchange, a relationship. First is, use verbal framing to define the value of the exchange. The reason I’m saying this is that there are no dollar or euro signs attached to different favors, different resources that can flow through our relationships. It’s very difficult for me to compare the value of say, helping you with a project, versus arranging a meeting for you with a senior executive, versus introducing you to some of my own network contacts. So, use verbal framing when possible. For example, if you did arrange a meeting for one of your friends with a senior executive.
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You can say look, that person doesn’t normally see a lot of people, it’s very difficult to get on her schedule but I’m glad it worked out. Be truthful, of course. And secondly, offer help, offer resources, offer assistance without asking for anything back, at least, not right away. People often confuse reciprocity with quid pro quo. Quid pro quo is, I do this for you, if you do this for me. Be aware that people read through this instrumentality very quickly. In fact, approaching someone with a specific goal in mind is probably the fastest way to kill social capital in its infancy, in its inception.
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You can get that transaction done, you can get that exchange completed but that’s not the way to build long lasting, robust relationships. Some of the most successful executives I know, invest in the relationships for years before they feel comfortable calling on big favors.
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I’d like for us to learn from one another and I’d ask you to go to a discussion forum, the thread labeled, Organizational Currencies and share examples of what resources you or your contacts exchange or exchanged in the past, to develop and maintain relationships.
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