Keith Ferrazzi at Bauer

Published on October 2, 2009

Best-selling Author Talks to Bauer Students about Importance of Relationships

Keith Ferrazzi’s motivational presentation encouraged students to be honest and vulnerable in their interactions with each other and in the workplace in order to develop meaningful relationships

Keith Ferrazzi’s motivational presentation encouraged students to be honest and vulnerable in their interactions with each other and in the workplace in order to develop meaningful relationships

The key to succeeding in both life and business is developing lifeline relationships, best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi told an attentive crowd of students during a talk he gave in October to a class from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business.

The presentation was part of the “Connecting Bauer to Business” course (GENB 2301) required for all undergraduate business majors. Taught by staff from the college’s Rockwell Career Center. Bringing Ferrazzi as a guest speaker gave students the opportunity to understand how important networking is for their futures, said Jamie Belinne, assistant dean for career services.

“He achieved his success largely through relationships,” Belinne said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure our students are the best prepared and best connected students on the market, and having real world success stories like Ferrazzi talk to the students about how they built their careers is part of that.”

Ferrazzi transformed professional networking with his bestselling book Never Eat Alone, which shares the secret of his impressive climb to the top — powerful marketing acumen, deep generosity and a remarkable ability to connect with others.

“The relationships in your life will fundamentally define your success,” Ferrazzi told students. “Everything you want in your life boils down to other people. You want to be the kind of person who others want to be around.”

In order to build quality relationships with others, Ferrazzi encouraged the class to be vulnerable and honest in their interactions. He illustrated this by sharing a personal story from his childhood in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, growing up with limited means but attending an exclusive private elementary school thanks to his father’s boss.

“Every year, my mom would take me to the local Salvation Army to find used Izod shirts and the green blazers that were part of the uniform. I was terrified that one of my classmates would see me while they were dropping off clothes to donate,” he said.

In fifth grade, that fear became a reality as a female student in his class watched his mother buying his uniform from the used clothing racks. “She didn’t say anything in the store, but the next day at school, she literally pushed me down and grabbed my jacket to show all the other kids that someone else’s name was written inside,” Ferrazzi said.

That moment was transformative, he added. “It gave me a drive and ambition that was off the charts. I knew I was never going to feel that way again. I rode that fuel through great jobs, being the youngest partner at Deloitte and one of the youngest executives of a Fortune 500 company for Starwood Hotels, but at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of that success.”

The real change came when one of Ferrazzi’s consulting clients took him aside to tell him he didn’t seem happy. “Sometimes it’s only the people who care enough who will tell you the truth. He was that lifeline relationship, someone who I was able to let my guard down with, be honest with and who I could talk to when I was struggling.”

The four core values in every great relationship, Ferrazzi added, are vulnerability, generosity, candor and accountability. “You need at least three people in your life to have relationships with those qualities,” he said. “In this room, you can find people to talk to about your hopes and dreams, what you want to do when you graduate, and who will hold you accountable for those goals.”

Ferrazzi is founder and CEO of the business consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight, where he counsels the world’s top enterprises on how to dramatically accelerate the development of business relationships to drive sales, spark innovation and create team cohesion. He is a frequent contributor to CNN and CNBC and has authored numerous articles for leading business and consumer publications.

His latest book, Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships that Create Success — and Won’t Let You Fail, describes in detail his theory that developing mutually beneficial lifeline relationships is the key to success in the workplace.

By Jessica Robertson

Posted Under: Recognition

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