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Vital Friends

November 30, 2009 1 comment

Stumbled across a book the other week titled Vital Friends, by Tom Rath. What caught my eye was that Mr. Rath had authored Strengths Finder 2.0(which I found fascinating), so I decided to see what he had to say about vital friends. I also was curious because I recognized a link to the book First Break All the Rules…and for those that read it perhaps you recall question #10 from the list of 12 questions…Do I have a best friend at work?

First, here are a few quotes from the press and a brief description of the book:

“A workplace without friends is an enemy.”
The Washington Post

“Friendships are good for business. Companies are coming to discover that, yet are at a loss at what to do about it. . . . what Gallup has uncovered about best friends stands out as novel.”
USA Today

“Let friendship ring. It might look like idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected to their jobs. Having a best friend at work is a strong predictor for being a happy and productive employee.”
TIME magazine

Description:

What’s the quickest way to ruin a friendship? Do great friendships have anything in common? Are close friendships in the workplace such a bad thing?

These are just a few of the questions that #1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath asked when he embarked on a massive study about the impact of friendships. Along with several leading researchers, Rath pored through the literature, conducted several experiments, and analyzed more than 8 million interviews from The Gallup Organization’s worldwide database.

His team’s discoveries produced Vital Friends, a book that challenges long-held assumptions people have about their relationships. And the team’s landmark discovery — that people who have a “best friend at work” are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job — is sure to rattle the structure of organizations around the world.

Drawing on research and case studies from topics as diverse as management, marriage, and architecture, Vital Friends reveals what’s common to all truly essential friendships: a regular focus on what each person is contributing to the friendship — rather than the all-too-common approach of expecting one person to be everything.

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This book was a easy read facilitated by the fascinating study results. In his opening remarks, Tom Rath states “The energy between two people is what creates great marriages, families, teams, and organizations. Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we put almost all our effort into self-development….Throughout my professional life, I have attended countless development programs that aimed to make me more productive. Even when I have dedicated time to developing others, my attention has focused on each person’s self-development. I had it all wrong. The potential was hiding within each relationship in my life”.

Tom said he had it all wrong. It’s the energy between/within a friendship that’s incredibly powerful and worthy of our attention. We shouldn’t be surprised that Tom had it wrong, or that most of us do also. Our culture incessantly hits us over the head every day with self-development promotion and we become preoccupied with too much focus on me.

Do you have a vital friend?

Here is his definition of vital friend.

1.      someone who measurably improves your life.

2.      a person at work, or in your personal life whom you can’t afford to live without.

They also identified a more objective litmus test using the following questions:

If this person were no longer around, would your overall satisfaction with life decrease?

If this person were no longer a part of your life, would your achievement or engagement at work decrease?

If you can answer yes to either or both questions, then you have found a vital friend. And according to Tom Rath, if you strengthen these vital friendships, benefits that might accrue include:

·         an improvement in your physical health

·         more happiness on a day-to-day basis

·         increased engagement and achievement in your job

·         clear expectations between you and your spouse, relatives, friends, and coworkers

If you’re missing out on these vital friend benefits…the book is worth the quick read.

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