Follow the Person, Not the Position

A client of mine was promoted to a very senior position in a large, Fortune-100 company. She had been the deputy in her area, and was now at the top. She told me that the day her promotion was announced in the newspapers, she got dozens of calls from suppliers wanting to do business with her. “Do you know what I said to each of them?” she told me. “I asked them, very politely, ‘Where were you five years ago?’”


Portrait of a large group of business people.

The vendors trying to sell to her were suddenly pushing water uphill. They had violated a fundamental principle—I call it a Law—about relationships: Follow the person, not the position.

I’m often asked, “How can I build more relationships with CEOs and other top executives?” One of the best long-term strategies is to develop relationships with smart, motivated, interesting, and ambitious people, even if they’re not in an important job right now. And then, follow them throughout their careers.

Really important people—those who are at the top of their careers in any field—have brought their advisors along with them over many years. While it is not impossible to break into someone’s inner circle after they have achieved great success, it’s also not an easy task.

Whether you’re 20 or 50, you know interesting people who are going places. Follow them, stay in touch with them, and cultivate your relationship with them over many years. The fruits will be enormous. Not only will they help your career, but—perhaps more important—you will have an indelible impact on their success as well.

Start by making a list of people you know who are not yet at the peak of their success or position. Pick passionate, motivated, talented individuals. Do you know what their agenda is? How can you help them accomplish their goals?


Do you have an example you can share about a long-term relationship you maintained with an up-and-comer? Leave a comment, below.


In this two minute video I talk in more depth about the Third Law of Power Relationships: Follow the person, not the position



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