This Move Can Transform a Client Relationship

On November 26, 2008, Citigroup executive James Bardrick was having dinner with the CEO of a major client at the Royal Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, India. At the time, Bardrick, an old client of mine, was one of the heads of Citi’s European and Middle Eastern banking business. He and the CEO had traveled there from London to look at investment opportunities in the Indian market. During their dinner, a massive terrorist attack begin which ended with the deaths of 164 people, including dozens in their hotel.

James and his client spent the entire night fleeing the terrorists, who were hunting down foreigners in the hotel and shooting them. They ended up hiding themselves in a garbage bin in the alleyway in back of the Oberoi. They survived—worse for the wear and badly in need of a bath—but alive and well.

As you can imagine, that experience indelibly changed—no, transformed—their relationship. In my new book, Power Relationships, we call this Law Twelve: Change the environment and you’ll deepen the relationship

In fact, something powerful happens when you and the other person experience your relationship in a new environment.

You don’t have to go through such an extreme crucible as my friend James Bardrick, however, to see the positive effect of changing the relationship environment. Something far tamer will suffice.

There’s even research to back this up. One study looked at the tradition of “date night” among married couples. The researchers asked one group of couples to continue with their date night tradition, which involved going to the same restaurant or movie theater each week together on a certain night. A second group was asked to vary their routine, and do something different each week—a movie, a new restaurant, a museum, etc. The second group reported higher levels of intimacy and affection than the couples who went to the same place every week.

Here’s a simple example for how it works in a professional setting. You might bring a client to a conference in a city where neither of you live. You’ll probably end up spending hours over dinner together. You’ll get to know each other better. You’ll talk about different things than you normally would. The relationship will be intensified. Deepened. Stretched. You’ll connect on a more personal, emotional level. Spending more time with your client in the office could never have the same impact.

Changing the environment will also deeply affect relationships with friends and family. My own family will never forget a nine-day river-rafting trip we took in Utah. It was arduous, with mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Scorpions. River snakes. Sizzling heat. Exhausting days. But today we still laugh about the trip. It bonded us. Brought us closer. It created a spectacular, communal memory.

Are you taking opportunities to deepen your professional relationships by changing the environment?

In my video, below, I talk about the transformative impact of Law 12 from Power Relationships.

How has changing the environment impacted one of your relationships—at work or at home? Leave a comment, below.

Back to top