What do dating and business have in common?

In astrology one’s ‘rising sign’ or ‘ascendant’ is the star sign that represents the first impression we make when we meet new people, the person we pretend to be. When someone who has just met you describes you it might be different to that of someone who really knows you, as they will be describing aspects of your rising sign. At a recent event, Shannan Ponton asked the audience if their partner was exactly the same person they first met 10/20/30 years ago, and as expected, the answer for many was no.

So in the dating world, when you’re at dinner, staring at the face of a stranger asking them to like you, and wondering if you like them, how on earth could you possibly know if they are the right person for you, or will be in 10/20/30 years time? Well, you can’t. Apparently you have to go on first impression, chemistry, flow of conversation and all that stuff you read about in Cosmo.

The problem is we’ve all done that and at some stage or another been wrong.  Moreover it often takes months or years before we realise that things aren’t heading in the direction we had hoped, and despite the initial sparks we have ‘grown apart’… and so off we go to find someone else.

The same can be said in business. Which suppliers, partners, and employees should we go for? Should we base our decisions solely on a resume or a creds document? Sure, these things are important to a point but, if I told you I only date guys who tick boxes based on profession, salary and height you would probably call me narrow-minded, shallow and stuck-up.

I am sure many of us have sat in a job interview and been completely sold on a company or candidate and then ended up being dismally unhappy working for them, or less than mesmerized by our new recruit. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does it still starts with the same excitement and energy a great partnership does. So, what actually makes for a good long-lasting relationship, partnership or even friendship?

It’s quite simple really, shared values.

What does this mean and why does it matter? Well, because beyond the bullshit of who we try to be lies who we really are. One’s creds, resume, physical attributes, or ability to impress on a first date are not what’s going to keep that relationship, friendship or partnership kicking in 10/20/30 years time. Whatever dress you’re wearing, whatever job title you hold, whatever your handshake is like does not tell someone whether you’re going to conduct yourself in a way that is in line with their principles.

So why someone would ever tell you their values, or even if they did, why would they ever be honest? I mean anyone can reel off a lovely list of wholesomeness right? Except you don’t need to know their values – you only need to know your own.

A person’s values aren’t what they tell you they are, they manifest themselves in the way they act. So we can pretend all we like, but our values are exposed in the way we act and live. Once we understand our own value set, it’s not even about finding people who have the exact same list; it’s about ensuring people whose actions don’t challenge our beliefs surround us.

A very good friend of mine told me that a leader knows and lives their value set and stands by them even at risk of becoming unpopular. Your values are what you believe to be true, and right. They are non-negotiable. People make mistakes, but your values are the proverbial line that cannot be crossed. A personal value of mine is Respect. I strive to show people, clients, friends, respect, and I try not to associate with anyone who doesn’t show me the same.

At my previous company, when one of the cofounders left the office he was often heard saying ‘Be good, be honest, be true’. Interestingly, I have done his natal chart and found his ‘rising sign’ matches his sun sign, which basically means ‘What you see is what you get’.  Anyway, the point is that he’s a leader who knows what’s important to him. He embodied it in his businesses, and when I joined his company we went for coffee and I asked him what his vision for the business was. He said ‘like-minded people with shared values coming together to deliver great work and making some money along the way’. He nailed the essence of why he’s still in business in the first few words.

They say you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. So, does that mean we should surround ourselves by ambitious, successful, high-powered and popular people? Maybe, but in business there are lots of successful, high-powered people – some of them are greedy, some are generous, some are ethical, and some are corrupt.

I’ve come to see the difference between ambition and passion. There are lots of apathetic ambitious people; I want to know the people who really love something whether it’s their career, cooking, writing or netball. If someone is successful but a slave to a job they hate then that’s not the kind of success I am interested in, and if someone is high-powered but negative then that energy is no good for me either. If someone has lots of ‘friends’ but no one they can trust or call on in the eleventh hour then well, quite frankly I don’t want to become like them.

So on that first date if I am sitting effortlessly chatting away, staring into the eyes of a dreamy tall, dark and handsome stranger and he is less than polite to the waitstaff it shows a lack of respect, a principle I value highly. And by the time he tells me that he hates his job and has no interests outside of work then I have tuned out.

Look around you, who are you surrounded by? Would you be happy to become more like them? And are you the kind of person or organisation people want to spend time with or even become more like?

In marketing, we often ask existing and prospective clients, ‘What will your brand stand for?’ but the real question is ‘What do you stand for full stop?’ And to what extent would you be willing to stand up for these beliefs in the face of becoming unpopular?

Would you lose followers on Instagram or Twitter? Would you end a partnership or friendship to defend your values? Do your values influence the brands you’ll buy? Do you partner with the cheapest suppliers or the ones whose beliefs are aligned with yours? Would you hire someone with less experience because they’re a great cultural fit? Roy Disney said ‘it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are’, and he’s right. Deciding how to act or respond in any given situation is much easier with a value set to guide you.

And that’s the real learning here; identifying your value set is one thing, but to live these beliefs, to let them guide you in finding and surrounding yourself with the right kinds of people is quite another. As Mahatma Gandhi said “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

If we spent some time together tomorrow, would what I deduce from your actions, be in line with what you believe your values to be. If I met your friends, or colleagues would I still have an impression of you that is consistent with the type of person/business you claim to be? If not, why not?

Whether you believe in astrology or not, there is no doubt that people aren’t always who they say or what they seem, the real connections are made when we meet people who live their life by the same principles that we do.

Originally published April 2014.

Photo by NASA via Unsplash