Click and Bond, an Enduring Friendship
My friend and FF Fraternity Brother Billy Lee asked me this question: “What makes a friendship click and bond for the long haul?” He added: “I know you have a lot of experience in inspiring people, young and old, individually and collectively. How about writing an essay shining light on this topic?” The way Bro. Billy asked the question made me feel appreciated and gave me a sense of importance, two important criteria to build trusted and lasting friendships.
I will begin by highlighting a few simple principles that I have learned from my 32 years of working at Hewlett Packard. I will conclude by sharing a recent example of building friendship while mentoring six young professionals during 2018-2019.
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the two founders of Hewlett Packard, have instilled in me an important principle, simple to state, but difficult to implement. That is, think first of the other person. How do I listen to understand the other person? How do I respect the other person’s personality rights? How do I build up the other person’s sense of importance? How do I give sincere appreciation to others?
To form stronger and more durable relationships at Hewlett Packard, I have also learned to smartly erase the line between “personal” and “professional” relationships. For professional business relationships, I had to articulate a shared vision, develop ambitious goals, delegate responsibilities, and drive for results. For personal relationships, I had to be a warm, casual, vulnerable and empathetic human. This was not about choosing one over the other. Both were required, at all times.
I have been a volunteer at the Monte Jade Science & Technology Association mentoring young professionals in Silicon Valley since 2009. Typically we had ten executive mentors, each hosting a small group of 5 to 6 mentees, for an annual class of 50-60 participants. I asked each of the six mentees from my mentoring group of 2018-19 to research a leadership topic of their choice, and lead a group discussion by sharing examples of successes and failures they have encountered. I emphasized: “This is not a presentation. Rather, you must draw out ideas and comments from the others … and lead a discussion while highlighting their viewpoints.” I coached them with tips on how to think first of the other person.
Twelve weeks and six discussions later, the results were rather astounding. Not only did they pick up valuable insights related to the chosen leadership topics, they were clicking and bonding with each other in ways that I had not accomplished in my prior mentoring groups. They felt like a family wanting to help each other.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, I wanted to drive home the importance of erasing the line between “personal” and “professional” relationships. At this time, they saw me as the respected teacher/mentor, a professional relationship. Breaking tradition with the other group mentors, I invited my mentees and their spouse to my home celebrating the Christmas holidays. I requested two things: Bring your best dish to share. Wear a pair of socks with an attitude that makes a statement about you.
Again, the results were astounding. Because I was willing to share my home with them, introduce them to my wife, share my socks with an attitude, and demonstrate our warm, casual and vulnerable behaviors … they responded by clicking and bonding with me and my spouse, and even more with each other. Their personal stories about their best dishes, and their statements for the choice of socks revealed their warmness, casualness and vulnerability.
The story did not end here. Six months later we regrouped on a beautiful Saturday and visited three wineries in the Mountains of Santa Cruz. One year later, four of the six mentees returned to Monte Jade to give back and lead programs for us.
Larry Chang, June 15, 2020
Executive Advisor, Ascend Leadership
Executive Mentor, Monte Jade Science & Technology Assoiciation