Thought Leader Interview Series — with Randy Hain, Author of “Something More: the Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life”

 by Andrea Chilcote

This fall I’ll be conducting a series of interviews with thought leaders in diverse fields. This one, featuring my colleague Randy Hain, focuses on the topic of relationships and confidence.

Randy, you’re masterful at forming and nurturing relationships. What do you think are the key factors for success in this area?

RandyThank you for the compliment!  I certainly have tried throughout my career to build strong relationships.  I would suggest a pervasive lack of self-awareness and an unbalanced focus on our own needs are the biggest contributors to poorly done business relationships. On the flip side, I have long argued that authenticity, transparency and selflessness are the keys to building successful relationships.   Strong relationships must be built on trust and trust requires authenticity.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself!  I find transparency is also critical for relationships as it not only fosters trust when you are willing to be vulnerable, but it allows the other person to feel safe in responding candidly and openly as well.  Finally, if you desire to build a relationship that lasts, frequently ask:  “How can I help?”  This is a wonderful way to be selfless and pay it forward.  It also reflects a spirit of generosity.  There are certainly other factors to consider, but these three are the ones I consistently observe in helping people form and nurture relationships.

Trust is of course a critical component of strong relationships. When we look beyond the obvious reasons we extend trust to someone (they keep their word, walk their talk, etc…), there are more subtle, interpersonal ways in which we convey trust. Do you have an example of a way in which you or someone you admire does this?

RandyGreat question.  I think my father has long been my role model for how to build trust.  Why?  He is one of the most humble, honest and selfless men I have ever known.  He will always tell you what he really thinks in a kind way and is always the kind of person who wants to help others.  People have always been drawn to my father because he has a well-deserved reputation for being completely trustworthy.  I frequently use him as an example for my own sons as someone they should try to emulate.  In fact, I dedicated my third book, ‘Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life” to my father.

How important is genuine self-confidence in being able to forge strong relationships with others?

RandyIn my experience, I have noticed people are typically drawn to confident people.  A self-confident person will typically be able to overcome reservations and fears about reaching out to others, especially people they don’t know well.  This confident reaching out, coupled with transparency and a selfless desire to help others, can form the necessary building blocks to lasting relationships.

You help clients increase the quality and quantity of their business relationships. What are the top mistakes people tend to make in this area, and what do you advise them to do differently?

Randy: I actually have a list!  In my opinion, here are the WORST Business Relationship Practices:

  • Only reach out when you need something.
  • Only talk about yourself.
  • Mistake connections through social media as substitutes for real relationships.
  • Avoid being personal.
  • Fail to be transparent about what you want.
  • Go from “hello” with a new contact to “I want…” without building a trusting and open relationship first.
  • Keep score.
  • Abuse your network with frequent requests.
  • Don’t follow up appropriately.
  • Fail to show gratitude.

What can you do differently?  Try these four actions:

  1. Reflect on your last five encounters with people in your business network.  What were the results?  Be honest. What can you improve? How many of your actions were on the Worst list?
  2. Ask the most honest and candid person you know to give you feedback on how you conduct relationships. Do not seek encouragement or validation. This exercise requires brutal honesty.
  3. Ask for feedback from a failed business encounter.  Ask how they perceived you. Ask how you might have approached them differently. You may not always get feedback (or like what you hear), but if they respond, the lesson is invaluable.
  4. Of course, the most obvious action is to do the opposite of every practice listed above!

Randy Hain is a Partner and co-owner of Bell Oaks Executive Search, a 43 year old national search firm and the Founder and Principal of Serviam Access, a business relationship coaching firm.  Randy serves on the boards of Growing Leaders and the Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class.  He is an award-winning author with three published books and a fourth book, “LANDED! Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional” due in September. You can learn more about Randy Hain and his work at and follow his blog at The Huffington Post.