Saturday, January 24, 2009

Business Times p.B.1
Saturday, January 24, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Real friends expect you to be somebody

Many of us claim to be friendly and to have so many friends. Yet, something happens and, boom, you are no longer friends. The term "friend" has lost some of its original power. One time, I was surprised that an acquaintance introduced me as her friend. We have not really had any conversation of substance, save for unthinking hello's and how are you's, I don't know her after her name. I don't resent being her friend, but does she really know what a friend is? We could be friends, but we are not—yet. How would she react if I call her my friend?

In his book, Vital Friends, Tom Rath added "vital" to describe friendships that are essential in one's life. He wrote that vital friends are those who measurably improve your life and a person at work or in your personal life whom you can't afford to live without.

He added that to determine if a person in your life is a friend, ask these two questions.

* If this person were no longer around, would your overall satisfaction with life decrease?

* If this person were no longer a part of your life, would your achievement or engagement at work decrease?

Tom identified several vital roles that friends bring into our lives. He described what you are getting, not what you are giving, because friendship usually give different things than we receive. My science teacher calls this symbiotic relationship. Friends complete you.

Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed even if it means they have go out on a limb. They are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are friends who lead you to achieve more each day. Great builders do not compete with you. They figure out how their talents can complement yours. If you need a catalyst for your personal or professional growth, stay close to a builder.

Collaborators are friends with similar interests, the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, music, movies, or books. In many cases you belong to the same groups or share affiliations. When you talk with a collaborator, you're on familiar ground, and this can serve as the foundation for a lasting relationship. Indeed, in those conversations, you often find that you have similar ambitions in work and life.

Looking for someone who can relate to your passions? Find a collaborator.

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also "has your back" and will stand up for you when you're not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. They are loyal friends with whom you can share things ion confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others don't. They are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. They thrive on your accomplishments and happiness. When you need someone to promote your cause, look to a champion.

"Energizers are your fun friends who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. They are quick to pick you up when you're down and can make a good day great. They are always saying and doing things that make you feel better. They have a remarkable ability to figure out what gets you going.

When you are around these friends, you smile a lot more. You are more likely to laugh in their presence. If you want to relax and have a good time or need to get out of a rut, call an energizer."

These descriptions tell you that you need four best friends, at least. No one person could play all these roles in our lives. Our parents, children, spouse, exes and relatives are also our friends doing any of these roles to us. So do officemates, cubicle-mates, bosses, clients, suppliers. And fellow Rotarians, PMAPer, Quotarian, etc. The others could still be your good friends, friends or even just acquaintances.

There are four more roles, come by next Saturday or, better yet, buy the book! Vital Friends by Tom Rath.

Moje is a management consultant on organizational and personal learning. Visit her blog at or e-mail her at
REal friends expect you to be somebody

Saturday, January 17, 2009

You are who you eat with

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, January 17, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
You are who you eat with

LAST column, we identified what makes us happy. This time, let us identify people who want and help us to be happy. It is always good to be with people who want us to succeed and be happy.

According to Tom Rath (Vital Friends, Gallup Press, 2006) our friends shape our life and work. We need friends to succeed, be happy or to basically stay alive. Tom and his group of researchers from Gallup found out that friendships add significant value to our marriages, families, work and lives.

He wrote, "At some level, everything we see and feel is the product of a personal relationship. Look around you and identify anything created in true isolation. You might notice how dependent we are on connections with other people. Remove relationships from the equation, and everything disappears. Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we focus our development inward. We strive to be better human beings. We try to make ourselves better employees. Even when we focus on developing another person, as great parents and managers do so well, most of our emphasis is on the other person as an individual. We simply bypass the relationship itself.

"Scientists are also uncovering how friendships shape our expectations, desires and goals for the future. You are who you eat with. In addition to improving our health and life satisfaction, studies are now revealing how friends play a similar role during stressful times. Our friends essentially serve as a buffer during life challenges, which improves our cardiovascular functioning and resiliency and decreases our stress levels. When a tragic event occurs, a close friend becomes our comfort and refuge.

"The more friends the better? Not necessarily. People, in a 2001 study at Duke University Medical Center, with five, six, seven, or eight friends gained about the same survival benefit, when compared to those with four friends. Having at least four friends appears to provide the maximum protective effect and help people live significantly longer. The quality of friendships matters most. Each person needs a few very deep friendships to thrive. As you might suspect, lonely people suffer psychologically and physically. The absence of high-quality friendships is bad for our health, spirits, productivity and longevity. According to Dr. Eugene Kennedy of Loyola University of Chicago, "You don't necessarily need drugs or medical treat to improve health and lift depression—just friends."

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that it is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriage.
"Consequently, we should not expect our friends to be good at everything. This 'rounding error' can poison the very best friendships and marriages. To keep our friendships, focus on what each friend does contribute to your life; not what they do not bring to the friendship."

Likewise, the emotional boundaries between work and personal life are blurred. If you dread going home after work, you might need to examine what's wrong with your relationships at home—and at work. The boundaries between work and family are pretty permeable. Having a balanced family/work life is about having great friendships that extend between work and home.

There is little focus on workplace friendships in books, and other media. So let us discuss that next column. After all, the Gallup research revealed that having a "best friend" at work—rather than just a "friend" or even a "good friend"—was a more powerful predictor of workplace outcomes.

American Society for Training & Development International Conferences:
• ASTD 2009 International Conference & Exposition would be held on May 31 to June 3 in Washington, D.C. For details go to To register, please use Delegation Code 200802060 to get discounted fees.
• ASTD South Africa Global Conference & Exhibition would be held in Capetown, South Africa this April 21 to 23. Please visit I am one of the speakers here. My topic is "Aligning Organizational and Personal Learning to Your Leadership Brand." I need friends to cheer me up?
• For questions on registration, please e-mail me at or call 715-9332.

Moje is a consultant on organizational and personal learning. Visit her blog at