Keith Ferrazzi – Business Relationship Development Expert

Keith Ferrazzi, the world’s foremost expert on relationship development, is the author of “Who’s Got Your Back,” the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestseller. As CEO of the consulting, training and research firm Ferrazzi Greenlight, Ferrazzi counsels the world’s top enterprises on how to dramatically accelerate the development of business relationships to drive sales, spark innovation and create team cohesion.

As a thought leader and advocate for corporate citizenship, Ferrazzi also spends his time rallying executives around initiatives to improve health care and education nationwide. He’s been published in The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Inc., and Fast Company, and has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, Larry King and other national TV shows. Ferrazzi’s previous book, “Never Eat Alone,” was a national bestseller. He lives in Los Angeles and New York, and can be found online at

What are you working on right now?

A lot of my recent attention and focus has been on my new venture, Relationship Masters Academy (RMA). It’s my passion and purpose project rolled into one. The RMA program is an online platform that shares our IP on how to build better quality relationships that facilitate the achievement of personal and professional goals. The program enhances productivity, revenue growth and job performance through better relationships and powerful personal networks. It’s the most exciting project on my plate right now.

RMA is based on our work with companies like Cisco, Lincoln Financial Bank, Bank of America, Intel, Google, Accenture and CB Richard Ellis, to transform their employees’ relationship-building capabilities. Through action-oriented missions designed to not only teach, but change behaviors, individuals learn to develop their networks and create higher quality relationships. This brings about desired changes in their careers, businesses, even personal lives — it’s the most exciting mission of my organization right now. We are providing the blueprint for building and managing social capital — the single most critical factor to business success.

Three trends that excite you?

1. Organizations are now engaging in a dialogue on how to improve the relationship DNA of their executives and employees in order to create better collaboration and reach new levels of productivity. This is an exciting wave my organization has been championing for a while now. My conversations with top-level CEOs, CMOs and division leaders indicate that great change is happening in an effort to refocus attention on the human element of business, and that the mastery of relationships leads to greater success.

2. There is a broader awareness, and movement toward, the use of collaboration as a methodology for more effective meetings. It’s opening up new possibilities for advancing organizations’ agendas. Tapping into the collective decision-making and problem-solving capabilities of a team, while building collective trust, breaks down personal barriers that tend to block organizational effectiveness. To see organizations make a conscious shift in business priorities toward the investment in relational skills is long overdue.

3. I’ve been really intrigued lately by how companies are addressing the challenges that have sprung up around the increase of remote workers. How are they addressing the effect on culture, learning and innovation? In some cases, like learning, remote access can actually help advance a company’s goals, yet in other regards, having a physically disconnected team creates interesting challenges to the company culture. It’s been fascinating to see how different organizations are addressing these issues and seeking out new innovations.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me, it usually starts with a strong internal vision that then gets put to paper and refined within my organization and with my lifeline group. Both are circles of support that I count on to challenge me in order to clarify my ideas and bring them into reality.

What inspires you?

Collaboration on service that changes the world is very inspiring to me. My organization hosted our 6th Big Task Weekend event in October. An amazing collective of business leaders such as Duncan Niederauer, Peter Guber, Wayne Gattinella and Arianna Huffington all came together for a weekend, with the sole intent of collaborating on issues of social change. It was a powerful gathering that promises to contribute to the betterment of our world.

On a more personal note, my service work with orphanages around the world (so far, Guatemala, China, Cambodia and Thailand) is changing my life. This spring I hope to bring a larger group to an organization I visited last year, and have supported since, for a group service project.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Mandalay CEO and business thought leader Peter Guber. His methodology on storytelling is something every person who needs support for a project or idea should read and learn.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Here’s a recent one — in marketing the Relationship Masters Academy. Basically, we hired outside experts who know how to hit the numbers in email campaigns. And our team, new and under pressure to succeed right out of the box, thought we could control and customize their techniques to avoid messaging that wasn’t in line with my identity. Our team, and our audience, were quick to realize that those emails were just not me. The campaign was a financial success and at the same time we utterly failed.

Among the lessons I’ve learned or been reminded of, is to come clean when you mess up. I shared this mini marketing debacle in a recent blog post, along with some of the other useful lessons our team learned as a result, and got really helpful feedback and critique from my readers.

Name one book and one tool that help you bring ideas to life?

The book would be Seth Godin’s “Tribes.” It is a fascinating, relevant read that discusses why gathering a tribe (a community of like-minded people), is how business should be organized. It goes further by making the point that anyone is capable of gathering and leading a tribe. In short, “Tribes” inspires and empowers people to become leaders of the tribes they gather, or just belong to.

I’m a big fan of social media. Twitter has given me a direct and instantaneous link with my community. And it has definitely made me a much more succinct writer — maybe even thinker. HootSuite manages and simplifies my social media communication; it’s an excellent tool.

Why do you think there is such a focus on relationships and networks in business now?

Relationships, networks and communities are not new; in fact, they are about as natural and intuitive as eating or breathing. I think the increasing focus today is a result of new technologies that enable them, and of course a very clear, measured understanding of the business benefits that focus brings.

Along with this, as more and more products become commoditized, businesses are looking for ways to differentiate their product, brands and organizations. People are also looking to do this professionally. Research unequivocally shows that the most successful organizations and individuals place an emphasis on relationships. It’s a principle that is hardwired in our DNA and can’t be ignored.

What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?

Without a doubt, it would have to be the work we do at Big Task Service. Big Task is the foundation that promotes our non-profit work toward a more collaborative and relational world. Every year, at least once, we visit orphanages around the world in order to serve them. Not only do these trips become a reminder of what’s important, they help me become a better leader.

On our recent trip to Cambodia in December, I noticed a little boy who stood out from the others. He wasn’t the oldest, or the biggest, but he was undoubtedly the leader. He made sure the younger children were taken care of, and was the best student. It got me thinking that this boy just needs a small break, just like I was given growing up.

So from now on, as we travel doing Big Task Service Projects, we will be identifying young men and women around the world who just need a small break. And we will be giving them this break. It is my dream someday to bring these young people together, to watch them grow into leaders of their villages and countries, and ultimately, to become global contributors.

Keith Ferrazzi on LinkedIn
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