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How LinkedIn’s boss links in

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in Profiles in Leadership

“I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me.” Or, “I’ll do something for you, but I’m keeping track of what you owe me.”

Surely you have business relationships that are purely tit-for-tat. According to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, it’s important to evaluate what sort of business relationships you’re in, so you know how to invest in each person.

For example, with transactional relationships, “You need to ensure a stream of short-term rewards for them so they constantly feel they are getting something back,” he says. “These kinds of alliances are inherently risky.” As soon as rewards dry up, the relationship may falter.

Other types of relationships have been exponentially more valuable to Hoff­­man. He describes such relationships as “I’ll invest in this relationship, and I expect you to invest commensurately over time” or “I’ll invest in this relationship because it’s the right thing to do.”

Those are the alliances that open doors.

To nurture good alliances, Hoffman counsels showing signs of your own commitment—making it clear that you care about helping.

“My name for this practice is the ‘theory of small gifts,’” he says. For example, when he introduces two people on LinkedIn, he expects they’ll both appreciate the introduction.

Hoffman kept his theory of small gifts in mind as he created LinkedIn. “If you insist on quid pro quo every time you help others, you will have a much narrower network and a more limited set of opportunities,” he says.

"But if you help others and make introductions because it’s the right thing to do, you’ll expand your universe of possibilities.”

— Adapted from “Connections With Integrity,” Reid Hoffman, strategy+business.

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