The Power of the Other

The Power of the Other

By Henry Cloud

February 27, 2017


“Research shows over and over again that people trying to reach goals succeed at a much greater rate if they are connected to a strong human support system.”


The undeniable reality is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do and how you do it, your skills and competencies, but also on who is doing it with you or to you.

Science confirms that getting to the next level is 100 percent dependent on relationship.

If, for example, you want to live longer, do you tend to focus more on what you eat and how much you exercise and whether or not you smoke? Do you focus on counting fats, calories, and push-ups? Or do you also focus on whether or not you are connecting with people you are close to and sharing your life with them?


“If you are trying to reach a goal, do you focus only on your strategy, or on whom you are going to engage to help you get there?”


If you are trying to change a behavior, do you set out a target for change, and begin to try to live up to that target? Or do you seek coaching and support that will help you get there?

We remember about 10 to 20 percent of what we read or hear or see, but 80 percent of what we experience in such a learning process.

But even if you’re not totally cut off, it’s still possible that your connections aren’t as strong as they should be or as healthy as you want them to be, and that you do have some Corner One realities going on. This is very common for high performers.

...annihilates high performance through self-doubt and self-deprecation. You become more concerned with gaining someone’s approval than with the performance itself. Simply stated, when that is happening, you have become less of you.

True performance is an expression, not a request to be liked or praised. Usually, when someone needs approval, there’s less to approve of.


“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

— Zig Ziglar


In the more than twenty-five years I’ve been working with high-powered CEOs and other top performers, one characteristic stands out: the leaders who accomplish the most, thrive the most, overcome the most are not afraid to say they need help.

Another way to bring new energy into your system is by gathering new information. That often comes in the form of a new connection, a new relationship with someone who brings in a different set of skills, knowledge, and expertise.

 Research has shown that if you are in a community that is getting healthy or overcoming something difficult, your chances of success go way, way up. This explains why groups like Weight Watchers and other support systems are so successful. They surround you with people who all are heading in a healthy direction, and that positive energy is contagious. The same is true for other goal-oriented paths. The more we are surrounded by people who are motivated to get there, the more we catch that energy and are moved toward success ourselves.


“Whether as a leader, a parent, or a spouse, think about whether the dynamic you’re creating will help release positive or negative energy.”


Don’t get me wrong: Solitude can be incredibly fueling in and of itself, especially for introverts. The ability to be alone, comfortably and contentedly, is an important step toward emotional maturity and health. But solitude is not Corner One isolation. Isolation won’t give you a chance to refuel but merely offers a temporary escape. If you find yourself heading into Corner One as a way to avoid conflict and intimacy while wrongly calling it alone time, you’ll end up with loss of energy and drive. So watch out. A good test? If you go for solitude, do you still have real, connecting, honest, and vulnerable Corner Four time with others that addresses what you thought about while alone? If you are sharing it at some point, your solitude is probably in service of refueling and sorting things out in your quiet time alone. But if you are not, you might be in Corner One isolation and just calling it solitude or introversion.


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

— Ken Blanchard


First, the science of feedback tells us that it is crucial to performance. Without it, you cannot achieve new levels of performance, much less get past a current limit. You must know how you are doing in order to get better.

If we’re operating from Corner One, detached and not emotionally invested in others, we really don’t get much feedback that is for us. In fact, most of the time in Corner One, we’re disengaging from feedback altogether. Isolated and shielded in various ways, we don’t let others get close enough to really see what’s going on; we don’t encourage them to speak freely. We haven’t communicated vulnerability to people in a way that would make them want to respond or reach out to help. We are walled off and hidden away.

Research has shown that the brain responds best to a ratio of five positive feedback messages for every negative message. In business research, the best ratio is actually six to one. The highest performers get an almost six-to-one ratio of positive to negative feedback, but the lowest performers’ mix is almost the opposite, a ratio of one to three. The people who perform best are hearing six positives for every negative, while the worst performers are getting three times more negatives than positives. For sure the negative is needed—we need to know how to get better—but in the right ratio and tone for the brain to use it.

I often find that results suffer when the team’s ability to give and receive feedback is broken.

That’s what the right kind of Corner Four relationship does: it spots a hidden asset you possess and shows you how to access it. The best kinds of others balance a couple of factors in setting stretch targets:

1. They will push you to go farther than you’ve gone in the past, encouraging you to develop new skills in order to reach the goal.

2. However, they will not stretch you to a point that will overwhelm you or take you backward. The best leaders, coaches, and friends do both of those things. They push you past where you have been or thought you could go, but not so far that you can’t recover. They stretch but don’t injure.


“What is the one-sentence summary of how you change the world? Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.”

— Larry Page


Give the brain a specific, but BIG problem to solve, and it will surprise you.

If you truly want to get beyond a current limit, your most important task is to run to Corner Four and get the right voices in your head.

The word compete comes from the Late Latin verb competere, “to seek together.”

It is seeking your real, authentic, and intrinsic best in the context of others. Be it a coach or the swimmer in the next lane, that relational push is required to get Michael Phelps to get to the next level. The other is key to getting better.

Whatever you are building, you have to add an external support to help set the internal structure. Getting better occurs through a process of shaping and forming from the outside, until that ability exists independently of the source of the structure. Then you can remove the scaffolding.

If I’m mad at you or hurt by you or disagree with you, I (and you) really need me to talk directly to you to resolve it. That’s the only way we’re going to get to some resolution of the matter. In the absence of that kind of give-and-take, bad feelings fester and spread infection—poisoning not just this one relationship but the mood and positive connections for everyone else involved. 

If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.

The company has a “no-gossip rule.” If someone is gossiping about someone instead of talking to that person directly to work it out, the gossiper is given a warning and is then fired if the warning is disregarded. This is a very straightforward, clear, and effective principle. And the cool thing is that this is a culture of healthy debate, high feedback, and quality relationships. Having that rule has made it more than OK for people to speak their minds; it’s a necessity if they want to keep their jobs.

All of a sudden, my mood shifted. Someone had understood. That’s pretty much all I needed.

You don’t understand your people or your customers when you understand them. You understand them when they understand that you understand.

Good, caring people can be perceived wrongly by others simply because a connection has not been made. As a leader, a spouse, a colleague, and a parent, take time to ask yourself: Have I shown the people I want to have a Corner Four relationship with that I truly am listening, that I understand them?


“When we’re looking to invest ourselves in a relationship, neutrality is never enough. We need the people we trust to be more than neutral. We need for them to be our allies, champions, and helpers!”


The higher you go in organizations, the more important questions of character and emotional intelligence become. Research and the daily headlines from the front page of the Wall Street Journal bear that out. At a certain level in leadership, everyone is smart, experienced, and highly capable; those traits are no longer the differentiators. Individual character is the big differentiator. It’s leaders’ emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills—not just what they can do, but how they do it. Character determines whether they inspire others to trust them.


“Your life, performance, health, well-being, and pretty much everything you value depends on the power that the other brings to the table.”