Power Relationships: A book review by Bob Morris

Power RelationshipsPower Relationships: 26 Irrefutable Laws for Building Extraordinary Relationships
Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
John S. Wiley & Sons (2014)

Two questions: “How healthy are your relationships?” and “What does that reveal about you?”

I have read and reviewed two of Andrew Sobel’s previously published books, Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (2012) and All For One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships (2009), the former co-authored with Jerold Panas. I think very highly of their erudition in combination with a practical approach when rigorously examining especially complicated business challenges and opportunities.

What we have in their latest book, Power Relationships, is greater development of several concepts introduced in Power Questions but also a wealth of new information, insights, and counsel . The power relationships to which this book’s eponymous title refers include but are by no means limited to those in the business world. They can also be developed elsewhere, within and beyond one’s home and community. Sobel and Panas are convinced — as am I — that, whatever their nature and extent may be, the most valuable relationships are empowered by commitment, intimacy, and dependability as well as by mutual affection, respect, and trust. They are also convinced — but I am not — that the 26 Relationship Laws are “irrefutable” and “apply without exception. They pass the tests of experience and common sense.”

My own opinion is that the 26 are best viewed as guidelines rather than as “laws.” However characterized, a combination of them really could help develop an extraordinarily sound relationship with almost anyone in any sector of one’s life, including active participation in social media. With only minor modification, at least some of the 26 could offer excellent guidance to newlyweds and new parents as well as to those who begin a new job, especially if that involves relocation to another city or town. I reviewed the guidelines with two teenage grandsons recently and, yes, with appropriate modification, the guidance helped to clarify some issues of immediate concern to them.

I especially appreciate the abundance of stories throughout the narrative, anchored in human experience, with several persons featured because Sobel or Panas has or once had a personal relationship with them. Panas, for example, developed a remarkably close relationship with the great retailer, James Cash Penney. Various situations in the real world serve to illustrate one or more of the “rules” but they also have entertainment value. To Sobel and Panas’ share credit, their material is as enjoyable as it is informative.

Other incidents involve persons known only to the co-authors but they are excellent inclusions, given how much of value those featured learned from their own experiences, now shared in this book. Which of the hundreds of anecdotes are of greatest interest and value will, of course, be determined by each reader. That said, I think the book should be read in its entirety…and then read again.

Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas invite their reader to visit a specified website from which they can download a free, 90-page workbook – “The Power Relationships Planning Guide” — that summarizes each of the 26 and explains how the reader can apply it to their own relationships. This material does not replace or even supplement the material in the book; rather, it enriches it. This is a substantial, indeed generous value-added benefit.

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Those who plan to read this book need to know that, although it is a collaboration, the narrative is advanced with a first person singular voice. There is only occasional use of the first personal plural pronoun, “we.” That said, I find this use of voice a rhetorical expediency, not a problem. If and when there is a revised and updated edition, I presume to suggest that an index be added.

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