High-Value Relationships



Greetings Everyday Spy,

You are not going to achieve your ambition alone. 

The story of the solo spy is just that – a story. There is no self-made man, no lone wolf, no singleton operator. Every successful person has others that help and support them.

But building your most effective team isn’t about trust exercises, falling backwards with confidence, or playing grade school games during corporate training sessions. It’s about knowing what skills you bring to the table and intentionally surrounding yourself with the right complementary and conflicting relationships.

High-value relationships are exactly what they sound like – relationships that yield more value than they cost. Every relationship has a cost in time, energy, and money. And every relationship brings some kind of value. The question is whether they bring more value than cost. 

Too often we invest in relationships that do not bring us commensurate returns. We are culturally programmed to believe that there is something selfish about expecting more than we give. But that is conventional thinking – common thought. That is not operational thinking.

An operation needs every resource to carry more than its intrinsic value. You need synergy. The total of all parts must equal more than their basic sum. Just like you mix concrete and water to build a strong foundation, you would never build a home on flour and water instead. Because you know that concrete and water make a stronger base. They have more synergy. They are stronger together than they are apart.

In human intelligence terms, we are talking about MBTI ‘temperaments.’ Temperaments are specific MBTI indicators that determine synergy between personality types. There are four temperaments that fit into a basic square shape. From that square we have a framework to define, determine, and build high-value relationships. 

SJ – Guardians. Guardians think and act on what they perceive through their five senses. They seek out process, rules, and guidelines. In intelligence operations, these are your analysts. They value hard facts, best practices, and think and act in a predictable way.

NT – Thinkers. Thinkers are left-brain dominant. They enjoy problem solving that requires logic and reasoning. They thrive on challenges and gain energy working through problems even if they don’t find the solution. Unlike SJ Guardians, NT Thinkers do not bury themselves in details. They remain open minded and creative in their approach. In intelligence ops, these are your technical officers. No problem is too big to hack.

SP – Artisans. Artisans don’t want or need process. They embrace possibilities and barely acknowledge rules, reason, or even reality. This is the group of people endeavoring to create something that never existed before. In intelligence operations, these are your disguise artists, your alias document forgers, your concealment engineers. 

NF – Idealists. Idealists are right-brain dominant and driven by instinct. They hold purpose and intent above reason and observable fact. They enjoy new information, new experiences, and new perspectives. They act on their own initiative. In intelligence operations, these are your field operatives. Live or die, they will do it on their own terms.

Each temperament has a natural inclination to seek out those next to them in the four-square framework because they have something in common. The commonality is how common thinkers build their peer groups. The temperament opposite you in the four-square shape is the challenge because that person is your polar opposite. They are an unnatural connection and therefore not a relationship common thinkers pursue. But you and I think operationally, and that opposite block is actually your most important piece to success. 

You must build the entire block to have the greatest level of success. CIA builds teams according to this block. The highest performing industries use the same four-block approach. Statesmen, scholars, and special operators all build teams from a foundation in temperament. 

Now you can, too.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy


Reading Assignment:

Four Temperament Profiles of the 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types

How to Work with People Who Aren’t Like You

Skills Exercise:

Create your own four-square block and identify which blocks you have and which blocks you need. List 2-3 people in each block (if possible) and then rank order them according to the strength of your relationship. If you have an empty block or a block where the top-most person is still a weak relationship, ask yourself whether you want to invest more resources into that relationship or simply seek out a new person for that block.

When your block is built, answer these questions:

  • Am I leaning on the blocks beside me and above me to achieve my highest priorities?
  • Do I engage the blocks beside and above me equally or do I spend more resources (time, energy, money) on one block than the other?
  • How can I better spend equal resources on both blocks?
  • For my opposite box, how do I focus on a common goal instead of the natural areas where we have conflict?
  • Where does the person in my opposite box see conflict with me? How can I change my own behavior to bring them less conflict and more value?
  • How can I bring all three boxes around me together and focus them on a goal I’m trying to achieve?


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