Building Key Relationships
It is very difficult to reach goals or realize dreams without the help of others. Too often we think that once we reach our independence, we have reached the final stage of maturity. But not until we understand and practice interdependence do we take full advantage of our possibilities. Developing key relationships to reach this end is a skill than can be taught, and here are a few of the do’s and don’ts of Building Key Relationships.
To develop relationships you should be in the proper environment and mindset to make connections. Not all connections will equal a relationship and in fact, it may take multiple connections to equal just one. For example, an intern seeking full time employment may know that in order to make the next step s/he will need to reach out to others, yet is possibly unsure how and where. Networking events, happy hours, fundraisers, sporting events, and dinner parties are a few opportunities to meet other people and there are many sources that list these events, especially Cloture Club. But once you are at the event and mingling, what can you do to turn a connection into a relationship? Perceptions are important so it is essential to manage how you are perceived and to differentiate yourself from the rest by building trust through LCIV.
L = Listening to your connection will show that you care! When I say listen, I mean do it with your ears, eyes, and mind. Keep your focus on your conversation and avoid the traps of “not listening” which is looking over and beyond the connection to see who is entering the room. Steady your eyes on theirs and actively listen with interest. (Active listening will be a future column.) Remember the connection is about them and not you!
C = Competency can be demonstrated in many ways. It means doing what you say you are going to do: follow up is key! For example, when you exchange business cards, send an email expressing it was nice to meet them, you enjoyed your conversation, and you hope to see them again soon. Go the extra mile and reference a topic that you touched upon (I hope you enjoy your vacation, congratulations on the new job, etc). Depending on how your discussion went, offer a time to get coffee, lunch, or drinks. If you do not have a business card, ask for theirs or if they do not have one, get their information and say that you will be in touch. Personally, my follow up usually entails sending them an email within three to five business days reminding them of the connection and offering to serve them in the future if I can. I may send them more information on the topic we discussed, such as a book, an article, restaurant, etc. In some situations, I may send a hand-written note, especially if I am thanking them for their help or a service. The point is that you are honoring the connection by remembering and following up. Since most do not, you will stand out in the crowd.
I = Always act with integrity. This can be a cruel and unforgiving city and without it, a relationship will never happen. There are plenty of cautionary tales of karma catching up to the dishonest. It is extremely difficult to reenter once you’ve been blackballed.
V = Vulnerability is tricky especially if the connection is brief. But, if you have the opportunity and it fits in to the discussion talk a little about yourself. We never trust someone who is always wearing a mask and too insecure to take it off for a little to show themselves. For example, I was talking with a connect last week and they asked if I ever was unhappy in a job. I told them about my experience once in education and that gave them the freedom to talk about their current experience. There is a fine line between opening up and over-sharing. Yet, properly executed, you will leave with a little more understanding of the other person and they will do the same. This can perhaps be the beginning of a business relationship.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were waiting for friends at the Tabard Inn in DC and Mary made a comment about the guacamole she observed a couple sitting besides us was eating. We started a conversation that lead to the exchanging of business cards. The next day I noticed the card belonged to a documentary producer in Hollywood. I followed up with an email and in a few months this new connection took me up on it. He asked if Roll Call would cover his new documentary and our editorial department agreed and we did. By delivering on this request, I was perceived as someone who did what they said they would do. That connection grew into a full relationship, and I have had dinner in his home in Hollywood Hills and have made several other relationships from connections that grew from that one night waiting for friends at the Tabard Inn.
By honoring each connection with the four ingredients of trust, you will build relationships that can help land that job and reach your goals.
Arnie Thomas is President & CEO of A Thomas Group LLC. He mentors,
consults on client services, relationship management, leadership development,
strategic consulting, and professional speaking. For more information or to set
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