I've got a secret that most of my business colleagues would never believe. I am an introvert. After spending a long day engaging and networking with other business people, I often come away from the event exhausted.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the interaction and I love learning what motivates and inspires others. However, over-engaging can sometimes be mentally and physically draining for me. Through the years, I have learned to accept my introspective personality and plan time in my schedule to decompress, reflect and process my feelings after working an extensive, exciting event.
So, imagine my surprise when I began receiving requests to mentor professionals on how to build effective relationships. At first, I questioned why anyone would want me to mentor them on this skill. I did not view myself as an expert in relationship building by any means. But, as I began to examine my network of accomplished professionals and how they perceive me, I finally realized that building relationships and networking are two of my innate gifts.
Given that I have received numerous inquires on the topic, I’ve decided to share my sixth sense on relationship building with you. Here are 10 key principles that have worked for me.
Mutual respect is required. There must be a mutual connection or admiration of one another that merits further engagement and dialogue. If the initial interaction was uncomfortable or you did not feel a connection, it can’t be forced. If it is meant to be, another time will present itself to engage and connect.
Your network must be diverse. If everyone in your network looks or thinks like you, where is the challenge and learning opportunity? We live in a diverse, dynamic and complex world full of obstacles and opportunities. Having a network of professionals from different ethnicities, gender, and professional backgrounds will empower you to have a greater diversity of thought and creativity.
Don’t be selfish. Do not pursue relationships for the sole purpose of self-gain. I am purposeful in aligning myself with givers not takers. A good relationship can only be established when both parties give and take. Understand the gifts you have to offer and the value you bring to the relationship. I have found that individuals who genuinely share their knowledge, experience and connections have honor and authenticity, which in turn facilitates trust.
Be an active listener. It may sound easy, but not everyone is effective at this skill. I have found that listening is the most important component of a successful interaction. When you listen, you gain knowledge as well as demonstrate that you understand what the other person truly desires.
Understand what’s being said. Ensure that the person you are speaking to genuinely understands what you are saying. How many times have you spent time with someone and you both misunderstood each other’s message? Be clear and check in occasionally to confirm you are both on the same page.
Celebrate wins. When anyone in your circle has an accomplishment, be sure to congratulate them and share the news with your network. That simple act acknowledges that you care, and that person won’t forget that you were rooting and cheering for them. It’s a meaningful gesture that goes a long way.
Be open to feedback. There is a huge benefit in getting honest feedback. If it is real and on point, don’t take it as criticism. These types of observations often come with advice on what you can do better or how your actions are perceived. It helps you to be self-aware, to improve your skills and to up your game. You also have a responsibility to give feedback when required. If there’s mutual respect, your feedback will be welcome and accepted.
Don’t be a consistent whiner or complainer. Successful people surround themselves with like minded people. It’s okay to share your struggles and to seek advice, but ensure you reveal your feelings to people in your network who are empathetic and can relate to what you’re experiencing. They will still hold you accountable for having the confidence and drive to succeed despite the odds.
Patiently wait your turn. When you seek to build a network of successful professionals, understand that you will not always be a top priority. The hustle it takes to achieve success requires strategic focus. An unreturned call or email does not mean an individual does not care or does not wish to help, it simply means they are focused on another priority at the time. Don't get into your feelings to the point that risk loosing a relationship.
Pray for the people in your network. As a woman of faith, I truly believe that there are no coincidences. So, if God has invited someone into your life, he is inviting us to witness what he is doing in their lives. We may be a vessel to provide a blessing to them or vice versa. I have witnessed the grace that God has poured into my life and the people around me through the power of prayer.
I hope this was of value to you and I wish you much success on your career journey!
Peace and blessings,