Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Building relationships, part of Communication Foundations (2013).
- Mike Ditka, head coach during the Chicago Bears Superbowl winning season of 1985, once said about his team's flamboyant quarterback, Jim McMahon, with whom he often had difficulties, we have a strange and wonderful relationship. He's strange, and I'm wonderful. There's humor, if not humility, in that quote but also wisdom. Relationships are easy when they're effortless, but there's so much upside to go past easy and find creative ways to connect with people beyond those we automatically click with.
The research is clear, that stronger, broader relationships lead to better performance, job opportunities, health, wealth, happiness, just about any way you want to define success. Whatever your challenge or need in work and life, the right relationships save you a lot of time, money, and effort. Everything gets better with better relationships. This is an ongoing focus of my research, and I want to share the five action steps that leaders I've worked with over the years find most helpful to get results on their relationship building priorities.
Number one, don't just set performance goals, set people goals. Who are the best people for you to connect with to achieve your goals, to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience that you want to gain, to learn what you want to learn? Identify these people, and reach out to them in a positive way. Ask for just a few minutes of their time. Make it easy for them to say yes. The worst they can do is say no, which is where you're at anyway, if you don't even try. Good people like to connect with other good people who are going for something.
And let me dispel a myth, there is no magic charisma gene that some people have and the rest of us don't, and so we're stuck. Real relationship building isn't about putting on a performance. It's about adding value. So, don't let self-limiting assumptions get in the way of that. Instead, follow action step number two. Learn what others want in work and life and help them get it. Be curious and care about their success. Ask about their goals, priorities, projects, and interests. Then look for ways to help, with insights, personal stories, referrals, advice you've heard, articles, books, movie recommendations, anything.
Even small contributions can make a big impression. Remember, it also adds value simply to help someone feel better. We like to be around people who help us feel better, and you don't need any power, status, expertise, or authority to do that. When you try to help others get what they want, many will naturally want to help you get what you want, which leads to action step number three. Let others help you, just as you want to help them. Good people naturally reciprocate and feel awkward if value is going entirely one way.
Let them know what you're working toward. Put it out there, with a positive tone. My goal is, or I'm trying to develop my ability to, or I'm looking for a, and then fill in the blank and tell them if they have any advice or suggestions, you're really open. You pay them a compliment that carries no burden and respects their insight and expertise. Good people will feel good about helping you. Give them the chance to do it. And you can multiply this value-adding effect with action step number four.
Make introductions. When you connect people, they think positively of you whenever they see that other person and are naturally reminded to introduce you to other people as well. Making introductions is a great habit. You listen and learn more about people you meet, so you can connect those people who will gain from knowing each other. I know a legendary, amazingly successful insurance professional whose entire strategy for developing business over many years has been to make one introduction a day. That's it.
Everything else follows from that one daily practice. One intro a day motivates him to meet more people, stay current with existing connections, and think about how to help both. He doesn't sell. He listens, and he makes intros. People come back to him, because he's the kind of person they want to buy from. Put it all together with action step number five. Do a weekly relationship review. Put a weekly 15-minute appointment with yourself on your calendar.
Use that time to choose the best ways to do two things in the upcoming week. Improve current relationships and build new ones. The cumulative effect of doing this regularly is astonishing. Now, it doesn't take much time, but it does take consistency. Relationship building is one of those things that's not urgent, like tasks with deadlines. So, it's easily pushed off your to do list for a few days, but then a few days becomes a few weeks and a few months and more.
So, do that quick weekly review. Keep your current connections healthy and build new ones before you need them. Do all five steps regularly, and you'll steadily strengthen and grow your circle of great connections. Relationships lead to the best things in life. Relationships are the best things in life. So, here's wishing you, in Coach Ditka's words, many more strange and wonderful relationships, especially the wonderful ones.
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- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.