Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Finding and sharing interests, part of Connecting with Peers in the Workplace (2014).
- One of the keys to professional success is authenticity. You see, people go to work every day and project an image of themselves they think is acceptable, safe and professional. We actively refrain from opening up and being ourselves, so we choose not to talk about personal issues, and the result is that, in many ways, we offer fake, bland and sterile versions of ourselves. Common sense and good research suggest we should reconsider this position. When you let a little more of the real you out, so they see not only your professional skills, but also, your other hobbies and interests, well, people like that, it makes you more of a warm human, and not just a cold colleague.
But to make the very best connections, you have to go one step further. You have to begin to look and see the unique, authentic people around you. Far too often we over rely on simple ways of seeing others, through the lens of stereotypes and labels. Instead of seeing Louis, Kimberly or Ben, we see assistant, accountant and engineer. I want you to realize that the best teams only emerge when people appreciate others as people, not just professionals. Open your eyes and see beyond their work skills to also see their hobbies, family and children, where they went to school, their histories as people.
I want you to listen to people in meetings for things that reveal who they are, as much as what they know about work issues. You might learn that they grew up in Michigan, that they love being a part of their church, or maybe they've competed in numerous professional barbecue cookoffs. In fact, the next time you have the opportunity, look carefully around their workspace. You might see a signed basketball jersey on the wall, or a picture of them standing on the Great Wall of China. Or it could be as simple as realizing from the plaques behind them that they're actually a pretty serious amateur golfer.
All of these should lead to great conversation. Only when you start to discover these colorful little facts about who they really are, can you find ways to acknowledge them, and when you do, the benefits can be striking. They start to see you more personally, not just professionally. That means in their mind, you become more accessible and more commonly thought about. Later, when they need a perspective, want advice, or just want to chat for a few minutes, you're now more likely to be the person they think of. Let's take this even a step further.
The real secret to building connection, is finding shared interests. Maybe you have children, roughly the same age. You follow the same college or professional teams. You share a love of craft beers, or maybe you discover you're both serious bicycle enthusiasts. Who knows, but when you find these similarities, they present you with an opportunity. They're clearly fun to talk about once in a while, but they're more than that. They could become opportunities for you, and someone else, to socialize around these shared passions.
And even if that doesn't make sense for you, you can still use them to connect. For example, anytime you become aware of some product, service or event, that's just around the corner and that meshes tightly with one of their interests, reach out and share it. One quick text, email or call just might make their day. Now, to be clear, I'm not trying to say you should build friendships at work. That's not the goal. Friendships may or may not happen, but the goal is to build positive and fun and productive professional relationships.
Doing great work together is by far the most important goal, but guess what? The more you understand and appreciate each other socially, in terms of your interests, the easier you'll find it to work together at a high level of productivity.