Consider this: When was the last time you achieved something and did it 100% independently? How did you get your last job, client, referral, or recommendation?
It’s likely that most successes you’ve achieved occurred in tandem with someone else, or many others.
LinkedIn revealed that 85% of jobs come from one’s network. And, that statistic is even higher for those in executive-level positions.
What’s the best way to approach how you build and cultivate relationships? Become a connector.
How? To help us, I sat down with fellow superconnector Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence And Impact.
“A connector is simply someone who is relationship-focused in her/his approach to life, to people, and to business. He/she has a certain way of thinking and behaving. They act and get results with ease because they have a level of credibility and trust in and from their network. When they ask for something or make an introduction, it carries weight and people respond.”
Lederman mentions some eye-opening data in her book which shares that while we live in the ‘most connected’ era of all time, in a study of over 3.4 million people, it was found that “social isolation and loneliness had a greater impact on mortality than obesity. Lacking social connections carries a risk similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”
The study also revealed that “people with greater social connections were associated with a 50% lower risk of early death.”
So how do you become a connector, thus improving your results and your health? Lederman shares her top tips with us:
Establish trust quickly.
“Trust is at the core of a connector: the ability to trust yourself, the inclination to trust others, and the potential to be trusted by others. Trust is not a short-term accomplishment. All the tiny actions we take on a daily basis contribute to building or breaking trust. I have identified four fundamental aspects of trust which I call the pillars of trust: authenticity, vulnerability, transparency, and consistency. Each of these pillars is an integral part of building and
maintaining trust with those around you, and none can be neglected. Bottom line: there is no connection without trust.”
Relationships are about the long game. But, here’s how to win the short game.
What do you do when you have a short-term goal or deadline, knowing all too well that it’s important to develop relationships with a long-term focus?
“Keep thinking bi-directionally. Even though you have an immediate need doesn’t preclude you from also adding value for someone else. Showing you are open and willing to help will show and make others more open to helping you now.”
Break the ice.
Any relationship starts with a first meeting. How do you break the ice? “Use the situation you are in, the happenings of the day or event, or simply say ‘hello’. Approach someone with openness and curiosity and see where it leads. A smile goes a long way to kicking off a conversation.”
Give serendipity a boost with these three proactive tips.
1. “Figure out who can help you further your objective.”
2. “Seek to understand what would make them want to help you.”
Lederman elaborates, “If you don’t ask, the answer is ‘no’. When you ask, you immediately increase your odds of getting a ‘yes’. Ask in a way that doesn’t put the relationship at risk. Try a convenient, shrinking, or opt-out ask.”
Connect with mentors by showing appreciation.
Being a connector will give you access to potential mentors much more quickly.
“It’s likely that you have mentors in your life already…appreciate them. Formalize those connections that already exist. To add to your mentors, think about whom you admire and why. Then tell that person. Appreciation goes a long way. A mentor needs to understand why them. They want to know how they can add value. Let them know what you are seeking to learn, as well as how you would like to support what they are working on. Make it a two-way street.”
Develop relationships with your customers.
Customers are often overlooked when it comes to building relationships. This is a huge error, especially considering that the value of a current customer is higher than the potential of one you don’t currently have.
“Organizations like Netflix, LinkedIn, Spotify, and Amazon have valuations that are five to ten times that of their transactional counterparts because they’ve built relationships with their customers. We all have companies we won’t work with because of how we were treated. Relationships impact the loyalty and longevity of your customers.”
Be authentic, even if it’s scary.
We hear a lot of chatter about the importance and power of being ourselves. For some this can be scary.
“Fear is what holds us back from everything. The question: of what are you afraid? That is where it varies. It could be rejection, it could be how they will think of us, it could be anything. We are in our heads and it holds us back. We think there is a ‘right’ way when there are many right ways.”
Have an abundant mindset.
“An abundant mindset doesn’t act out of fear, isn’t protective or defensive of what they have, and they know the value they bring. Therefore they don’t compare themselves in relation to other people. Don’t be stingy with the praise! I always say, ‘When you shine the light on someone else, it reflects back on you.’”
Start a ‘success file’.
Need a boost? Start a ‘success file’.
“We have bad memories and what we do remember tends to be the bad stuff. A success file will help you remember all the good you’ve accomplished, and all the people who said good things about you. It helps come promotion time (or just on a bad day)!”
You’re not too busy.
It might feel as if your schedule has no room in it to build relationships and be a connector. Lederman disagrees: “There is so much underutilized time in our day. Protect your downtime, but think about that dead time. The commuting time, where you can catch up on a call while driving or send a few emails from the train. The food coma time, where you can be re energized by a catch-up call rather than trying to slog through brain work at half energy. Think about the things you are already doing and invite someone to do them with you.”
‘Find your format.’
“We all thrive in different settings. Being social is more a matter of pinpointing what works for you. In today’s technology-reliant society, there are now more ways than ever to be social. That said, I challenge people not to get too comfortable and over-rely on one method of connecting. Stretch yourself and get comfortable being a little uncomfortable.”
Be the convener.
Want a way to increase your impact and influence, while also integrating a bunch of goals into one? Then “…be the hub. Invite people to do things and then introduce them to the other people you invited. You stay present in people’s minds as they build new connections, since you are the common person. Be creative. You can convene people in person or virtually; though a group or through a game. Find your fit.”
Make great introductions.
When you think two people should meet, what’s the best way to go about doing it?
“Clearly. By that I mean before offering the introduction, consider what’s in it for both parties. There is a reason you thought to connect two people, share that reason.”
Follow up and follow through.
This is where I see many people falter. A relationship can’t grow unless you follow up and follow through.
“Make a plan on how you are going to do what you say you are going to do. Close the loop by keeping people informed of outcomes, even if it is that you missed the deadline and what you are doing about it. Don’t make people guess, keep them informed.”
Give, even if you think you have nothing to offer.
“There is always value to add. Be curious, ask good questions and uncover what’s important to the other person. That will give you ideas on whom they want to connect with and how you can help. If you can’t figure it out, just ask them. If they are a connector, they will tell you what they need.”
Have boundaries and say ‘no’.
“Saying ‘no’ is the same as saying ‘yes’ to something else. To be conscientious, you must be clear on what you are willing to do and give yourself guidelines when to say ‘no’. ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ are not one word answers. Create guidelines and boundaries to be generous with yourself too.”
Keep the momentum going.
“Stay in someone’s mind, but don’t get in their face. Leverage the initial conversation for follow-up. What did you talk about? Can you add value to that exchange? Look for light ways to reach out. If connecting first online, follow it up with a personal note and extend the conversation. Seek to move from online to offline communication. Set up a call.”
Connect with anyone you want (including influencers).
Is there someone whom you’d love to meet but don’t know how? Here’s where you start: “Do your research. Think about how you could be valuable to them. Start amplifying their content. Engage with them on social media. Attend a conference at which they are speaking. Get clear on why you want to connect with them. Share your reasons and see what happens.”
You don’t have to be a social butterfly or extrovert.
“To be social is simply to seek or enjoy companionship of others. It is not, by definition, being a social butterfly or the life of the party. Connectors do not need to be extroverts! Many introverts are amazing connectors with their own way to do it. They leverage their natural listening skills to make people feel heard. They are able to focus their attention on the person in front of them. All of these innately introverted qualities are advantages when it comes to connection.”
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