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Coach's Corner--December 22, 2008

The Client
Name: Jeremy
Age: 51
Title: Senior director, Information technology
Time in current role:  Three years
Industry: Biotechology
Issue: Expanding my personal network
Q. I have a job I like and some good friends, but I feel somewhat isolated professionally. I’d like to feel more connected with other people. Where can I start?

A. When you think about building relationships in business, focus on giving. Finding ways to help others will bring you meaningful and lasting connections.

The inner game
Visualize your goal. Explore your reasons for seeking additional connections. Fear may be your driver: If you lose your job, who will help you? You may feel that you’re missing a source of growth — or it may just sound like more fun. Whatever is motivating you, consider what your life will be like once you’ve built more extensive connections. Also think about the balance between breadth and depth that works best for you.

Identify how you can help other people. Sharing your knowledge, introducing other people who’d benefit from knowing each other, or sending information that might help someone are just a few examples. You may find opportunities in professional organizations. Remember ways that others have helped you. Include non-business areas of life, too; this will broaden the scope of the relationships you form.

Overcome internal barriers. A common one is excess humility. It’s easy to downplay what you have to offer. If your list is short, pretend you’re discussing a friend instead of yourself. Your list will likely grow substantially.

There’s also some personal vulnerability that goes with reaching out to others. If you’re concerned about rejection, consider what would be the worst thing that could happen. It’s not likely to be something you can’t handle, especially if you’ve prepared in advance.

The outer game
Start with being open. When you meet people, ask them about themselves, and share about yourself. Avoid becoming so preoccupied that you miss connecting with people around you. Take the time to create a kernel of relationship; it’ll be a well-spent moment.

Be attentive to follow-up. Of course, deliver on your promises. However, follow up can be more subtle than that. For example, you might offer unexpected help, such as informational interviews for a colleague’s newly graduating child. The key is to make helping others a priority. It does take some time, so make sure that investing in relationships doesn’t get pushed aside. Many of the steps you can take — a quick note or voice mail — take just an instant and can make a real difference.

Be real. People can smell a phony, so if you’re insincere in your efforts, it’ll backfire. Tap into your reasons for building connections, and cultivate genuine curiosity about people. When you interact from your authentic self, you’ll get positive responses.

Be willing to let others give, too. Relationships are a two-way street, and people you’ve helped will want to reciprocate. Asking for or accepting help can be hard, but shows trust and openness. Letting others help you will make them happy, and everyone benefits.

The last word
Some people call it networking, but I think of it as building broad connections starting from the heart. In your business and personal lives, it’ll give you a safety net and a source of joy that enriches everyone involved.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted December 21, 2008
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