A CEO recently asked if I could help his senior leaders build a stronger portfolio of relationships. Although extremely competent in their individual roles and realm of responsibilities, he thought they could become better “connectors.” After evaluating each executive’s relationship development efforts, my goal in coaching them is to see them become more intentional about their investment efforts, and to strategically focus on the diversity and quality of their relationships.
If you want to effectively and consistently connect with others, be the kind of individual others want to connect with. Here are eight best practices that will help you become an object of interest:
1. Read, Write, Explore – Every Day! This is something I do daily, whether in my office or on the road. I intentionally schedule time on my calendar to read a variety of topics, write articles or executive briefings/position papers or blog posts, and explore online. These three activities fuel each other by giving breadth and depth to the insights you gather. Set aside 15 minutes each day to do all three.
2. Research & Relate – How often do we attend a meeting or networking function unprepared, without a clue as to what or who is on the agenda? We walk in blind and empty handed with little to no insight on the relevant topic. Instead, block off thirty minutes in advance of a meeting or function to research key trends or speaker/panel’s bios. Come up with three to five compelling questions or discussion points that are thoughtful, hard-hitting, contrarian, or unique.
3. Come Out Swinging – Have you listened to a presenter or keynote speaker spend the first 15 minutes thanking the organization, exclaiming how delighted he is to be there, commenting what a wonderful city theirs is, or sharing how God, Motherhood, and Apple Pie made him the person he is today, blah, blah, blah? By the time his introduction is over, he has lost half if not two-thirds of the audience! Come out swinging with a bold statement, something catchy that bangs a stake in the ground and says you are worth listening to!
4. Energize Them – While we are on the subject of bad openings, how about the snoozer? The ho-hum, monotone voice that puts you to sleep the longer you hear it? We could be talking about flying jets and this person would still completely suck the energy out of the conversation! Don’t be humdrum. Bring a slightly higher-than-relevant level of energy to every interaction. We’re not all Tony Robbins, but if we are boring, people will disengage. Raise the tempo – genuinely.
5. Be Present – Has someone ever asked you a question and when you tried to answer, the person’s eyes scanned the room looking for bigger fish to fry? Did you want to grab them and say, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME?” When engaging others, stay centered, present, and in the moment. Don’t start thinking about your “honey-do” list, or your day’s schedule, the proposal you have to create, or the 200 emails you have to respond to. Turn off the smart phone – it’s for your convenience, not others’ – and stay focused on the interaction at hand.
6. Plant a Seed – If you tell me everything you know about a topic when we first meet, I’ll take the earful I’ve gotten and move on (READ: bored) and will have little interest in learning more from you. Conversely, if you tell me just enough to pique my curiosity, I’ll either ask for more, or seek you out to learn more. Plant the seed and leave someone wanting more, by making a brief statement and then being quiet. If someone is interested, they’ll often come back with “what do you mean,” or “tell me more about that!”
7. Paint a Picasso! You’ve heard the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words; well, what I want you to focus on is the picture’s texture and detailing, and the feeling of the other person being transported into that picture! Don’t tell someone there is a beach – describe it as aqua crystal clear water that gently caresses the white sandy shore! Language is incredibly powerful; fight the dummying down of Corporate America by others who are simply too lazy to look words up and expand their toolbox. If they don’t understand a word, it’s their problem; your authentic and genuine voice can do this without coming across as an elitist.
8. Tell Interesting Stories – To further expand on the idea that we can paint a Picasso, is that we could either show a picture, or can take someone there with a story. Most people may not remember your points, but they will remember your stories. I often run into people who have heard my speeches or have read my book, and am always amazed how they, years later, still recall and relate to my “2 AM” stories, or “meeting Joan at the YMCA at 6 AM on a Saturday” story.
9. Appeal to Their Logical Self-Interest – I often tell audiences that the worst thing you can do on social networks is to sell, because it unequivocally turns people off. Conversely, the best thing you can do online is to listen, engage, and influence others. Guess what? The same recommendation applies when you meet someone in person. You want to get to know them and give them a chance to get to know, and hopefully like, you. You ask better questions and appeal to their logical self-interest by always, always, always thinking about what’s in it for them; what are they interested in, why are they asking this particular question or why would they want to meet for coffee next week, etc. Your interactions, responses, correspondence, etc. should always aim to improve their condition.
10. Pace Yourself – Recently, I saw the same person at three different events – in the same day! She’s a very competent CFO and, no doubt, networking is helping her cast a wide net of opportunity. The problem is that she discerns very little about the quality of her interactions at that pace. At every event, she’s telling the same stories, jokes, headlines, etc. Instead of helping, it’s actually hurting her chances at being seen as an object of interest. Pace yourself and focus on quality rather than quantity. Attend gatherings of your peers or those of higher business stature. Or, go where your potential clients will be, versus a gathering of your peers or competitors. Go where your strongest referral sources go, or where others of particular insights or those with unique attributes may gather. Remember, a) NETworking is one letter away from NOTworking, and b) the diversity and quality of your relationships matter just as much, if not more, than sheer quantity.
Someone I respect recently pushed me to think beyond what time it is, to how much time I have left on this earth. And, more importantly, in the time that I have left, to think about how many people I can impact. How many will be better off because they met me or heard one of my speeches, read one of my books or articles, or watched one of my videos? When I’m gone, will they say, “he was a great guy to know and befriend,” or, “he just networked a lot!”
If you want to connect more effectively and authentically with people, become an object of interest that others seek out!
How are you doing that today? How are your efforts working for you? How do you know?