Anyone with an IQ above a raisin will acknowledge that business is about relationships. This is not new information. Relationships are at the cornerstone of family, friends, creative endeavors and yes, business. If we want to collaborate, innovate, or build we need other people. Revenue generation is no different. What seems less clear is how to initiate, grow, and sustain those relationships. It’s all good and well for someone to tell you that networking is an important part of business development but how do you forge a relationship over cheese cubes with a sticky name tag on your lapel when you feel about as natural as a toupee? People are so damned focused on elevator pitches and collecting business cards that they forget how to just be themselves. If you feel at ease and you make others feel good in your presence, people will want to talk to you. If you care about people and you’re curious, people will want to know you. If you’re focus is to collect business cards like baseball cards, then you’re going to find business building hard work.
Relationships are about reciprocity and respect. If you connect with others like a human instead of an elevator pitching, card-collecting machine, you’ll find that everything is easier and more fun! The word authenticity must be the most overused word of the decade, but it’s a good word, and difficult to replace. If you’re authentic, sincere, and simply human, business relationships start to develop like all relationships. Some people will like you, others will like you less and some not at all. And that’s just fine. There are plenty of us in the world that we can all find our people and our place.
If indeed relationships are built upon a foundation of trust, how can any of us trust someone who isn’t being who they are? Sometimes our quest to be taken seriously causes us to hide, or in some way alter who our true selves; when in fact who we are is the most singular expression of our differentiation in the marketplace. Be careful not to leave your humanity and humor at home when you meet for your business coffee. I find it hard to trust people that I can’t laugh with, or be deadly serious with for that matter. If there’s no room for genuine connection, well I can pretty much do everything online.
At the end of every transaction, training, presentation or speaking engagement that I do is a human being. Sometimes that human being is frustrated or uncertain or struggling. That person doesn’t merely want to know about my skills or experience, he or she wants to know that I will keep their confidence, kick their ass when necessary, and create a safe place for all of their shortcomings. If you want to create meaningful relationships in business, show up as your full, human self. At the end of the day the right tie and the perfect haircut or beautiful business card is only the beginning, it’s who you are beneath all of those professional accoutrements that your client or colleague wants to know.