The ‘Giving’ season is upon us. There is still turkey and stuffing in my refrigerator commemorating the holiday of giving thanks and understanding how truly blessed we are. The gift giving holidays are right around the corner. As I reflect on these holidays, it is clear (at least for me) that this notion of giving is so instrumental to being an effective L&D and business professional. Being a generous ‘giver’ is critical to building relationships. And it is through these genuine relationships that we, as business professionals, are able to:
- Build a network that will help you ‘get things done’
- Be recognized as the ‘go to person’
- Get introduced to decision-makers or influencers in your industry
- Connect others who have mutual interests
All too often, people think they can send a LinkedIn message to one of their 500+ connections and think that something will actually happen. I argue that there is a subset of connections in your LinkedIn account who are true relationships and not just connections. To build relationships that can actually yield an ROI for you, consider the following ‘giving’ activities that will strengthen and deepen your relationships. Down the road, if you need to leverage a relationship (like an introduction to a key decision-maker in an organization), you will receive an enthusiastic response instead of hearing the sound of crickets.
- Volunteer – Join at least one professional organization and volunteer your time in your areas of interest. Volunteering demonstrates that you are committed to your profession and giving back to it. Plus getting involved in an organization will provide professional development to you. Also, attend half of the chapter meetings and an occasional special interest meeting. By volunteering, you will develop deeper relationships than you would by merely attending a couple meetings. You will be forced to work in a project setting on activities that will benefit the organization.
- Bi-Monthly Lunch – Get out of the office one to two times per month and invite someone from the profession to break bread with you. It is over a meal that you have someone’s undivided attention for at least an hour where you can talk about professional topics as well as explore topics that are more personal in nature.
- Determine the ‘Go To’ Expertise of Others – Whenever you meet someone, make it a point to ask questions that allow you to learn their areas of expertise. First, people are flattered when you ask them questions. It’s much preferred to having to listen to you drone on about the topics in which you are interested. Second, knowing their expertise will allow you to introduce others to them – other relationships who might need to tap into a local expert with that skill set.
- Forward an Interesting Article/Event – When an interesting article comes through your inbox, after reading it, don’t just drop it into the trash. Ask yourself who else would find that article interesting or might benefit them in some way. Then, send it to them. If you can make the time to mail it, add a post-it such as: “Hey Ron, I found this article on integrating social media into one’s learning architecture. Knowing that you are the eLearning guru for Home Depot, I thought that you might find this interesting.”
- What I Can I Do for You v. What’s in it for Me? – When you meet someone new, always think about ways in which you can help that person instead of thinking “What can this guy do for me?” Nine times out of ten, that mentality will come back to you multifold in the future.
- Make an Introduction – Whenever you meet someone new, one of your goals should be to introduce that person to someone else in your network who has a complementary interest. For example, in a span of two weeks, I had coffee with a small consulting firm specializing in improving the use of CRM systems. A week later, I met another firm that specialized in sales consulting (improving the sales process). These are complementary services so I introduced the two to each other. They are now exploring partnering opportunities.
- Stay in Touch – You should have a methodical approach (may be as simple as reminder list in Outlook) to regularly contacting those individuals who are important in your network. Contacting them can be something as simple an email asking how they are doing. Ideally, it would be even better to send them an email asking how they are doing, offering them something of interest (article or information on an interesting upcoming event), and suggesting that you get together in-person sometime in the next 1 – 3 months.
Wow. That sounds like a lot of work. If you think of managing your relationships as a critical component of your own professional and career development, then these activities will rank highly in the list of things you manage on a monthly basis. With the holiday season, it is all about giving, and to build rich relationships, it is all about giving. Remember, the more you give, the more you will receive in the long run.
This has to be a genuine, personal pursuit. It isn’t about getting as many connections in LinkedIn as possible. It is, however, about building a series of relationships that are genuine and where you are the first to contribute to each relationship without any expectations of receiving back. Sure, you shouldn’t have an expectation that this is a 100% altruistic exercise. Overall, you should expect to have an ROI on all the relationships you are investing in. Avoid disappointment by not expecting reciprocity, and your returns will be bountiful. May your holiday season be full of giving and gifts