Making connections in business can be challenging, and many people aren’t sure what the right steps are to make those connections. Building relationships takes time and effort, but with some focused tactics you can build long-lasting, meaningful connections. Here are five characteristics in particular that you should possess:
Relationships don’t get built overnight; it takes a lot of time (and therefore patience) to build them. The first time you meet someone, you probably aren’t going to know if it’s going to turn into a long-lasting connection. But you do have a first impression of that person and whether you want to continue the relationship at all. You also must be patient to find the right type of connections. The fact is, not everyone you meet is going to be a meaningful connection. Knowing the type of person with whom you want to build relationships will help you decide whom to invest time in. Be patient during the process of building relationships, because it does take a considerable amount of time.
Building meaningful connections takes a consistent effort. When someone needs or requests something, you need to be reliable. Checking in regularly with business colleagues lets them know you’re thinking about them. When you run across something you think would be helpful to one of your connections, pass that information along. Be consistent with reaching out and being seen by those with whom you want to have a meaningful connection.
If you are involved in an organization or association, you also must consistently attend those events to build connections. Over time people will gain more and more trust simply because you consistently showing up, supporting, and engaging in the association or event. Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up.” That’s the essence of this characteristic!
Look out for the other person. If you run across something (whether good or bad) that will be helpful to your connection in some way, then pass it along. You want them to know you are thinking about them. Empathy is much different than sympathy. When your connection needs empathy, you must put yourself in their shoes and think about their current situation. Don’t make things seem rosy when they aren’t, but rather tell this person you appreciate them sharing about it and will be there to listen. When you show empathy to another person, you build an even deeper trust factor with them. They know you understand and are there to help them. Empathy is underutilized in the business world but is vital to building and maintaining meaningful connections.
Keep Your Promises
This sounds so easy but keep the promises or commitments you make. If you have told someone you will do something and don’t follow through, that leaves a negative impression of you. If you can’t keep your promise, be forthcoming and let the person know as soon as you realize you aren’t going to be able to accommodate their request. If you are going to miss a deadline, let them know when you’re able to meet their deadline instead.
It’s also okay to say “no” to people but offer an alternative solution in these situations. When you can’t meet someone’s request but provide another solution instead, people appreciate the idea and will remember you helped them. Keep your promises. Period.
This one is crucial! Keeping the lines of communication open and being honest and upfront with others not only helps you, but it helps the other person. There aren’t any fuzzy lines or doubt when communication is clear and concise. There is no such thing as over communicating. Communicate goals, expectations, deadlines, schedules (the list goes on…) with colleagues, industry partners, employees, and clients.
Many people want to be in the loop about what’s going on even if they aren’t directly involved right now but may be involved down the road. It gives them time to think about the project or situation and build it into their schedule. By communicating your expectations of each person’s role, it allows everyone to be on the same page and accomplish the overall mission of the firm or project.
Building meaningful connections takes years. But by developing and honing these five characteristics, you can successfully build long-lasting relationships that will help you in your business (and in life).