Successful leaders know that moving up and achieving great things comes down to great relationships.
Relationships connect us to resources, lead us to new opportunities and prove to others that we are trustworthy, professional and top-notch.
The good news is that – each and every day – we are given dozens of opportunities to build better relationships….with our colleagues and our supervisors, with the people we manage, with our acquaintances and the spouses of our acquaintances.
They happen everywhere:
…in the lunchroom, at our neighbor’s desk
…at the coffee shop or the gym
…before, during and after the many meetings we sit through each day
….at events, luncheons or conferences
They all begin with the simple question: “How are you?”
And this…is where we blow it.
Instead of seizing this opportunity to build a professional connection, we get confused.
We use the question, which… let’s be real… is more of a salutation than a true inquiry, as the entrée into a personal conversation…the kind we share with our best buddies, our partners, our families.
And we answer this simple question – how are you? – with one of the following types of responses:
- The tedious and low energy: “I’m okay, kind of tired to be honest.”
- The mildly complaining and uninspired: “I’m actually pretty stressed right now.”
- The one laced with personal information: “Not great. I’m in a rough patch right now and am about to lose my house.”
- The one that contains all kinds of tedious details: “I’m amazing. My daughter just won her first soccer tournament. Let me show you some pictures on my phone!”
- The boastful: “I’m FABULOUS. I leave tomorrow for Italy for three weeks! I can’t wait to get through this day!”
These answers…true as they may be…are not how you build strong, professional relationships.
Because here’s the harsh truth.
Building relationships isn’t about focusing on you.
Building relationships is about focusing on the other person.
So how do you take these dozens of opportunities each day – the ones that begin with how are you? – and turn them into stronger connections every time?
I present to you now three easy steps.
Start with a simple response: “I’m great.”
Don’t make the answer about how you’re stressed or tired. Don’t talk about how much the gas cost when you filled up this morning. Don’t be gloomy. And don’t be ironic and roll your eyes.
Don’t be overly joyous, launching immediately into the many details of your fabulous weekend.
Be simple and be positive. The word “great” or something like it will do just fine. (I’m a fan of the word “swell” these days)
Not actually feeling great? Here’s a bonus.
I find when I’m not in a great space but answer positively anyway, I actually feel lighter than I might have minutes before. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that things, in general, are going well.
Move on to them.
Your next three words are simple.
“How are you?”
Yes, professional bonds mean getting to know each other. And as the dialogue continues you’ll have plenty of time to insert your stories interests and hobbies.
But for now, at the beginning, don’t make it about you. Focus on them.
Go a bit deeper.
Want to really show the person you’re interested in them?
Follow those three words with a great question:
- Ask how their wife’s job is going
- Ask what their kids’ favorite subjects are these days
- Ask about their real estate job…how the market is impacting their work, if they prefer the buying or selling side…if last weekend’s open house was successful.
Be creative. (for tips read my post: how to engage absolutely anybody)
These three steps might seem obvious – but they aren’t. Because we are all tempted to begin with ourselves.
Resisting that temptation and focusing on them – without being inauthentic or schmoozy – is the key to building strong relationships.
Which in turn is the key to our success.
Great connections happen when people know you are interested in them, that you care about them, and that you’ll come through for them.
I promise…in the end, they’ll come through for you, too.
In ways you haven’t even thought of yet.
Now, go do good…and do it well.