The greatest lesson of my career, and one I bring to Newell Rubbermaid each day, is the importance of establishing meaningful relationships with those I meet, and I’m not simply talking about networking. Connecting with business associates is important, but expand the scope to nurture relationships with people beyond peers, team members or your usual sphere of influence. Connect with a broader group with whom you regularly come into contact. Show how you appreciate what they do and care about them as individuals. Don’t underestimate those who hold positions of less influence. The strongest asset you bring to your business, regardless of your position, is how you value people and their contributions.
First, it’s important to recognize the difference between networking and relationship building and know when to apply the techniques of each. Relationship building is often not given the merit it deserves because it is misunderstood as networking. Traditional networking techniques are quite different from the skills used in cultivating relationships. Networking is typically viewed as a quid pro quo or “one-way” exchange; building a relationship is a two-way exchange.
Second, learn about those whose paths you frequently cross, from customers to vendors to employees, so when their needs change, you’re poised to keep them aligned with and supportive of your business priorities. Ask, “What can I do for you?” Then, do it. They’ll appreciate your interest and investment to help them be successful.
Third, extending oneself is at the center of building authentic relationships, so take the first step in establishing a new relationship. Most individuals begin relationships with a personal “ask” – here’s what I need from you. Try starting with a “give” – here’s what I want to give you. For instance, offer three ideas that could positively impact a new acquaintance’s business or performance on the job. Research their background and identify their goals. Then leverage your first meeting with thoughtful ideas to make them more successful.
These key principles guided my team as we worked to establish The Newell Rubbermaid Foundation earlier this year.
In summary, remember: Networking is a quick process; relationships take time. Networking is a one-way street; relationships are two-way. Start each relationship with an “offer” not an “ask.” Extend yourself first keeping others’ goals in mind. Share these steps with someone else.