In a schedule packed with networking events, meetings, email and social media, who has time to think about building purposeful relationships?! How many times have you been somewhere, met someone, exchanged business cards and/or connected via LinkedIn, only to later look at their information with a blank stare asking yourself, “Who is this person? Where did we meet? Why did we connect?”
One of the tenets of the Center for Collaborative Leadership’s purpose statement is to inspire and challenge you to build purposeful relationships. Two questions that we often receive as a result of this statement are:
- What is a purposeful relationship, and
- Why does the center care?
A purposeful relationship is one where people benefit from knowing each other. I’m not talking here about the transactional, reciprocal, quid pro quo relationship where I do something because I expect that you’ll do something for me. Rather, I am talking about the deeper, more meaningful relationships where I do something for you because I can, and because I know that the parties involved will be better off for it.
These are the people that, when you are in a conversation with someone and they mention something, you instantly think, “I’ve got to introduce this person to so and so. The two of you need to know one another.” The benefit, for me, is that I am able to make that connection; that I am able to put people together who can further each others work, thinking, and – hopefully – good in the world. This leads to the second question, why does the center care?
Ultimately, the work of the center is to help develop better leaders and citizens. We believe that no effective leader, now or into the future, leads alone. The best leaders are those who are expansive and inclusive, who build purposeful relationships with those whose experiences and beliefs differ from their own. This allows them to challenge their own thinking and, ultimately, to be able to come to better solutions.
Building purposeful relationships takes effort. First, you need to be curious, to genuinely take an interest in the people you meet. You need to build trust, such that you will give thoughtful consideration when their insights differ from your own. And, finally, you’ll need to stay connected.
Staying connected isn’t all encompassing, but it is deliberate. Send them an article you’ve read that you think may be of interest to them; acknowledge their promotion/board work/other PR that you may learn about them; introduce them to someone with a common interest to theirs.
So, as you head to your next event, conference, meeting, etc., I invite you to re-think your strategy for ‘working the room.’