SUCCESSFUL individuals are masters of influence, and they achieve success through people and with people.
Influential connecting is about being able to establish a real connection with people where a win-win trusting relationship can be built to achieve mutual goals.
Society has become more sophisticated, and people are now more sensitive to subtle nuances in verbal and non-verbal communication. If you appear self-serving in the way you connect with people, they will attempt to resist in direct or overt ways.
In a study of Emphatic Accuracy, researchers Mark Davis and Linda Kraus discovered that people who are manipulative and self-serving are the poorest at empathy and least highly attuned to the feelings of others. They will not be able to sustain a real trusting connection and will eventually be discovered.
Here are three elements of influential connecting that will expand your influence and help open doors for your career:
1. Put people first — discover their inner motivations
Many people segregate work relationships from family or social relationships. As a result, they interact with their colleagues, superiors and clients within formal roles, and they lose the opportunity to discover personal priorities, motivations and challenges.
Deals are more often struck on the golf course than in the office, or over a meal or a drink, where people are less inhibited.
The two most important questions to ask when building influential connections are:
What motivates this person? When you help him articulate his inspirations, you get clued in to what’s most important to him.
What obstacles does he face in achieving what he wants? When you discover his fears or obstacles, you add value to the relationship by helping him to find solutions. This can be in the form of giving advice, sharing resources or connecting the person with others who can help him.
If you can uncover what keeps your boss awake at night, you will discover how to be his greatest ally in solving that problem, and in turn, he will be yours in your career progression.
2. Have a host mentality, not a guest mentality
Influential connectors are adept at networking at business functions, conferences and client events. When you enter a room full of strangers, do you put on a host or a guest mentality?
Upon arriving, some guests immediately look for the host and rely on him to help make them comfortable. If there is no such host, the guests then focus on not looking as lonely and lost as they really feel. A guest mentality is limiting and reactive.
Influential connectors have a host mentality, even if it’s not their event. They focus on helping other guests around them feel comfortable, such as striking up a conversation with a person who is standing by himself, and introducing new friends to other guests. When you shift the focus away from your insecurities to helping other people, you become naturally more influential and confident.
As a host, you will be more memorable and appreciated. Your attitude will open doors for greater opportunities and collaboration.
3. Connect with the top
Author Keith Ferazzi, who wrote Never Eat Alone, talks about “aspirational contacts”. These are people whom you are inspired by and would like to get to know, or whom you have met briefly and would like to establish a better relationship with. If you want to get to the top fast, one of your aspirational contacts may be your company chief executive officer.
One CEO shared with me how impressed he was with a young woman who took the initiative to introduce herself at a corporate event. He hired her soon after. Take the initiative to reach out to your aspirational contact. Scheduling a coffee or lunch to learn more about the organisation and how you can contribute shows leadership qualities that CEOs value.
Furthermore, the exchange of information and insights goes both ways. Senior executives are eager to get feedback from the ground and can learn from the younger generation in the areas of new technology and social media.
Connecting with the top makes you visible to the leadership level of your organisation, helping you attract career development opportunities.
Being an influential connector is about being proactive and reaching out to people first. If you focus on helping people to achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours. Your sphere of influence will expand naturally and powerfully.