Relationships are hard. I find this very interesting. We live in a world where (most of us) are surrounded by people. We grow up surrounded by family and friends. We are surrounded by other students for (at least) twelve years of school. We then enter the workforce, and we are surrounded by people at work. Pretty much everywhere we go, there are people. Despite this reality, many are lousy at developing and maintaining relationships.
I get calls and emails weekly from people whose employment circumstances have changed. They’ve been downsized, they’ve been fired, they’ve resigned, or they want to change careers…and they find themselves needing help. At some point in the exchange, they say something like, “I need to build my network.”
I silently shake my head. The time to build your network isn’t when you need it. As a matter of fact, that’s the absolute WORST time to attempt to build it.
Harvey Mackay Is a well-known businessman, author and speaker. He wrote a book called, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” I read it many years ago, and the title always stuck with me. The time to build relationships isn’t when you need an immediate benefit from one or more of them. The best time to build a relationship with someone is when neither of you need anything from each other. Otherwise, the interpersonal dynamic is skewed…one party is beholden to the other…there is an imbalance of power. And for me personally, it just feels disingenuous.
Now, I’m not saying that you should never have a strategy for meeting someone, or a plan of action to get from Point A to Point B. That’s a big part of doing business. What I am saying is that if you really want to win in business and in life, do the required work in advance. Build your network continually, without pretense. Ask for nothing. Be authentic. Then, when you actually do need something (and all of us eventually do), it’s simply a chat between friends and colleagues.