Forget networking and embrace relationships. There is power in relationships that extends beyond a generic introduction. When you create connections based on shared interests and goals, you’ll be more successful at your job, because people want to work with people they know and like.
I’ve always felt that building relationships is the most important aspect of building a business. In my first job interview, I was criticized for spending too much time with clients. I thought about that for a quick second, and decided I was never going to be just an order taker. I want to know not only what my clients do, but who they are—including what matters most to them.
I’m so glad that I listened to my intuition and defined my own way of doing business, because I know relationships have been the biggest secret to my business success.
That’s really how the Girls’ Lounge started. I was at the Consumer Electronics Show back in 2013 and heard there was less than 5% women attending. I didn’t want to go by myself, because it was intimidating and lonely. So I invited some girlfriends in business to come with me, and I suggested they invite their friends. We ended up having more than 50 women walk the floor together, and all the guys’ heads were turning, wondering where we had all come from. This was my first realization that a woman alone has power, collectively we have impact.
We not only broke some rules and had a ton of fun, but created a movement where we now have a community of more than 17,000 women globally. No name tags required in the lounge, because it encourages each of us to learn something new about people other than their title and where they work. It also becomes the place where everyone, regardless of level, can spend quality time together.
My girlfriend Erica shared with me a new term called “connectional intelligence,” which is about getting ahead and delivering results by harnessing the power of your relationships. A new study in the Harvard Business Review also finds that the social connections created from women’s groups lead to greater career success. In fact, 71% of attendees felt more connected after attending a conference for women while triplingtheir odds of getting a pay raise by 10% or more. The Girls’ Lounge has become the home for women at big industry conferences to make authentic connections and build real relationships. Here are some tips that I’ve gathered from my own experience on the power of connections.
Focus on relationships rather than networking
Networking is one and done. It’s where you shake someone’s hand and give them a business card. Where does that leave you? With a stack of business cards on your desk. A relationship, on the other hand, touches your heart and creates an everlasting partnership.
Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” An executive may meet dozens of people during the day, but if you can make yourself memorable by finding a way to connect on a personal level, you won’t be forgotten. And, by the way, if you’re going to give or take a business card, include a note that is memorable and meaningful as a reminder of your value exchange. The cards that will stand out are the ones with meaningful notes.
Think about relationships as friendships
Networking is 9 to 5; relationships are forever. If you love someone and build a meaningful relationship, you’re more forgiving and won’t drop them if something goes wrong. When you have one life that’s interchangeable, the relationships at work become your relationships in life. I’ve had the same clients for 35 years through their career ups and downs, and visa versa.
True connections must be built
Connections are created through shared experiences. Tosca DiMatteo, Senior Director at Univision, explains that when she was making a pivotal career move, she sought out an employee from her target company at a conference. After meeting him in person and genuinely liking him, she continued to follow up every few months and developed a good rapport. Eventually, DiMatteo’s contact passed her resume along for her dream job, which she was ultimately offered.
“He was willing to make the effort to connect me with the right people when the time came because I was able to find authentic opportunities to connect and exchange value, such as through sharing articles he found relevant,” says DiMatteo.
Make facetime a priority
Don’t just rely on social media to grow your relationships. Call me old school, but I still love to connect by phone and spend time in person. No matter what life stage I was at, it was always a priority to spend time building relationships. When my kids were little, I didn’t want to do nighttime events, so I doubled up on breakfasts, lunches and afternoons tea.
Collaboration over competition
Lisa Schiffman, Global Leader and Founder, EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM studied what makes global entrepreneurs so successful and identified a “ripple effect” of ways that women entrepreneurs help each other succeed, rather than competing. For example, 21% of study participants have gone into business together, and many have invested in each other’s companies.
Give back with generosity
When it comes to building relationships, you get what you give. “Bring a value exchange to people you’re connecting with that enables deeper connections, such as volunteering on a project that will make someone’s job stronger,” says Debra Bass, President of Global Marketing Services at Johnson & Johnson.
Whatever your job title, you can find ways to bring value to your connections. “I have experienced this time and time again, where women will open up their Rolodex to help pay it forward once they trust you and see that you want to make the relationship a two-way street,” says DiMatteo. “It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, you always have something to share, whether that’s your own network, workplace advice or thought leadership.”
Let your community remind you that confidence is beautiful
We have found in all of our lounges that connections create confidence. According to a study from Babson College, in association with PwC and The ADVERTISING Club of New York, when there are opportunities for women to connect and create more of a “sisterhood” environment that is non-threatening—as compared to more traditional networking—women gained confidence and developed their personal brands. The community created in the study provided women with constructive feedback along with encouragement to help them better reach their career goals.
Diversify your connections
Diversity is not only about gender, race or age, but also mindset. Everyone has something they can teach you. DiMatteo says, “I have found that connections can be even more advantageous when you are open to meeting people who are different from you. Moreover, industries are overlapping, and the best advice may come from those outside your world.”
Do you have any stories about how the power of connections have helped you in your own career? Please share your experiences in the comments below and let’s keep the conversation going. As we say, there is power in the pack.