How to build an authentic network

networking

Has saying “hello” ever changed your life? Let me answer that for you. Yes, it has. You just might have to think about it.

Countless “pleased to meet you” moments have certainly changed mine. The cold e-mail I sent five years ago to the COO of the cross-border law firm I worked at resulted in a life-altering career opportunity, and gaining several invaluable life-long mentors and new business relationships. My simple “hello” to the keynote speaker at a large conference I attended in Dallas resulted in a new friend who convinced me to pursue my passion for public speaking (which I have now done 50 times in two years).

We all have these transformative “just say hello” moments. Yet, too many of us don’t say hello often enough. The word “hello” is the stepping stone to productive and fulfilling relationships.

So why is it so hard for people to do? Because there’s risk involved. Saying “hello,” by its very nature, leads a person into the unknown, and that can be frightening. We are afraid and shy – but we are also busy, distracted, indifferent, and hiding behind technology.

My belief is that 150 authentic, meaningful relationships is too many.

Often, if we do muster the courage to say hello, we often see the opportunity as transactional – meetings with a specific purpose, an ask, or agenda. About making the sale or getting the file or making a deal. But that is not the best way to make meaningful connections.

What about the “agenda,” simply being fully present to the person across the table? Really showing up? Listening? Getting to know them as a full person, with all of their potential and sharing all of yours? The purpose of your interaction about what could be between you, for both of you, with that being the opportunity.

Even if we do show up and say the first hello, we often stop there before cultivating what could be a meaningful relationship that will help you achieve greater success in your career, business, and life. So what should you do?

Say hello thoughtfully and regularly. Show up in the world looking at each interaction as an opportunity for growth. This is a mindset. It establishes a frame of proactivity, and fills that frame with a willingness to step forward. For many of us, building meaningful relationships after the first “hello” is not as natural. I suggest that if you fully show up with courage, are authentic and generous, it’s really not that hard.

team

Have courage. Dare yourself. Talk to a stranger. Take a risk. Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes it will not work out. Sometimes the person you reach out to will not take your overture.

Another ingredient, to me, is authenticity. Most people tend to wear their masks all day. They seldom show their full, real, (including sometimes vulnerable) selves. While we obviously need to temper and pace our sharing and vulnerability as appropriate, to me the richest, most meaningful business relationships that I have developed have been through showing up as a full real person. Divorce, life challenges, outside work interests, things that make me human and all. Not a sanitized “business agenda only” version of myself. The very reason a person will care enough about you to actually go out of their way to help you, give you a hand up or an opportunity, care to make time for you: it’s because you shared yourself with them – they saw you.

“Without any doubt, every person you meet changes your life in some way. Every person delivers success to you in some way.”

However, my belief is that 150 authentic, meaningful relationships is too many. While we all have many relationships — some of us thousands that matter — we can’t show up right to all 150 or thousands of those people. If you are a passionate achiever, you will be better-served identifying your hub of your highest value, most important relationships aligned to your goals — and spend 90 percent of your relationship energy in those relationships.

People ask me what the right number is, and that really depends. I say for most people that is six, for some people that is 10 or 20 (the connectors in the room). I suggest that you think about your hub from the perspective of your goals. Mine aligns to my most important goals at the moment: join the board of SickKids (and I have three to four key relationships there), grow AceTech Ontario into the best organization for tech leaders in the country (another three to four key relationships there), and building #MoveTheDial into a global movement that changes the face of tech – another three to four relationships there.

I encourage people to actually write their goals down and their associated high-value relationships to help them achieve those goals.

You have to be mindful, thoughtful. Always evaluate who and why someone is in your hub, your most important concentric circle. I encourage people to actually write their goals down and their associated high-value relationships — people that will care about them and champion them if treated right — to help them achieve those goals. Write your hub on a sticky note, then reach out to connect to each of those people and start habitually focussing on those relationships.

Last, you need generosity: a willingness to give to the relationship with no expectation of receiving in return. It is not about the immediate “get,” or tit for tat in building relationships.

Generosity means listening more than talking. It means acknowledging the passions and the dignity of the person who stands before you. It means asking, “how can I help you?” (and thinking about it deeply, and perhaps assisting in the less obvious but meaningful ways). I am not the first to share that “giving first” is a cardinal rule to building meaningful relationships. However, it is this continuous generosity of spirit, plus authenticity and courage, that to me, makes all of the difference in the nature of your relationships.

Without any doubt, every person you meet changes your life in some way. Every person delivers success to you in some way, whether it is directly applicable to your business or career, or whether it is more personal: a new stage of development, a new self-discovery. It is sad to think of all of the opportunities lost, the adventures ignored, and the revelations undiscovered because of all the relationships that never happened.

You have the power to change your life, and it all starts with “hello.”

Photo via Unsplash

Jodi Kovitz

Jodi Kovitz

Jodi Kovitz is a passionate innovator, relationship builder, revenue generator and connector. She is the is the CEO of AceTech Ontario. She is also Founder of #MoveTheDial, a global movement with a community of thousands with a mandate to advance women in tech and Just Say Hello, her passion project through which she teaches people how to build transformative business relationships. She regularly speaks and writes on innovative business development strategies, advancing women in tech, networking and women’s business development opportunities in Canada and the United States. Jodi serves on the SickKids Foundation Capital Campaign Cabinet to raise $1.3B to transform children’s health co-leading an innovative technology sector strategy that she conceptualized, serves on the advisory boards of Rosenzweig & Company, Maple Corporation and Mediseen and Mayor of Toronto John Tory’s Toronto Innovation Council. Prior to joining AceTech Ontario, Jodi spent 5 years at Osler generating revenue, building an alumni program, creating an associate training program and coaching 450+ lawyers on BD strategy and relationship building. Jodi previously practiced law, and after she obtained her business degree at Ivey, living in Milan studying international business, worked in marketing at a technology start up that went public, worked in leadership development at a bank and consulted for a top-tier global consulting firm. Just Say Hello is Jodi’s passion-and-joy project. To reach Jodi: just say hello! @ Www.justsayhello.ca