How do I build meaningful professional connections with the people I work with?


Networking is central to success in life but I am not alone in being wary of those people who engage with others only so that they can hand as many business cards out as possible or so that they can dominate conversations with details of the work they do. The world is becoming increasingly intolerant of the self-centred person.

There is a new starting point for creating meaningful connections with people: “how can you contribute positively to the lives of the individual people you engage with?” The premise here is that you help others long before you need anything from them.

Understanding and applying how you can contribute positively to people’s personal and professional lives requires you to know who you really are and what matters to others.

Let’s start with YOU:

  • You need to have a clear idea of the impact you want to have on the world. I attended an intensive three-day workshop in my early twenties designed to answer that question. It culminated in a three word “contract” of why I was put on earth and is a guiding principle in everything I do in life. You may find this guidance in a review of your value system and the things that you are passionate about.
  • Let others see your passion: lead an interesting life and tell stories. It is through these stories that people see who you really are, what motivates and inspires you.
  • Fire “toxic” influences. There are cynics and gossips everywhere and they are exhausting! They do not move the world forward, they do not innovate or create, they do not contribute positively to the world.
  • Create a relationship roadmap. List the people that you would like to have a professional or personal relationship with. Then identify ways in which you could cross paths with them long before you need anything from them. Look at how they spend their time and who they are likely to know. “Six degrees of separation”, originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy, is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. Try it; you’ll be surprised at how you might be able to connect with the most unlikely people!  

Let’s focus now on OTHERS:

  • Be open to conversation and encourage people to talk to you about makes them “come alive”. Your ability to connect with people will be hindered if you tend to avoid small talk or are terrible at casual conversation. How else might you find out that someone can speak multiple languages, has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean or walked on burning hot coals?
  • Find common ground. If you can find shared interests, hobbies, passions, professional backgrounds, education etc you should be in a good position to connect favourably. For example, Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend, quotes a story about a couple he had dinner with who had recently moved to San Francisco. They did not know the city at all. During dinner Scott found out that they were vegans, like him. He contacted them a few days later with a list of vegan restaurants in San Francisco that he recommended, based on his personal experiences. This gesture cost him little more than time and led to a very strong business relationship that continues today.
  • Pay attention. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. This quote epitomises the problem with the way many people communicate. Shift your focus away from yourself and onto the person you are with. Focus on the details of what they say and you will find ways to connect with them based on what is important to them.