by Lori Milner, author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
In our ‘always on’, technology obsessed world, we have started to lose the human element in our communication with others. People sitting in an open plan office, across from each other would prefer to send an email than to walk over and discuss the project, issue, fill in the blank. Firstly, the amount of time wasted in countless email trails, could be solved in less than 5 minutes of face-face time.
But this is equally true when dealing with clients, suppliers or colleagues. Especially when we need to deliver some bad news. The thought process is ‘I’ll just send an email, then I don’t have to deal with someone shouting at me’. It’s as if the email will make the potential problem easier to deal with.
The truth is, we damage the relationship more with this sense of apathy. Be the hero, pick up the phone and explain in detail what happened, how you are planning on fixing it and that they will be updated regularly with the status. People need to hear the sincerity in your voice, an email can never convey that sense of empathy in the same way. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication which will only be amplified by a long email trail.
Remember to take the time, even 10 minutes out of your day to have a real conversation with the people you work with. Don’t have lunch at your desk every day and go ahead and engage with your work colleagues. Find out about their weekend, how’s the new project going? The content is irrelevant, it’s about forming a genuine connection. The only way we can be of service and be a real go-giver is by engaging and learning about others. Here are some key pillars of forming genuine connections from Forbes.com:
Be as interested as you are interesting: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." - Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
Be genuine. This is about being authentic and really having a sincere interest in a specific person. If you don't have a genuine interest in the person with whom you're trying to connect, then stop trying.
Provide massive help. Even the biggest and most powerful people in the world have something they'd like help with. Too many people never reach out to those above them due to the fear that they wouldn't be able to offer anything in return. But you have more to offer than you realize: write an article or blog post about them, share their project with your community, offer to spread their message through a video interview with them. Give real thought to who you could connect them with to benefit their goals. If it turns out you can't be that helpful, the gesture alone will stand out.
Pay ridiculous attention. It's nearly impossible to genuinely offer help if you don't pay attention -- I mean real attention, not just to what business they started or what sport they like! Do your research by reading blog posts, books and articles about the connection beforehand. Learn about their backgrounds and passions. Invest genuine time in learning what really matters to them and how you can help.
Make real friends. Think about how you've made the friends you have. That's all this is. You only make friends with people you genuinely want in your life. The same rule should go for bigger-name connections. Don't over-think it. Be human, be helpful and most humans will happily be human in return, regardless of who they are.
Remain unforgettable. All the above are simple -- yet sadly underused -- ways of standing out. Send birthday cards. Mail your favourite book with a signed personal note from you on the inside flap. Send them your family Christmas card. Be genuinely helpful. You'd be surprised how the simplest things actually never get done. Being memorable isn't as hard as some think!
It all comes back to helping others. If you spent 100 percent of your waking hours thinking about how you can help absolutely everyone you encounter -- from the woman who makes your latte, to the top authority in your industry -- you will find everything else tends to take care of itself. The world will suddenly be in your corner.
Here's to owning your connections,
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
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