John Donne’s 1624 admonition that “No man is an island” still applies today, especially in the case of business leaders. No matter the industry, every leader can either advance or halt business growth with the relationships he or she forms, so leaders should strive to be relatable people who easily connect with others.
When you forge connections with other people, you create opportunities for positive interactions. A relatable entrepreneur can win over powerful investors. A relatable CEO can inspire employees to do their best work. And a relatable salesperson can form deeper connections with potential clients. Being relatable means the lines of communication are always open, and it’s something that all sorts of people are naturally drawn to.
We tend to think that relatability is based on charisma, or some preordained quality that we can’t change. Nothing could be further from the truth. Relatability is a skill like any other, and the following habits will help you cultivate it.
1. Constantly network.
If you attend a conference, stay in touch with the people you meet. Keeping in contact with the people in your network will help you grow and maintain valuable relationships. This can be as simple as commenting on a contact’s Facebook post or sending an email every few months.
Be mindful, though, of the difference between staying in contact and pestering someone relentlessly. Reach out only periodically, and when you do, don’t immediately bring up your job hunt or a favor you’re seeking. Instead, send an industry article or something the contact might find interesting. If you’re only reaching out to people in your network when you need something, then you’re doing it wrong. Relatable people don’t only consider how a contact can be beneficial to them — they also ask how they can be helpful to that person.2. Show your genuine self.
It’s easy to slip into a different persona at work than at home, especially when you’re in an important leadership position or working with new colleagues. Instead of falling into this trap, make a conscious effort to be authentic with the people around you. You’ll be more relatable to them, plus you’ll enjoy your job more. Of course, this doesn’t mean acting exactly as you do at home (no pajama pants, please). Be professional, but don’t be afraid to share your interests or reveal your sense of humor.
If you need a few months to loosen up around your new team members, don’t fret. In fact, 72 percent of people state they are authentic when at work, but it typically takes two to three months for them to feel comfortable being themselves at the office.
3. Put the focus on others.
To be relatable, it’s vital to give people your full attention. You can’t provide whatever it is people are looking for if you’re not paying attention to them. Edward van Luinen, founder and accelerator at Global Talent Builders, says that when he meets with a client — whether he’s known that person for years or is meeting him or her for the first time — he works to quickly assess what that client needs in the moment. Is he or she looking for a confidant, someone to brainstorm with, a listening ear, or someone to talk to about trends?
Van Luinen believes a relatable leader is observant of his or her surroundings as well as “the feeling of a place.” He says, “Being naturally curious, I like to mention a photo, art piece, academic reference, or modern technology experience I noticed in the moment and ask a question about it to start a discussion and get to an initial common interest.”
4. Deliver consistent value — and fess up when you can’t.
Relatable people constantly strive to bring value to those they work with. If you treat others with respect, offer relevant services, and provide vital feedback, you’re likely on the right track. When it comes to making delivering value a habit, think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. If you can’t deliver value to a client or prospect, let the person know and move on to the next.
Joe Gardner, CEO and cofounder of VentureDevs, points out that “Reputation is the ultimate currency, so always focus your energy on the long game. Sure, you can dupe people in the short term to achieve minor ‘wins,’ but eventually the truth will come out, and when the jig is up, you’ll be the one grasping for a lifeline.” When you’re upfront and let prospects know you can’t deliver what they need but point them toward a business that can, they’ll appreciate and respect your honesty.
No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll be more successful if people can relate to you, whether they’re investors, employees, or customers. By putting time and effort into these four practices, you’ll create better and stronger relationships with the people around you.
Originally posted on Forbes.
Rhett Power is Best-Selling Author, Executive Coach, Columnist at Forbes, Inc. & Success. Rhett Power co-founded Wild Creations in 2007 and quickly built the startup toy company into the 2010 Fastest Growing Business in South Carolina. Wild Creations was named a Blue Ribbon Top 75 US Company by the US Chamber of Commerce and named as one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing US Companies two years in a row. He and his team have won over 40 national awards for their innovative toys. He served in the US Peace Corps and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He now has a rapidly growing coaching and consulting practice based in Washington DC