On August 23, 2016, I found myself sitting across the table from about a dozen of the most successful people in Silicon Valley – entrepreneurs, tech CEOs, financial wizards, a TV personality, even a former mayor of San Jose. I was fortunate enough to be hosting this event, introducing the attendees and asking questions to lead the conversation. Throughout the night, many interesting stories were shared and ideas flowed across the large round table. We talked about lifelong learning, the power of goals, the ethos of one of the most successful companies in the world, some important financial philosophies, and how we could use our platforms and influence to positively impact the less fortunate in our community. I went home that night feeling energized and inspired.
This evening was the result of an effort by me and my friend, Kenny Coleman, to bring together some of the most successful people we had ever met in our lives. Kenny’s father, Ken, a true tech icon himself, was instrumental in inviting some key people in what was the beginning of some incredible gatherings that we have put together – and that I have hosted – in the year since then. Our group now includes almost 30 people who represent a literal who’s who of Silicon Valley success stories, both in and out of the tech industry. Furthermore, I’m now one degree of separation from some of the most famous names in the Bay Area, people who are known as transformational leaders all over the world. It’s a certainty that I’ll meet and interact with some of these others in the months and years to come.
Regardless of where you live and work, there are amazing people to meet and connect with, people who can add so much value in your life. Opportunities to connect with others present themselves to us literally every day. In the paragraphs ahead, I’ll share some proven strategies for connecting with others and building a network of power and influence in your community and beyond.
“What if you knew that someone you’ll meet TODAY was going to have a significant impact on the rest of your life?”
I love considering this question as I go about my day-to-day interactions. This reminds me to always be at my best, and that philosophy in itself can be life-changing. When you bring your best to everything you do, good things invariably happen to you, both personally and professionally. Never underestimate the importance of your first impression on others. I typically strive to dress a notch above the norm, and I’ve learned to treat every single person I meet with respect and dignity. Think of every interaction you have with others as either giving energy or sapping energy. Did the people you met yesterday feel more energy after meeting you? A positive demeanor, a smile, and showing appreciation are all ways to create a good first impression on others. These things get noticed.
Remembering names is also one of the most integral keys to making strong connections. Frequently, I’ll encounter someone I’ve met once or twice in the past and I’ll greet them by name. A lot of them remember me, but of course, sometimes I get the, “Oh hey, nice to see you again, guy. Uh, I’m not good with names. What’s your name again?” Does this sound familiar? Have you found yourself telling others the same thing? If so, you are in need of my 2-step formula for remembering people’s names. Are you ready?
Stop saying “I’m not good with names.” That’s right! Stop saying that. We all program our own minds every day in more ways that we can count. Learn to catch yourself in those moments when you program negative information and change that around. Stop saying “I’m not good with names.” Are you ready for step #2 now? Here it is …
I can summarize it with an acronym – AGAS. Actually Give A Sheesh. Or something like that. When you actually care about meeting someone and getting to know them, you’ll be a lot more likely to remember their name. Nothing can take the place of genuine interest in other people.
I am fascinated by other people. I live in perhaps the most culturally diverse place in the US, and I have a sincere interest in languages, cultures, and other people’s experiences. When meeting other people, I learned a great tip from my friend Jon Vroman. He teaches the concept of asking 3 questions when you first get to know someone. When you find out something about another person, instead of immediately telling them something about yourself that you might have in common, ask them 3 questions pertinent to what they shared with you.
- “Oh, so you like to ______. How’d you get into that? What do you like best about it? What advice would you give if I wanted to start … ?”
- “You live in ________? How long have you lived there? Where’d you live before that? Where are you from originally? What brought you here?”
Showing additional interest before offering your own story is a great way to make a little deeper connection and learn more about someone else.
Get in the habit of exchanging contact info with people who you meet. Immediately send them a note acknowledging your meeting and thanking them for something you gained from the conversation. This gets you positioned in people’s minds as someone who is considerate, appreciative, and one who brings positive energy to others. You never know where that connection might lead. Whenever possible, connect with others on social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn. That way, they get to learn more about you through viewing your carefully-crafted profile, and through the positive posts that you make on an ongoing, long-term basis.
Your presence on social media is a very important part of creating your own personal brand. There’s a successful person I know who always seems to be complaining about something on Facebook. Ok, actually more than one person. You know them, too. These people typically sap energy from others, and this is a huge obstacle in establishing meaningful connections. Use your social media accounts to share good information that can benefit others and positive stories from your own life that can serve to uplift others. There’s a social media site called NextDoor that you can use to connect and interact with people from your own community. Check it out, and use it to establish an impression of yourself as a positive, inspiring pillar in your community.
Let me now get into one of the most important concepts in successful networking. The idea is to focus on what you can give, not on what you can get. My colleague John Wasserman put it this way in his book Deciding To Thrive: “Networking is not about what others can do for you. It’s about what you can do for others.” The notion of focusing on giving, not getting, is one of the most important ideas you can embrace in your life. This idea will make you a better spouse, better friend, better colleague, and by all means, it will make you a better networker. This concept, more than any other I’ll share here in this article, will help you establish stronger connections with others and build a network of power and influence.
Recently I was guest lecturing in a business class at my alma mater, Santa Clara University. I shared this concept as a part of some tips on networking. Immediately, a student asked “How can we add value to others who are way more accomplished than we are?” I threw this question back to the class, and here were some ideas that came out:
Offer your time.
Time is the most precious resource that we have, and successful people value it more than money. When you see an opportunity to give a piece of your time to anyone important in your life, do it. This could be something as simple as helping someone move one day, or attending an event (sports game, performance, birthday party) to support them and show you care.
A second idea is to support other people’s causes.
Most successful people have charitable causes that they support. Contributing to these causes is an important way of adding value to others and showing them that they are important to you. This can often mean contributing your dollars. But not always. I give to a number of charitable organizations, and the reality is that I can’t give to all of them. But if a friend of mine has a charity event from time to time, I can at least attend it in support of my friend and of the cause. Your physical presence as support is often as strong as a check you might write. One of the most important “causes” that people have is their kids. Some of my most important connections have come from mentoring and support that I provided to someone else’s son or daughter when they worked for me in my organization. If you have young people working for you, take time, as Jim Rohn used to teach, to “help them with their lives, not just their jobs.” Invariably, they will share what they learn from you with their parents, and word will get around about your positive influence on others.
A third way you can give value to others is by connecting them with your network.
One of my friends is well-known as perhaps the most famous poker player in the world. A guy who was invited to participate in my Mastermind group is developing a new product which could benefit from some celebrity endorsement. I brought these 2 together at a dinner one night, and what has begun to evolve is a business relationship that will hopefully benefit both of them greatly in the future. My poker friend is writing a book, and I introduced him to a friend of mine who is a writing coach. Several of the guys in my Mastermind group are entrepreneurs with their own start-ups. Through some of my dinner events, they have been able to connect and establish credibility with Venture Capitalists and other advisors who they might not have ever met otherwise. When you make the effort to ask questions and get to know more about people, you’ll quickly realize some amazing connections you can help them make with others. As long as someone has made a good impression on me, I offer these connections freely, without expecting anything in return. It’s easy for almost anyone to do the same. If someone does a great job in working with you on something, connect them with others. You’ll be doing both sides a favor. Connect people with your realtor, your mortgage broker, your landscaper, painter, handyman … the list goes on. Become a connector of people. This is a great way to add value to others.
It’s interesting how many ways the making of these connections have come back to benefit me. When a neighbor of mine was looking for a connection to the Golden State Warriors to create a positive experience for a local student suffering from cancer, I was able to tap into my network and help set up an amazing experience for the young man. This took about 3 emails, one phone call, and zero dollars, and the kid found himself sitting behind the bench at a Warriors game and getting to meet his hero, Kevin Durant, after the game. I probably got almost as much joy as he did just from seeing the pictures afterwards. When I needed some short video anecdotes to support some points I was making in a major speech, I was able to tap into my network to get some incredible input from people who were well-known to my audience. I have been invited to numerous “VIP events” and continued the process of meeting others, connecting, and increasing my network.
As I wrap up this article, I want to leave you with an important point to consider, which will help make you a great teammate or colleague or friend. How you make people feel when they are around you is the biggest key to making and maintaining strong connections. Think back about that concept of giving energy vs. sapping energy. People who give energy are positive. They don’t complain very much if at all. If you’re reading articles like this, you are likely already among the most fortunate people on the planet. Truthfully, we don’t have much to complain about. People who give energy are grateful. Show your appreciation to everyone every day who contributes in some small way to the quality of your life. People who give energy build other people up. Instead of trying to “one-up” others with your stories, ask them more about theirs. Promote them in front of others, and help them make connections that can benefit them in the future. Pay more compliments. Say “thank you” more often. Smile a little more.
Today, you might meet someone who is going to have a significant impact on the rest of your life.
Don’t miss that opportunity. Introduce yourself. Learn their name. Ask 3 questions. Exchange contact info. Send a note of acknowledgement. The seeds of a relationship are planted in this way. Then find ways to add value in their life, and you can grow your connection. Repeat this process daily and you will inevitably build an amazing network of power and influence!
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