I'd be the first to admit that as a young entrepreneur, I was in it for myself. Credit? Yep, I'll take some. Money? I could always use more of that. Attention? Sure, put the camera on me.
It's sad and strange to think about now. Over time, I've been fortunate enough to surround myself with people who value building real relationships -- relationships that are mutually beneficial, that improve the lives of those involved in them. Not only has that attitude been inspiring, but it's also been some of the best education I've ever received.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, a business leader, middle manager, or someone just starting out, you get to choose the habits you create. Those habits affect you, the brand you build for yourself, and the people you work with, too, so think hard about who and what you want to be. To help you, here are 12 habits I've found to be valuable that could make a difference for you, too:
1. Listen to people and help when you can.
As you listen to people, pay close attention to what they say they value. Maybe it's an introduction or some simple advice. End every conversation with the words "How can I be helpful to you?" and you'll find out. Sometimes it's easy to connect the dots for another person -- but you can only do that if you listen.
2. Write down opportunities to help when you hear them.
When you take notes upon hearing somebody's need, that information starts moving from your short-term to your long-term memory. By making it a habit to write things down, it becomes much easier to act because everything you need to know to be helpful is easily accessible at the top of your mind.
3. Embrace haters.
Sarah Silverman gave us all a great example of this recently by simply responding with compassion and kindness to a hater on Twitter. Making it a habit to avoid jumping to anger and instead responding thoughtfully almost always results in better outcomes for everyone.
4. Stay in touch with the people who matter most to you.
I recently sent out a survey to 20 different people in my network about what they value most in a business relationship, and 19 out of 20 said that staying in touch was the best thing their contacts had done to create a lasting, meaningful connection. Sometimes a simple "Hey, how are you doing?" at the right time can go a long way.
5. Follow through with your commitments.
I delivered a keynote at an event where organizers were convinced they were out a speaker because of a crazy snowstorm. I told them they could count on me, so I landed in a different city and drove the rest of the way to make it on time. If you can avoid backing out of your commitments at the last minute, you'll preserve trust, and your relationships will be stronger.
6. Extend thoughtfulness to others in your contacts' lives, too.
It doesn't matter how thoughtful you are toward someone if you've treated everyone else in his or her network poorly. All of your contacts have people in their lives who support, work alongside, and love them: secretaries, administrators, spouses. Don't give into selfishness and ignore these individuals simply because you're after something from your contact.
7. Be OK with not getting the credit.
If you want to improve your business and your life, you're going to have to let go of needing credit and praise for everything. Credit honestly shouldn't be the motivating factor behind all your good deeds, anyway. When you constantly yearn for credit, it not only defeats the purpose of genuine helpfulness, but it also can set a bad example for others around you.
8. Use words of affirmation.
The easiest thing to do when you notice someone being helpful is to say "That was really nice of you" or "I'm sure they appreciated what you did." Acknowledging others for their work is the right thing to do, and sometimes that's all it takes to increase the chances of that person scaling that habit.
9. Don't give gifts just to give them.
Last year, I received 10 Starbucks gift cards from people, and I don't even like coffee. Don't get in the habit of just checking the box when you send a gift. Instead, when you give gifts, think through what the recipient will actually enjoy, find valuable, or appreciate.
10. Advocate consistently.
Too often, we complain about things and forget to be champions of good service. Take a step back, think about the products and people that have helped you, and advocate for them. Doing so not only sends a well-deserved reward, but it also increases the chances that the person will feel more connected to you, too.
11. Remember important events.
He's got a birthday or anniversary coming up, she just got a promotion, his kid is about to have surgery -- whatever it is, take the time to send a note on these important events in people's lives. A simple card, text, call, or email at the right time can transform a traditional business relationship into a genuine friendship between business professionals.
12. Apply positive habits across the board.
Each of these habits will serve you well in business, but you that doesn't mean you should turn them off when it comes to your personal life. Friends, family, spouses, etc. all need the love, too. By applying these habits across your life, they'll become second nature to you.
These habits have resulted in long-time client, partner, and employee relationships that have dramatically affected my company's bottom line. When looking at the relationships that really moved the needle in my business and personal life, they were improved by one or more of the habits above. I hope they work as well for you, too.