You have probably heard that nobody dies wishing they'd spent more time at the office, but did you know that nose-to-the-grindstone work might be what killed them? The social isolation of keeping your head down has become an epidemic - one with serious emotional and social consequences. With more people changing jobs frequently or working from home, the percentage of American adults who say they're lonely has doubled since the 1980s. And a lack of close and lasting relationships isn't just bad for your career, it's bad for your health. But what can you do about it?
YPO Member Michael Copella leveraged his relationships to become Managing Director of CBRE's Columbus, OH office. At this branch of the 13 billion-dollar real estate services firm, Copella oversees 275 people and 5 business lines. He achieved the top spot at the age of 34 (He is now 37). That's no small feat for a guy who had moved to the city in 2005 with no job in hand.
When asked how to achieve big career goals even with a spouse and small kids at home, Copella shares that "all success hinges on our abilities to maintain strong relationships." He's put a lot of thought into understanding what creates, supports and grows such interpersonal connections. Here, he's distilled his experience and knowledge into the 6 DO's and 2 Don'ts of building great relationships.
1. ...show your interest by preparing for first contact.
When you're meeting someone for the first time, invest some time beforehand in a little research. It will help you identify areas of common interest; it shows you care, and helps you to make what Copella calls an "impactful first impression." People take an interest in those who are interested in them.
2. ...get involved in your community.
"Shared experiences are some of the best way to build and mold relationships," Copella says. In addition to YPO, Copella is deeply involved in Columbus Community through Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, and the Board of Directors of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He recommends donating your time to a worthy enterprise as a great way to find people who "are passionate and roll up their sleeves." These are exactly the kind of people you want to build relationships with. Copella suggests matching or exceeding their passion and work ethic. "The outcome," he says, "will be lifelong relationships."
3. ...celebrate the success of others.
"It's a busy world out there," Copella points out, "and it's nice being noticed." People work hard, and it means a lot when others acknowledge the results of their efforts. "Notes, emails, and texted photos of articles are great ways to demonstrate that you are excited for your friends' success," he says. Genuine enjoyment of a friend's success is a double win. You get to share in the pleasure of their victory, and they appreciate your acknowledging it.
4. ...show up consistently.
Woody Allen said that eighty percent of life is just showing up, but Copella says building real friendships rather than just a lot of shallow connections requires consistency, not just in how you show up, but where. Don't just "hop from place to place," he advises, rather "consistently show up to the same quality events and organizations." Making an effort to attend most of one organization's events makes a much greater impact than putting in an appearance at one of many organizations. It shows you're serious about their enterprise, and not just attending their event to make yourself look in demand.
5. ...go deep.
"Life is short," he suggests, "Skip the small talk and talk about things that matter." Because people tend to remember what's important to them, chats about the weather won't stick in their minds. "I always try to spend my time discussing family, personal and business items," Copella says. Even better, have something to say that's useful. "Be a resource," he recommends. "Offer help when you think someone needs it." Close relationships are based on mutual benefit. "I know that I had help in building my career so I make conscious effort every day to help develop the talented people around me." Relationships that balance giving and getting are deeper and more lasting.
6. ...look forward and back.
While it's natural to want to build relationships with people who've already arrived where you want to be, it's important to help the next generation to move up to where you already are. Not only is it the right thing to do, it'll keep you from being left behind. "Time and time again, I see senior professionals that wake up one day and all of their relationships have retired and or slowed down," Copella observes. Investing in relationships with people at all points in the journey keeps you well rounded, in touch with diverse age groups, and surrounded with friends at every stage of your career and life.
1. ...get ahead of yourself.
A good mentor can do more for your career than almost anything, but Copella says mentorships evolve. He suggests asking a person for specific advice rather than mentorship. "Most people enjoying helping," he says. "If there is a fit, a mentorship will happen naturally." Relationships evolve. You have to be patient and put in the time.
2. ...fake it.
Copella cautions against representing relationships as deeper than they are. "There is a big difference between a connection and a friend," he says, and you do everyone a disservice by pretending to a deeper relationship than you have with a person.
Nor should you present yourself as more polished than you are. Your note of congratulations or quick check-in email doesn't have to be a great work of prose. "Just speak from the heart," Copella says. "Don't worry about polishing." It's the idea and the intention behind the message, not how eloquently it's worded that forms the important, emotional connection between people.
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