The Unexpected Compliment
When was the last time someone gave you a sincere compliment? Most of us don’t receive genuine compliments every day, and the ones we get really stand out in our memory.
In Chapter 12 of his book, Love Does, Bob Goff tells a story about how he was a terrible baseball player as a kid. He never once managed to hit the ball, in fact his role on the team was to get walked as much as possible. At the end of the season during a playoff game, he swung the bat with his eyes closed and finally hit a home run. After that game, his coach sent him a card in the mail that said, “Wow… What a hit, Bob! You’re a real ball player. Love, Coach.”
“Wow… What a hit, Bob! You’re a real ball player. Love, Coach.”
Even though he didn’t feel like a real ball player, those words of encouragement built him up in an incredible way. He never forgot the fact that someone he respected saw something in him and was kind enough to take the time to call it out.
Knowing Relationship Strength
At its core, networking is about cultivating relationships. Not selfish relationships driven for personal gain, but genuine relationships of trust and mutual respect. Genuine relationships are the kind where the door is always open for you to ask for help, and where sometimes help flows to you without you even needing to ask. You are happy to share resources of any kind in a genuine relationship because you sincerely care about the person on the other side and want the best for them personally and professionally.
If we aren’t sure how strong our relationships are, we haven’t done a good job at networking. How can we confidently reach out to a connection when a need arises if we don’t know how much they respect us, or if they don’t know how much we respect them?
If we aren’t sure how strong our relationships are, we haven’t done a good job at networking.
A couple years ago I made the decision to leave a position where I managed the best team on earth. During one of the tough conversations to share the news, one of my employees blurted out, “You deserve to manage people. You are the best boss I’ve ever had, and I hope you get to manage a new team soon.” It was one of the most genuine and sincere compliments I’ve ever received.
I already knew how much I respected this employee (a lot), but I didn’t know just how much she respected me in return. In a sense, the compliment I received gave me a measure of the strength of our relationship—a measure that I can only guess at with other relationships.
I stay in touch with many of my past employees, but there’s an extra level of confidence when I check in with this employee. I know that my message is welcome and not an annoyance. I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to her for advice in her area of expertise, and I am honored when she reaches out to me. That little compliment, which she probably doesn’t even remember giving to me, has made her incredibly “sticky” in my mind. Being at the top of someone’s mind, especially someone you respect, is one of the marks of successful networking.
Being at the top of someone’s mind, especially someone you respect, is one of the marks of successful networking.
Bob Goff wraps up the baseball chapter in his book by saying, “The words people say to us not only have shelf life but have the ability to shape life.” I agree. Most of the networking advice out there is pretty self centered. Perhaps we can do better at cultivating the best relationships in our lives by focusing more on others, recognizing their strengths, and taking the time to call their strengths out. At the very least I guarantee it’ll make someone’s day.