In January I wrote a blog encouraging people to ask one new person a week how they could help them as part of a New Year’s resolution anyone could keep. I quickly started getting feedback from individuals who were excited about the idea and couldn’t wait to put it to use. I had multiple meetings with others over lunch or coffee to expand on the idea and what had inspired me to write the blog in the first place. And then a third set of people emerged who questioned the idea, and my motivations, because they didn’t see a point. Why would anyone have coffee or get together with another person with no agenda or purpose? Did real people even do that? Surely there had to be more to these meetings. There had to be some reason. Why would I meet with people if there wasn’t anything in it for me?
I did what I’ve always done when someone has emailed or called me with this question. I invited these individuals out for coffee to hear their story. Surprisingly, they all agreed. The common threads of these conversations fell along three lines:
The first question is pretty easy for me to answer. No, there really isn’t anything in it for me on an initial meeting. I really do just want to get to know the person sitting across from me. I want to know what they do for fun, what they are passionate about, and what makes them get out of bed each morning. Typically these discussions are much more meaningful, and more fun, than work conversations. They also allow me to have conversations that don’t happen when we stick to only discussing work. The first meeting, for me, is a better use of my time if I’m building trust vs. trying to sell something.
The second question typically takes some convincing because most people see helping others as a very time consuming, and labor intensive, process. Let me try to clarify. Helping someone does not have to take a lot of time, money, or even energy. It can be as easy as doing an email introduction, making a phone call, or passing along a great contact. Most of the help that others require are not things that I can directly deliver, but I do know someone who can. By making that introduction I am helping both the person in need and the person on the other end. Change your perception of helping others and it becomes much easier to do.
The final point comes back to the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I meet with people not to sell them my services, but to get to know them so they remember me when someone else may need what I sell. The more people who know who I am the more opportunities present themselves for future business, both professional and personal. And yes, it does work.
Get out of your comfort zone and meet someone new this week. Talk about interesting things, what you do for fun, who your favorite comedian is, what your favorite restaurant is, what movie last made you cry, instead of talking about work. Ask the other person how you can help them. Enjoy the conversation. You may be surprised how much fun it really is.