WHO are the stars in your constellation? What kind of constellation do you want to create?
Connection is a superpower. Susan McPherson says that connection comes down to one simple question: How can I help? Business relationships often come across as transactional—what can that person do for me? But they can and should be meaningful. Business connections are a chance to thread “people together to create something bigger and unknown”—to build a constellation of people that share not only “your values and your vision but also those who challenge you, expose your blind spots, and broaden the diversity and breadth of your network.”
In her book, The Lost Art of Connecting, McPherson explains how we can make every relationship meaningful and rewarding. To begin to build your constellation, you have to be yourself and ask yourself the following questions:
Who do you need to be around you to be your best?
What are your unique values and strengths?
What unique contributions can you make?
The answers to these questions will point you toward who you want to be connected with to best fulfill your career and life’s purpose. And when you find that—magic can transpire.
Once you are good at building meaningful connections, you can facilitate them for others as well, amplifying the effect. The truth is that whether or not a connection is meaningful honestly has very little to do with the other person. Feeling lonely, isolated, or disconnected is an inside job. How connected you feel is determined by the meaning that you ascribe to that relationship.
The difference between feeling alone and happy versus alone and lonely comes down to expectations.
We rely too heavily on technology when it comes to connecting. “We have succumbed to this culture of transactional networking via social media. We have these massive networks of people online, but it becomes more about quantity and less about quality.”
To build a meaningful constellation of connections, McPherson has created the Gather Ask Do Method.
Gather begins with an assessment of where you are and who you currently know. “Every single person you know—regardless of their experience or background—can help you in some way.”
How do you create the conditions for relationships to flourish in your office—whether it’s physical or virtual—and among potential partners? Refocus the goals of traditional networking by prioritizing what in front of you: who you know, your current skills, and existing contacts. Do not underestimate the power of connections unrelated to your business plan. Reach out to your current network and zoom in on the challenges they face: How can you help or support? By doing so, you will make yourself an invaluable asset, a trusted resource for others that will outlast the gains from a quick LinkedIn follow.
She has sections on invite to get invited, how to be where others are, getting uncomfortable, making virtual more personal, and connecting with fountains and not with drains.
Ask is where you begin to connect the dots (stars) that you have gathered together for your constellation. Connecting starts with asking: How can I help? “This changes the dynamic immediately. It alters your view and fuels learning too. This approach can dissolve the fear of failure, too, as when you’re helping others, it’s less about ‘success’ or what you ‘get’ and instead points you toward the expertise or experience you have to offer.”
When I think of the Ask part of my constellation approach, It’s really also about getting to know this person who may become a meaningful part of your life. Listen to them, take in their advice and what they say, follow up on their advice and what they recommend, and close the loop with them, building trust and transparency.
The Ask phase of a relationship never ends. You are constantly tending to these relationships and building on them. If it ends after one ask, it’s a transaction, not a connection.
Good advice: “Engage a curious mindset: What does this person in front of you know that you don’t? It doesn’t matter who they are—they know something (likely, a lot of things) that you don’t.”
The Do phase is following up—quickly and effectively. Make a daily practice of following up on the meaningful relationships in your life.
Regardless of where or how you met someone, follow up, deepen the relationship—right after you meet them. You can simply write to say, “Let’s stay in touch.” Or “I’d like to follow up on the work you’re doing and get to know you better.”
If you can find people’s uniqueness or “secret sauce,” what I call their “chief differentiating factor,” and show it to them, they’ll never forget it.
This content was originally published here.