What People Teach Us: We Should Broker Relationships To Build The Best Value

Leadership Lesson: Aside from helping those you know you can, it’s important to be sure to make connections for others you may not be able to help yourself.

Picture this: An actor, last known to many from a show in the 1980’s, has his picture posted on social media with the intention of shaming him for doing “menial” work today, bagging groceries in a grocery store. The assumption of the thinking, presumably, is that because the person was on TV early in his career, he shouldn’t be doing manual labor of any kind later.

But, instead, the post goes viral with the opposite effect, with most coming to his defense, saying there’s nothing wrong with someone doing what they need to do to make ends meet. As a result of the fresh spotlight on his life, the actor, Geoffrey Owens, makes the rounds in the media, offering his own view of the picture posted and his life, proud of the work he’s done, having no regrets. The following week, he ends up working for a famous actor/writer/director Tyler Perry.

Related: In Your Life And Work, What Do You Allow People To Take From You?

So, regardless of where and why this situation started, the right connection ended up being made in the end.

I can’t say Owens lucked out with his new job offer. Who knows what he went through and how many different jobs he’s held throughout the years. He put in his sweat equity (and who knows how much more), and due to an attempt to embarrass and mock him, he’s ended up working with one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.

Related: To The Future Leaders: All Your Experiences Structure Your Path Forward

The connection was made between Perry and Owens through a seemingly unfortunate circumstance. But things seemed to work out for everyone involved, except for the “culprit” photographer who put this entire thing in motion. Then again, hers was a curious impulse. In the end, the outcome was positive, so any indictment of her character should stop. Things happen. It is what it is. Things worked out.

The question for us is: How can we make sure to repeat this same scenario around us? Not the situation where someone is looked down upon for the hard work they do but that, through our working as an intermediary, people are connected who can help each other.

This builds beyond that traditional understanding of networking. Networking has evolved from What can you do for me? to What can I provide for you, leading to us working together? to There isn’t really anything we can necessarily do for each other, but I know someone with whom you’d make a great connection so you both win.

How do you help broker relationships?

Below are some ideas on how to start.

Pay Attention

This is the foundational key to brokering. We have to up our ante regarding how well we all know each other. Opening our eyes to each other is key to demonstrating what we can truly provide to others. By monitoring both what someone says and what they don’t say, we can gauge what we can provide for that person, and vice versa.

Paying attention in all of our various environments may sound exhausting, but, after a while, it becomes second nature. We become attune to what someone says and what they mean. This goes both for people we already know and people we’ve just met.

And when we meet other people, although we’re the ones in that moment and conversation, we shouldn’t forget the other people with goals, needs, or aspirations who aren’t there.

Those who want to make a difference will see the benefit to this. They’ll see this as another tool to add to their value arsenal. Those who don’t see it immediately, hopefully will become curious. If some don’t feel this is important or valuable, unfortunately, they truly lose out in the end. They’re forgoing so many great and valuable connections, whether the value created be monetary or that of a great relationship and person to know.

So paying attention underscores everything in brokering.

Understand Who You Know

When it comes to brokering, beyond paying attention, how well do you then understand those you already know – their needs, wants, desires?

It’s important to understand what others around us are seeking. Too often, relationships are somewhat reactionary, playing off the day-to-day interactions and facades, merely reporting to each other what’s been going on. But rarely do people speak about what it is they really want. For whatever reason, people may feel like they need to keep their composure, appear fully in control, and not let lose what they’re passionate about.

For the people you know, understand what you see and what you know, so that if you come across someone who can provide that missing piece to your current acquaintance you can broker that relationship and connection.

Understand Who You Meet

When it comes to brokering, how well do you seek to understand those you’ve just met – their needs, wants, desires?

When we meet someone, we subconsciously build a profile with all the information we hear in response to our questions. The answers to What’s your name?What do you do?What are you all about? build that profile in your mind. You recall all that information, and add more to it with every step you take in learning about that person. Everything covered in the Understand Who You Know section above goes for people you are only meeting.

Granted, there are some differences between understanding who you know and who you meet based on the closeness of your current relationships, but we have to gauge our conversations and comfort level and use our best instincts in getting to know someone. That’s how you best serve acquaintances, friends, customers, and clients: understanding.

For these new people, learn about them what you can while trying to reconcile what they can provide or need with that of the people you already know. What can they do for each other?

Be Proactive

Brokering isn’t a passive exercise or skill. It’s always on. The more you practice it, the more it becomes automatic, taking no time at all and allowing you to simultaneously register the information, reconciling it as you go. You’re paying attention to what is in front of you, letting the information possibly trigger a memory you have of someone else’s needs or services which could serve the person in front of you.

Now, some people committed to rules of levels of listening will say that if you’re scouring the depths of your mind as someone is talking, seeing how you can make a connection, you’re not really listening. But, you are listening. You’re more in the conversation than in the reaches of your mind. What you’re doing, though, is keeping an ear out for key words that trigger memories of others in your circle.

Most people already do this. This isn’t a new practice. The difference here is how often we do it, and how proactive we are about it.

Broker as much as you feel comfortable. There’s value in being that value agent, allowing two great connections to build off each other, knowing they wouldn’t have met had it not been for you.

This is all a form of value creation. In the end, whether we’re creating the value in our own work or business or creating that value through setting up another partnership outside of what we do directly, it’s all building value.

It builds value in your community with its ripple effect. The value created for others will ripple throughout, coming back to you in some form or another.

But, regardless of whether you feel its reach or not, always aim to make sure the right people in your life and career know about each other and that they’re achieving their best.

Work to help the various pieces in your environment build toward something greater than today.

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