Relationships are all that matter

Oct 2, 2012 by

As I mentioned a few months ago, I’ve been guest-blogging over at Opportunity Knocks since earlier this year. This is the latest post I’ve written for them so check it out and visit their site to read more great bloggers.


After years of organizing people, events and situations, I’ve learned that relationships are all that matter. Whether you want a job, a promotion, a friend, a drink or to raise some money, you must have good relationships.

Developing good relationships with new people, networks and organizations that can help you get things done is relatively simple – but maybe not easy.

Here are five steps to get that good relationship started:*

  • First, you must catch their attention – through someone they know, a common institution, etc. This can include alumni networks, organizations they’ve worked or volunteered at, neighborhoods they’ve lived in and much more. This is where a resource like LinkedIn or other social and professional networking platforms can come in handy.
  • Second, you must establish an interest in having a conversation. The common thread between you is often not enough to get that conversation going; however, asking someone for advice or to talk specifically about your common interests can get it going. Most people love to talk about themselves – so ask them!
  • Third: exploration. Just because you get together and start talking to someone doesn’t mean that either of you have any value to add to one another. The evaluation/exploration stage (usually during one of your first conversations) is when you ask each other questions, listen to the answers and figure out whether your relationship is going anywhere. The process of developing a relationship can and should end right here if there isn’t any value to it.
  • Fourth: if there is value in the relationship, this is the time to make exchanges – of knowledge, information, etc. Do they know someone you should speak to? Do you have a really interesting article to share with that person? Is there an event you should both attend to learn more about a topic? One note: sometimes it can be hard to determine whether the relationship will have any value to it and you often must proceed to the exchange step before you can figure it out.
  • The fifth step is to make a commitment to continue engaging, basically a promise of shared time or effort (or both). This is the point at which the relationship becomes a separate organism that needs to be fed, watered and nurtured in order to survive past the first few weeks.

Most of the time, these steps happen organically, but they still must be done. If you’ve ever had someone you don’t even know call you and ask for a recommendation, introduction, etc., you know how jarring it is when key steps are skipped. By the same token, if you keep the steps in mind, you’ll have that new job, promotion or a great drink from your local bartender in no time!


*Please note that some of the content for this post came from Professor Marshall Ganz, a long-time organizer and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.