How to Create, Maintain, and Leverage the Relationships That Will Transform Your Career, author and executive coach Michael Melcher emphasizes the importance of building and investing in relationships. He argues that relationships are a form of wealth that anyone can create, regardless of their starting point, and that once created, they cannot be taken away. Melcher’s book serves as a practical guide for building relationship wealth, offering easy-to-implement strategies for cultivating strong, authentic, and mutually beneficial relationships.
Many professionals, from functional leaders to early career professionals, struggle to build strong relationships that are crucial to their success. Melcher’s book is a valuable resource for those who want to cultivate relationships with managers, mentors, sponsors, and professional contacts. Although some people find it easy to connect with others, many express discomfort, distaste, or squeamishness about the process of intentional, systematic relationship building, commonly known as “networking.” Nevertheless, Melcher argues that investing in relationships is a critical component of building a successful career and living a fulfilling life.
Many professionals experience discomfort when it comes to building relationships. They may feel awkward, shy, or afraid of rejection, worry about annoying others, becoming obligated, or being seen as sales-y or self-promotional. They may also feel inauthentic, which can be a significant roadblock to investing in relationships. However, as Michael Melcher emphasizes, it’s essential to push past these feelings of discomfort and not let them stop you from taking action. Even if you feel weird or uncomfortable, you can still make things happen.
Some people equate discomfort with inauthenticity, but this is a mistake. In fact, only doing things that feel comfortable and natural can lead to inflexibility and inhibit growth. As Herminia Ibarra notes in “The Authenticity Paradox,” true authenticity involves pushing past your comfort zone and being willing to try new things, even if they feel uncomfortable. So, it’s essential to recognize and push past your discomfort when it comes to building relationships and investing in your career.
The importance of relationships and how to cultivate them effectively. While acknowledging the significance of emotions such as connection, respect, empathy, shared purpose, and care in relationships, Melcher emphasizes pushing past the initial discomfort that can arise when forming new connections. According to Melcher, embracing feelings of weirdness or discomfort can help one grow, and taking a “15 percent risk” outside one’s comfort zone is recommended to stretch and learn.
The book Your Invisible Network provides a range of exercises and actions to help readers improve their relationships. The book outlines the elements of relationships, from making or responding to an opening bid to communicating about oneself authentically without being off-putting. Melcher also stresses the need to show vulnerability to connect deeply with others. He shares personal examples from his own life and his clients’ lives to illustrate successes and failures in building relationships.
The book also includes inspiring stories of immigrants who overcame cynicism, took risks, and ultimately found success in Silicon Valley. There is even a section devoted to what we can learn from “Emily in Paris,” which offers both inspiration and a cautionary tale. Additionally, the book suggests cultivating attitudes of curiosity, generosity, and prosperity, and provides specific actions that can be taken to improve relationships in just 20 minutes a day, such as mapping one’s network, mastering the art of the “ping,” constructing a “cold call” email, and making a clear request for help.
To build strong relationships, it is not only important to benefit from others but also to be a benefactor to others. This can involve a range of actions, such as making introductions, providing career advice, or recommending service providers like a good dentist or preschool. Melcher emphasizes cultivating attitudes of curiosity, generosity, and prosperity for both sides of the benefit equation.
Investing in relationships can seem daunting, but it can be accomplished in as little as “20 minutes a day” through specific actions, including:
- Mapping your network, including the valuable “weak ties” that form the largest and potentially most valuable part of your network.
- Mastering the art of the “ping,” which is a simple outreach that does not require a response but helps maintain a connection.
- Crafting a “cold call” email to someone you admire.
- Making a clear request for help that the recipient can either accept, reject or counter-offer.
This includes being a benefactor to others and cultivating attitudes of curiosity, generosity, and prosperity. The article provides specific actions that can be taken in just 20 minutes a day, such as mapping your network and mastering the art of the “ping.”
The author also offers advice on how to manage expectations, including Melcher’s 30:50:20 rate of return, which suggests that 30% of conversations will be useful, 50% will be fine but unexciting, and 20% will be a waste of time. Additionally, the article recommends not making overly emotional decisions or assuming deliberate rejection when no response is received, and emphasizes the importance of following up twice before moving on.