Relationship Development is Like a Courtship

Just like in courtship professional and personal relationships are developed intentionally over time. We rarely start a relationship at hello. Instead relationships are built through multiple interactions.

Whether your new relationship is only casual or professional in nature, the process for moving it forward is nearly the same. Just as in courtship, you interact with this person in an effort to discover things about them. Are you both compatible in your philosophies on life, business, and social views?

In observing others I have found most potential relationships never even get off the ground because we actually end it at hello. I have to admit that I am guilty of this as well. Why do you think we do this? How many times have you initially judged a potential relationship as a non-starter only to find later that you made a mistake?

Below are four key steps in developing your next professional relationship
• Intentional dialogue
• Take note of what you learn
• How can they intersect within your network?
• Follow-through

Intentional Dialogue
Small talk is out the door here. Intentional dialogue digs deep on both sides of the aisle.

Recently, I was introduced to a new contact over dinner at a local restaurant. Prior to our being introduced, neither of us was told much about the other. Just that our mutual friend felt the strong need to introduce us. So, after we had been formally introduced and we got through the initial introduction pleasantries, we literally just dug in- conversationally that is.

The conversation started off by me asking her to tell me what she was up to these days. This worked well, because she actually had plenty to share.

Take Note of What You Learn
Find out what interests them. Learn what their passions are.

Continuing with my story from above, the woman I was engaging with at the restaurant had quite a bit of activities and projects she was involved in. As it turned out her personal brand deals with teaching financial literacy to lower income families. In addition to her busy volunteer schedule she is starting a company geared toward financial savings.

How Can They Intersect Within Your Network?
As you learn about their interests and passions, you should be mentally cross-referencing within your own network where they might fit in. Be careful though. Your goal isn’t to just plug everyone everywhere. Before making any commitments you still need to know them. Remember, when you connect people, a part of your own personal brand follows the introduction. There will be a future post on this as well.

As I listened to my new acquaintance share her passion for helping lower-income families with financial advice, I slowly began ticking off in my head who/where I could direct her to. I had definite ideas on where she could look for assistance in getting her company off the ground, but did not have (at that time) any direct contacts to introduce her to. However, I did have two great connections for her volunteer work. Within a week I had connected her with the CEO of one of the largest community non-profit organizations in Houston, as well as a board member for a new charter school that focuses on the lower income community.

Follow-through is key. How many times have you been a part of a conversation where someone else had a great idea, but just never followed-through to make it happen? Be careful not to fall into this trap. It is very easy to brainstorm with people and in the heat of the moment promise them the world.

When you walk away from conversations can you actually do what you said you would do? Sometimes you might be way too busy to actually do what you said you would. Or you over promise to deliver beyond your true capabilities.

Whether you actually follow-through, or how you follow-through will have a big impact on your reputation and your personal brand.

Lesson here is to make sure you only promise what you know you can do, and be sure and do what you promise you will do.

Going forward try thinking of each new relationship as a courtship. Do not try to rush the relationship forward too quickly, but instead hold intentional conversations, take note of what you are learning, gradually figure out how and where they might plug into your network, and then always follow-through on what you commit to.

Until our paths cross again,


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