A Seat At The Table

I was recently listening to a podcast where the topic being discussed was how to best build relationships with business and social influencers. Getting the attention of and the benefit from being known by these renowned figures is an attractive proposition. Who wouldn’t want to have favor with a person of great power and resources?

While listening to the strategy presented in the podcast, I reflected on how others have often commented on the opportunities I’ve had to connect with many in influential positions.

To clarify, I’m not buddies with A-list celebs or billionaire businessman. But I have been blessed with opportunities to befriend a few recognizable leaders. I don’t usually think much of it, other than to be thankful for God’s favor.

It made me question if there was anything helpful I’ve learned about what it takes to stand in the room with these men and women. I too often see many pursue relationship with high-profile icons in all the wrong ways.

A few thoughts came to mind. Here they are:

1. Honor, don’t Idol

I’m sure you’ve heard that nobody likes a suck-up. Well, that’s not true. The people that don’t like a suck-up are the people watching a suck-up do what a suck-up does.

To those unwilling to pander, being a suck-up is deplorable, but to the shameless it can be an effective strategy for getting an influencer’s time and attention. The problem is, as effective as the strategy can initially be it is ultimately a failing one.

If you ever find yourself in the room with an influencer because you idolized them with your words and actions, rest assured that when you try to maneuver your role from suck-up to peer you will be quickly ousted.

The moment you idolize someone they will demand your constant worship. And you’ll be the only one to blame for belittling yourself to the role of wailing fangirl. First impressions are lasting and near immovable ones.

Alternatively, if you approach an influencer as a peer and begin to project as though you’re of like status, they will quickly call your bluff. Forcefully trying to assert yourself as an equal and jockeying for position is dishonest and the door will quickly close.

Why? Not because highly esteemed people have big egos (rarely the case here), but because your overly-familiar tone will feel like an attempt to pull them down to your level instead of elevating yourself to their level of influence.

Just like a video game, you don’t have access to a level you’ve never been to before.

The balanced key is to simply honor.

How is it different? First, it’s not idolizing because it recognizes the person is just another fallible human like you. That alone will keep your engagement from feeling desperate and needy.

It’s also not being too casual and projecting as if you’re entitled to their time because honor recognizes the person’s unique accomplishments and value. That will keep your interaction from feeling disingenuous and disrespectful. Honor is rightfully holding the person with high regard whenever you interact with them.

That is honor and honor opens doors.

2. Connect, don’t Cling

Stage 5 clinger. We used this term in college whenever single friends would go on one, casual coffee-date with a girl and then soon after get barraged by texts —I mean like all-day-every-day barraged.

So scared they might lose the relationship, these girls (and guys do it, too) would unintentionally beat the budding friendship to death.

Don’t cling.

An already-swamped influencer will avoid feeling suffocated at all costs. If you’re always over-zealously texting, inviting, emailing, and creeping them, you’ll be the first to get blacklisted. The closer you try to get, the further you will drive them away.

Yes, it’s important to stay on their radar. You do want them to think of you if something comes up that would be perfect to involve you with.

The solution?

Connect with them. Instead of viewing face-time with them as an opportunity to parade how wonderfully capable you are, ask questions and find a meaningful way to connect on something important to them. Just because you might closely follow what they do, don’t assume you know who they are.

One real connection is stronger than a thousand flaky, self-serving pitches. After that, just keep the line of communication open and mutual. And if you have a good reason to reach out, do it. Seize opportunities to connect on things that align with their priorities (and yours).

You probably will be the one reaching out most of the time and that’s okay as long as the relationship feels mutual. It will only feel and actually be mutual if you’re making a real connection. People can only connect on things they have in common. Find common ground and remember this: interesting people are interested people.

3. Serve, don’t Use

The biggest and most important question to ask about anything and everything is, “why?” Heart-check time.

If the only reason you want the attention of an influencer is for what they can do for you instead of what you can give to them, you’ll get nothing at all.

The marketplace is all about exchange. Taking something that cost you nothing is theft. It turns you into the predator and they the victim. Whenever someone feels taken advantage of the only feeling that rises in them is one of justice to stand up to the bully. It instantly puts you on adversarial terms.

Manipulating ‘the game’ to get what you want is downright evil.

This all probably sounds a little dramatic, so allow me to tell you this: it’s not! In the social economy, those that [ab]use people for selfish gain are the criminals that undermine the entire system for everyone.

Influencers are so much more guarded than they would be had they not gotten burned…over…and over again.

You must start from the place where you ask yourself this question: would I consider it a huge win if the only thing I ever got from this person was the chance to show them how much I appreciate them and observe their life/work more closely?

This is the only attitude that can change the definition of success that eliminates the pressure which always perverts intentions. As long as you continue to put expectations on what you think someone ‘should do for you after all you’ve done for them’ you will always end bitter and offended.

You must accept that your role in the relationship is servant.

And serving to eventually get something someday is not serving at all, it’s work. You’ll sweat and toil with no promise of a payday.

You can only begin to serve in it’s truest form when you genuinely give to them, serve them, help them, and contribute to them with no expectation of ever getting a favor, a mention on social media, an invitation to an event, a financial hookup, an introduction to a big-shot, or even recognition of the friendship. If don’t feel that way, you’re better off not initiating at all.

Service says: you’re worth the effort simply because of who you are to me. It recognizes what they’ve already done rather than what they can do for you.

Serve your way into the door. Serve your way into their hearts. Serve your way to the top.

I hope this helps. It has worked in my own life.

Do it and you’ll find yourself in a seat at the table.