The Importance of Serving Others

networking professional development purpose Feb 08, 2021


We all have our own goals, mission and purpose in our work. Just as hard as you are working towards your goals, someone else is out there working hard towards their own. As important as it is to create relationships that can benefit you, at the end of the day, relationships are a two way street. What are you doing to benefit others? When you are trying to build a network, create thoughtful relationships, and achieve our goals, the most important thing to remember is to serve others. 

Building relationships works only if you can add value to each other. Many of us go into relationships looking at what the other person could do for us. This attitude works in the short term, but in the long term it is detrimental to your relationships. Think about this concept in terms of your teammates on the court. If all you do is hold the ball and shoot the shot yourself, not only will you likely lose the game because the defense will start to double team you, but after a while, your teammates won’t want to pass you the ball. 

When all you do is take from others to support yourself, people start to step back. Everyone wants mutually beneficial relationships - you should too. You will reach your goals much more effectively if you support and lift up others around you. Why? Because they recognize your support and the value you add, and work to authentically and genuinely support you back. You’ve created a true teammate.

So how do you do this? Be intentional about creating relationships. Don’t just connect to connect - have a reason and a purpose for doing so. Whether it’s to learn from their journey, to connect about an upcoming opportunity, or to create a meaningful connection in your industry, know why you are connecting with this person. And when it comes to jumping on a phone call or joining a meeting, come ready to do three things: listen, learn and add value.

Listen more than you talk.

The biggest mistake people make when connecting and trying to support others is to talk too much. Ask questions, and genuinely listen to the other person. What do they love? What are their goals? What problem are they trying to solve? Then start to think about how you may be able to support their mission. If you do all the talking, you won’t really know how to support the other person. 

Show interest in learning about the other person. 

When someone shares their purpose and their work with you, don’t be afraid to ask questions to learn more. “Why did you choose this work? What keeps you going? What have been the biggest lessons or challenges?” These questions show that you are genuinely interested in their story, their why and are actively listening and learning from the conversation and their experience. Good questions go a long way. 

Focus on how you can add value to their work.

Once you understand the person’s goals, work and purpose, and you’ve done your listening, that’s when you can start to add value. Do you know someone who may be a great partner or be looking for their services? Make the connection. Are you that person? Suggest another call to discuss those opportunities. Do you want to share their story? Offer it. Be thoughtful about asking them what they need. Many times people know exactly what they need and love to share what would be most helpful. There are many ways to help, but the biggest key here is to offer value. Don’t just offer something that will help you and not them. 

The big key here: Don’t force it. Many times you will have conversations where there isn’t a genuine value add at the time or way to work together. That’s ok!! Don’t force something just to be polite or because you feel you have to. Stay in touch, remember what you’ve learned about them and keep them in mind. There may be a really great way to collaborate or connect them with someone down the road. The worst partnerships are forced because people think they HAVE to offer something to be a good connection. 

The importance of intention, authenticity and purpose in your relationships cannot be overestimated. If you are focused on serving others more than taking value for yourself, you will be building a team of supporters who will help you reach your goals. So the next time you connect with someone new, remember the three keys to serving others: listen, learn and add value.