I hope you’re all well. It’s a bit of a long email but one full of tips on how to build positive relationships, how people make things happen and a fun challenge at the end!
One of my biggest superpowers is having positive relationships and the web of connections I’ve spun around me over the last 10 years. Having a useful network is what helps open many doors and can make things happen very quickly. I also believe connections help with social mobility. I never had professional connections while growing up. It was in my late teenage years when I started to get involved in local youth projects and having entered the world of work and built Muslamic Makers that led me to have the rich networks I have now. Growing up my parents didn’t have professional networks and my generation was the first to go to university. Two years ago my younger sister asked me to find her a work experience opportunity while she was in school. That was the moment I realised that I could do for her what no one I knew back then could do for me. I was able to find her an opportunity in a tech company. Meanwhile when I was her age I got to work in a nursery, while my friends worked in shops. It was fun but didn't really raise my aspirations and this is why I’m a fan of places like UpTree who are trying to level the playing field for young people and help them build those connections.
What are positive relationships?
Positive relationships are when you have positive and meaningful relationships with a range of other people, including family, friends, peers, colleagues etc. It means you are good with people, whether they are colleagues or customers, family or friends.
There is, however, only a certain amount of connections and social relationships you can maintain with and this is known as Dunbar's Number, which is 150 people. It is often cited at about 150 people but broken down into a series of numbers beyond 150 too. “According to the theory, the tightest circle has just five people – loved ones. That’s followed by successive layers of 15 (good friends), 50 (friends), 150 (meaningful contacts), 500 (acquaintances) and 1500 (people you can recognise).” People move from different layers and it means especially in this social media centric world, we manage a lot of relationships and often forget about that work colleague from many years ago who you had a great relationship with, for example.
How to build and maintain positive lasting connections?
Positive relationships are built simply by being open and helping people without expecting anything in return. Things pay dividends many years later and as cliche it is, it’s about quality over quantity.
Analyse the connections you do have. Data is everything. Did you know you can download all your current linkedin connections into a spreadsheet? This provides an easy way to actually analyse the connections you do have. It can be a bit tedious but if you set up a filtering system and tag them by industry or interest area, it will make it easy to reach out to people you had forgotten were once in your life.
You can also do the same and download all your Twitter contacts using this plugin which will give you a spreadsheet with their name, Twitter bio, website and follower count, making it easy to see who the most influential are in your network.
If you’re connecting with a new person, someone you find on Twitter or Linkedin or even Instagram, a way for them to become familiar with you is by simply just commenting on posts they share. They’ll get to know you over time and then when you go in with an ask, they’ll already be familiar with you and be willing to build that relationship more.
Be visible: Linked to the previous point but the more you put content out, let that be social media commentary, blog posts or video, the more people are aware of you and will start approaching you.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in ages. It’s okay to do that and if they are busy then they will connect you to someone else.
Get to the point with existing relationships. There is no need for back and forth generic small talk when sending a message. Ask them how they are and get to the point, what is the ask eg: quick meeting, reviewing your CV, how much time requirement is needed and when you need it by. If they can’t help they will connect you to someone who can.
Positive relationships make things happen quick
Positive relationships are a key component of building communities but recently I've been thinking how we’re not community builders but community facilitators and it’s a power of the community that enables us to pull in many directions to create things.
There have been countless times in my life where I've been able to facilitate and just make these things happen thanks to these connections. One story below to show you how many people have a role to play but the power of these relationships made it happen!
Muslamic Makers Digital Careers Kickstarter Programme
Recently we just started our Digital Careers Kickstarter programme for Muslamic Makers. Although I’ve been leading the programme, it’s the community and network around me that has made it a reality.
The Kickstarter programme is inspired by the Spark+Mettle coaching programme I was on when I was 21. Back in 2012 the Spark+Mettle programme was way ahead of its time, it was all online and delivered through google hangouts! That, combined with briefs we had as part of our startup, Discoverables, and a conversation with our new volunteer Zahid who talked about how Covid is causing anxiety amongst new graduating students, helped to form the initial idea.
What that idea, however, looked like in execution was due to the number of people I reconnected with. I reached out to multiple people from over the last few years including Eugenie, Ped who now runs Skillslab, Robin from Coachbright and Noreen, co-founder of Muslim Women Connect (a mentoring programme for muslim women). All were generous with their time, which meant I got key feedback on the programme and also resources that I could take and adapt, saving time for all involved.
As part of this programme, I wanted industry level mentors, workshop facilitators to teach concepts at introductory level and briefs from startups to give them real life experience. This meant requiring a lot of different people but through the Muslamic Makers community, my work network and social media, I had all the people lined up, which meant I was able to pull together this 4 month programme which covers:
Focused introductory sessions on user research, product development, prototyping + design and data.
Tasks set by startups to get practical real life experience.
A personal coach throughout the programme to guide and hold them accountable.
Community support and introductions.
Through the programme they will meet others and by building a meaningful positive relationship with their coach, that coach would be able to open many doors for them simply through introductions. We are 6 weeks into the programme. We had over 130 applications and so I found it very difficult to choose who to accept onto the programme. In the end, we took on around 50 people and 24 coaches.
The participants on our programme are a real diverse bunch from people who recently graduated or got made redundant due to the pandemic to long-term unemployed. For this cohort we cast our net wide but through careful impact measurement we’ll be able to nail down where we can have the most impact and, with feedback, make it better next year. If you are interested in sponsoring then please get in touch. So far, however, the feedback has been positive and you can read Zainab's blog and the LinkedIn feedback.
It feels like magic but it isn’t really and it’s the power of people, trust and faith that enables change.
So to end this email, I have a challenge.
Reach out to one positive contact you haven’t spoken to in more than a year. It can be simply to catch up with a long lost friend, to thank someone for the influence they had in your life or to ask for help.
Let me know how you get on,
Until next time,