I feel everyone is somewhere on a continuum. On the far left are those who consider work as work—impersonal and unemotional. Not to stereotype, but they are the stern-faced, no-BS kinds who just like to get things done. They are peeved at small talk and strongly believe that any discussions on pets or kids strictly belong outside of the boardroom. Truth be told, I was one of them.
Since early in my career, I found it useless (if not difficult) to paste a permanent smile on my face as I tensely went around from one meeting to another pegging away to get tasks ticked off my checklist. Until one day my boss pulled me aside and asked me, “Is everything okay?” I was surprised at the question because I knew everything was in fact okay. Well, I thought that was what okay was supposed to look like. However, as much as it confounded me, the measureless depth of her stare was an uncomfortably lucid proclamation of the fact that I was not okay.
There was an awkwardly long silence; maybe two full seconds, before she sat me down and gave me a short pep talk that has stuck with me for years. It turned out that she had been noticing for days that I hardly ever talked to colleagues except about work. It wasn’t that I had a hard time smiling and engaging in friendly conversations and building personal rapport with people, but I had somehow come to believe that it was unrequired—maybe even unprofessional. So I said exactly that to my boss. I said I do give my 100% at work and I don’t waste any time on unproductive stuff. I concentrate on my job; my work is not personal. She calmly sighed and replied, “Majid, it is always personal.”
After the chat with my boss, I suddenly started noticing all the people at work and their non-work-related conversations and sometimes an odd laughter I would hear from the office kitchen—stuff I used to shrug off as unprofessional. Then I realized that more than their competence or hard work, it was this personal connection with people at work that made them successful. I realized that without connecting with people at a personal level, my world had shrunk down to the space of a secluded grotto. And it kept getting darker. Since that day, I started slithering to the right of the continuum.
Today, we are lucky to live in a world where the need to build strong personal relationships at the workplace is no longer a revelation but an obvious necessity. Better still, there are people and companies who are way smarter than I used to be. They have taken the art of relationship building to a whole new level.
I got the opportunity of looking into the awesome work that KayeCee Austin and her team does at TalkGeeky2Me, a Silicon Beach technology company that is an all-in-one conversation and influencer platform. Just imagine, they have built a whole company around the concept of building authentic human relationships through curated content across a whole spectrum of business and life topics that instantly connects you with likeminded people who you can then explore limitless opportunities with. At the core of their work is the realization that “it is always personal.” What’s more, it helps you connect with 10,000+ influencers on the platform and its free.
Another similar (and equally awesome) initiative is called Real Human Being (RHB) by Dave Howlett. I had the opportunity to meet Dave last year at a university in Toronto where we were both speakers and judges for a business case competition. I couldn’t but notice the interesting looking blue RHB pin on Dave’s lapel which glistened like a covetable accolade but didn’t give much away as to what it meant. So I asked Dave what it was. And he replied, “I’m a Real Human Being.”
As a Real Human Being and the founder of RHB he is on a mission to knock down silos and encourage people to engage in authentic conversations as human beings. As a trainer and author, Dave passionately talks about his RHB philosophy that allows people to break through self-imposed barriers and achieve personal and business success.
The way I look at it, people like KayeCee and Dave have broken the code of what makes us tick as humans, what it means to strike a personal chord with a complete stranger and how to make it work in remarkable ways for both parties. It is time we all realized that regardless of how robotic and regimented our world has become, it will always be run by humans who are inundated with innumerable emotions and influences every single day. And therefore, unless we are able to really connect with other humans and create personal trust and rapport, not much can be achieved in work or life. Because at the end of the day, “it is always personal.”