Let me start with one of the most fundamental aspects of human relationships: For each and every thing you want to achieve in life -- whether it's landing a job, earning a raise or promotion or finding that lifelong romance -- there will be at least one person on the other end deciding whether to give you or help you get what you want. Everything we do can only be accomplished through and with other people. Simply put, success, of any kind, requires relationships. Just think of the words of Margaret Wheatley: "Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone."
If this is the way the universe works, you can see why human relationships and human networks are so important.
The most common mistake people make when building relationships for their career success is treating business contacts differently than personal friends. Just think for a moment about the people you work with on a professional level who are also close, personal friends. Aren't they always more forgiving when you slip up and more helpful when you're in need? Of course! I guarantee your work will become easier and more joyful if you make more of your business relationships personal.
How to do it? The same way you make genuine friends. Build trust through intimacy; show them that besides being professional, you're also human. Skip the small talk and go deep into what really matters -- your dreams or fears, your children or the business issues that keep you up at night. And don't think for a moment that they'll think less of you. In fact, usually the opposite happens.
When I tell people about my humble beginnings -- I grew up a country boy in rural, southwestern Pennsylvania, the son of an oft-unemployed steelworker and a cleaning lady -- and how it took me so long to overcome my insecurities of being poor and being picked on by kids from more well-to-do families, people don't think less of me. They immediately empathize and feel more endeared to me than ever before. All you have to do is let your guard down and show enough vulnerability to make others comfortable with opening up to you.
Also, don't stop with treating business friends like you treat personal friends. Mix them, too. Invite business contacts to your home and introduce them to your family. Invite a client out to dinner along with an old pal from school and your significant other or a date. Don't compartmentalize your personal, professional and community lives. Blur the boundaries! You'll have more fun and do more for all three parts of your life in less time.