I recently accepted a contract working for a small company. I was interviewed by the two owners of the company before being retained, and was introduced to their significant others. Between the time that we signed the contract and when I started working for them (there was almost a month gap there) I invited them to my place for a barbecue to get to know them better. The dinner lasted several hours, and while we couldn’t leave business completely out of the conversations, it was certainly more social than professional.
To me, the casual meetings are as valuable as the formal, professional ones. I prefer to hold meetings that aren’t strictly confidential in coffee shops or over lunch or dinner. If I can’t have the entire conversation casual, I at least aim for a casual setting. This works for me, though I certainly understand why some people find it odd and unsettling.
Perhaps that’s what I’m aiming for.
No, I’m not trying to unsettle people, but I am trying to get to know people better. I want to know the person I’m dealing with, and what they are like outside a professional environment. It’s a chance to learn about their other interests, and sometimes, other sides to their personalities.
For example, having a meeting in a coffee shop dictates that there will be some small talk, whether about finding the location, or the type of drink preferred by each person. Because it’s a more casual environment, discussions will tend to be more casual as well, which has its benefits especially when going through initial meetings, trying to determine needs and expectations.
There’s more to it than that, though, which is the title of this article. Meeting in casual places is one way to develop a true relationship. It’s a way to connect to people beyond the professional ties that brought you together in the first place. If a relationship is strictly professional in nature, than there’s no loyalty in either direction, because each person is truly in the relationship for themselves.
Like marriage, a relationship needs to be about the pair, the combination of people, in order to succeed. Each person has to want the other to benefit from the relationship, and has to care about the other people. As such, it is important to establish relationships that have few borders, that are not limited to certain topics or subjects.
How about you? When you develop relationships with people, do you limit them to professional subjects? Or, like me, do you prefer to cross the various lines and establish a complete relationship with the various people you work with in your day-to-day life?