A warm sentiment can either be completely innocuous or the dynamic that adds meaning to our business and personal relationships. It's all in the timing.
When I think of the people whose needs I prioritize, certainly my family and friends come first. But among my business contacts, there are a few people to whom I feel particularly loyal. They are the ones who gave generously to my charity appeals or went to great lengths to help my business with their referrals and introductions. In short, they were willing to inconvenience themselves for me.
I never remember who sends me generic holiday cards or posts birthday wishes to my Facebook page—these gestures are all too common and easily forgotten.
But I don't forget those who extend extraordinary thoughtfulness, perhaps because it is so uncommon. Their gestures were valuable lessons to me. Now I seek out opportunities to offer help when one of my contacts is in need, when their businesses are struggling, when they just lost their job, or when they're trying to raise money for a good cause. That’s when the rest of their professional network backs away, perhaps to give them time to recover or become relevant again. But I find that attentive “check-ins” make a much bigger difference when they’re given to someone who is feeling vulnerable or forgotten. That's when the outreach really counts.
So, the next time you speak to a client, prospect, referral source, or colleague who indicates they're having a problem—whether it's an upcoming medical procedure, a personal challenge, a career transition, or a loss in the family—make a note in your cell phone to check in with them every few days or so. Make it part of your routine on your drive home from work. Your well-timed kindness will add meaning to the relationship and put you amongst the precious few who showed up when the chips were down.