5 Traits to Look for When Developing Friendships at Work (Guest Post)

A few weeks ago we launched our new blog series for social entrepreneurs on how to work smarter, grow your business and increase your impact.  Our first post was on asking yourself "am I building the right business for me?"  Last week we discussed whether or not you are building the right business for your customer.  Tough questions, right?  But these are absolutely vital to your success as a social entrepreneur and small business owner.  

This week we have a guest post that focuses on another aspect that is vital to your success as an entrepreneur and small business owner, and that is developing friendships with our colleagues and others in our industry. Our guest blogger is Jeremy Osborne, and he is a corporate attorney with a passion for entrepreneurship and startups.  Thank you for your words of wisdom Jeremy!

As an introvert, making friends has always been challenging. As an entrepreneur, however, it has been essential to my success. Few individuals succeed without a strong network of close friends, mentors and work colleagues, and, in my personal experience, every significant advancement in my career has resulted from having a friend who offered me a good opportunity.  Having and being a good friend is vital to having good fortune.

As people advance through college and into their careers, friendships become increasingly important to success.  In today’s world, American adults are more likely to meet friends and develop friendships in the workplace than in any other setting. Friendships can directly impact your personal and professional trajectory.  

Below are five traits you should seek out when making new friends and selecting colleagues.  In addition to working to embody these traits yourself, you should work to associate with people who may be described as the following:

  1. Productive. Seek out friends and colleagues who are industrious. If someone is in high demand in his or her career and has interests in many disciplines, this person is likely energetic and conscientious. This energy and passion for life is infectious, and it can be beneficial to both of your careers. These individuals will have resources, experiences and contacts that can be a sincere benefit to you and others. They are what author Malcolm Gladwell refers to as connectors—people who have an unparalleled ability to introduce people who need to meet. It is often through these relationships that you will meet your future employer, employees, or business partners and investors.
  2. Optimistic and Kind. No one likes a Debbie Downer. Negativity and jealousy are toxic, and they will corrupt relationships and companies. They stifle aspirations, growth and make for unpleasant working environments. The insidious danger of negativity lies in its ability to distract and exhaust its victims. If you want to succeed, you should dismiss unwarranted criticism and drama, and instead focus on your goals. Optimistic and kind people will aid in this focus and serve as cheerleaders in your success. They will bring out the best in you rather than reinforcing your worst fears. Most importantly, optimists tend to be unifiers—bringing teams of people together for common good rather than employing the divide-and-conquer tactics of insecure people.
  3. Well-Traveled. If someone enjoys traveling, he or she is likely resourceful, adaptive and capable of respecting different lifestyles. Travel, especially international travel, teaches us there is more than one way of doing things—whether it's driving on the left side of the road in the United Kingdom or purchasing milk in bags rather than cartons in New Zealand. Traveling can inspire and engage people to pursue new ideas and methods. Moreover, travel requires planning, financial saving, and time management. These are all good qualities in friends and trusted colleagues. Finally, travel requires us to often roll with the punches. If you want to know if someone can operate under pressure, simply travel with him or her.  Travelers possess enviable qualities we should all emulate.
  4. A Sense of Humor. The ability to make others laugh covers a multitude of sins. People love to laugh, and they appreciate others who can make them laugh. Regardless of the situation—whether personal tragedy or long work nights—they make life resiliently fun and sweet. Comedy is also hard work. Jerry Seinfeld once confessed he worked on a joke about pop tarts for two years, and he believed this was time well spent. Only someone who was genuinely interested in the well-being of others would labor so long just for a good laugh.
  5. Loyal. Ultimately, a person can be industrious, optimistic, smart and otherwise virtuous, but, without loyalty and trust, their friendship is meaningless. As you build your network of friends and colleagues, you want to know everyone has a genuine concern for you and would seek your best interests. This quality can only be discerned with time and observation. Does a new contact have long-lived friendships or any friends at all? Does he or she speak positively of others, and does he or she actively help others as they work to advance their careers? We all need and want people in our lives who are genuinely happy for our success, supportive of our efforts, and who would defend us to others. If someone lacks these qualities, they are not worthy of your time or attention.

Today’s Takeaway:  The daily hustle is difficult enough without allowing people who are close to us to weigh us down. Seek to be a good friend to those around you, and seek out worthy friends.  They will make the weight of the journey much easier to carry. Next week, we will be discussing how and why to build a brand story that your customers will resonate with.

Discussion question:  Do you have a work best friend?  How have your work friendships affected your career?

Do you know any other entrepreneurs or business owners that would find this blog series useful?  If so, please feel free to share this, and have them sign up here.

Huge thanks to our guest blogger
Fueled by Starbucks, CrossFit and traveling, Jeremy is a corporate attorney by trade with a passion for entrepreneurship and a heart for startups.