Over eighteen years in banking and finance, including five as a managing director at a major U.S. bank, I’ve noticed what makes some people succeed. Why some people get hired with guaranteed bonuses and some don’t. One is that they’re charismatic and have great relationships. In banking parlance, they have great, “social capital”.
Relationships are critical because that’s how humans work. We evolved out of small tribes. Relationships are simply about having people in your life who like, trust and want to help you. If those people also happen to be powerful and can get you a job at the same time, well then that’s excellent.
So how do we go about acquiring social capital? The rules are a lot like investing – you have to invest to grow your assets. Regular inputs of charisma will increase your returns.
Break your social capital down into three categories: people, knowledge and emotional support. People are simply the relationships you have. Knowledge is the information you possess (for example, the facts, insights, opinions, or expertise that you can share with the people you know.) Emotional support is the psychological and emotional well being you can offer – the support, friendship, inspiration and guidance you bring to your relationships.
The most powerful people on Wall Street use charisma to work all three.
When it comes to people, you want to be a facilitator. You want to bring the best people together and step aside. The most charismatic bankers know that connecting up a network is the greatest way to grow it. When you know two people who have similar interests, hobbies, or you think might just like talking to each other, ask their permission and introduce them.
When it comes to knowledge, Wall Street’s most charismatic share what they know. Whenever I read something interesting, for example, I try to have a habit of thinking who else would like to read it. You could do the same – or help a friend with a resume, or share a perspective with a colleague. Start thinking of your mind as an open-source project that other people can benefit from.
When it comes to emotional support, the best bankers will “be there” for the people and the clients they know. They’re emotionally present. They make phone calls, send handwritten notes and gifts. They say thank you and they are available as sounding boards. They make a difference to others.
Once you start investing in your social capital, once you start using your charisma in the style of these bankers, you’ll notice something. You’ll see that you start growing your social capital. When you start introducing people, you’ll see that they return the favour, When you need an introduction, you’ll see they’re more willing to make it happen. Just like that, your network and relationships will grow.
Similarly, you’ll find that when you start sharing your knowledge more openly you become both a source and an authority on useful information for the people you know. This builds your credibility and inspires your relationships to share information back with you. Again people will see you someone with intellect and credibility, yet another reason to let you in.
And as you grow closer to those people as a result, you become a better friend, a better listener, which moves other people to become a better friend to you, deepening your rapport, trust and goodwill, and inspiring more and more acts of generosity.
It’s self-perpetuating. The most powerful and charismatic people on Wall Street understand that. It’s time you did too.
The author is a former Goldman Sachs managing director and blogger at the site What I Learnt on Wall Street.