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Sept. 13, 2022

193 Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch for personal, professional and organizational success with Jason Levin | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

193 Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch for personal, professional and organizational success with Jason Levin | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Jason Levin, Founder of Ready, Set, Launch and author of Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch. In the conversation, Jason Levin talks about the power of building authentic relationships and the importance of deep connections in the workplace. Jason also shares the importance of strengthening weak ties, reconnecting with dormant ties, and how to do it well. Jason also talks about social media's impact on how we form and maintain relationships and how to use it well. Finally, Jason lays out strategies for leaders to build a greater connection with and among team members.   


Some highlights:

- Jason Levin on recognizing the impact of relationships early on

- The importance of depth in relationships and how to achieve greater depth

- Jason Levin shares a systematic approach to reconnecting with dormant ties

- The self-imposed barriers to reaching out and how to remove them

- Jason Levin on how leaders can use the art and science of relationship building to enable greater collaboration in their organizations

- The power of connections and building a stronger social network

Books Mentioned:

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink 

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant


Connect with Jason Levin:

Ready Set Launch Website

Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch on Amazon

Jason Levin on Twitter

Jason Levin on LinkedIn

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

More information and resources are available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

Mahan Tavakoli Website

Mahan Tavakoli on LinkedIn

Partnering Leadership Website


[00:00:00] Mahan Tavakoli: Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming. Jason Levin. Jason is the author of Relationships to infinity, the art and science of keeping in touch. Relationships are critical to our emotional wellbeing and health. The power of connections in our organizations and the power of getting things done outside of our organizations and in the community.

I really enjoy the conversation with Jason, with practical tips and thoughts on how to do it right. There are many examples of how not to do it right, and every single day, I'm sure you are bombarded, whether it is on LinkedIn or if you go to an in person event with people that don't do it right. But there is a real value to be gained out of building great relationships through social media and in person interactions that can help us have a greater impact in our organizations and beyond. So I'm sure you will also learn a lot from this conversation.

I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com there's a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast. Tuesday conversations with change makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region and Thursday conversations with global thought leaders. Now, here is my conversation with Jason.

 Jason Levin. Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

[00:01:35] Jason Levin: Thank you Mahan. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:37] Mahan Tavakoli: Can't wait to talk about relationships to infinity, the art and science of keeping in touch, because I think it's really important, Jason, whether for our own personal development, our professional journey, or organizational impact, for us to be able to tap into that science and art of relationships.

But before we get to that, we'd love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you've become.

[00:02:08] Jason Levin: Mahan happy to talk about my upbringing and again, it's a pleasure to be here. So I was born in Brooklyn. I spent a short period of time in Southern Florida. And Then when I was in elementary school, moved to Northern New Jersey where I essentially did elementary school, middle school and high school.

I would say my upbringing around getting to know people and relationships. It began with my parents. My mom and my dad were emphatic about sending thank you notes after a birthday party or after bar mitzvah. And I was very lucky in high school. I had a babysitting business and I'm actually a big proponent of celebrating male babysitters cuz you know, male babysitters eventually sometimes become fathers and you get to practice those things.

So little did I know I was creating a network for myself. I had families that were working in sales, and working as attorneys, and working as doctors. And I had an early mentor who actually I babysat for, and he was a sales executive, and he began to talk to me about this notion of cultivating relationships and at the same time in high school, my father who worked in the garment center in Manhattan, went through an unemployment in the late eighties during the recession of 89. That got me interested in what happens with the economy. Why do people succeed and why people lose jobs or get jobs and move on. So I was a very unusual teenager because I was reading fortune and Forbes in the wall street journal, and then sharing these ideas with the families I was babysitting for. So I was a unique teenager. I both liked baseball cards. And then I was reading the stock market and hoping to get a share Berkshire Hathaway which I still regret not doing.

[00:04:04] Mahan Tavakoli: What a wonderful way from early on Jason recognizing the importance of those relationships. You sound like a different version of Michael Keaton in family ties.

[00:04:15] Jason Levin: It's funny. I remember family ties and it was family ties and Gordon Gecko from wall street. Those were the moments where the idea of success and growing up in Northern New Jersey, which is essentially the suburb of New York. I thought about working on wall street because, that was the notion of what success was.

Oh my gosh, family ties. I haven't thought about that in a long time, but. Yeah, it's fun to think about those times and what we thought success was about and those early influencers. The interesting thing about reading the wall street journal is I'd be reading, what was going on with the stocks, but then there was all these management and leadership articles. It was fun to share those articles and those ideas with the families I was babysitting for. I'm like, what does this mean to you and what you do as a doctor? What does this mean to you as an attorney? What does this mean to you as a sales executive? And they would be telling me what they were doing? It was fairly unique at the time, cause I was very curious about that.

[00:05:20] Mahan Tavakoli: So you have spent a lifetime at the cross section of relationships and its impact on business. So what brought you to my beloved Georgetown McDonough?

[00:05:33] Jason Levin: What brought me to Georgetown was interesting, cuz I was living in Paris, I was working for a global education event group that organized MBA and grad events all across the globe. And I saw something very interesting happening. Whatever event we would go to, whether it be Santiago, Chile, or Frankfurt, Germany, the Georgetown table had these really unique alumni coming to say, you have to come to Georgetown, we're in the middle of Santiago, Chile, and you have a dozen Georgetown alumni telling everybody how great it is. And I'm saying to myself what's going on with Georgetown. So I started to talk to the admissions people and I started to talk to the alumni and every city we would go to and I said, this is something special.

 So after five years of living in France, I said, you know what? I've always wanted to do my MBA. Having read about MBAs when I was in high school, that was another thing about advancing in your career. And an early goal of mine. I said, you know what? I wanna come to Georgetown. I wanted to come to a place where it embedded the notions of Jesuit values, even though I'm Jewish. I love the notion of Jesuit values and them being very accepting of all different types of backgrounds. I love the global nature of Georgetown and it was absolutely everything I could have hoped for.

My summer internship. I was in Sri Lanka because of my Georgetown relationships which eventually I interned for Unilever in Colombo. My second year in business school, we did a project in Vietnam as part of the curriculum. You might hear a little bit of New Jersey twang, but my heart beats global

[00:07:14] Mahan Tavakoli: That's outstanding Jason, I know you have also done a lot giving back to the Georgetown community and to the school, which has also meant a lot to me most specifically because of the kind of values and the ethics that you also talked about.

You have been at this intersection of business and relationship building. What got you to write this book on the art and the science of building relationships and keeping in touch with people?

[00:07:45] Jason Levin: It's funny. My wife was in law school, when I was in business school. So we met and started dating in 2004 and there's two things she remembers about me professionally in 2004. One, I was talking about LinkedIn cuz I was an early adopter and two, I was talking about the concept of the strength of weak ties that I had learned in the Tipping Point. For me, one of the things that I've always wanted to do is write a book about genuine relationships, because we talk about genuineness, we talk about authenticity, as these things we aspire to, but then we don't know how. We don't know the "how" behind all of this. So for me, the science was always fascinating, both on the social science that exists around networks, but then the science around the humanness, the psychology, the sociology, those types of things.

What is it that connects us? When I started my coaching and training business, 11 years ago, I said I wanted to write a book on relationships. It was gonna be called relationships to infinity. Finally, during the pandemic where I saw that we were all turning into wilted flowers, I said it was time. And, I often talk about your analog intentions become digital actions. I think in 2022 too often, we're thinking digital first social media first, when in reality, what's in our heart, what's in our mind and that can drive a whole host of things.

[00:09:17] Mahan Tavakoli: Even in the analog world. In many instances, the relationships the interactions and the networking that was done and is being done seems very transactional to me.

People are still pretty quick to want to ask each other a couple of cursory questions in order to shove their business card in the hands of the other person, thinking they have actually achieved something. When you talk about the importance of the depth in the relationships , what does it take for the relationships to go deeper than what many of our interactions in business end up being.

[00:09:58] Jason Levin: You're hitting on a really interesting point. It's something that I've observed. We're not listening. We're really not listening to each other. We're walking into a conversation with the expectation to talk not the expectation to listen. I always loved the stories around Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who assumed that nobody was listening to him and he would say, people would ask him, how are you doing? He said I killed my grandmother today. That would be his classic response. I kill my grandmother today and people are like, oh, that's nice. And I, how's the weather they're they weren't listening. And he would say, I killed my grandmother today. Then finally for this person, what?

And then you joke. Yeah, she had it coming to her, so it's this notion, and you're right. It is transactional. It's this? Okay. I'm gonna ask a couple of questions and let me get my ask in and what I found fascinating and even in the research on that I looked in the book on the notion of friendship, both in a professional relationship and the notion of friendship in a personal relationship is that it actually takes 50 hours to go from acquaintance to a casual friend, 90 hours to go from casual friend to friend, and then 200 hours. To become a best friend. So if you think how long it takes to build that relationship trust, whether it be professional, or personal, it is amazing to me that people will make a transactional ask after 10 minutes of knowing somebody or you and I have both seen this on LinkedIn, let me sell you this, let me sell you that. It's what are you talking about? You are not listening.

[00:11:43] Mahan Tavakoli: That's why I love the title to your second chapter build and rebuild your authentic social network without the ick, because some of those messages there's so much ick and you wonder to yourself, has the person on the other side, even reflected for a second with the message that they're sending so my question for you, Jason, is how can we build authentic relationships, but be able to do that without the ick

[00:12:14] Jason Levin: You're hitting on something that I see often in my trainings is that if you look at the social science around the notions of both dormant ties and weak ties, dormant ties are people that you have lost touch with that you worked with at some point or another.

And weak ties are people that you don't have a strong relationship with, but you do have an interaction with, I think therein lies the opportunity because it's very easy to go to the 5 or 10 people that we know very well. But the reality is that to keep a broader network alive, it's people you already have interacted with that in lies the opportunity.

 So just being able to have that notion is part of your activity when you think of your week. All right, I'm gonna keep in touch with the people I already know that I have very close relationships. That's the easy part. What I like to think of is the good work is why don't you get back in touch with that first boss from college, that first client, you got the people that have referred you along the way.

These are people, back to values Mahan, right? These are people that you have already shared values with. I think that's the analog piece is that in our own head, we just forget. And forgetting is part of being human. I think we are not kind to ourselves when we forget. So that blocks us from doing what we could be doing in, in maintaining our relationships.

[00:13:52] Mahan Tavakoli: Jason, how do you systemically approach that when you are talking about it I nod and it makes a lot of sense to me that over the years I have built relationships and credible relationships with many people that for one reason or another I've lost touch with, how can I systematically approach reconnecting with those dormant ties?

[00:14:19] Jason Levin: So the social science even gives us answers there, which is wonderful. The first is gratitude. We often talk about gratitude practices in the overall sense. It's good to be grateful for all the wonderful things that we have. You have wonderful things in your life. I have wonderful things in my life.

Very rarely do people overlay a gratitude practice with the people they've interacted with. Very easy to do on a daily or weekly basis. Who have I benefited from mentorship or sponsorship or any of those types of things, and to be sharing that gratitude with consistency.

The second is the research around nostalgia. There's both professional nostalgia and personal nostalgia, and nostalgia is something that's very human It's a wonderful way to reconnect with somebody because it allows you to connect with that person at a moment in time, they even might have forgotten.

 So if you wanna get back in touch with somebody, the best way to begin a conversation is, I was thinking of you. I remembered you because. There might have been a song on the radio, there might have eaten at a certain restaurant, or there might have been a management challenge that you had, but you were able to respond in a certain way because of that person.

So if you are leaning into your nostalgia, if you're leaning into your gratitude and then sharing that, it's a very easy system to be genuine and authentic because it's all real.

[00:15:52] Mahan Tavakoli: I love that Jason, for so many reasons, most especially because we will make that other person's day. How often is it that people reach out to us with genuine gratitude or genuine connection to experiences we have shared with each other in the past. So this is something that we can do without any need or expectation of anything in return just to put good Outback into our network of connections and dormant ties. It is beautiful just in and of itself.

[00:16:35] Jason Levin: It's beautiful in and of itself. And there's this societal concept that networking is about chasing after people you don't know, when in reality it should be focusing on people you've already interacted with. And that is where you spend your time and your energy is one of those things where it actually makes you feel better.

When you share those positive memories as well, the social science even backs that up. And what I love about the dormant ties research is that, when you reconnect with someone that you worked with or interacted with in a prior life, they've gone on to build new networks. They've gone on to have new experiences.

They've gone on to have new perspectives, and sometimes you might even have conversations with them and the research shows they will even give you better insights on some of the things that you're doing. So it's a wonderful Yin Yang.

[00:17:31] Mahan Tavakoli: In order for that ying yang to eventually produce win-win outcomes, there has to be consistency. You mentioned the need for that consistency in actions. How do you approach it?

What's a systemic way of approaching this. So listeners have bought in say, got it. I wanna do this, but it becomes like exercise at the beginning of new year's where all the good intentions after a few weeks end up in us going back to old habits and behaviors, how do you guide people to make this part of their systemic approach to daily, weekly, interactions.

[00:18:12] Jason Levin: It begins with the mindset. It really begins with your mindset that you are worthy of doing this and that people want to hear from you once you work and are a believer in that, then the mindset allows for you to implement it through actions.

So have your list. However you want to have your list, here on my desk, I've got a post-it note, because my favorite technology is a pen. It's the fastest way to get out an idea. So when I'm working with my clients, they're like, oh, I have to have this fancy customer relationship management system.

And the reality is any system that gets used is a good system. So for some people, it's a notebook for some people, it's an Excel file. For some people, it's a paper calendar. For some people it's putting the notes into your phone, whatever system you want to use. It should have the first name, the last name, their email, their postal address, the last date you contacted them and favorite memory.

So however you want to organize that is up to the individual. I am technology agnostic, but what I do believe is that you need to block time to remember those memories. So if you're a morning person, do it in the morning, if you're an evening person, do it in the evening.

I have even gotten back into personally during the nineties, I used to send holiday cards. And postcards, I used to send postcards. After writing the book, I said, you know what, now that I'm on a speaking tour, I will go to the local CVS. I'm gonna buy postcards. I've already made labels of the people I wanna get back in touch with.

And I send them a postcard and they are so happy to receive something in the mail. The greatest thing. Mahan even the social science backs this up, people don't care how they receive their gratitude. It could be text, it could be email, it could be letter, I would send, spoke signals and carrier pigeons so one, it begins with the mindset two, it needs to be time blocked in your calendar and it could be easy as six minutes.

People think that I have to block an hour to keep in touch every day or every week. The reality is that if you keep a overarching who can I thank, or who can I appreciate, you can go so far. One final thought. I even help people remember those that helped them just by looking at their resume, who was in college that helped you. Who was in grad school that helped you. First job, second job. Let's talk about the stakeholders. So it's very easy. If you want to do it in reverse chronological order or in chronological order, let's go to 2021. Who were the people that helped you that were so important to you? Go back another year, go back another year. However you want to do it, it is completely possible.

[00:21:06] Mahan Tavakoli: I love the approach to it Jason, most especially the mindset that you talk about in desiring to give to other people, genuine and sincere gratitude. Even in my relationships at Georgetown McDonough, some of them have come about as a result of me reflecting on the professors that had such a profound impact on me.

So this wasn't me wanting to reach out to the professors because I wanted something. It was a genuine reflection on the fact that my life is better and I've had an impact on organizations and on the community as a result of what they've done for me. So I shared it with them and it's incredible how few students of any institution take the time to do that.

We all need it. What we need to do is actually act on it a few minutes a day would be a great start.

[00:22:03] Jason Levin: One of the things that I looked at in the book is why is this not happening? What are these self-imposed barriers? I reached out to the mental health community and I said, all right, what's happening here? Why is it that these people aren't doing this outreach and I noticed in my clients and I get all these reasons on why it's not gonna work.

And in doing the research with the mental health community I came up with the concept of the Bermuda keep in touch triangle. And three foundational emotions that are quite normal and just like ships and planes get lost in the Bermuda triangle never to be found again, so do our own intentions and the three foundational emotions that hold us back are guilt, worry, and fear. As long as we acknowledge that we all have some version of guilt, worry and fear that it is okay to say, oh my gosh I feel terrible. It's been five years. I've been out of touch with my professor from business school, or it's been five years and that person that helped me find this amazing job I haven't spoken to.

I am a terrible person. And the joy that I find in working with my clients is that once you recognize you have a triangle, the easiest way to get beyond that is just begin the initial outreach and see the response that you get. The fun part is that there's all these wonderful things that come from it.

 Whether it be new clients, new promotions, new jobs but that's not the goal in the first place. The goal in the first place is focusing on what we all want and need and that's connection.

[00:23:46] Mahan Tavakoli: Jason, James Clear has a great book on habits called atomic habits. And one of the things he talks about is in order to establish a habit, you can just commit to doing the smallest thing. If you want to develop a habit of going to the gym, just make it a habit of going to the gym and coming back and not even exercising. When you make that a habit, that's an easier habit to develop, then you can slowly add to the time.

So in taking your advice in this instance, take just a couple of minutes, a day, block time, and send a gratitude note to just one person from your past. That's all it takes. It doesn't take sophisticated Excel spreadsheets or software in order to do this, it takes a genuine desire to show gratitude to someone in our past.

[00:24:44] Jason Levin: Mahan, you're totally spot on. You're totally spot on. And the fun part with that is that once you get into that first outreach and the second outreach and the third outreach, I've seen it snowball where when you start thinking about who are the people that are worthy of your thanks, it's training your brain in a completely different way. And when you start training your brain that way you're right. You really don't need the CRM because it's all there. How many times do I thank my public speaking professor from college when I give a big talk? Because he was the one, when I was in college, he was writing my speeches, he was guiding me, he was doing these amazing things. And I hear him, Jason, full pause on a period, half pauses on a comma, so it's one of those things where you're focusing on all these different things, but if you're adding in gratitude to others, it is a wonderful way to really reach out to your network in a way where you're really not asking for anything.

[00:25:54] Mahan Tavakoli: And it helps energize that network. It puts so much good out into the world. So I love that perspective. Now for many of us, Jason, in the professional world LinkedIn has also become both an opportunity to connect and show gratitude and engage, and also a tool that is horribly misused by a lot of people attempting to grow the number of connections or followers they have.

So how can we look at our interactions on LinkedIn based on some of your findings with respect to the art and science of keeping in touch.

[00:26:34] Jason Levin: You're hitting on something that I think a lot about. I often joke my LinkedIn member number is 141,272. LinkedIn started in the summer of 2003. I joined January 1st, 2004. So I've seen a lot of evolution with LinkedIn. And I agree with you, I think that too often you're getting sales people that are just sending you these direct messages, wanting " to connect with you" when really they're looking to make some kind of collection. So I think first and foremost, LinkedIn is a wonderful tool as you're going through down memory lane, are you connected with that professor from business school that you want to thank? Are you connected with your manager from your first job? Level one are your connections reflective of the people you actually know and trust. From there, LinkedIn has a wonderful set of sort tools that I encourage people to use.

So Mahan, let's say you're going to be in Los Angeles in three weeks. You can actually do a sort on my connections on everybody that you currently know within Los Angeles. So it's a wonderful way to say, listen, I'm gonna be in town. I have this evening available. Why don't we catch up and get together.

I recommend for my clients. I do it myself. In a couple weeks I'm gonna be in New Jersey, visiting family. I'm gonna do a sort function where I'm gonna say, all right, who's in Northern New Jersey. Who's in Southern New Jersey. Who can I connect with and say, hello?

And it's one of those things where we talk about keeping in touch, but using LinkedIn sort function allows for you to actually keep in touch. And what I also believe is too often, LinkedIn will give you this populated, "send a congratulations to", and people just hit the button. And, I'm like, no, if you wanna congratulate somebody for a promotion or if you wanna congratulate someone for a birthday or whatever, that is, write a personal note. And I think now that LinkedIn has been here for so long, we actually forget the fact that you can actually communicate with other people outside of LinkedIn direct messenger. Email still work. A text will still work. A letter will still work.

I love LinkedIn. There's a lot of good things if you're using it to connect and reconnect for good intention, I think it's very positive, but I think it's now become a wild west where LinkedIn as a platform is just trying to get you to connect with as many people as possible. And it goes even beyond weak ties, you don't even know the person.

So it's a no tie. It's not even a weak tie. It's I don't know you. Mahan, when I reached out, oh, we have Georgetown in common, let's at least talk, let's at least have a conversation. I'm not asking you to put me in your will. I'm just saying, let's have a conversation.

And that was our tie, that our shared tie, oh, we have people in common. That's great. But I think if people use LinkedIn more authentically, if people are there to really connect and have conversations, then I think you'll find that this digital tool is a wonderful layer onto your own memory.

So for me, LinkedIn has three pillars. It's your profile, it's sharing content, and then it's also your relationships. And on the relationship side, just spending time in my contacts, going through, who can I thank , is a very easy way to get that message out there.

So that's my thought on LinkedIn. When I open it up. That's how I think about it.

[00:30:15] Mahan Tavakoli: The fact that some people misuse the tool doesn't mean there isn't real value in the tool, which in this instances Linked in there is tremendous opportunity to build relationships and go deeper with people when it's used with intention, especially as you mentioned, Jason, with the past colleagues that we've had with people we've intersected in one form, or another to establish the connection and to then carry on a conversation rather than a transactional desire to connect in order to sell something or pitch something. It is an outstanding tool that can be used to support the genuine outreach and gratitude that you mentioned is a critical part of us keeping in touch, including with our dormant ties.

Now I wonder as leaders of organizations reflect on this Jason there's been a lot of conversation around some of the weakening of ties within organizations in part because of remote and hybrid work. But even when people are fully in person in one physical environment, that doesn't necessarily mean the hypothetical water cooler conversation is happening all the time. So people aren't necessarily building connections.

So how can managers of teams and leaders of organizations reflect on the art and science of relationship building to encourage stronger bonds and connections within their teams and organization.

[00:31:54] Jason Levin: I think what leaders can do is first practice, what they preach, and then share what they do with others in their success. So one of the things that if you're a leader in an organization and you're doing a town hall where you're taking questions from people, or you're a leader of a large division, or you're a leader of a team, as you're talking about either the goals or the successes, talk about how you're thinking about your relationships.

One of the people that I had interviewed for the book her name is Sodvi Suberamian and Sodvi is a wonderful executive within real estate. When I interviewed her , she was at capital one, now she's at US Bank and one of the ways that she created connection was actually joining a professional association specifically on real estate. And it was something that was outside of her comfort zone. But one thing she came to realize was that the things that she was learning could be supportive of her team. And to be able to bring back information and getting them focused on more market facing types of activities, she in turn encouraged her direct reports to be joining associations as well. And that created a whole host of conversation and a culture around how can we be more market facing? How can we leverage what we're learning to make us all better. So it really begins with the leaders of the organization to move beyond the classic. Oh, you got a network, but it's really, "okay, how can we make this a strategic initiative that's gonna help all of us move in the right direction?"

[00:33:44] Mahan Tavakoli: It can, and part of what I like about what you add to that is that connecting and building relationships with alumni can become another extension of that learning for the organization when approach systematically. So how can organizations build those relationships and connections beyond just the team members?

[00:34:11] Jason Levin: It's interesting that you talk about alumni because often when we think of alumni, we think of university alumni. I think McKinsey was very early on in recognizing that it's alumni would be wonderful sources of opportunity for new clients as well as helping the organization advance.

So I think within professional services, you've seen the management consulting firms do it. You've seen the accounting firms do it. Now, the law firms are getting into it as well, where you're looking at alums of your organization and you're creating these different types of connection either through articles, you're like, look, this person is an alum of this law firm look where their success is now. You're actually embedding alumni into programming, whether it be career development or learning more about a particular subject matter. So I think leaders can do a really great job of bringing in alums of their organization.

Because one of the things that I think is important as we think about all the things that are going on in 2022 retention is really important. So if we're gonna talk about alumni relations as a career development tool, then we can leverage these wonderful alums in a whole host of ways that can help the team move forward and get them thinking about in different ways.

[00:35:36] Mahan Tavakoli: What a powerful point, most especially in an era when people spend shorter and shorter periods of time with one organization. So it's no longer that people stay even 10, 15 years. They transition quickly.

[00:35:53] Jason Levin: And I think the expectation is changing that we're not expecting our people to spend 15, 20, 25 years. I think what alumni associations also serve as is, the concept of the boomerang, that you were a very good person in our organization, you shared our values, you have since moved on, you have a whole host of new skills and experiences, why don't you come back?

I think that alumni associations in developing those weak ties, those dormant ties serve as a recruiting tool as well. So that you're not just putting some requisition out into the universe. You have some people that already know your organization and can be invited back.

[00:36:41] Mahan Tavakoli: I appreciate the fact that in this conversation and in your book Jason, you've not only provided a framework with respect to how the science and art of relationship building works, but specifically tangible steps we can take to improve those relationships and connections. As simple as the connections for a minute or two showing sincere gratitude to people from our past or weak ties.

I wonder what else, if you were to give advice to the listeners, here are a couple of other things to consider implementing in order to build stronger social network without the ick, what would you recommend?

[00:37:33] Jason Levin: I think the ick too often comes off because people believe they don't have the right personality type to actually engage in these types of activities. And usually you'll get the extremes. I'm an introvert, so I can't do this because I'm an introvert and I have some type of malady or disease, which is not true because all the introverts out there are wonderful observers and exceptional listeners. Then you have the other extreme, the extrovert. I can't stop talking, I'm amazing, I need people and they're not listening. What I love is really what looking for the center. Daniel Pink talks about it and To sell is human, where he talks about the ambivert, where you're deriving the wonderful listening and probing from the introvert and just the outreach from the extrovert.

So my advice to everybody is that regardless of your personality type, you have the capacity to interact with people what happens afterwards? So if you're an introvert, yes, you need to recharge, so build time into that. If you wanna have an interaction with somebody, then go hide in the closet afterwards, perfectly fine.

But I think that we all need to have that level of self awareness on how we enter into these conversations. That's the reason why I wrote this book is that regardless of your personality background, we all need connection. Even during the pandemic, the introverts got lonely just as everybody else did.

So I think the other piece is also, recognize that just because somebody doesn't respond to you immediately doesn't mean anything about you and more about what they might be going through and to give them the time and the space to respond back to you. If you really wanna reengage them, then give it another six months or a year and then try again.

And often, what I have found is that people were going through things and they were just not available at that moment and time. So I often talk about grace and giving other people, grace. I know it's taken a lot out of you even to outreach to that person, but give the person time to respond.

[00:39:52] Mahan Tavakoli: What an important point to end on Jason in that we need to extend grace to others. We don't necessarily know what stage of life they're in, what's going on in their lives. It is not always a reflection of us when they don't choose to respond to us. And the second part of it is if we are sincerely approaching it with a desire to share genuine gratitude, We have done our piece by sharing genuine gratitude with the other person.

There is no need for them then to email us or send a message back to us. Thank you for thanking me and thank you for thanking me back and forth. So do it with the right intention and have grace in the willingness to allow the person, their time to consume things and take it in as they see fit.

Now, in addition to your book, Jason, are there any other leadership resources or practices you typically find yourself recommending to leaders as they want to build stronger connections and relationships, whether for themselves personally and professionally, or within their teams and organizations.

[00:41:05] Jason Levin: Absolutely. One is the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and how he talks about MA's connectors and sales people and how those interactions happen to drive information and change both within organizations and externally, I think is really important.

I talked about Daniel Pink's '"To sell is human." And the reason I like Daniel Pink's To sell is human is that he takes different roles that are not sales. IT and operations and he said, you know what, you're in sales also. You need to convince people. So I think that's an important one as well. And then, my final one is Adam Grant's "Give and take" which I love because he talks about strategic giving. He talks about giving in a way that's honest and authentic and true. Those three are really my favorites because they're so complimentary to people, whether you're in an analog world or in a digital world, it really talks about your intention and how you go about it.

[00:42:04] Mahan Tavakoli: Three outstanding recommendations by three outstanding authors. They all, have great books and I really enjoy and find myself referring back to the books you mentioned Jason.

Now, how can the audience find out more about your work, your writing and connect with you?

[00:42:23] Jason Levin: If you wanna connect with me feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and say, I heard you on Mahan's podcast and write something personalized. Don't just hit "I'd like to connect it with you on LinkedIn." I heard you on Mahan's podcast and this is my favorite piece, can we talk or can we connect? Feel free to go to my website, which is readysetlaunch.net.

You can also see some of my own musings if you wanna sign up for my newsletter. My email is jason@readyetlaunch.net, or my website, readysetlaunch.net. And it's been a real pleasure Mahan.

[00:42:57] Mahan Tavakoli: Absolutely Jason. It's important for people to reflect on what you've mentioned and act on it, but it is not huge actions with huge blocks of time. It can be done in a couple of minutes a day. And what I appreciate about your book, you share both the art and the science, but you share it in a way that we can each implement, and when we do, we are going to have a positive impact and influence on people around us. Good things will follow and flow back, but that's not the intention.

So , I appreciate the mindset and the approach you've shared in relationships to infinity. Thank you so much, Jason Levin for joining the partnering leadership conversation.

[00:43:45] Jason Levin: Thank you Mahan it's been a real pleasure.