The implications for a leader seem to be clear. If you wish to be more influential…the first question you should ask is not “who can help me?” The first question you should ask is “whose business circumstances and outcomes can I advance?” Because by virtue of reciprocity, those people will then want to advance your outcomes.

Using reciprocity to build real relationships

Sure, it sounds easy. But how exactly do we apply this idea to networking and building business relationships without running ourselves dry?

Here are a few suggestions of ways to create value and reciprocity without breaking the bank:

  1. Solve a problem: Offer up a creative brainstorming session or anecdotal advice to someone’s problem. Even just asking “how can I help?” works.

  2. Offer access to your resources: Do you have something you could easily lend out that would help this person? Either your tools or your audience?

  3. Facilitate a connection: Do you know someone they want to know, and could you make an intro?

  4. Ask insightful questions: Can you show that you’re invested in them and their work? Do you know an issue they’re struggling with, and can you ask insightful questions to get them engaged in the conversation?

  5. Give a small gift: What pleasant surprise can you offer? A discount code for your service? An invite to an exclusive event?

Remember, reciprocity is a two-way street

Reciprocity like this only works if you’re willing to act the same way. Understand when you “owe” someone else for their favor, and acknowledge that you’ll return their good gesture.
The returns on the value you give to people won’t happen overnight. After all, you’re building a network of allies and acquaintances who want to help you, and this naturally takes time to manifest.

However, the more value you put out into the world, the more reciprocated responses you’ll get.