The Power of Human Connection

Ever wondered about studying abroad? This is the episode for you! We have two recent graduates here to chat about their experiences across the world to prepare you for the next trip.

Lexi was born and raised in upstate New York and attended Syracuse University. She studied policy studies with a specialization in government and business, and supply chain management. After graduating in May 2019, Lexi joined Teach For America and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to teach fourth grade math.

Tyler Werland grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and studied business management at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), where he is now a graduate student. Tyler is an intern for the San Antonio Spurs as a member of the HR-Organizational Development Team to assist with internal training.


Servant Leaders from 2019

Servant Leadership is one of Alpha Kappa Psi’s founding principles because of its positive effects on culture in business and beyond. Practicing servant leadership means considering the needs of all company or organization personnel, not just a bottom line. Common characteristics of a servant leader include empathy, commitment to people’s growth, good listening, and community awareness. With the 2019 calendar year in the past, let’s look back and identify three of the best servant leaders we spotted in 2019.


Mat Ishiba, United Shore Mortgage

As an industry leader in wholesale mortgage lending, United Shore Mortgage knows the value of its employees. When Mat Ishiba took over as CEO in 2009, he fronted a massive hiring push for the company, and it has grown from less than 500 to over 4,700 employees in the past 10 years.

While the Michigan-based business is thriving, the employees haven’t sold out their ideals in the process. One of Ishiba’s primary focuses is the Firm 40, a workhours initiative that ensures equal amounts of hours in the office and encourages employees to relax and move away from work while at home. His appreciation and respect for the work/life balance of his employees is clear, and it has positively impacted the company’s success.


Vineet Jain, Egnyte

Egnyte has made a name for itself in the world of file sharing and security. The Silicon Valley-based company is touted as the only secure content platform that works exclusively for enterprise, giving full control to creative and IT teams in the pursuit for efficient cloud storage. This company, which ranks in the top three file sharing platforms according to Owler, has also gained a following for the way it treats its employees.

While Egnyte continues to grow in size, it has been recognized by Business Insider as a top five company for work/life balance, and a high ranking for happiest employees. Additionally, CEO Vineet Jain has been named one of the best leaders for minority workers. In a recent interview with Ladders, Jain said, “Your employees come first. If you have employees who feel valued, people who feel that there’s a career path, people who feel that they are respected, then they will be happy.”

Ben Valore-Caplan, Syntrinsic Investment Council

After making it in the world of finance, Ben Valore-Caplan found himself unsure of his next move. The year was 2008, and he had just left investment monster Lehman Brothers only days before its collapse amid the recession. He decided rather than jumping into another large financial company, he wanted to see a different future, one where employees – not just employers – had power.    

He eventually started his own company, Syntrinsic Investment Council, as a 100 percent employee-owned business. He also created a holistic workplace culture through efforts such as financial support for leadership programs. In a recent interview with Conscious Company Media, Valore-Caplan said, “Make your leadership about unleashing others to do more good in the world. Managing can often be more about cultivation than control. Make good people even better. Make those around you more powerful. That’s easier if you’re doing something important. You can prove that values and business not only go together but thrive together.”

Acting as a servant leader creates a culture of giving, growth, and equal opportunity for employees and coworkers. Though these three leaders have instilled their own ideals for empathy, listening, and culture, the lessons they impart to employees inspires others to do the same. Whether you’re a CEO of a company or just getting started, you too can impact positive change by thinking of yourself as a servant leader in 2020.

Brand Development Through Relationship Building

The concept of branding can sometimes feel inauthentic. Branding is the process of establishing a public identity, and so often it comes off as being very sales-heavy. However, when brands are genuine and sincere, they feel less like an advertisement and more like a personality. Branding plays a huge part in professional relationships companies make with their customers. Though the process is nuanced, there are still some general guidelines to get the most out of your own brand.

Building a Business’ Brand

The truth is out: people want to engage with and buy from recognizable brands. A study published by Nielson found that 59% of consumers prefer to shop with brands they trust and know. Despite being from a company, many individuals will see a business’ brand as being like a friend. Branding works best when customers feel less like they’re being sold to, and more like they’re engaging with a pal. So, when developing your company’s brand, there are some important tips to keep top of mind.

  1. Know Your Brand’s Audience

The best brands understand their target market. They create messaging and social media posts that engage and inspire the individuals they want to speak to. Imagine if you were giving a speech at a convention. You’d undoubtedly want to tailor your presentation to be relevant to those in the audience. Perhaps they’re a group of dentists, and your business creates medical software for their billing and office needs. Even if your product can be used by any type of health provider, you’d want to illustrate how it works specifically for a dentistry firm. The same is true for any aspect of your brand: know your audience and learn how to speak to them.

  1. Understand Your Industry’s Trends and Set Yourself Apart

Whether you’re a small startup or a larger enterprise, your undoubtedly have competitors. It’s important to know what these companies are saying about their products, and how they’re developing their brand.

However, it’s not a great idea to simply mimic what they’re doing. For example, in 2017, the desert treat Moon Pie began a strange and befuddling journey into “weird Twitter.” Rather than posting company updates, the business’ social department began crafting beauties like this:


“I am a brand

B ringing all the fun

R ap music is actually really good

A llow me to explain why I like rap

N ow let’s listen to some rap

D ang that is some good rap.”

This kind of Tweets sparked major interest in the treat’s brand. However, it wasn’t long before other companies began jockeying their style and going for their own off-center humor. It certainly garnered attention, but it was more or less a pale comparison. Your business’ brand should be personal and well-defined; just because other companies are doing it doesn’t mean you need to as well.

  1. Don’t Underestimate a Logo

Brands have a big visual component as well. Though it may be tempting to simply choose a font and minor design, customers identify your business by your logo. The MIT Sloan Review performed a large-scale study on corporate visual branding and found some interesting takeaways. For one, they create a “point of connection.” That means when a customer sees your design, they instantly think of your company’s values and mission.

For example, the Nike swoosh logo suggests movement, activity, and flow. This is in-line with Nike’s brand and communicates their ideals without saying a word. Furthermore, the study found that separate visual logos were more effective than a jazzed up version of the company’s name. A logo should be a symbol that reflects your brand and what your want to communicate.

Developing a public brand takes time and careful consideration. However, the process is still rooted in a simple maxim: be yourself. When curating this public image, be sure to let the voice of the company and the people in it shine through. By understanding your audience, demonstrating your uniqueness, and giving thought to your logo, you’ll be on your way to creating a brand that resonates and informs.

Genuine Personal Branding

Much like a large company, individuals can also harness the power of their personal brand. This idea is an extension of your personality, but filtered into a way that engages others. Your brand is personal and appealing, and convinces others to not only trust you, but turn to you for answers. Social media influencer is becoming a real profession. A study published by the Digital Marketing Institute found that nearly 50% of consumers rely on influencer recommendations before a purchase.

Even if you’re not selling anything, you can think critically about how you’re presenting yourself to the world. Here are some helpful tips for getting started on a personal brand.

  1. Find Out What Your Brand Already Looks Like

Not every aspect of your brand is completely within your control. It’s becoming quite natural to Google others and find out what information exists on them. If you’re developing your personal brand, you ought to be doing the same. Do some deep dives online and find out what information is already out there.

For instance, you might have an old social media profile or blog that you’ve since abandoned. If you can find this data, then anyone can. Be sure to scrub the web of anything unsavory or personal you’re not comfortable having people know. Remember, your brand is public-facing!

  1. Be Credible and Authentic

Personal branding should be about speaking from the heart. You want individuals to not only enjoy your content, but to trust it. If you’re reposting a ton of content from other personal brands or being untrue to yourself, others will notice it. In fact, you may consider asking followers and friends for some insight.

Maureen Cunningham, of Up Until Now Inc, recently said, “Others can often see your unique value better than you can. What is the truest version of the best you and of what you offer?”

Whether you’re speaking to people in public or online, be genuine. Don’t try to sell yourself too hard or pat yourself on the back. Be friendly and congenial, while also thinking about what value your brand has to offer. Are you someone who shares a more serious tone and information, such as news and political insights? Perhaps you’re more of a jokester and want to engage with others by being the life of the party. Whatever feels most honest to yourself will likely resonate with others.

  1. Build Up Relationships with Others Personal Brands

No person is an island. When it comes to personal branding, it’s a tremendous help to be part of a community. If you’re using social media to build a personal identity, don’t be afraid to follow and repost other similar accounts. In fact, send them a message and try to develop a relationship with them.

So often we see our activities on the web as being anonymous. But with social media, everyone has a brand and these relationships can often be quite symbiotic. Ian Cleary of RazorSocial recently said in an interview with Forbes that, “I didn’t think about what influencers could do for me; I thought about what I could do for them. I promoted their books, shared their content and commented on their blogs.”

If you’re working on branding “IRL,” approach in the same way. Go to conferences and expos, or even local meetups and focus on getting to know your peers. There’s already a common thread of you both being at the same event, so simply be yourself and work to find other similarities. Also, don’t be afraid to follow up with these individuals after you’ve met them. Fostering and developing those relationships can be a huge help to both yourself and the other person. At the very least, you may end up with a new friend in the process.

Generating a brand shouldn’t be a foreign concept. Ever since you started engaging with the world from a young age, you’ve likely been trying to carve out an identity. This process is extremely human and when we attempt to build brands for our companies or personal lives, others will recognize and empathize. Be sure to stay genuine, connect with an audience, and stay aware of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

What is Relationship Building?

Relationship building is a skill that many businesses today list on a job description or prioritize in their employees. But what does it mean? We build relationships when we are open with others and learn more about them. Healthy relationships make us feel heard and valued, like we belong. Strong relationships take intention and mindfulness to build and develop over time. Connections can’t just happen overnight, but they will happen regardless. Without mindful attention to the well-being of a relationship, it can grow into something that isn’t as fulfilling as it should be.

In 2018, a survey of conducted by Cigna found 46% of people feel lonely sometimes or always. The solution to those feelings is to develop relationships that make you feel connected to and valued by others. Here’s some insight about relationship building at work, with friends, and with family to help with building or improving relationships.

Relationship Building at Work

Relationship building happens when the mutual understanding between or among individuals is increased. This could happen between two people in a workplace, or for an entire team. On the job, this mutual understanding doesn’t just make the day better, it is also vital for success.

Harvard Business School Professor and performance consultant Theresa Amabile analyzed over 12,000 daily diary entries made by 239 professionals. A sense of “camaraderie…bonding and mutual trust” was found to accelerate productivity. When we feel trust and respect for those around us, everyone works a little bit harder.

Having friends at work might also keep your team together longer. Research firm Future Workplace surveyed over 2000 people across 10 countries. Almost two-thirds said they would be inclined to stay at their company longer if they had more friends.

Relationships at work need to be based in trust and mutual respect. To help develop the team’s confidence in one another’s abilities, create opportunities for team projects. Sharing feedback about one another’s successes or learning moments can also build workplace camaraderie.

Relationship Building with Friends

The main thing you need to mutually understand with friends is how to have fun and support each other. The success of friendships also relies on trust and mutual respect. As your friends show they have your back, you must return the friendship and make good on your word.

According to Psychology Today, reciprocity and mutual respect are two of the five themes of a successful friendship. Another is remembering that you must enjoy each other’s company—in fact, that’s the first one. If you don’t have fun with a friend, they aren’t really a friend.

Lastly, Psychology Today says remember that a commitment to a friendship is voluntary. It’s also okay to be less involved with a friend over time, as long as you still stay in touch. Everyone’s life has its hectic periods.

But you can’t let life’s pace totally obliterate your connections. When it comes to building friendships, it’s important to be available for friends. This is especially true when they need help or support. In addition, celebrate their important moments in a special way. Make sure to listen and ask questions when you see them—according to Trent Hamm, if you’re doing more than 60% of the talking, you might be doing it wrong.

PS: Friendship doesn’t depend on age whatsoever. 68% of people told research firm Barna they have a close friend who is either 15 years older or younger. 27% of people have both older and younger friends.

Relationship Building with Family

What elements of your family environment are you grateful for? These values are the foundation of your family relationships and can be drawn on to make relationships deeper.

Getting closer to family members is an intentional process. When everyone lives together it’s easy to rely on being down the hall to keep you in close contact. To keep a family feeling close, try out ideas like choosing a family motto, making time to volunteer together, or an annual family awards ceremony. These are just some ways you can bond as a family while not living under the same roof.

We’ve discovered that relationship building is essentially the process of living life and interacting with people. Strong personal relationships like friendships, romances, and family bonds have been shown to be good for your health, says the Mayo Clinic and others. Our connections define our world. Our relationships have the potential to make us less depressed and more excited to jump out of bed in the morning.

When it comes to your priority list, make sure all three of these groups stay on your radar. The tasks of work and the daily grind will come and go with time, but our relationships are what sustain us. Like our Alpha Kappa Psi brotherhood, a co-ed professional fraternity!