Let me introduce you to the concept of always delivering value.

My friend Michael is an expert at it. How do I know? Today he told me it’s his motto.

It makes sense.

From the moment I met him, he lived up to it. I told him my name, he asked me who I was, what I was doing at the artificial intelligence Meetup, I told him, he listened, asked more questions, good questions.

You know what’s more important? He listened. That’s where it starts. Delivering value doesn’t always mean giving something to someone else.

How many times have you had a conversation with someone where they said nothing but you felt as if you had more energy than you started? You know why? It’s because they paid you. Paid you with attention.

Now I don’t want you to think this is overanalysing the simple act of listening during a conversation. There’s another step. You can sit there and listen but if you don’t put in the effort to come back, things trail off. Come back with the next question, pull the thread, keep it going.

Michael and I would go on these walks for lunch. I can’t describe to you how much I enjoyed these walks. Out the doors, down the hill, across the street, past the cafe. We’d talk about we were up to. What was on our minds. The challenges we faced, the goals we had. We stood and ordered our food. Michael would talk to the girls, ask them how their day was. I watched, smiled. Listened.

The walk back was the same. Across the lanes of traffic, up the hill, through the doors. We’d sit down have lunch, play chess, keep talking, then get back to it.

This trend occurred in every room. Every situation. We worked together for close a year. And I noticed it. No matter who it was. Michael treated them the same, was curious about them, made them feel important, business or social. I walked over and he introduced me to Sam, told me about what he was working on. He told Sam a little about me. Michael gave Sam and I something to talk about.

If conversations and talking to people isn’t your thing, it doesn’t matter. The principle still applies. If you’re the person always delivering value, people will value you.

If you’re in a meeting and anxious to contribute, you could be the scribe, the one taking notes. Follow up with each person and share your notes and next steps.

If you’re reading something and you think of someone while you’re reading it, let them know. Hey, was reading this, thought you might enjoy it. Write about it, share it with others.

The important thing is there’s no scoreboard. The concept is always delivering value for a reason. Always is the default.

I’m grateful for having Michael as a friend. He’s taught me a lot. He’s the kind of person you feel more alive after talking with than before.

Get yourself a friend like Michael. If not, be Michael for someone else.