A Small Investment in This Relationship Skill Will Pay Large Returns

If you treat every encounter like a transaction, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

As leaders, managers, and contributors, we make the choice every day to transact or transform in our encounters with colleagues and customers. Many opt for the former, exhibiting the bare minimum amount of energy to reasonably fulfill their obligation to the other party. These people transact. In most cases their organizations perpetuate a transactional culture that flows from headquarters out into the customer environment.

You see the transaction effect in the big, impersonal retail stores where cashiers seem to be trained to not make eye contact and almost never smile. You experience it at the airline counter and your doctor’s office and in so many other encounters in your daily life. These organizations and those in them who run the business simply don’t care.

That’s too bad, because the cost of striving to transform is negligible and the returns remarkable. It’s the best risk-reward ratio you will ever encounter. And if there is added cost to identifying and training people to give more than the bare minimum or, in spending more time in their encounters, it’s the best investment return available.

Consider the small but transformational effect on someone’s mood and loyalty based on a smile, direct eye contact or a genuine offer to help. The clerk at the local ACE Hardware hooked me for life when she asked for my shopping list for my latest project and led me around the store for each item, offering guidance on the right and wrong choices. I would have spent hours mulling options and more time dealing with the wrong items and project slowdowns.

I drive to Rochester, MN for medical issues at the Mayo Clinic because their values and their hiring and training practices ensure that all their employees give more than the bare minimum for patients and families. When my son faced a serious challenge, the doctor and his team spent hours with us exploring options and answering questions. When we departed, the lights were off in the Clinic. It was two hours after closing time.

Consider the ripple effect of offering clear, timely positive and constructive feedback on a person’s growth and development. It’s a transformational discussion, not transactional content.

Consider the seismic impact of giving a good but inexperienced person a first-time chance to do something new. You are giving them an admission ticket to growth and learning that supports career development and transformation.

Consider the profoundly personal experience you are offering to someone who has made a mistake when you let them learn from the mistake versus punishing them.

The ripples from transformational behaviors spread far and wide.

The good news is that each of us chooses whether to be transactional or transformational in our encounters. Even if your organization is transactional, strive to make the right choice and do your part to give more than the bare minimum for those you encounter on your daily journey. You never know how far out the ripples will reach. Perhaps they will touch you when you need them most.

Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.