Saturday, January 17, 2009

Is business just a transaction for you?

Despite the recession, I experienced quite a few business transactions this holiday season.

No matter what store I found myself in, it was crowded and busy. Those cash registers were certainly ringing!

Having the memories of the holidays behind us and some credit card bills yet to pay, I have thought about these transactions as a reminder for how we may not want to conduct business in the new year.

Shopping during the holidays is often a thankless experience. But all transactions don't have to be like that.

It reminds me why I used to like staying at the Ritz Carlton versus the W. Both are great hotels, but that extra personal connection I received at the Ritz made all the difference in my experience.

"Welcome back Ms. Lopez, would you care for a non-smoking room again this time?" And, they would come around from the desk, look into my eyes, give me a handshake and say "its nice to have you stay with us again." They handed me my room keys and other information as they asked if they could be of further service. I felt their genuine concern and care for me as their customer.

There is a reason I believe connection is the key to achieving results in life and at work. It's the same reason that explains why people who achieve long-term success know how to build committed connections with their customers.

Here is the reason: Business is NOT a transaction, it's PERSONAL. Business requires connection.

The minute we think it is just the transaction, it's the minute we lose our ability to influence, guide and lead. We lose the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Now, this concept may be easy to understand when you think about customers, but as a leader you need to broaden your definition of who your customer really is. As leaders, our teams, colleagues, suppliers, bosses and subordinates are all our customers. Leaders serve others.

Generation Y has it right, this is the generation that is taking connection to a whole new level in business and in their lives. They expect business leaders to connect emotionally with them and they are changing the shape of business today and forever. Just to put in perspective, Gen Y changed the face of this past year's presidential campaign. They had direct connections with President Elect Obama. They felt his genuine concern and care for them as his customers. In doing so, President Elect Obama was leading them.

Gone are the days of command and control hierarchies. If you think you or your position are "above" the connection and you revert to doing business as a transaction...beware. Business today is about committed relationships built on a foundation of transparency, trust and connection.

Is your leadership mindset stuck in yester-year?

If you are looking at business as a transaction where you "just get your work done" and get on with the rest of your life, well you are in for some eye-popping reality when dealing with the expectations for the 21st century.

Just yesterday, an airplane came crashing down in New York's Hudson River. I saw a few recounts of the episode told by survivors. They each had amazing things to say about the pilot. Many believe he is a hero, a leader amongst leaders, not just because he did his job the best he could and they all survived, but also because he fulfilled his role by connecting with those around him.

He was one of the last to leave the sinking plane.

For him, his job was not just the transaction: take-off, fly and land safely, but it also encompassed a responsibility for his passengers. A connection to those he served. He had an authentic and genuine concern and care for his customers.

He risked his own life for the sake of others. This is the ultimate demonstration of connected leadership. He walked the talk, he didn't just pay lip service to the idea.
When we connect, there is a real and genuine exchange. One that builds success to an even-higher level because it builds trust and loyalty. Connections are not one-sided, they allow both parties to benefit from the exchange.

So what about you? Can you begin to think about changing your mindset about your business transactions and connecting with those you lead? Do you have a genuine concern and care for your customers and for those you serve?

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