By Marty Stanley
When you talk to people, are you focused on the transaction or your interaction? A transactional encounter is one in which you're just going through the motions to get the task or discourse done. Maybe youre texting, talking on the phone, or just dazed and confused, but the bottom line is you're not engaged with the person in front of you or the process.
Interaction occurs when two people are engaged in a dialogue or actively participating in the process. For example, think about the last time you went out to eat. When you ordered, was the server friendly, knowledgeable and quick? Did he show authentic interest, assistance and interaction in helping you with your order and when paying the check?
That kind of interaction is so noticeably different from a typical transaction that its now considered a fluke. As a consumer, its refreshing to be engaged in this kind interaction and on the receiving end of good service! Businesses with employees focused on the interaction seem to have owners who clearly have a different strategy for hiring and training than their competitors who are focused on the transaction.
Effective Interaction Can Affect Outcomes
The above is just one example of how effective interaction can affect the outcome. In this case, the restaurant has a loyal customer whos now telling others about how great it is. Ask yourself, what are you talking about, and are your conversations focused on the transaction or interaction? When you talk to people, are you clear about the purpose of the conversation? Are your thoughts, words and actions aligned with that purpose and the outcomes you hope to achieve?
If youre focused on the transaction, there can be a tendency to treat the conversation in a matter-of-fact, Sergeant Friday approach: "Just the facts Ma'am." The conversation is like a flowchartcover all the bases and move on to the next topic, person or activity. The implied message behind the message can be interpreted as "I don't have time for you or whats important to you."
During this challenging economic time, when organizations are doing more with less, common after-effects include employee fatigue, increased absenteeism, low morale, and diminished productivity or quality of work. All of these impact the end user or consumer of your products or services. Theres a lot of talk about "employee engagement." But are you really walking the walk, or is it really just another form of transactional communication with a fancy label?
If you want to use real employee engagement, take a look at the quality of conversations you're having. Are they transactional or are you really interacting with people?
Turning the Tide
A recent study indicated 63 percent of the workforce under the age 45 plans to leave their current employer when the economy improves. While it may be politically correct to say the impetus for leaving is a better opportunity for advancement or more money, the bottom line is most people start looking and choose to leave an organization based on perceived negative interactions with management.
So how does one turn the tide from transaction to interaction? It's all about your level of participation in conversation. How are you listening? Are you an active participant? Or are you thinking about what to say next, or envisioning the other person with a big L for loser on his forehead, thinking, "How many times have we heard this before?" or "Here she goes again"
Good managers and leaders understand conversations require participation. It's more than just the facts. They understand when they speak to colleagues, employees, customers or suppliers that they are conveying multiple messages:
- The content of the message: Is it clear and consistent with the organization's policies and practices?
- The delivery of the message: Is the delivery consistent with the organization's core values, such as respect, integrity or good communication?
- The quality of interaction: Are you really listening? Is it participative?
If youre looking for improved employee engagement or increased customer retention, an easy and cost-effective place to start is by examining your conversations. Are you talking about things that are relevant and important to the other person?
Chatting about the weather or the latest sports scores is OK, but unless youre a meteorologist or sports broadcaster or coach, you'll get more mileage with an interaction thats focused on the person, his work or his purchase.
One Conversation at a Time
Authentic interaction is heartfelt but not sappy, and comes from a place of caring and wanting to be of service or making a difference. It's about leaving the other person feeling glad he had the interaction with you.
Even difficult conversations can be authentic, caring and leave a person feeling respected. How do you start? One conversation at a time. Start by really listening to the conversations you're having with people. Are you approaching it like a transaction or an opportunity for authentic interaction? Do you care enough about yourself, your organization and the people with whom you converse to choose to have authentic interactions?
If not, just know you may be missing out on opportunities to make a difference in someone else's life or closed to the possibility that someone might make a difference in yours. It's just a choice, and you can choose to change it with your next conversation.
Marty Stanley, president of Dynamic Dialog Inc., is an author, national speaker and facilitator who helps organizations create their new normal. For more information, call 816.822.4047; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.alteringoutcomes.com.