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Sunday, 3 April 2011

Transactional or Relational Interaction? Dump the Jargon!

This blog never has been, and never intends to be, political but Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech recently referred to the difference between transactional and relational interaction between people, and that struck a chord.

Firstly, for some inconceivable reason, some people seem to think that if they use more and more jargon, the result will be that everyone will think that they are clever.  Not true - more often than not they are thought of as being pompous, patronising and unable to communicate in ways which have any meaning.

The great Professor Russell Ayckhoff, late Dean of the Business School at Princeton, said (after he retired, I would emphasise) that the primary function of a Business School is to equip students with jargon that will enable them to talk learnedly on subjects about which they have absolutely no comprehension.  Ouch!

However, occasionally, a drill down into some jargon can be rewarding, as is the case with the PM's message.  It is worthwhile analysing the differences.

A transactional interaction is typically one where there is no contact other than to achieve an outcome of some sort.  For example, you go into a shop, perhaps even smile at the counter hand, offer some money and are given a newspaper.  There is nothing in the interaction other than the result.

On the other hand, virtually all of our interactions with, for example, our families are relational; that is, not only is there an outcome but there will be explanation, discussion, argument, and a range of other emotional inputs which can change the whole aspect of the relationship.

So what has this to do with leadership in business?   Just think about how many of your interactions with your team members are transactional; whether your contacts with your people are limited to strict business criteria without any building of a relationship.

By the way, this applies not only to internal interactions; it can apply even more significantly to external with suppliers, customers and professional advisers among others.

I happened to be in a supermarket recently and was surprised to hear the check out operator say "Here's my favourite customer!"   Taken aback, I said: "Pardon?"

She replied "We all have our favourite customers and you're mine".  Still somewhat surprised, I asked her why and she said "Because you treat me like a human being and not like just a machine".

In a situation which was really transactional, it had become relational for her and consequently more rewarding.  It was a great learning experience for me.
Forget the jargon; try to remember that we deal with real people every day and they all have something of value to offer us.

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