When was the last time someone did something for you with no strings attached? Maybe she covered for you during a meeting that you forgot, or offered unsolicited praise to a supervisor on your behalf? I bet it felt pretty good, didn’t it?
Now ask yourself this: When was the last time was that you did something for someone else, no strings attached.
So the question comes: Should you “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” If so, then at what price?
Showing Up as a Giver
In this last of three articles on the importance of relationship-building as the common denominator in successful organizations, the focus is on communal and exchange relationships. As suggested by the name, exchange relationships are marked by a give and take between the parties involved.
Communal relationships are characterized by both parties work for the interest of the other part, regardless of whether or not their actions are reciprocated.
Communal relationship put the focus on the other party by attempting to truly address their needs, even if it means that you or your organization might not benefit. Some companies do this quite well. Southwest Airlines, already recognized for high levels of customer service, again recently demonstrated their unique approach to addressing customer concerns when a pilot ordered pizza for multiple Southwest flights that experienced a several hour weather delay.
While some may attribute this action to the quick-thinking of the pilot (and rightly so!), his behavior reflects the customer centric culture created by Southwest that enables its employees to come up with responsive and creative solutions such as this.
It seems unlikely that the pilot weighed the cost of the pizza and his effort against the likelihood of passengers purchasing another ticket from the airline.
Rather, he recognized that people facing a multi-hour delay around the dinner hour were likely to be hungry and he came up with a solution to address that problem. Zappos is another customer-centric company that has received accolades for the quick, “blame-free” solutions they give their customers.
Organizations that adopt a customer-centric culture can see rewards not only in customer satisfaction, but through more engaged employees as well.
Forming Communal Relationships
Forming communal relationships can result in a variety of organizational benefits; and while certainly there is great value in achieving this standard for relationships, not all organizations are in a place to do so.
In our highly individualistic culture, we are encouraged from young ages to distinguish ourselves from others. As such, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of giving or getting something for nothing; or their circumstances may prevent them from doing so.
- Owners of a small coffee shop may not have the luxury of a national chain in providing a free donut with every cup of coffee when they must rely on the income from the sale of each and every menu item.
- Or, companies that offer niche products or services, such as manufacturers of unique components for medical equipment, may not have many opportunities to provide extras for their customers.
Leading With Thoughtfulness
Still, “freebies” aren’t the only way to support clients and colleagues. Forwarding an article relevant to a topic a colleague mentioned over lunch one day could save her hours of research; or making a client aware of a service provider who offers a resource he hasn’t been able to find, even if might result in a reduction of in the services he orders from you, truly puts the client’s needs first.
Offering to step in for a co-worker so he can leave work to attend his daughter’s soccer game might not take a great deal of effort on your part, but could make a huge difference in his day and family life.
We are all in a position to provide help sometimes. Whether we do it simply to help someone when she needs it, or because we’re paying back a debt, we have the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with that colleague or client.
When was the last time you went out of your way to give someone something you knew he needed? Do you make it a point to help others freely or is there an (explicit or tacit) expectation of payback? Are you fostering a communal culture within your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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