“A rising tide lifts all boats: transactional vs. relational”

by Didier Marlier on Friday June 1st, 2012

This old American quote was recently used in her blog by Venessa Miemis. I will come back to it later. I take this opportunity to thank and recommend the work of Jan Gordon who is a internet curator. In other words, she publishes a kind of blog in which she summarizes the best articles she found elsewhere. You may not find them all relevant but it is worth following.

In an interesting article published by Booz & Co, Reid Hoffman, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn, the “serious Facebook for business people” explains in a very open manner the criteria he uses to qualify the numerous connections he has established on the social sites.

He calls this the “four attitudes about alliances”:

  • “I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me!” is the first category. This is the “transactional attitude par excellence”. Short term pay back is what drives their interest. To maintain such relationships going and healthy, Reid advises us to “ensure a stream of short-term rewards for them so they constantly feel they are getting something back”. Loyalty and generosity are obviously limited but “what you see is what you get”: you know what to expect from such connections. We call them “Hired guns” in our work: They are very professional, do the job they are paid and invited for. They insist on copyrights and not leaving anything behind which the client could try to use by themselves. They are uninterested to invest into longer term, relationship, innovation or business.
  • “I’ll do something for you, but I’m keeping track of what you owe me…”: The generosity is calculated, such people will amaze you with the precise memory they keep of what you owe them (they usually have a similarly surprising talent for being less accurate about what they may owe you…). Hoffman suggests that this attitude is highly correlated with risk-aversion. It is nevertheless possible to achieve good results with them but the warning is to ensure that their way of “scoring points”. Disappointment about diverging ways of valuing each partners’ contributions is the frequent pitfall here. We are still in the transactional mode here.
  • “I’ll invest in this relationship, and I expect you to invest commensurately over time”: Those people are into the logic of the emerging values of the Open Source Economy (GRAVITAS, standing for G/Generosity, R/Responsibility & self discipline, A/Agility, V/authentic Value, I/Interdependence, T/Trust, A/Authenticity, S/Sharing attitude). They “make alliances with the understanding that each side can be trusted to honor its commitments to the other”. There is one interesting risk or downside, however, to working with such people: “An alliance with this type of individual can be an excellent foundation for a long-term, trusting partnership, so the relationship should be nurtured. The key to this kind of relationship is communication, talking explicitly and respectfully about what the boundaries of the relationship are, and how you can invest in each other, professionally or otherwise. When there’s a communication gap, or one of the parties is not quite sure of the signals, you will run into trouble. If one person believes that trust has been violated, or that the other has misrepresented what he or she intends to bring to the relationship in the long run, all bets are off” says Reid. Moment of self disclosure: I would definitely fall in that category…
  • “I’ll invest in this relationship because it is the right thing to do”: Such individuals also live in the Open Source Economy but are less emotional than the previous type, in their choice: They do it because it is the rationale thing to do. They definitely believe in “What is good for you will be good for me as well, in the long run”. In a sense they are totally generous as they have no specific expectations in return. They are fully convinced that there is a “Principle of Abundance” running the world.

Although such categorization has always its exaggeration and over simplification, I found interesting that the co-founder of LinkedIn uses it to ensure there are not bad surprises when he chooses to engage into a professional relationship. I thought we could all benefit from it. It illustrates something we, the Enablers, believe in: the necessity to transform our relationships from “transactional” towards “relational”.

Linked to this was the post of Venessa Miemis. In it, she quotes the famous British musician and producer (ex-Roxy Music), Brian Eno. The artist explains what allows a band or other creative people, when put together, to shine and deliver results… A lot can be applied to business:

  • Mutual appreciation: Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. It can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
  • Rapid exchange of tools and techniques: As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.
  • Network effects of success: When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success.
  • Local tolerance for the novelties: The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.

Those two articles, really caught my attention on the plane and I hope they will inspire you. True marathon these days, landing from Brazil then heading to Brussels and Cherbourg.

Have a great week all Didier

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