Business is Personal

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Business is Personal

It’s Business, Not Personal

Why You’re Kidding Yourself if You Believe it

by Lisa King author of Just Do You: Authenticity, Leadership, and Your Personal Brand

One of my favorite movies from the late ’90s is “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Over the years, I’ve probably watched it a dozen times. It was on recently, and I watched it all the way through…again. There is a powerful scene that has struck me each time I’ve watched it. After the giant retailer Fox Books puts a tiny second-generation book shop out of business, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) tells Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), the former shop owner, “It was business, it wasn’t personal.” Kathleen replies, “That just means it wasn’t personal to YOU. What is so wrong with being personal anyway? Because whatever else anything is, it ought to begin with being personal.”

In today’s business environment, there is a focus on personalization. Delivering customers and prospects personalized messages, relevant content, and curated assortments based on likes and past purchases are some sophisticated approaches that have evolved. Frankly, it’s what we as consumers have come to expect as part of the social and commerce experiences we encounter throughout the day.

Personalization and relevance have a real economic impact. In Shane Barker’s article, 5 Trends Transforming E-Commerce Personalization, he shares that 40% of U.S. consumers have purchased something more expensive than they originally planned because their experience was personalized. Also, a personalized recommendation drove 49% of shoppers to buy a product they did not initially intend to buy.

Social media began as a way to connect and create deeper personal relationships. Businesses quickly understood that it could also be a way to connect more deeply with customers. In Why Your Customers Deserve Personalized Responses on Social Media, Firas Kittaneh writes, “Social media, in fact, represents an important opportunity for brands to engage with their customers on a deeper level and provide an outstanding user experience by delivering personalized social responses.” Customers feel acknowledged, understood, and important when businesses connect with them.

A strong and lasting business relationship IS personal, not just transactional.

Consumers expect more, demand better service, and require that businesses “know them.” And guess what? So do employees. Once the transformation of personalization and relevance took hold in social media and commerce, it’s natural to expect that it has changed the way we view all experiences, interactions, and how we spend all of our time. To those who grew up in this personalized world, transactional relationships became disposable. Deeper, meaningful experiences are what we desire. This includes experiences and relationships with our employers and leaders.

I had what I will call a “shallow transactional relationship” with a leader at one point in my career. The executive was told by the CEO that he needed to work with a coach to improve his interactions with employees. To his credit, he shared this openly with his direct reports. However, I’m not sure he fully embraced the process or lessons. His style was to burst into my office and fire questions at me about our marketing plans. There was no greeting, and often he would kick-out whoever was in my office or demand that I end a call so he could launch into his line of questioning. Then, as he would begin to leave my office, it seemed as if he would recall the lessons of the coach, and he’d turn and ask, “So, how is the family?”

As leaders, when we behave transactionally, we may not recognize the unintended consequences.

The demands of the business and the busyness of our days can cause us to neglect what our followers need from us. Employees need to know that they are a part of something greater than themselves. They need to understand that they play an important role in the success of the organization. They need to know that the leaders respect and appreciate their contribution.

My favorite quote from Simon Sinek in Leaders Eat Last is “And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.” The transactional aspect of the job is a paycheck, benefits, etc. But as leaders, we also need to recognize the commitment employees are making to the business. It’s where they apply their talents and spend most of their time, away from families and other activities.

Disingenuous efforts won’t work.

Some of the best leaders I’ve worked with make time for a simple smile and hello when passing employees in the hall. They stop by an employee’s desk, and introduce themselves and ask what they are working on. One leader would come into the lunch room and sit at different tables each day to interact with employees. Some ask about a family member who is ill or how a child’s football team is doing. This might feel daunting and impossible if you lead a large organization, but really the little things matter. The point is, you have to be comfortable with the approach you take so it is sincere. Because if you believe as a leader that your interactions with employees are just business, you’re kidding yourself. It is personal to them.

Digging Deeper into Why Personal Interactions are Necessary

Science Says This is the Best Way to Treat Employees –
5 Trends Transforming E-Commerce Personalization –
Why Your Customers Deserve Personalized Responses on Social Media –

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