So many of our interactions these days are transactional in nature. We might go into a busy store, grab the items we need, make our way through the checkout line, and be on our way, the whole experience barely registering or making an impact.
However, when you begin searching for ways to make these mundane interactions more meaningful, something interesting happens. There’s an opportunity for leadership inside each of your daily tasks.
“This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep gratification from the mundane.” — Thomas Keller, chef
A Brief Moment in Line
One time I was waiting in the TSA line in Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. It was early in the morning, and I was catching a flight back to Seattle. As I worked my way through the security line, I noticed a family with two little kids.
When the family arrived at the front of the line, the TSA agent who greeted them was a tall guy with broad shoulders. He looked like he might have been a professional athlete in a past life. As the mother managed the family’s bags, the agent checked their tickets and chatted briefly with the young boy. Then, he sent the family on their way to the scanners.
The young boy, on his walk to the scanners, suddenly spun around and looked back at the TSA agent. Then, he blew him a kiss.
And this big, strong TSA agent blew him a kiss back.
My turn at the front of the line arrived. I asked the agent, “How many times a day does that happen to you?”
He replied, “That was the only time it’s ever happened, and it made my week. That one interaction made my whole week.”
Open Your Eyes to the Opportunities Around You
Rather than simply walking through the line, that young boy transformed a transactional experience into a transformational relationship. He knew the expected sequence of events and decided to do something better. It made an impact. Opportunities are everywhere, if we open our eyes to them.
But, as leaders, it’s far too easy to get stuck in a mode where we prioritize productivity above all else. We consider our daily tasks as items we need to speed through as quickly as possible.
In our book, Would You Work for You? — The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, we wrote that, “We call this being “stuck in a world of transactions.” In this reality, it’s all about getting things done. As a result, we miss the opportunity for transformation, not taking advantage of the learnings and growth that a task or experience could provide.”
Children are skilled at creating transformational interactions because of their curiosity. They’re invested in discovery and experimentation. No one is quite as willing to ask questions as a kid. As people grow older, many lose their natural curiosity and interest in other people.
Consider the ferry ride between Vashon Island and Seattle, a popular commute for many islanders who wish to get into the city. It’s a gorgeous journey with much to see. But, many people never leave their cars. They consider the ride merely another task to be completed. Others step outside every day. They walk upstairs, take in the view, interact with personnel, and check to see if any orcas are visible. They’re uniquely, genuinely curious about what’s happening around them.
For a leader, that curiosity is an essential quality.
A Transformational Interaction
It’s all about changing your mindset. Each morning, ask yourself whether you’re going to have a transactional day or a transformational day.
At Fired-Up! Culture, we believe that relationships are the cornerstone of leadership. Organizations that are truly dialed into the importance of relationships are far more likely to be successful. But, what are relationships other than a series of meaningful interactions?
When you walk into your office, are you trying to get to your desk as quickly as possible without speaking to anyone else? Are you more focused on going through your emails than the people around you? Instead, consider making it a point to speak to three different people before you sit down at your desk. Ask them about their families, their weekends, and which television shows they’re watching. Or, if you’re working remotely, take advantage of opportunities to reach out and connect with your team members online. A shared virtual coffee break could be a great chance to have a chat. Each of these conversations is an opportunity to create something transformational. All it takes is an intentional investment of time.
“It’s about grabbing the small thing and helping each task be a ‘difference maker’ in your world and the relationships around you. Challenging yourself to see each activity as an opportunity to move from a compliance exercise to an opportunity for growth. Framing each interaction as an opportunity for motivation, support, and service. You’ll get your tasks done but through the art of transformation.” — Would You Work for You? — The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within
Take the first step on your journey to becoming a great leader. Download our free eBook today.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.