“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head.” Mark Twain
Greatness finds ways to be loyal and extract loyalty from those they serve. It is reciprocal. It is not a given.
Goodness find ways to give and earn respect.
Mediocrity finds ways to get by and fill the role.
You want loyalty above respect. You want to live in greatness. You can live in mediocrity or goodness or greatness. Choose.
Greatness: Every human relationship has the potential to be a great relationship. A customer can be a great customer. A supporter can be a great supporter. A family member can be a great family member. A co-worker can be a great co-worker. A staff member can be a great staff member. Choose. The choice lies in the hands of whoever takes the lead. Lead well. Manage that relationship.
Stages: There are five discernible stages to an effective relationship. Fringe, friend, familiar, faithful, and forever. You may have more, but I find these cross most relationships. In non-profits and congregations, I add a few and change the names around. These five hold. Honor them in building service inside your organization and amazing results transpire.
Fringe: Every relationship starts on the fringe. These are people with whom you have no relationship at all. They do not even know you exist. You may not know they exist. They are out there waiting to get to know you and enjoy your companionship and possibly your service. Respect them as valuable. Honor them. Give them credit for being worthy of dignity and your attention. People are worthy of your attention.
Friend: Somewhere you meet. Someone visits your brick and mortar shop. You talk to a businessman about a new sign. At the bank, you open a new account and meet a representative. Each human transaction can open a friendship. They become more aware of you and you become more aware of them. Being a friend is more than just acquaintance. You exchange information about each other. This exchange opens the next path. Many businesses leave potential customers at this juncture. They know your name and your business but nothing about you and your mission and vision and hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes. Open up and develop this relationship.
Familiar: Now, you have transacted business. This may be with a staff member where you’ve worked on a project. It could be with a customer who has purchased product or service. Maybe you have participated in a class discussion. But, there has been significant exchange requiring trust and revealing of more information. The familiar are more likely to engage at continuing intimacy of relationship and trust. Most people stop in relationships at this level. Customers never become settled. Staff members are held at a distance. Co-workers struggle to fully understand each other.
DANGER! The next two levels are dangerous. They require open-hearted exposure. That is why most never enter into these levels. When you lose a relationship at one of these levels it is painful. To be great, you must risk and receive pain. Go for it. The pleasure of good customer and co-worker relationships at these levels outweigh the pain. Assess the ability to be loyal in customers before you move them up into these ranks. Some customers are just jerks. Sorry. Be cautious. Some supporters are over controlling. Don’t be a fool and risk your organization. Some co-workers need psychologists more than you need them to get too close to the knitting. Advance the best and honor the rest.
Faithful: Over time, the familiar enter into more and more transactions. They become faithful. A faithful customer orders over and over. A faithful co-worker takes and gives advice continually and participates in more and more projects and actions. A faithful supporter reads updates and gives regularly. There is a goodwill and loyalty exchange that has become a given in the relationship.
Forever: Few relationships reach this level. There is a foundational commitment and insider understanding of operations for a business. These are customers for life. You find yourself talking through key business strategies with a foundational customer. A foundational co-worker sees you at your worst and at your best. A foundational supporter in a non-profit understands the mix of vision and mission and can advise on action with your best interest at heart.
Movement: Advancing from fringe to forever should be a pathway for marketing, operations, and activities of any organization. Take time to understand the events, education, information, engagement, transaction, and social touches that assist customers, co-workers, and compatriots in moving along this path. Each of these paths is a continual exchange and deepening of relationship. None should be one way. Have a purposeful plan to advance the best of the best relationships into the Forever circle.
Summary: This is a quick caricature of a complicated subject. Take time to map out your advancement strategies especially with key stakeholders and players in your life. You can have some wonderful moments with Forever people as customers, co-workers, and compatriots.
Remember people are not static. As much as you invest, at any time an individual may abort the relationship and move to a conflict level or vacate the relationship. That is a risk. But the joy of good connections outweigh the risks.