There are dozens of wonderful banks in the Denver metro area, and I've gotten to know many of the top leaders at these institutions. So whether I'm setting up another not-for-profit, building a new business, or just taking care of my family's finances, there's no shortage of banks from which I might choose.
But I have a long relationship with Vectra Bank, and it has little to do with the fact that I know its president and several of its executive leaders. It's because of Lindsay Burr.
Why? Because Lindsay makes deposits in our relationship that go well beyond the transactions she's required to provide as the business banking assistant of my various accounts. In short, she understands relationship capital.
A few months ago, for instance, I was making some routine deposits at the bank, and I stopped by Lindsay's desk to say hello. We started with what I call an NSW conversation - news, sports, and weather. Then she began asking about my children and the activities in which they're involved. Not only did she ask, but she listened. And not only did she listen, but she acted on what she learned.
A few days later, I got an email from Lindsay that went something like this: "Tommy, the last time you were in the office you mentioned that your daughter Caroline is interested in horses and wants to take riding lessons. I didn't tell you this at the time, but I'm very passionate about horseback riding. So I know all the best stables in the area, and there are three that are pretty close to where you live. I called them, and two of them only take new riders who are seven or older. But one takes riders as young as five, and you told me Caroline was about to turn five. So here's the number and information if you'd like to give them a call."
I knew nothing about horseback riding, but thanks to Lindsay, my daughter now is enrolled with one of the top stables in the area. And because Lindsay took the time to listen to and address a need that has nothing to do with my bank accounts, she made a huge deposit in our relationship account.
Lindsay understands relationship capital, and that's why I'm so loyal to Vectra Bank. For Lindsay and Vectra Bank, that's the ROR - return-on-relationship.
Developing fifth floor relationships
Most of us can and should do much more to build relationship capital with our clients, customers, co-workers, employees, and shareholders, as well as with the community at large. That includes the basics - the things many of us learned from Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. But the world has changed significantly in the last 70 years, and we need to recognize the opportunities, challenges, and benefits that come from going beyond Carnegie's message.
We have to move past the transactional and the NSW conversation toward what I call "fifth floor" relationships - our most intimate, transformative relationships. This is where we share our lives with people in an intentional, committed fashion.
In my experience, most people are overly satisfied with NSW relationships, and they're missing out on the richness of life - not to mention the benefits in business. Some social scientists suggest that we can't maintain more than three to five close relationships, and they point out that very few people have even that many. But if we make an intentional effort to build relationship capital, we can have a dozen or more fifth floor relationships and many others - such as mine with Lindsay - that are working their way in that direction or that are comfortably and appropriately parked on the third or fourth floors.
There are dozens of tactics and strategies for generating this type of ROR. For now, I want to focus on the "law of elevation" - the idea that we're making the most of our relationships when we're intentionally lifting others to places they can't go alone. There are three essential components to the law of elevation: advancement, link, and lift.
When we look at the people we encounter in life, at least one question always should enter our minds: How can I help this person reach her full potential? To start, you need to know the dreams and aspirations of the people around you. Those can be personal as well as professional. Then you need to seek opportunities to help them achieve those dreams.
This goes beyond what most salespeople understand as "solution selling," where you figure out the customers' needs and then determine how your products and services can meet those needs. Advancement, however, allows for a measure of altruism. Think of it as "solution giving," and the bottom-line result is that it helps create a network of clients, customers, and co-workers who will become what Ken Blanchard calls "raving fans" for a lifetime.
Most of us have been in situations in which we've realized that two or more people we know could benefit from a relationship with each other because of their positions, professions, or personalities. When we act on that thought and connect those people, we're providing a link that can make their lives better.
It might include a business deal, or it might be strictly personal, but we build relationship capital when we help our mutual friends help each other. Often we can see how person A can help person B, who can help person C, who, in turn, can help person A. We simply have to see the connections and help make them happen. We have to see our relationships like a game of chess, not Monopoly.
We live in an ever-cynical, ever-sophisticated world, so it's not unusual to find our motives in question when we hand out praise like candy from a dish. But we can't let that stop us from making legitimate praise a major component in our relationship toolkit.
I'm not merely talking about compliments. Those are nice, and we all should hand out compliments when they come from the heart. But look for opportunities to really lift the people around you in ways they wouldn't expect.
Recognize and honor people, inside and outside your organization, with more than a thank-you note. Hand out "third-party compliments" by telling someone's boss or significant other what a great job that person's doing or what a wonderful person she is. Nominate people for awards. Arrange a tribute dinner for someone who deserves it. Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper telling the community how thankful you are for the good deed someone did for you.
Building relationship capital
Lindsay didn't know of my friendship with the president of her bank, so she had no idea that I would write him a personal letter singing her praises, and that he, in turn, would share that praise with her peers.
When we practice the law of elevation by exercising advancement, link, and lift, we fill our vaults with relationship capital. It improves the culture of our organizations; it strengthens our relationships with clients, customers and the community; and, most of all, it makes us better people.
Every one of us has customers and clients, and, therefore, opportunities to build relationships in ways that are beyond the transaction. Lindsay finds ways to build relationships outside the banking transaction, and that makes all the difference.