Beyond the Transaction: How Meaningful Relationships Can Fuel Professional Success

Beyond the Transaction: How Meaningful Relationships Can Fuel Professional Success


Recently, I had a heartwarming reunion with an ex-colleague from Hong Kong in-person. It had been nearly a decade since we last met in person. We have been exchanging greetings almost every year on Christmas and new years, but this face-to-face encounter was special.

Then, I recalled that another ex-colleague had reached out a while ago asking me if I was interested in relocating to join his company in a senior role.

I left the USA in 2008, and met my ex-boss in 2017 in LA on a personal visit. What is quite interesting is that he drove to LA from San Diego because I was unable to travel to San Diego.

These instances got me thinking about the various connections I’ve made throughout my career.

Personal vs transactional relationships:

What I notice is that most of my interactions with people at work have been at a deeper, personal level, rather than at a transactional level.

In the professional world, relationships often fall into two categories: personal and transactional. Personal connections go beyond work tasks and into genuine interactions. These are the people who reach out because they genuinely think of you, not just when they need something. On the other hand, transactional relationships are more goal-oriented. People connect primarily to achieve specific objectives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – after all, transactions involve an exchange. But what if one side consistently benefits more than the other?

Adam Grant Perspective:

Adam Grant, the famous organisational psychologist and author, recently posted an insightful distinction on LinkedIn:

“In transactional relationships, people only reach out when they want something from you. They use your connection to achieve their goals. In meaningful relationships, people get in touch when they think of you. Staying connected and being helpful are their goals.”

The imbalance:

When only one side is gaining significantly in a transaction, it can create a sense of imbalance and unfairness. Ugh! This is often not sustainable in the long term, as relationships – whether personal or professional – thrive on reciprocity and mutual benefit. 

If one party consistently gains at the expense of the other, it can lead to resentment and a breakdown of the relationship. I am sure they impact trust and collaboration. That answers a question about ‘what causes toxic workplace environments?” Isn’t it?

You possibly do not have to think hard about that someone who contacted you only when they needed something from you.

“Ah, Mr. X is calling. I’m sure he needs something from me. He never calls otherwise.”

Why genuine relationships matter more:

Over the years, I have built numerous meaningful relationships. Those relationships have proven useful sometimes, but my objective of building those relationships was not their usefulness, it was the human interaction and connection that I value.

When you build genuine relationships, you’re creating a network of support, trust, and goodwill. These bonds may not pay off immediately, but they often lead to unexpected opportunities down the road. My (ex)colleague reaching out after many years to offer a good role is an example of a sustained connection that outweighs the transactional interactions. Believe me, there were many others who I do not remember anymore, or would not like to remember. 🙂  

Look, while transactional relationships are a natural part of a workplace, it’s the meaningful relationships that often leave a lasting impact on our personal and professional lives. They provide a foundation for genuine connections that can lead to personal growth, career development, and a sense of fulfillment. Although, it is entirely up to you what you value more.

Therefore, it’s beneficial to develop relationships not just for immediate gains but for the long-term satisfaction and the meaningfulness they bring to our lives. Success in the workplace is not just about what we achieve, but also about the relationships we build along the way.  So, whether you’re connecting with an old colleague or making a new friend, focus on the meaningfulness. It’s these connections that enrich our journey and make work more fulfilling.


Hiring Manager told me that the workplace was political and didn’t have a good culture

Hiring Manager told me that the workplace was political and didn’t have a good culture

“Rajesh, the culture of this place isn’t good and we have a lot of politics. It can be toxic at times, too.”

The hiring manager told me.

It was a long time ago. I was being interviewed for a placement in a different country, where I was to lead a decent size team for a mission critical business. (Don’t try to guess. I have moved around a lot). 😀

Anyway, we had a very good chat, and after looking at all the prospects, I decided to take on that role.

The workplace was exactly as the manager had described. However, it worked out well for me because I was reporting to this honest man who took care of his people and protected them from the nonsense and the office politics.

After a few years, things became challenging when a reorganisation took place. For the short period before I decided to move on, things became difficult as everyone, who reported to this manager and was shielded from unwanted politics, finally had to deal with it.

After a while, this manager left the organisation as well (he is now a CxO at a well know company).

After joining his team, I asked him why he was so candid at the interview. Clearly, that action would have made some people reconsider joining and he may have lost a few good candidates, too.

He said that honesty was the right thing to do. If he had lied or had hidden the facts about that workplace, he could have lost respect from people who were to join his team. And once the respect was lost, his team would have become weaker, and he did not want to lead a weak team.

When I look back, I realise that it was indeed a strong team. He had hired people who were assertive, knowledgeable, empathetic, and strong. He allowed us to hire good people, too. Most of us moved on and took bigger and better roles.

Now, you may ask me why I decided to take that bet? Was I desperate? Was I a fugitive trying to leave a country? Or, was I keen to join a war zone?

None of that.

I was working at a great place. This opportunity was going to open more doors for me, which it did. This hiring manager’s honesty proved to me that I will work with a good manager. As they say, find a good boss, not a good company. In this case, I had found a good boss which isn’t easy to do.

Next question: why was he there?

Well, he was there because he went along well with most of the executives and knew how to manage them. He was also there since the very beginning and was one of the pillars of the organisation. Even the dunmb folks know that they should remove the pillars. 🙂

Honesty and respect are the key ingredients of building a high performing team. Without them, there is no trust, collaboration, or feedback. A team that values honesty and respect can communicate openly, learn from mistakes, and grow together.

In this post, I have shared an example of how honesty established a connection of trust and respect for me. I hope you found it useful and inspiring. Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Note: The featured image is created on Bing. I used the post headline as the prompt. 

Why should I pay for mentoring? Well, you should.

Why should I pay for mentoring? Well, you should.

Dear Readers,

I hope this blog post finds you well. Today, I’d like to address a topic that has been a recurring discussion in my interactions with potential mentees – the concept of charging for mentorship sessions.

I think, and I believe that it’s important to shed light on this approach to mentorship, its underlying principles, and why I have chosen to charge for my mentoring services.

Read on.

Investment and Commitment:

One of the key reasons behind my decision to charge for mentoring sessions is the belief that individuals seeking mentorship should have “skin in the game.” 

We seldom value anything that we get for free. Look around, and you’ll notice that when you buy anything, you take care of that more than the thing which you got for free.

In other words, mentees should demonstrate their commitment to their personal and professional growth.

Paying for mentorship is a tangible way to express this commitment. It ensures that those who seek my guidance are genuinely dedicated to their own development. This commitment often leads to more productive and meaningful mentoring relationships.

Now, it truly depends on what and how you want to pay. Mentoring is not my business, but, I want to make sure that you respect my time and take real interest in your own interest.

Value Exchange:

Mentorship is a reciprocal relationship. While I am wholeheartedly committed to sharing my knowledge and expertise, I also recognize the value of my time and experience.

Charging for my mentoring services is a way to acknowledge this mutual exchange of value. It allows me to continue offering mentorship to those who truly appreciate and benefit from it. In other words, I don’t want time wasters or those who are willing to meet just for the sake of it.

I understand that some may have reservations about paying for mentorship. My goal is to help you achieve your goals, overcome challenges, and develop the skills necessary for success. And for that, you are the one who will have to prove that you are serious. What is there  simplest measure of that? Money!

My past experience:

There was this gentleman, who I met at a conference I was speaking at. He was really keen to meet over coffee and wanted to pick my brain (actually, I don’t like this term) about a challenge he was facing at work.

Seeing his persistence, I agreed to meet him. He suggested a cafe which was a bit far for me, but that seemed like a place in the middle. At the cafe, he casually asked me to go ahead and buy my own coffee. Not that he could not afford it. Of course, he got the suggestions that could solve his problem. So, I invested my time, my money, and my effort in exchange of feeling like being duped.

Now, I clarify in advance that my mentoring fee covers the cost of my time, expertise, and guidance.

If you are interested in pursuing mentorship with me and resonate with this approach, I would be delighted to work with you.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and we can discuss the details of how we can proceed.

Look, my intention is not solely to turn mentorship into a revenue stream because I don’t need to, but to foster productive and committed mentoring relationships. By charging for my services, I aim to ensure that both mentor and mentee are fully invested in the journey toward success.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I look forward to the possibility of working together on your path to personal and professional growth.

Best regards,

Idea vs Execution

Idea vs Execution

A friend of mine has a spreadsheet full of great business ideas, including a few that could make her a millionaire as soon as she implements them…she says!

But, she isn’t a millionaire. She works 9-5, or may be longer.

She works because she never executed any of those ideas. Never!

She does keep her notebook safe, so that no one can steal her ideas. I never told her that her startup ideas are worthless, if she’s not going to execute or implement them.

Executing an idea is hard. You have to act on many things including building the product or service, sales, marketing, taxes, regulations, customer support, etc.

There are no other options.

On the other hand, holding on to an idea is easy, because it satisfies your ego that you own something, even if it is abstract and intangible.

When someone says that they don’t want their idea to be stolen, they’re assuming that others can read their mind and download their thoughts about what the product will do and how it will do it.

No one can steal what you have in your mind. At least not yet.

No one can steal the unique combination of your vision, experience, and expertise that you bring to your business.

Stolen ideas are often cheap replicas.

Others can only make a guess of your vision. They can’t copy that.

Executing an idea demands a combination of skills, strategy, and dedication.

It’s about turning dreams into actionable plans and persevering through the challenges that will inevitably surface, even when you don’t want them to.

So, while it’s natural to feel protective of your ideas, it’s crucial to recognise that the real value lies in your ability to execute them.

Ideas are the starting point, but execution is the journey that leads to success, whichever way you define it.

Numbers don’t lie, but you need to know the context

Numbers don’t lie, but you need to know the context

Numbers can fool people. They often do.

Product delivery teams get hung up on metrics.

Management gets fixated on numbers.

Questions like “how long will it take”, “how many lines of code”, “how many test cases”, “how many bugs”, “how long will you take to fix / test it”, are not useful.

Numbers are like sock puppets. They don’t tell a story for themselves and they certainly don’t talk for themselves.

It’s people who interpret the numbers. They “choose” how they want to interpret them.

For example:

A 3 week development cycle can be too short or too long depending on the context.

A list of 500 bugs can be humongous or can be “Phew! Only 500 bugs!”.

Without context, numbers will almost always fool people. Because then it will depend on people how they interpret those numbers.

For example:

A salesperson who is too keen to get something on the market to achieve their target will be too anxious to see a long list of bugs.

While a product manager who knows the complexity of the product and the basis of the bugs will be receptive to the same list of bugs without any worries.

So, next time you come across a metric, ask for the context.

Ask what those numbers mean and what they represent.

Ask what will happen if they are much lower or extremely high.

Try to seek the underlying complexity that lies behind the illusion of simplicity.

Maybe it’s the illusion of simplicity that fools us, and not the numbers. 

What matters is to find out what needs to be found out before jumping on the conclusions.