In my last post, I shared an experience with a “transactional” hotel employee (i.e., an “I–centered” individual who had the following mindset: “I put in my time; you pay me”). Here, I share an experience with an “engagement” employee (i.e., an “us-centered” person who asks, “What do you need, and how can I help?”).

The Wayward Traveler Finds His Way

Early one morning in Atlanta, I awoke, got dressed, and prepared for a meeting that would take place in a high-rise office building, which was a short walk from my hotel. I went down to the lobby. Preparing to leave the hotel, I asked an employee at the bell stand, “Which exit takes me to Peachtree Street?”

Pointing to some stairs, he said, “Go up those stairs, turn left, go about 50 feet, and you’ll see the doors on the right.” Seeing confusion on my face, he said, “Where are you going?”

I gave him the address. “Oh,” he said, “I know a shortcut. You won’t even have to go outside. Follow me.”

With that, he took off. He led me up the stairs, down a corridor, past some stores, down an escalator, and through an interior courtyard. Then we arrived in front of a series of elevator banks.

“What floor?” he asked. I told him the floor number. “Over here,” he said, “This bank goes to that floor.” He pushed the button summoning the elevator, waited until it arrived, reached in, pushed my floor number, held the door for me, and said with a wide smile, “Here you go!”

My warm feeling of gratitude quickly became one of mortification—I had no cash!

“Gosh,” I stuttered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t bring any cash with me.” This wasn’t quite true. However, I wasn’t prepared to part with a Benjamin.

Without the slightest hint of disappointment and with a smile just as wide as before, he said, “Don’t worry about it at all. I’m just happy to help.”

The Difference Engagement Behavior Makes

In hindsight, after my meeting I should have tracked this employee down. In addition to giving him a well deserved tip, I would have liked insight into what produced his engagement behavior. Is he innately wired that way? Is he motivated by his work environment—leadership, management, training, etc.? In a prior post, I outlined seven steps for promoting engagement versus transactional behavior. How many of these steps does his employer follow? I’m betting on several.

Travel stories resonate, don’t they? We all have them. We’ve all felt that vulnerability, that anxiety, that hope and expectation, and we all know viscerally the difference between a good travel experience and a bad one.

What difference has engagement versus transactional employee behavior made in your travel experiences? Let me know. Maybe we’ll start a new travel guide. Instead of stars, we’ll give out “Es” or “Ts”.…

Jathan Janove, a former Ogletree Deakins shareholder and Director of Employee Engagement Solutions, is the Principal of Janove Organization Solutions ( Through consulting, executive coaching, and training, he helps organizations maximize the human potential within. He can be reached at

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