February 21 was President’s Day. It also marked my wife’s and my 52nd wedding anniversary. She was 10-days twenty when we married, and I was just shy of my 23rd-birthday. We were kids.
The Navy granted me only 2-days leave on a long President’s Day weekend to get married. My senior officers informed me that if the Navy wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.
It was a time very different than today. We didn’t know if my Navy “wings of gold” were going to fly me away and into danger. We were (and remain) in love.
People will ask, “What do you attribute to your long marriage?” I will joke that it’s because I’ve traveled out of town for most of my career. My wife will tell people that she’s a rower and has exceptional endurance.
We’ve had our rough spots. What couple does not?
Our birth families and we also couldn’t be more different. She was raised Baptist, and I a Roman Catholic. My wife is from the south. I’m from southern Brooklyn, New York! She qualifies for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. I’m separated from Europe by just my parents’ generation.
My wife’s family gathered around the table and had quiet dinners, like that portrayed by Diane Keaton in the multiple Academy Awards’ winning movie Annie Hall. My family was animated and boisterous, like the depiction of Woody Allen’s family from the same film. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8TSvMx2wPI Admittedly, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
So then, what has kept us together? Simply stated, in addition to the love and respect for each other, it’s our shared values and commitment.
Is there any relationship between a long-term marriage and employment in a company? Perhaps, I’m not the best to speak to this since I worked for four major corporations and a consulting firm before starting my own.
I left my employers due to impatience, idealism, and, yes, immaturity. I abhorred politics and still do. I naively believed that if you do great work, that’s all that matters. The rest will take care of itself.
So, this is a musing on the parallels between 52-years of marriage and a long-term relationship with your organization. It also includes some observations regarding bosses, mainly since many report toxic bosses on LinkedIn.
First, marriage is “a two-way street.” Commitment must go both ways. We need to give our employers our best. We need to commit to finding ways to stretch and grow to help achieve the organization’s mission. Our companies need to be equally committed. However, as we’ve seen in just the past few weeks, it’s not always the case. Peloton is laying-off hundreds of employees who gave their souls to the company.
Second, shared values are equally important in the corporate world as in our personal world. Someone once advised me to select a company based on values, not who will be my boss. Bosses come and go—even toxic ones.
Ask yourself, do you share the same values as the corporation? Are your company’s “WHY” (i.e., its purpose) and yours aligned? If not, the marriage will be short-lived, or the relationship will experience a slow death—yours.
Third, patience is a virtue. Work and the team are not all about you or me. If we share values and commitment, then we also need patience. My wife will tell people who ask about our marriage’s longevity that we’ve both wanted to leave the relationship at one time or other. It’s that neither of us wanted to go at the same time. Patience helped save the day and marriage.
Keep in mind that the grass may appear greener in another pasture—another company—but it rarely is. One trades one set of problems for another.
Fourth, recognize that we live in a “perfectly imperfect” world. It’s essential to subscribe to ideals, but we shouldn’t be so idealistic that it ruins a perfectly imperfect marriage or career with a company that shares our values and is committed to us. We shouldn’t be naive. We must also carefully pick our skirmishes and not turn them into wars.
Fifth, collaborate and communicate. Manage up, to the side, and down. Keep the communication channels open, including those critical times when you may have a toxic boss or consider leaving.
One other thought, show up as your best self each day in your marriage and job. Our best selves are other-directed and selfless.
None of the aforementioned is easy. Maintaining productive relationships takes hard work regardless of whether it’s a marriage, friendship, or organization.
These are merely my musings. You might have other parallels between a lasting marriage and a relationship with your organization. If so, I invite you to share them.
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Best wishes in your marriage and career,