Love your work, work with your "love", live life!

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Corporations are big on acronyms and formulas, so I decided to borrow a famous one to fit the “home organization”. Einstein’s famous theory of relativity (E equals M times C squared) establishes the relationship between energy and mass. I believe, in marriage the equation would look something like this: Eternity = Manageability times Capability times […]

relationships, retention, advice, Kaizen

Before you read any further, open another browsing window and Googlerelationship advice”.  Notice how most of the relationship advice is “dating-related” and geared toward finding and getting a partner. But what about the “happily ever after” part? Doesn’t anyone need advice for that? It seems like there is a lot of focus on recruiting and not enough on retention.

While companies strive for continuous improvement, even if they are doing well, in fact, especially when they are doing well; marriages tend to go the other way. When a marriage is well established and running smoothly, most people tend to get complacent, subconsciously. While businesses are always on the lookout for the next product that’s “faster, better, saves more time, or effort”, we forget to use “Kaizen” for our relationships. “Kaizen” is Japanese for improvement or change for the better; and is used widely in manufacturing, engineering, healthcare, government, banking and other industries, even life-coaching. Kaizen analyzes processes and thereby allows building on your successes and anticipating failures before they occur. A “continuous improvement” mindset allows you to actively analyze what is going well in your life/relationship and find the reasons for the successful areas of your relationship so you can continue to do those things.

We hear about “early detection” and how it is key to conquering medical problems/fatal diseases. It is too bad we don’t have a diagnostic test or a toolkit for early detection of “relationship problems.” In all other important aspects of life, such as “health” or “business” we focus or at least taught to focus heavily on preventive measures. Unfortunately, by the time a couple picks up a relationship book or enters counseling, they are already halfway to separation.

I recently read an article that made an interesting comparison between how social media has changed the landscape for both finding a job and finding a partner; and how retention rates have dropped in both areas. Corporate loyalty is certainly a thing of the past and it is now the norm to change your job every 5-7 or at least 10 years. Some people not only change jobs but also change careers over that time. In fact, there is even a perception that if you are in the same job for years, maybe it is because you couldn’t find anything else. Could the increase in divorce rates imply that our relationship graph is going to follow our career graph?

Although in spite of this trend, even in this day and age I know plenty of people who have spent decades in the same job. Rather they changed jobs but within the same company, changed profiles and roles and scope of work but with the same employer, reinvented themselves and grew with their organizations. Obviously their corporations met their changing expectations and continued to give the satisfaction that they yearned from their careers. Perhaps, there lies the key to longevity. If you can grow together, change roles together successfully (such as, from spouse to parent), adapt to changing expectations and continue to reinvent yourself and your relationship together, you just might find a way to spend a lifetime with the same person happily.

Marriage Inc.

If you look up the origin of marriage, you will find many explanations, including the “hunter-gatherer” theory, an alliance that helps care for the young; religious reasons; political reasons such as exchange of land and property in lieu of protection for the female; or evolutionary reasons, which basically refer to pairing for procreation. Nowhere in history is “love” cited as a reason for “marriage or “long-term pairing”. It is important to remember this as we think about applying business principles to our relationships. Whatever the motivation may be, it is necessary to remind ourselves that marriage/couplehood is a transaction, much like a business deal.

Die-hard romantics will probably dismiss the above notion, proclaiming that “love makes the world go around”, but anyone who has ever been inside a therapist’s office will tell you that love is never enough to make marital happiness last. Just like any business relationship you have, you need ROI, you need tools, you need shared goals and the whole gamut of management theories to make a success out of this alliance as well.

I am a recruiter by profession and I ask a whole set of behavioral questions when I interview candidates. I recently asked this question to an engineering candidate: Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion. He apologized for not being able to come up with a professional example and then went on to narrate this story: “Well, me and my wife always had arguments about money, and where to spend and how much to spend. Her general philosophy is we can increase our saving by spending less. My general philosophy is that we can increase our saving by earning more. I am a big shopper and that led to a lot of bickering between us. I finally crunched the numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. I included projected income, allowed for risk factors, and basically charted out how we could still be saving the amount she wanted while being able to afford what I wanted to buy. The visual presentation and having all the data collated really helped her comprehend our financial data and made her more comfortable with my decision.”

Now, I know a lot of people use Excel at home to track their finances, and manage their budget, but creating a graph to influence your spouse’s thinking, thereby making a case to buy a new plasma TV… that guy maybe onto something.

P.S. He did get the job. 🙂

I was talking to a friend of mine, an entrepreneur, explaining my idea about using business principles in our relationships, and his response was, “So you want me to be watching what I say, and walking on egg-shells, being diplomatic and strategic and treating my wife the way I would treat my most important client?” “And why wouldn’t you?” I asked him. The idea had such a negative connotation in his mind – that his home life wouldn’t be effortless, and the dialogue at home would be labored or artificial and it wouldn’t really be him. “How long have you worked with this client?” I asked. “For over ten years”. “And for ten years, using these very techniques, you have retained the client, kept them happy, and in return received immense gratification, sense of achievement, not to mention tangible benefits.” I rest my case.

Before I go any further I want to clarify that these techniques are not going to be useful if either partner in the relationship is dealing with abuse, or has severe physical or psychological issues. But 80% of divorce cases are due to “irreconcilable differences“. Arguably, the first step towards reconciling differences is having stellar communication techniques. CBS news reported that divorce rates among executives are steadily on the rise, and it is such types of examples, that I cannot help but wonder, why is it that a CEO or a VP is able to practice conflict resolution or constructive confrontation at work and not at home?


To speak or not to speak…

We keep hearing over and over that communication is key in relationships. But short of going into couples counseling and shelling out a lofty $200 an hour, we have very limited avenues to learn about enhancing our communication. There are however 106,636 books that show up on about business communication principles (there are actually 34,000 books on Amazon on relationship communication, but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to resources and choices available for business communication). I believe, once a good communicator, always a good communicator. I am certain that we can extrapolate those principles and apply them to personal relationships. Some may argue that it’s not comparing apples to apples, because there are no emotions involved in business, but maybe that’s exactly the point. The reason we can rationally debate a point at work is because we take the emotions out of the equation. Maybe that’s the key to having a constructive conversation in our personal lives. Some may argue that there is a lot more at stake in personal relationships (maybe you have kids), which may make using business communication techniques harder. Maybe that’s right, maybe not.

The basic premise, however, is that you are good at business communication, or in other words, you are considered an effective communicator at work and you have generally solid relationships with people you work with. If you are a poor communicator to begin with in all spheres of life, then you would have to first learn the techniques of effective communication; be it in a work setting or a personal setting. But if you are generally successful in building professional relationships over the years, it must imply some level of communication expertise. And I am not talking about your customers or vendors, where everyone maintains a certain level of decorum. I am talking about coworkers, especially the ones you have had for years, or business partners; your work family; project teams that have handled impossible deadlines, worked long hours under tremendous pressure, spent more time together than they have with their so-called “loved ones”.  If you have been in a professional corporate America, you know these scenarios, and you know how communication is the only thing that allows a harmonious working relationship under those circumstances.

The question then is can business principles (communication or otherwise) be applied to personal relationships? Can you parlay your work skills into a happy marriage? I believe it can be done. After all, there is a reason why they say, “marriage is hard work”.



Don't ever change yourself to impress someone, cause they should be impressed that you don't change to please others -- When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, always remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test --- Unknown

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