“You were too aggressive and I do not like aggressive.”

My wife and I laughed so hard that I almost had to pull over on the side of the road with laughter. On Friday, my wife Janetta and I celebrated 39 years of marriage. The line above was referring to when we first met at 18 years of age.

Here we are with two wonderful and funny kids who are now strong young adults, a stunning daughter-in-law, and most of all, our newest family member, Peyton, our granddaughter. It has been such a beautiful time.

People always ask what our secrets are. They ask this because anyone that is around us can feel the vibes that, yes, after all these years we are still in love. Yes, we got it going on.

So I blew her a kiss, laughed again, boarded my bus into the city. But as I got going, I gave serious thought to that question: What makes a marriage successful — or for that matter what makes an organization successful — in terms of staying engaged?

I had an employee tell me one time that she was still on the honeymoon after having worked there for close to a year.

The similarities of marriage and the organization (team, department and enterprise) are the same.

The dynamics of the house/organization

Our style of leadership with our family was that we were all in this together. We all knew what the family goals were. Any changes to that, we communicated.

We spent and extreme about of time building relationships with each other over the years. Everyone knew where each other was headed. Everyone knows that each of us is willing to help in any way. We knew strengths and weakness but never tried to capitalize on them in a weak moment

We have counseled and coached each other. And just because we are the parents, lots of times our kids would coach us into a new realm of thinking. Yes, we can all learn so many things from Gen X and Gen Y.

We have all listened and tried to help each other through whatever challenges that we were facing. We were definitely a no drama, family

Creating a fun environment

Oh, and one other thing — we always laugh with and at each other.

My father and mother taught me that a husband and wife should always be able to laugh at each other, because a little good natured ribbing is always fun. Is your workplace fun, and if not, what is your role in making it fun?

We would always eat together as a family and we try and recap what is going on in each of our lives. When there is the big family dinner, it is just constant laughter. It’s all good natured fun.

Model the behavior that you would like exhibited

Children learn by imitating adults. Employees learn and model the behavior of their leaders. As so called leaders within our unit, we are always on high alert that we are parenting/leading the model of behavior that we would like exhibited in our employees. Bad behavior was not acceptable under any circumstances. If it happened, you were immediately called out.

The aggressive quote was during the first months of our “courtship.” This is such a wonderful metaphor for recruiting and branding. Are we listening? When organizations first reach out, that is the courting stage. Is either side being too aggressive? Are you respectful of each other’s time?

Although the prospective employee may be intrigued by your brand, the onus is on you, the pursuer, to adjust. Yes, everyone must be willing to adjust.

To build that lasting relationship, it helps tremendously if everyone starts out being equal — both prospective  looking to get engaged as well as employers looking for a match. Today, no organization can enter into this trial period thinking that they hold all the cards. Your pursuit must be based on each party being equal.

We got a match

Once that match is a made, make sure the first visit is a momentous occasion (onboarding). The first time I met my wife’s family, I was a bunch of nerves. That was easily erased because they were so welcoming that I walked away loving these people.

I shudder to think what would have happened if, when I got there, they were not expecting me or were rushed and non-engaging.

Yes, it matters.

Long term

Throughout this relationship, every opportunity to develop was taken, whether it was pottery classes, acting lessons, or piano and clarinet lessons. Vacations were not spent on what the leaders wanted but what the family wanted. The same for activities chosen.

It was all in the hope of becoming a well rounded person. But more importantly, in a relationship as well as a business team, there should be lots of conversations, not mandates or speeches. As corporate leaders, we should know everything there is to know about our employees and visa versa, and knowing birthdays alone does not count. Engage your team, department and enterprise; it takes everyone giving it their all.

So, the conversation between my wife and I picked up again when we met at the end of day. We both realized that we are an engaged and committed couple. No more aggressiveness and a lot more listening to my team.

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