Relationships vital to success of families and workplaces

In one of our training programs, we do an exercise where we ask participants to narrow down their deepest core values to two, after starting out with a list of more than two dozen. It may or may not surprise you that “family” is the most frequently chosen value. It is certainly at the top of my list.

A couple of recent events were personal highlights. This past Thanksgiving, for the first time in five years, we actually had all our kids and grandkids together. Six kids, five grandkids, and spouses added up to a total of 16. The new family picture is perfect. We spent the day catching up, playing games and, of course, celebrating with a big turkey dinner that could have fed another family of 16. We had a blast! The following day we got together at a big cabin on the Wisconsin River and continued the party.

The second event was a bit different. On the day after Christmas, we received a call from Michigan and learned that Kathy’s dad, who was in declining health, had passed away. He is the last of our parents and was a very special man indeed. Needless to say, his passing led to another family gathering and celebration of life. If you have not been to one of these events, you can guess there was an incredible combination of tears and laughter as we reflected on his life. As I flew back from Michigan, I said a prayer of thanks to express my gratitude for being part of such a great family.

Whether it’s coming together to celebrate a birth, a wedding, a graduation, a death, or just a good old family picnic, family is the magnet that makes it all happen.

So what?

If it works like this with those closest to us, why can’t we at least try to replicate the same sense of togetherness in the organizations that we work for? The Dale Carnegie organization recently collaborated with a research firm to study the functional and emotional elements that affect employee engagement. Although they discovered that many factors affect employee engagement, there are three key drivers:

  • Relationship with immediate supervisor
  • Belief in senior leadership
  • Pride in working for the company

Employees said that it is the personal relationship they have with their immediate supervisors that’s key. An immediate supervisor’s attitude and actions can enhance employee engagement or create an atmosphere where an employee becomes disengaged. Now compare your “work family” to your own family. It is the relationship with those closest to us that either makes or breaks the family. Good relationships = good family; good relationship = engaged employee. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well.


We tend to work with organizations that truly believe their people are the key to their continued success. I will never forget hearing Craig Culver say that his customers were not the most important to Culver’s. He said it was his people. “Treat your people right and the customers will take care of themselves.” Now that is a family value that drives a positive company culture.

As was noted above, families have traditions in celebrating life and death. As they grow, the traditions establish the family culture. If done in a positive way, a good family becomes even better. The same can happen in organizations. It is not how many Successory posters you have on the walls; it is deeper than that. It comes down to those core values expressing themselves in the actions of leadership and other associates. We find that organizations that celebrate success tend to be the ones that people want to work for.

So as we move into a new year, may your family at home and at work serve as a strong foundation for a successful 2013.

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