Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who’s on Your Management Team?

Good friend David Russell of ManagetoWin wrote some great content in his weekly newsletter this week. The focus is on the often neglected power of involving your spouse in the decision making process. He calls it “Spouse Advantage”. He gives examples of Jim Collins, Ray Johnston and Jim Burns and how they are connected with their wives when it comes to making decisions. This is a topic that needs some focus for many of us leading companies.

For many years I fell into the trap believing that I was the one who needed to make all the decisions. After all, I was the bread winner, out in the workplace, making things happen day after day. So not only did I fail to involve my bride in the process, I often didn’t even inform her of the things that were on the table under consideration. Bad decision on my part. That line of decision making works if you are a perfect thinker, strategic planner and have all the answers. None of those things describe me.

So I made some big mistakes along the way. More often than not, my bride knew it was bad news well before I did. Like it or not they often see more clearly than we do being in the middle of the forest. We miss the trees that fall on top of us some days until they have knocked us down. Been there?

When I consult with small business owners I often ask what their spouse thinks of the situation being addressed. Almost without fail, the answer is “deer in the headlights” or a quick “they aren’t part of the decision process”. Both are telling answers and likely are indicators of some of the problems being experienced.

Are you fully leveraging the strengths of your spouse? We involve our business partners when we consider decisions, but what about the most important partner in our earthly lives? David asks “ What is the impact of a good marriage on your career”? I’ll take it a bit further and ask more importantly, what is the cost of a failed marriage because you were too proud or stubborn to seek their counsel?

We celebrated our 33 year anniversary this past July just like David and his bride did. There are lots of days and decisions I wish I could do over. It doesn’t work that way unfortunately. Once a day is gone – we can’t go back and try again. We can only learn and move forward. For me, I learn a little slow sometimes. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I finally figured out the greatest asset God had blessed me with – in business and in life – my bride.

I always had the opinion that she would not understand and trying to teach her would just slow me down. That is a good thing – both to teach because we can’t do that if we don’t have things thought out and defined – and to slow down because many decisions get made incorrectly because the alternatives are never considered.

And the reality is that most business decisions are a lot more about people than they are business. Hiring, firing, partnerships and companies – all revolve around people. The products and services are seldom the issue – it always boils down to people and my bride can read them pretty well. That’s a God given gift I don’t expect to ever really have.

David nails the problem that most of us have when it comes to involving our spouse in the decision making process: “You have developed bad habits in how and when you communicate with your spouse about your work”. That is the issue many of us face. We have a lot of things that have sort of just happened in our marriage over time and become the status quo. One area that is very true is around the way we communicate and interact with our spouse. Habits are in place – changing them is hard work. But it can be very valuable and worth the effort.

David gives this guidance to help begin a transition to taking advantage of one of the best kept secrets of success – leveraging the wisdom of your spouse to help guide the ship. Here is his guidance: Consider thinking deeply about this subject this week. This is NOT a conversation to have with coworkers, but rather with people who personally mentor you and whom you respect. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Write down the five biggest mistakes you have made professionally during your career while you have been married.
2. How many of those mistakes could have been avoided if you had worked more closely with your spouse to evaluate the situation and your options prior to taking action?
3. What habit could you develop with your spouse to involve them more in your professional decisions? One option: A regular business meeting that covers both family and professional business. Just be realistic - it takes time to build this habit and you may have to be the driver to make certain in a positive, encouraging way that these meetings occur.
4. How are you going to respond the next time it feels like you have to make a quick decision? How can you build this delaying tactic - verbally and postponing action - into a habit?
5. Consider a commitment to demonstrate your love for your spouse by involving them in all of your important decisions. How will you hold yourself accountable? It will take time and be challenging to develop this habit, but can you afford to operate as a lone ranger?

I encourage you to spend some considering how you can improve the decision making and leadership process you currently use by involving your spouse. It has made all the difference for me. My bride travels with me almost all the time – not just to keep me company – but to keep me balanced and focused and to have input into the day to day activities that impact our lives and business. There is some sacrifice involved by both to truly partner together in this way – but my experience says it is one of the best decisions you can make. Don’t just depend on yourself – that is bound to lead you into the weeds if it hasn’t already!

If you aren’t on David’s mailing list – you just might want to get added. He puts out a weekly newsletter that is always full of great information and thought provoking questions to consider. You can reach him at

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