Relational Advice from Peter Drucker

At SCB’s recent “Business Leaders of the Year” event, I marveled at how many of the honorees were quick to acknowledge their spouses as the key source of support and encouragement in their achievements. Though this month’s issue focuses on those unique couples who run their businesses together, every [married] businessperson is in a strategic partnership with their spouse. Hence, it makes good “business sense” to make your marriage relationship a top priority.

Also, as lamentable as it is that half the marriages in our country end in divorce, it is important to point out that over 75 percent of divorcees will remarry at some point in their life. In fact, a study by Dr. George Gilder found that men who were married, worked harder, made more money, were more generous, were healthier and happier than their single counterparts. Therefore, since most of us are either married or will be, getting a regular tune-up and alignment is a no-brainer.

The Perils of Idealism

French author Andre Maurois, bemoaned one of the greatest landmines of a successful relationship when he wrote, “We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity – romantic love and gunpowder.” Being French, I am sure Maurois wasn’t opposed to “romance.” Instead I think he was pointing out that the romantic ideals we are led to believe a successful relationship is built on, must give way to the reality of being married to a real, rather than an ideal person. Sorry Lois, he really is Clark Kent.

Management guru Peter Drucker reinforced this idea when he said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under the leadership of average human beings.” What is true at work is also true at home. No one is married to a person who always acts super-human. Instead we are married to normal people, who give us the opportunity to move beyond romantic infatuation to actual love.

No Hostile Takeovers

We often hear of acquisitions taking the form of a “hostile takeover.” The implication is that one company wants to get as much as they can, as quickly as they can, then move on. Successful mergers on the other hand, like successful marriages, resemble how Howard Lance described Harris’ acquisition of Tyco Electronics. He said they were bringing together the best of Harris’ technology with the high quality products Tyco had developed.

Most of the ‘hostility’ arises when we think we are in a relationship with someone to change them for the better. Without asking the question, “Better for whom?” Again Drucker was prudent when he pointed out, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try instead to work with what you’ve got.”

Relationships Are Reciprocal

One final bit of advice Drucker gives to business leaders and to those involved in making the marital merger work is, “Accept the fact that we have to treat almost everybody as a volunteer.” When we are paying someone a salary, we may think we can demand anything. But the reality is, even in this economy, when people are treated in a way that seems demeaning or unjust, they will start looking elsewhere. Or worse, they’ll stay and give marginal efforts. Though I believe marriage is a covenant for life, recognizing that I will only get out of it what I put into it keeps me looking for ways to sweeten the pot!