Saturday dawns. The temperature outside is hovering around 20 degrees, and I hear the wind rattling the window panes in our old Victorian as I head downstairs to put the coffee on. My first cup in hand, I settle into the couch in front of the big wood stove that’s been beaming heat into the living room all night. A novel I’ve been meaning to finish reading sits waiting for me, as do a few precious hours of quiet time. Now, if I could only find my glasses?
Just then, my husband walks in, disturbing my calm, something clearly on his mind. Even before he says a word, I know my morning plans are dashed.
“Want to go to the eagle festival with me?” he asks, tossing a few logs into the stove, a hopeful lilt in his voice. I must admit, despite my irritation at the interruption, the man is very sweet when he’s planning an adventure.
“Eagle festival? Right now?” I give my book one last, longing glance.
“Yeah, today’s the annual eagle festival on the Merrimack River. You know the one I go to every year? It’s great. We’ll walk around outside, get some fresh air. You’ll have a good time.” Clearly, he’s going to keep badgering me until I say yes.
“It sounds like it’s pretty windy outside. And so cold! Brrr!” I do my best mock shiver and pull the quilt closer around me, a final, lame attempt at denial. He ignores my feigned resistance.
“Eagles are very active this time of year. And the cold weather means the river will have more ice floes.” Now, I know I’m toast. He’s pivoted from trying to coerce me with the “let’s have fun” technique to playing the educational card. That one gets me every time. This type of conversational shift takes skill, one he’s perfected over a lifetime in sales. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that I have absolutely no idea how bald eagles and ice floes are connected. All I can think about is going upstairs immediately to look for my long underwear.
Fifteen minutes later, we’re in the car, binoculars packed and coffees to go. Would I have preferred to stay home by the fire? Yes! So why did I pull on my long john’s and follow my husband to the river bank? Well, that’s the crazy thing about being married for as long as we have. It may not always be easy, but there’s a willingness to compromise between us that’s shown itself over the years in lots of big and small ways. Today it was about sacrificing my couch time for his freezing outing. Tomorrow he’ll cook dinner for me, and I’ll wash the dishes. It’s the daily ebb and flow of mutual responsibility, love and respect we base our relationship upon.
The lessons within this story extend far outside of the domestic arena. With all of us spending so much time at work these days, whether we’re running our own company or working for someone else, the connections we build with our co-workers, employees, employers, clients, and professional friends require just as much nurturing and give-and-take in order to stay healthy and thriving as a marriage does.
I see this play out nearly every day within my own firm. I started Richardson Media Group about five years ago, long enough that we could have accumulated at least 10 or 15 employees by now. Instead, I continue to keep our core team small. My rationale for hiring more slowly is that I want to remain flexible (some people may prefer the word “nimble”) allowing us to pick and choose from a variety of talented vendor partnerships, matching them to our clients’ unique project needs and budget parameters. So far, I’ve found this approach to be an effective means of winning and keeping happy clients.
Small teams like ours work very closely together and form tight bonds with each other. When the heat is on, our different personalities and work styles are exposed, perhaps in higher relief than if we were part of a much larger group of participants. That isn’t always such a bad thing, but it can be uncomfortable at times. This is where compromise can bring much-needed relief and keep things moving so that the quality of the work doesn’t suffer.
I’d be a fool to ignore the great ideas my employees bring to the table simply because I insist on doing it my way. After all, I hired them because they’re seasoned professionals who’ve lived through a myriad of experiences. So, I listen, ask questions, sometimes push back, consider all options and then decide on the best approach, often blending my own opinions on how to improve a system or fix a problem with theirs. Most of the time, the end result is a more productive solution. And by showing each other mutual respect throughout the process, the long-term outcomes feel better to all of us.
As chilly as it was on the banks of the river that morning, the two of us had a great time. We spotted three majestic bald eagles, met a few other intrepid eagle seekers, and enjoyed hiking some less-traveled trails along the coastal waterway near our home. I hope my husband will keep inventing ways to push me out of my comfort zone and off the couch for many years to come. And on the business front, I plan to continue to seek out ideas from and generate trust among my professional colleagues and collaborators. Welcoming change, keeping an open mind, and learning to compromise are necessary to maintaining healthy, balanced, and growing relationships — at work and home.