It is a fact of modern life that our connections through PDAs, texting and social media are increasing exponentially; while we are becoming more isolated from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
In his book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse And Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam observes that while the number of bowlers is increasing, the number of bowling leagues is in decline. And over the last 25 years, the number of people attending club meetings is down 58%, those having family dinners is down 43%, and those having friends over is down 35%. As a society we’re drifting apart.
How does all this play out in the CPA and IT firms we help to achieve success? In truth, many are not really firms at all, but rather a collection of sole proprietors sharing a common name, office space and administrative infrastructure. Rather than banding together for collective success, the focus is often on “doing it my way” and maximizing personal income, success and wealth. In firms like that, we find little happiness or satisfaction.
What is standing in the way of our togetherness as a society and as colleagues? I want to suggest two reasons:
- Nature - We all have self-interest and want to world to go our way. And we all fail and hurt each other, intentionally and unintentionally. It is part of being human, and it gives rise to conflicts that set up barriers in our relationships.
- Nurture - We are taught from infancy to value independence and doing things for ourselves without help from others. It is the “American Way” and a matter of personal pride to be self-sufficient. This causes us to devalue and turn away from relationships.
Conflict is a fact of life even in the CPA and IT firms. The most common responses to conflict are to avoid it altogether, to accommodate or “pretend” you’re okay with what is happening, to get angry and dominate others into submission or to “triangulate” with others about the conflict with no intention of resolving it. High performing and successful organizations recognize that conflict can be a good thing when it highlights problems, promotes changes through collaboration, and ultimately strengthens togetherness. And they practice giving and receiving the forgiveness needed to reconcile and move forward together.
Learning how to become better at handling conflict deserves deeper study and discussion. That is why we developed Managing Difficult Conversations Successfully, a distance learning, self-study course, which is available online at the ConvergenceCoaching Learning Center at convergencelearning.com
Now I want to turn to our inclination toward independence and self-sufficiency, to see if there is a better way. Over the years, there has been a lot of study and thought on the subject of relationships and their importance to our happiness and success in business and in life.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon observed:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This ancient wisdom concludes that we’re better together, because we accomplish more, we help each other through life’s troubles, and we comfort and protect each other.
More recent scientific research is also conclusive on the importance of relationships. In her recent article, The Key To Happiness: Relationships, Not Money, Holly H. Schiffrin, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, states, “The No. 1 predictor of happiness across studies and cultures is good relationships. Spending time with the people we care about increases positive feelings as well as building social support that we can call on in times of need.”
Schiffrin further observes how the recent economic recession has helped many of us appreciate that earning money above what is needed for basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, brings only a temporary surge in happiness, while the happiness that results from our investment in relationships is lasting.
The key to happiness is not money, success, or wealth. Rather, it’s in our relationships with others. We are meant to be together.
We will continue to help our clients succeed by coming together, rather than pulling apart. In the meantime, if you have ideas or experiences on this subject, please post them so others can benefit. Thank you!
P.S. There is no “I” in Team, nor is there an “I” in Partner.