Family First, Work Second. The Power of Family Values in Business.

Family first, work second.

The following is an excerpt from Do Nothing! by J. Keith Murnighan:

A few years ago I presented a workshop on negotiation and decision-making strategies to the members of one of the Australian divisions of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).  (This is a wonderful organization of young executives who can turn to one another for guidance, for advice, and sometimes just for an ear.  They are also completely committed to learning as much as they can about leadership.)  Several of the participants traveled from Western Australia to attend our sessions in Sydney, and I had several conversations with one of them.

He was a remarkably conscientious, self-aware leader, and our conversations touched on a variety of topics during the three days of the workshop.  At one point he mentioned that he only hired people who put their family before their jobs; he didn’t want people in his organization if they put their jobs first.  He felt strongly about this, saying that family-first people were the type of individuals he wanted to work with.  He seemed both sincere and enlightened.

A year later I presented a similar workshop for another YPO group, this time in Macau.  As it happened, my friend from Western Australia sent one of his vice presidents to the workshop.  This was an opportunity for me to confirm what he had told me, so I asked the VP whether his boss really did live his values as he said he did.  He told me the following story:

A few years before, the boss had hired a new executive.  His first questions in the hiring process were about family and, as in all of his interviews, he made it clear that the organization’s policy – his policy – was family first, work second.  This fit the new recruit’s own philosophy and, because the rest of the interview went well, he was hired.

Six months later, his wife was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  She battled the disease for eighteen months before passing away.  Throughout that time, the new executive worked sparingly, as her treatment required almost all of his attention.  This was the only part of his employment that was affected: he still received his full salary and all of his benefits.  He returned to work, almost full-time, two weeks after his wife passed away, and he used his time at work as therapy to help him cope with his loss.

You can imagine what my storyteller said about his boss, the company, and the effect that this had on everyone in it.  The boss was completely true to his values, even for a relatively new employee.  He did not just share his values and he did not use them as a publicity tool, or for any other propaganda-oriented purpose.  Instead, he came through in a tough situation: he lived his values, publicly, and everyone got the message.

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