Keeping the relationship canteen full is more than just accumulating friends and acquaintances. The relationship canteen is filled by the richness of those relationships and the connectedness created through the friendships and family.
It is said that a person with friends is never truly alone and when your resilience is tested a full relationship canteen is proof of that statement. Jim Cathcart, the guru of relationships and business (www.cathcartinstitute.com) has made a career teaching the nation’s CEO’s, Executives, Elite Sales People and Entrepreneurs to create business success and business resilience by paying attention to both sides of a relationship, you and your relationship partner. His books and seminars are sold worldwide and have been the basis for some of the most successful sales campaigns in recent history. In short, the idea of relationship resilience is not new.
In my life I am fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful marriage. My wife, Laura, is intelligent, caring, compassionate, supportive and beautiful. She is a fantastic mother and my best friend. Laura is absolutely supportive of me in everything that I do. Not only my disaster response work but my everyday life, my beliefs (even when she disagrees with them), my dreams, my goals, and even my desires. Laura and I share a relationship that is special and in modern society increasingly rare.
Because I strive for physical preparedness both in body and in resources we maintain family preparedness in the same realms. We have a family plan in the event of an emergency and each of my children, as well as Laura, are well versed in every aspect of that plan. I know that I can count on Laura to keep the family safe no matter where I may go, what kind of disaster I respond to, what may befall them in my absence, or even in the event that I should never be able to return home.
When I must call upon my resilience, I have a full relationship canteen. Not only does my marital relationship contribute to this reserve, to this relationship resilience, but I have similar relationships with each of my four children and with my mother. What is more, even though my father is now deceased, my relationship with him remains a source of relationship resilience. I know that he is proud of me for the work that I do.
This limitless source of renewing strength ensures that I am able to endure and ultimately overcome any challenge ahead of me.
But relationships are a two edged sword when it comes to resilience.
Several years ago my younger daughter Tiffany suffered challenges of her own and I was away to assist in response and recovery for a declared national disaster. As a result of Tiffany’s hospitalization my resilience was seriously compromised.
I was conflicted.
I was physically strong and physically prepared. I had all of the equipment and resources I needed to perform my disaster response duties. But the challenges facing somebody who I cared about caused my relationship resilience to suffer significantly. Rather than being a source of strength my need and desire to be home caring for my daughter sapped my strength. I was no longer sipping from my canteen of resilience. I was gulping deeply. My 40,000-gallon bathtub had sprung a leak.
The fact that I could do nothing even if I were at her side did not make a difference in how badly her needs affected my resilience. The fact that I would not even be allowed to be at her side in the first week of her hospitalization did not change the impact of her needs on my resilience.
Relationship resilience is not only important to those of us in the disaster field office. A major jewelry retailer saw both sides of relationship resilience. In 2003, a member of the corporate C-suite developed cancer. The diagnosis was made early and the company rallied behind their stricken leader.
Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy drove the illness into full remission and it looked like a celebration of a cure might even be in the offing. Throughout the illness, the executive drew strength from her resilience in all its forms. She was an inspiration to the company’s employees as she came back to work and assumed the reigns of leadership with full vigor.
Then she relapsed.
It had been two years since her illness and the recurrence of cancer hit hard. Not only was there the emotional blow of having cancer again, but the physical rigors of new and stronger chemotherapy. The company and its employees again rallied to her side, but this time resilience waned, the relationship resilience could not fill the void left by the loss of emotional and physical resilience.
Again the company stood by their stricken leader and again she returned to the reigns of power, but this time she had no vigor. Soon her executive assistant was her nurse and her Senior Vice President had been placed in a shadow leadership position. Confusion ruled the day as each division tried to follow two often divergent business directions. Finally, the board had had enough. They wanted to stand by a loyal career executive, but the stock price was falling and the industry wolves were preparing for the attack. The Senior VP assumed full control and the ill executive made a graceful exit.
Relationships are a two-edged sword for resilience but this does not mean that we should limit our relationships based on their potential impact. Quite to the contrary it means that we should expand our relationships. Make them as deep and rich as possible and share in providing for the resilience of those of whom we care most deeply. Are you growing relationships that fill your Canteen of Relationship Resilience?
(Excerpted from my lecture series and book: Avoiding Business Disasters: Lessons from the Disaster Field Office)