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Roses, relationships and ROI

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Relationships have always been the most important things in my life. Since I am an identical twin, I've been in a serious relationship since before I was born! When I became president of the San Diego Chapter of IREM, I declared that the "R" in IREM would stand for relationships. I did that for many reasons, but most significantly because all of our relationships profoundly influence our productivity, our health and our happiness, the "ROI" of our personal and professional lives.

Members of the 2004 IREM San Diego council.

My twin, JoAnne Norton, is the vice president of Shareholder Relations for Freedom Communications. Over the last 10 years, we have spoken together throughout the country about the care and feeding of relationships as well as the impact of relationships on the health of organizations.

Good relationships in the workplace translate into increased profits, lower employee turnover, more successful recruiting efforts and reduced costs for health care -- all of which show up on the bottom line.

After our relationships with our families, our next most critical relationships are with our bosses. In their wonderful new book, "How Full is Your Bucket?," Rath and Clifton report British scientist George Fieldman found that when employees work for a boss they don't like, they have much higher blood pressure, increasing their risk of coronary heart disease by 16 percent and their risk of stroke by 33 percent.

In the Sept. 27 issue of Newsweek, in their report on "The New Science of Mind and Body," doctors warn that our stress responses are "less effective" against a "pushy boss" and that if we are exposed for a long period of time we could experience everything from impaired memory to a weakened immune system.

Our relationships with our bosses not only affect our health but also whether or not we stay in our jobs. Rath and Clifton cite a study done by the U.S. Department of Labor, which claims that the primary reason people quit their jobs is that they simply do not feel appreciated.

Further, Rath and Clifton reported on a poll that found 65 percent of Americans said they had received no recognition for good work in the past year. Improving relationships between employees and their supervisors in our firms is the single most important thing we can do to ensure the success of our companies.

When JoAnne and I make presentations, we frequently give silk roses to our participants. We explain that the roses are not for our audience to keep, but to give to those who support them every day. Some give the roses to their spouses, some to their assistants, and some even give them to their bosses. The greatest gift we give our guests is not the silk rose, but the opportunity to express appreciation, thereby strengthening their relationships, which in turn makes them healthier and happier, and then makes our organizations more successful.

Healthy, happy relationships have a direct effect on the bottom line, and that's why the "R" in IREM will always mean the most to me.

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