When social science researchers who study successful marriages ask couples their secret to staying together for 40, 50, even 60 years, one of the key contributing variables which emerges is predictability. Specifically, couples will point to the day-in, day-out predictably dependable behaviors of their mate.
He gets up at 6:00am, gets the paper and starts the coffee. She fixes the morning cereal for both of them with strawberries on top. The routine – whatever it may be – provides a helpful framework for the long-term success of the entire partnership. They count on each other. And more importantly, they know how to count on each other.
You might say such findings sound like the recipe for a boring life. A life stuck in a rut. I mean, who wants strawberries on their cereal everyday anyway? But the successful couples are able to make a distinction between what they consider boring and what they consider relationship affirming. The key distinction between what is perceived as boring vs. affirming, I think, is the fact that the predictable behaviors cited are almost always servant behaviors – serving either the other or the relationship. They are predictable in doing specific things for each other and for the marriage.
Most other relationships and partnerships respond similarly. High-functioning advancement teams are filled with partnerships. Vice presidents partner with executive assistants. Planned giving officers partner with prospect researchers. Major gift officers partner with annual fund directors. You can think of many others.
Is the power of predictability at work in your shop? Do team members serve others in predictably dependable ways or are there territorial boundaries and other unwritten “rules” that sabotage successful, long-lasting partnerships? As a leader are you growing predictably dependable team members through your actions?
When advancement staff members can count on one another to serve each other and the mission of the institution, the advancement team becomes exceptional. Team members want to stay and the advancement program has the chance to increase outcomes (fundraising and otherwise) as never before.