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The “Honeymoon” That Lasted

March 3, 2020

It is a widely-held belief that the “honeymoon” period-that time in the relationship when neither party can do no wrong, does not last forever.  The sage advice often proffered is that one should take advantage of it as long as one can because when it’s over-well, it’s over.

Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to argue with this widely-held belief, it is my firm contention that the honeymoon does not have to end with the “plop!” that many expect.  You heard it here first:  the honeymoon can last.  Whether in a personal relationship or in a business relationship, the honeymoon period can last.

My last blog identified some of the behaviors that help the honeymoon to last.  In this blog, I’d like to review a business “honeymoon” that lasted far longer than anyone expected-including me.  It was based on the mutual commitment of my boss, the CEO of a Fortune 250 company, and myself in ensuring that what we joined forces to do we did, indeed, accomplish.

Having been recruited by this company, I wasn’t sure I wanted to join them.  It would require me working in an industry with which I was not familiar, and it would require me to travel to small towns where many of our facilities were located.  The thought of hopping planes late at night to land in a small town where I wasn’t sure I could find my way to the hotel du jour was not at all appealing.

Yet I took the role.

Part of the reason I took the role was because of the partnership the CEO and I were able to establish during the interviewing process.  One of the reasons I believe that I was the successful candidate was because I didn’t think of myself as a candidate, I thought of myself as the incumbent.  As the incumbent, my thoughts were “How can we make this work?”  “What can we do to ensure our individual and collective success?”  Knowing what I know of typical responses to the CEO, one of the success behaviors identified (with my boss’s concurrence) was that I have the ability to speak freely and honestly with him without any concern for retribution at any level.

Shortly after joining the company, the CEO presented at a meeting organized by my staff.  He bombed.  I don’t mean a small bomb; I mean a HUGE bomb-the kind of bomb that would have made the covers of all the company newspapers had they chosen to print the story.  Those present thought that I, the new employee, should give the CEO the necessary feedback.

I wasn’t sure how to respond.  After all, this WAS the CEO of the corporation.  And, despite the fact that he said he wanted honest feedback, I didn’t know if he would be so willing when the feedback came.   Wasn’t there something in royal folklore about the person bearing bad news being beheaded?  Thoughts and images of my eminent doom flashed before my eyes.

Treading lightly, I reminded the CEO that we had I had committed to being honest with him about those behaviors that were detracting from the desired success.  I asked him if he recalled that commitment.  Secondly, I asked him if he was still open to me providing him with the feedback discussed.  He was.

I took the risk, gave the feedback, and created a colleague, friend, and client for the remainder of his tenure as CEO (he retired five years later).  Throughout the time of our working together, we were able to be honest, we both grew personally and professionally, and the company’s stock price tripled.  Not a bad outcome, huh?

I am not claiming total responsibility for the company’s stock growth.  That would neither be honest nor true.  What I am claiming, however, is the fact that a commitment to the so-called “honeymoon” behaviors created a successful, profitable business relationship for both of us.

The moral of the story:  Don’t give up on the “honeymoon” too quickly.  Staying committed to the idealism present in the honeymoon may create long-lasting results.

You CAN try this at home (and at the office).
–Dr. O