How Skills Learned at Home Can Lead to Business Success

In this episode we’re going to discuss how “Family Fundamentals are the Secret Sauce to Booming Business” with “Dr. Dave”.

Dr. Dave Schramm, known simply as “Dr. Dave” on campus and across the USA, is a professor and family life extension specialist in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Utah State University. He has given over 500 presentations, classes, and workshops across the globe to a variety of audiences, from professional academic conferences to keynote addresses, including TEDx and the United Nations.

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Transcript from Episode 115: “How Skills Learned at Home Can Lead to Business Success” with Dr. Dave Schramm

How did a family scientist like yourself find your way into business leadership and work culture?

It is kind of an interesting path that I have taken, as a family scholar for the past 15 years, I’ve spent my life studying what makes happy families, what makes close relationships, what makes happy marriages, and parent-child relationships. I was dipping my toe into the business and management area and I started noticing as I studied families, that there are at least three fundamental human needs that we all have. We all have this need for safety, this need for satisfaction, to do fun things, and the need for connection, to be attached to other people.

Ironically, I was actually driving down the freeway and I’m looking at billboards on the freeway and I noticed in billboards from banks, car dealerships, and furniture stores that they included phrases such as “Welcome to the family” and “Welcome home”. There is a car dealership that all it said, in huge letters was “Think family”. That is interesting because that’s my area of study and why are businesses using family and home in marketing messages? So, I started thinking and I wondered if the workplace, similar to a family can help me understand these three fundamental needs of safety, satisfaction, and connection. That is kind of the beginning of it all, how a scholar got invested in management, business and work culture.

How could a manager deal with people who have never met before, what kind of little things could they do to build a connection within their team and then from their team with the other teams within an organization?

There is an extended family, there are some relationships that are better than others but when I talk about this, I talk about a positivity pyramid. You think of this at least three levels. At the bottom of this pyramid is the connection, and above that is direction, it could be teaching, and above that is correction. If you think about that in families the children are more open to parents teaching and their correction if they have a strong relationship with them, if they like them, if that relationship is sound and solid. And the same thing holds true in business relationships with a manager.

Let’s think of a manager and if that manager tries to correct or teach something to teammates, to co-workers, to those that they manage, the effectiveness of a manager really depends on the quality of the connection. Think about somebody that you just can’t stand, that drives you nuts, that rubs you the wrong way, and if that person tries to teach you or correct you, you will be less open to them unless you have a good connection or trust. You can have a good connection with that person because of their kindness and respect and that takes time. I can talk about some things that managers can do and families as well as to build that connection, but I think it’s fundamentally upfront it’s important to realize that connection before correction or it won’t be well received.

So some of these principles in a strong family, and strong families and relationships are first founded on trust. Really above all, all leaders and managers, they have to be ethical, honest and earn the trust of those at every level. The same thing happens at home, it is trust. Others should include feeling valued, feeling recognized and appreciated. I think that is the homework of strong families and, again, the same thing in workplaces with a manager who can lead with gratitude, results, and feelings of belonging, and feelings of commitment. It’s these types of principles of kindness, generosity, I think of even building fun. In strong families, they have fun, they have traditions, they have fun, play together and the same thing occurs in top workplaces.

I think a sense of humor and smiling, it makes managers and leaders human. It’s these types of simple little things that first begin in families that can spill over into workplaces. And then I got really curious, I decided to look at the top 346 best places to work in the United States in the last few years. It is rated by What do they offer to their employees? What makes them stand out as a top workplace? What they did is that they surveyed 139,000 employees all across the United States, all kinds of businesses and 346 came out on top. And they had 100 words to describe why they think it is a great place to work. That is why I analyzed every single one of these.

I wanted to find out the top words that are used. In my analysis, I looked at the 15 most frequently used words and I honestly was amazed because how closely they line up with the same three needs of safety, satisfaction, and connection, and it was amazing. With safety, they use words like benefits and environment and help and I thought it is because you have to be safe, not only physically but I need to have a paycheck, and satisfaction they use words like fun, and in these places, they have growth and been willing to contribute. But what stood out most was how the best places work meant the deep human need for connection. It was the words team and culture that dominated their descriptions. Guess what the 9th most frequently used word was – it was family. They used family and so that was when it hit me – the secret sauce to these top places, these top work cultures are meeting the three fundamental needs of safety, satisfaction, and connection.

You conducted a study, yourself, with only two questions. Tell me a little bit about that.

It was a few years ago and it was the shortest study of my career. There are only two questions that I’ve asked over 2,000 people of all ages and backgrounds, all across the United States. The first one was “If I die tomorrow, what I would miss the very most would be…” and I ask them to just fill the blank with whatever first comes to their mind. The second one was really a little bit different and it was “To me, life is all about…” and then to fill in the blank. What do you think life is all about – in one or two words. It was interesting that the first question had some things like “You can’t miss anything because you’ll be dead…” and things like that.

But overwhelmingly 86% said that they would miss a family relationship, they said things like my spouse, my children. So, I wasn’t too surprised there. With the second question, 45% said something about family, 23% said life is about happiness and joy, 11% said helping and serving others. Really what hit me was what was missing from the list, it was the words work and money. Those 8 hours, that third slice of their life pie. That doesn’t mean that work can’t be meaningful, engaging and enjoyable. I love what I do, people love these 8 hours, but it’s not really what life is about. Life for most people is about family, it’s about relationships. So that got me thinking – the best places to work, they treat their employees like family. Not all the time because it is interesting I hear “you shouldn’t refer to them as family, maybe team members but not family”.

But I think the principles are the same, in strong families, there are family councils, we have discussions and at work, the managers do the same thing. They should be open to discussions and meetings, to be willing to listen, be quick to forgive just like in family, to show care, kindness, support. All these types of things that we were talking about in the family, the same thing can be found in top workplaces. I think the very best leaders, the very best managers understand that people are just as important as the problems and the project that they are working on, and what matters most to their employees is not their job.

For most people, it’s their family and so to be interested in their family, be aware of what’s going on in their families, spend one-on-one time with coworkers, and the manager should to get to know their family. So it’s an investment and a tweak on our way of thinking, expressing things like gratitude. Gratitude is a big one. For example, in one study I saw that 81% of employees said that they would work harder for a grateful boss and 35% report never being thanked by a manager. That’s a simple little thing that they could do.

How can workplace cultures benefit from the research on these strong families and this should be the same or similar whether there’s a large or a small company but how can they benefit all together?

I think they benefit in several ways. The ultimate benefit is the bottom line that businesses that focus, of course, they have to do all the business things like marketing and sales at all this, but if they treat their employees right, there is another study that showed that as far as what motivates productivity in professionals and it was when people felt recognized for the work they did they were 23% more effective and productive. But even more astonishing to me is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase.

Feeling recognized is important, but feeling valued and cared for and it is also the little things, it could be a little text of gratitude or a phone call, or even a face-to-face but letting them know that you are so grateful for this because they worked hard on this. Or if you know your colleague’s favorite drink is Diet Coke, then you can say “Here it is.” or “Here’s a coffee for you.”

But it starts honestly with a smile. It’s like a simple little thing but when you greet people with a smile. There is a 10-5 rule, you know, within the 10 feet of a colleague you are smiling, and within five feet you are saying hello. A simple little happy smile can spill over and make a difference in the environment, in the culture, and the feelings of those in the office. When people are motivated, they gladly give their very best on the job if they feel cared for and recognized and valued as a human being who has feelings and who has concerns, who feel safe in their environment, who are satisfied, there are great things going on and they feel connected to their manager.

Find out more about Dr. Dave Schramm

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Dr. Dave Schramm also has a digital platform,, which aims to improve employees’ personal and family lives and boost productivity at work.

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