I can trace the start of the exponential growth of my career to just after my thirty-fifth birthday.
A recent event made me think about my career, and about what acted as the catalyst that got my professional life on an upward trajectory after a few false starts.
The first thing that came to mind was that I must have grown wiser in my mid-thirties. After being schooled by a few failed ventures, I figured that I had learnt some lessons to become better.
The next thing I thought about is that it had to do with me focusing solely on my consulting practice, EQTD Consulting Malaysia.
When I stopped experimenting with multiple business ideas, and concentrated on training and management consulting, I picked up new and more engaging clients, who incidentally paid better.
But after intense reflection, I realised that these were not the main reasons for my growth.
The single most important thing that happened to me after my thirty-fifth birthday was that I met my wife, Susanna.
Upon thorough reflection, I can say without any hesitation, she is the biggest reason for my progress.
And before you think this is just a soppy piece that’s dedicated to my life-partner, allow me to share some research with you about my secret weapon at work.
Numerous studies have indicated that when it comes to earning extra money at work, promotions, and other measures of career success, it is the influence of your life-partner that is the biggest on your performance.
One in particular that was published in the journal, Psychological Science in 2014, caught my attention.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis examined about 5000 married people, ranging in age from 19 to 89, over a period of five years, to extrapolate these findings.
In the sampling, 75% were couples where both partners were working. And, the research focused on five areas of relationship personality. They were openness; extraversion; agreeableness; neuroticism; and conscientiousness.
The results were incredible.
The people who had the highest, measured occupational success had a spouse with a personality that scored high for conscientiousness.
In my column on the 24th of August 2018, I wrote about conscientiousness being arguably the most vital trait in achieving any sustainable results at work, and in life.
Conscientiousness or thoroughness is the personality trait of a person who shows an awareness of the impact that their own behaviour has on people around them. And, conscientious people are generally more goal-oriented in their motives, ambitious in their academic efforts, and at work.
This research by Washington University suggests that if you want to be successful at work, you must also have a life-partner who is conscientious.
Why does a conscientious spouse matter?
The results from the research show that having a conscientious life-partner increases the likelihood of solid support for your day to day operations, and emotional support.
In real terms, this means you can rely on your partner to share your daily chores, such as paying bills, going to the market, solving household issues, caring for your pets, and importantly, raising your kids.
Of course, when you have a spouse who assists in the smooth running of your life, your stress levels come down dramatically, and you end up finding better work-life balance.
The research also shows that if you live with a conscientious spouse, you tend to carry those traits of diligence and reliability into your own workplace.
It is commonly accepted that a bad experience in one part of your life, spills over to other parts. For example, a crappy day at work might lead to a tense night at home, or a grumpy husband or wife.
This study went beyond that and argues that good behaviour exerted subtly by your spouse has an important influence on your performance at work. You will feed off each other’s positive energy.
The foundation for being supportive as a life-partner lies in you respecting their personal decisions.
I cannot stress this more.
Recently, I was offered, what many would call, a life changing job offer. It included lots of travel, lots of opportunity to influence others, and most crucially, bucket loads of money.
But, it would have also required me to relocate to another country, and I knew that this wouldn’t work for my wife, who has a thriving holistic veterinary practice in Kuala Lumpur.
My decision was made absolutely easier because Susanna asked me to decide based purely on my professional needs, and assured me that she would support any decision I took.
She did not apply a modicum of pressure on me to reject the offer based on her own personal and professional needs.
I turned the offer down, quite happily. And, a large part of that was due to my wife giving me the space, and showing me that she truly respected my needs.
So, remember, you’d better choose a spouse, or have chosen someone who is supportive, kind, and who is conscientious, if you want your career to flourish.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”