Partnering is a critical element of nearly all businesses. We partner with employees and investors, in addition to actual business partners or co-owners. Effective partnering is evident in any successful organization that requires multiple human beings to achieve its objectives.
Teams of all types require a few elements of effective partnering to be successful. Marriage and personal relationships require a focus on partnering and attention to these same elements.
The topic has been researched and published extensively in both the academic and popular press. Two titles that I really enjoy and lean on are Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of Team” and Wagner/Muller’s “The Power of 2.” These and other writings focus on several critical elements of successful partnerships.
As you review the following list, reflect on your current business partnerships and employee relationships.
1) Commitment to a Common Mission – Successful organizations rally around a common, clearly articulated goal and vision. Team members must understand, believe and live it. This must be more than just lip service. When people say they are committed, but then take actions or make comments privately that conflict or undermine the mission, it is incredibly damaging.
2) Unselfishness – The power of cooperation is well known to all of us. Two plus two can certainly equal well more than four when true cooperation exists. Of course, the opposite is even more truthful. One self-interested member of a partnership or team will poison the group and generate lingering animosity that will pervade the team and limit success, at best.
3) Complimentary Capabilities – A football team’s offense could not function with two centers trying to hike the ball and also would not work without blocking, running, receiving and quarterback play. A partnership is no different. Do not go into business with someone that has your same capabilities and weaknesses. Partners must seriously consider the individual skills, talents, and limitations of each and then deploy each partner in a disciplined way that ensures all contribute their capabilities to the team. Trying to create a role or accept sub par performance from a partner because you want them as a partner will lead to failure.
4) Ongoing Communication – Open, honest and frequent communication is an absolute requirement for success. Without it, team members can end up in silos, mired in the details of their function, rather than staying focused on contributing to the broader objectives.
5) Acceptance of Differences – Put a few humans together, and you will likely find something in each of them that can annoy another on some level. People have different quirks and habits that need to be accepted and forgiven as long as they do not deter the team from its mission. Effective partners accept human quirks and differences for the better of the organization.
6) Forgiveness – We all make mistakes. If we don’t we are not trying hard enough. We enjoy skiing in my family, and I often say to my kids: “If you are not falling, you are not trying hard enough.” We must forgive our partners and ourselves and create an organizational culture that encourages risk-taking and new ideas by openly forgiving when they don’t work out.
7) Fairness – When people are treated fairly, they remain motivated and will often achieve beyond expectations. The opposite will result in demotivation, animosity, and lack of commitment. The compelling need to ensure that one’s own personal situation is fair will be present in discussions, decisions, and serve a significant distraction to the individual, thereby severely limiting the potential of the partnership.
8) Trust – Business partnerships require trust that is built upon mutual respect, honesty, and demonstrated integrity. Without this, all is lost.
I have been very fortunate and am incredibly thankful to have great partners at Member Solutions. Together, we have enjoyed strong business growth and been fortunate to also develop deep family friendships. We have grown professionally, personally, and financially by working hard to remain focused on these critical partnership success drivers. It is not always easy, and we often have to remind ourselves to be disciplined and work hard on these core principles and the values that are behind them.
All the work and time is well worth it and offers rewards beyond business success.
About the author: Steve Pinado is CEO of Member Solutions, a leading provider of solutions to martial arts businesses. Before finding a home at Member Solutions, Steve held executive roles at several Fortune 500 companies after earning his MBA at Dartmouth. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 888.277.4409.