Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Leads to Partnerships Breaking Up?

Do you know couples, siblings, friends who went into business together with great hopes and excitement but now they are constantly going at each other? Being in business together can tear apart not only relationships, but also their business.

Same happens in corporations where executives aren't aligned, each member rowing in a different direction, following his/her own agenda, leaving others confused and drained.

Do you ever wonder what's the cause? And more importantly, how can this be prevented, for there is tremendous power in partnerships, when leadership teams are aligned, all rowing together in the same direction?

To use a metaphor, effective partnerships are like the hand. When five digits work together, they are exponentially more powerful then the sum of each individual digit. As my uncle says, when it comes to partnerships, 1 + 1 = 11.

After many years of reflection, observation, and self-study, I believe I finally have the answers to the questions I raise above, which I will share with you here.

First, what leads to the breaking.

Loss of Collective Vision: Everything in life, manifested by humans, originates in thought and those thoughts are ever changing. At some point in time, thoughts of two or more individuals come together and partnership is formed. Overtime, however, thoughts change, they shift, resulting in partners slowly drifting apart. And due to lack of effective on-going communication, either due to being so caught up in day to day operations or more likely that in many cases hey don't know how to have such conversations, the impact of such drifting apart does not surface, 'till it's too late, leaving everyone asking "what happened?". Or their is constant fighting and those observing watch helplessly wanting to help but not sure what to do.

Lack of Human Understanding: Human beings are complex beings with ever changing thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and motivations. In the absence of such understanding, what ultimately happens to the unaware, these small differences end up driving a big wedge into the relationships. Friction takes place, communication breaks down, moles become mountains. Rather then understanding and leveraging differences for greater individual and joint success, they are often misinterpreted (intention vs. impact), only leading to further divisions.

So, what's the solution?

I have come to believe the solution resides in two actions, both of which must take on an on-going basis. They are:

Executive Alignment: Just as tires need realignment from time to time, so do executive teams. In the executive suite, this is done via regularly schedule meetings that must be facilitated by someone from the outside, who is neutral and objective, has nothing to gain or loose. Goal in these meetings is to have both strategic conversations as well as cover other materials to ensure everyone stays on the same page so that everyone continues to row together in the same direction.

Executive Tune Up: Via use of personality assessments, which provide deep insights into each individual's strengths and blind spots, in an objective and neutral way, understanding and therefore communication improves, misunderstanding begin to get flushed out, leading to less friction and greater performance. When these assessment results are presented by an expert who is an outsider, these "debriefings" of results lead to powerful conversations, partners come to better and more effectively understand of each other, as well as understand how to leverage each others differences for greater joint success.

Net result being acceleration of business performance AND strengthening of the partnership. It's one of the best investment any partnership and executive leadership team can make, to ensure long-term success and enjoy the many benefits partnerships offer.

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