Yearning for a Mature Business Partnership?
There comes times in our lives, business lives or voluntary endeavors, that we actively seek a partner to complement us, to take one’s work to the next level, to make a dream (something higher) come true. Whether we are setting up a strategic alliance, a joint venture, or on a more personal basis, creating a team of like-minded dreamers, we surely wish to ensure that we connect with a reliable, brilliant other with whom we will learn, stretch, grow and with whom we will enjoy working with for a while to come.
What I have learned that entering into partnership requires care, and yes, mindful design.
‘Designing a Partnership’: What is One Looking for?
In ‘The Art of Partnering’, Edwin Rigsbee defines partnership as ‘two or more entities coming together for the purpose of developing synergstic solutions to their challenge.’ I would also add that partnering can bring the promise of co-creating something better and higher, that one would never have been able to create alone.
I am learning that when enough time is taken to explore, one can find some wonderful colleagues with which, such worthwhile things can be created.
When looking for a great partner, using the following pointers and guiding questions can help:
Do they share one’s dream and vision?
Are they as passionate about the higher purpose of the work? Are they willing to put all they have into it? Is what they wish to do connected to a deep purpose? This becomes particularly important when work becomes challenging, and an inner resilience is required to sustain the energy. It’s as if we are looking for someone who, listening to our invitation, would say: ‘I have been waiting for this. Together, we can create something better.’
If the other is there because willing to ‘hang out’ for a brief while, because they don’t have something better to do, or if they join the invitation to just embellish their CV, the partnership may not go far, and may create frustrations. A deep connection to the heart of the work may be vital.
Would they complement the skills of the present partner/s?
Would they complement our strengths and skills by bringing in a new set outside of your area of expertise? Maybe the partnership can develop new capacities in all members of the team, and may evolve into a new exciting way, in a manner that nobody would have anticipated.
What is the quality of your present relationship, and what potential does it have to go to a deeper level?
Are there shared values and motivations in the relationship? Is there potential for a partnership of openness, authenticity and responsibility? Will they be willing to be available for the conversations that matter, and co-create decisions that can move the work forward (even for those elements which may appear to be small and petty, but important?
I am learning that when there is a strong relationship amongst partners in teams, individuals fit together well, there is authentic feedback exchanged, and ease of laughing, there is clarity on who is available for what, and who can count on the other for what.
A Mature Partnership
What I am also learning is that, the bigger, higher and deeper the purpose of the work engagement ahead, the more mature the partnership needs to be.
Azriela Jaffe, author of ‘Let’s go into business together. Eight Secrets to successful Business Partnering,’ describes mature relationships as having the following elements:
The partners have mutual respect, and don’t have the intention to ‘change the other’,
They open themselves to each other, sharing about issues that matter deeply to them as individuals. They’ve come to trust each other and the partnership becomes a safe haven where they let their guards down,
They demonstrate strong commitment to the partnership. The relationship doesn’t come up for question every time a significant disagreement erupts,
Each individual in the partnership believes his or her needs are being met. While responsibilities and contributions may not be exactly equal on any given day, over time each feels fairly treated,
They take genuine satisfaction in the accomplishments of their partners, and will go out of their comfort zones to support each other,
Individuals in the partnership have made their values and expectations clear to each other, and they honour the boundaries and requests of the other,
A thriving partnership is flexible and resilient enough to respond to unexpected life and business circumstance,
There is permission to express a full range of emotions, including fear, sadness, remorse, anger, embarrassment and resentment,
The partnership has become a ‘we’. They have created a shared identity, and at the same time, each partner gives the other the freedom to explore separate interests and to be unique with the partnership.
Maybe the above sounds like a utopia, an impossible thing to create. However, I personally feel honoured to be experiencing such dynamics in many of my work interactions, and with some of the teams I belong to: relationships that are healthy, generous, mutually respectful, and that set the space for worthwhile work done together.
And yes, such collaborative relationships of partnerships and learning require a conscious effort to recommit to, and nurture.
I sincerely hope that I myself am a partner worthwhile being with, not in the best of days, but most days.
*Much appreciation to the team at Pacific Integral for the gift of the experience of a great partnership, and for being a source of inspiration for this writing.