Those are pretty strong words, aren’t they? “I hate my husband.” It’s not really true. Well, sometimes it’s true, but it’s moments in time and not all the time. I’ve been married a long time…more then forty years, and I’m sure you’ll agree that you can’t be in a long-term relationship with anyone without times you want to throw that person out of a third-story window. What I’ve learned will help you with your business partners.
There is no way that people can be in a relationship, let along a long-term relationship, and not get aggravated, annoyed, frustrated, and even angry with the other person. It’s true in personal relationships, and it’s true in business relationships. When you are equity parters it’s often like a marriage with all the drama that comes with it. But I’m not just referring to equity partnership, I am talking about any business partnership relationships you have, whether internal or external to your company.
This article isn’t about how to communicate with someone when you are angry with them, it’s about what you need to remember about the relationship in order to get past the emotions. So what have I learned over the forty-plus years when I feel like I don’t like the man I’m married to very much? In fact, tazing him is often a fantasy. I always ask myself the following questions:
- Why did I marry this guy?
- Are the reasons I married him still important to me today?
- Do those values still exist in our relationship?
What was important to me about him when we decided to get married? For me it becomes a values question. Our values about trust, honesty, child raising, family, money…those intangible concepts that create a foundation of a relationship, were the same. We didn’t go into the relationship thinking we could change one another, and we accepted each other where we were different because at the core our values were in synch.
If those values that were important to me many years ago are still important today, then the question is do they still exist in our relationship, or has something changed? Where I consistently land is that they are still important and they haven’t changed for either of us. This knowledge allows me to say to myself “this is just the sh#t we have to get through in the moment to get to the other side”. It’s no longer about me or him, or even the relationship, it’s about dealing with the problem/situation in front of us, however ugly and painful it might be. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything related to the situation, it just means we can ignore that the issue isn’t ‘us’, it’s the problem itself. It removes the drama around the topic.
You can probably see how this works in personal relationships, but maybe you’re wondering how you can apply this to business partners. Let’s start with equity partnerships. As I mentioned above, these relationships are often like a marriage. When you are fighting with your partners or asking yourself why you ever thought it was a good idea to get into business with them, I encourage you to ask yourself a couple of questions.
- What was it about this person (or group) that made me want to go into business with them? It’s more than you were a complimentary skill match that could have been the case with many people, so what about this person or group of people made you say yes to them?
- Are the specifics about them and why you got together still true for you?
- Do those factors still exist in the relationship today? Be careful here not to let your emotions or the negative energy of the circumstances color your thinking.
I suspect that you joined forces with your partners because you believed that you had similar values around money, work/life balance, how you treat other people, reinvesting in the business, relationships, and more. Determining if those values are still important and the same for each of you will help you focus on the core issue and not all the noise that surrounds the problem.
Now if you discover that for one or more of you the values have changed and are no longer compatible you have a different problem to handle. But, if the core values are still comparable, remembering why you embarked on this journey with them will help you move more easily through the muck to get to common ground and a place of understanding.
What happens though if the business partner you have is a team you work with, or an affiliate, or another similar type of relationship? What’s true in a marriage, and even in equity partnerships, is that they have an investment in each other at an emotional level that helps bind them together and work through obstacles together. This same attachment often doesn’t exist in other types of business partner relationships, so my theory doesn’t work does it?
Wait…I admit it doesn’t work exactly the same. How could that be possible? However, there are concepts from those other types of relationships that you can use as you evaluate your situation. What if, instead of focusing on what a jerk they are or how miserable they are to work with, you focused on what’s important about the relationship? A couple of questions to get you started:
- What is important about this relationship in order for it to be successful? Think beyond you having to get along with the, or even having to like the person, what is your role with them and vice versa?
- How can the relationship be a win/win? What do you have to ignore about them in order to accept the relationship?
- Is there a belief about them you need to let go of?
- Are your emotions overshadowing your assessment of the situation?
- What do you need to do/be in this relationship, even if it is with someone you don’t like or respect?
It’s certainly more difficult when your business partner is not someone you chose, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have choices as to how to conduct yourself.
Partnerships are just plain difficult, because we are always dealing with human beings who see the world differently than we do. That being said, I can tell you from personal experience standing in the place of righteous indignation, whether justified or not, will not get you through the problem easily. Remind yourself of what brought you together, and if those needs and values still exist you can focus on the situation rather than the person, which often makes it simpler to get to a positive outcome.
Are you battling with your business partners on company direction, roles, decision making, and just about everything else? Not sure if it can get better? Schedule a complimentary thirty-minute call with Linda to discuss your unique situation and discover if you could benefit from partnership coaching.
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