Life and business are a constant struggle with constant collisions with other players in the game. While we all have much room to grow as leaders, the complaints we have about partners and teammates might actually be opportunities to better align the mission and play a bigger game.
My parents divorced when I was 11. It wasn't pretty. They each had enormous individual strengths that never commingled in a way that was good for them or good for my brother and me. Their dysfunctional marriage was the first example of partnership we had to follow. Much of our deeper emotional wounding and our own dysfunctional relationship approach stem from our parents. I took what I learned into my first marriage and created the same disastrous result.
We all teach what we need to learn.
Randy Revell, one of the pioneers of the personal growth industry that grew out of Northern California in the late 70s, said that "the calling springs forth from the wound". Each of us has a kind of cross to bear, a unique form of suffering and a specific way we struggle. In learning how to deal with our core problems, we each develop strength of character and personal mastery in the face of the continual challenges coming our way. The wound is the underlying theme of these challenges and Randy believed that we add value and contribute in those very areas we have felt the greatest character fissures, integrity breakdowns, stress and hurt.
I think my current and past business partners would find it funny that I've recently published a book on collaboration, but dysfunctional partnerships and teams are where I experience my greatest emotional pain and where I have learned to lead through them. I think I can lay some claim, after 30 years of professional practice, that I have become something of an expert in creating highly functional partnerships and teams–for other people.
We deliver the most value in the very areas we have failed the most.
IThe one place I've best applied what I've learned from my past failures is what I just call my "last marriage" (not my second marriage). Tania and I met 25 years ago and we operate as a very effective partnership. The key difference between the first and the last marriage is simply an alignment of missions. Despite some mostly interesting stylistic differences, Tania and I are going the same place for the same reasons and the same speed. We are travel partners, climbing partners, ski partners, golf partners and coming this fall, actual business partners (more on that as our plans evolve).
Misalignments often result in character smears in the partnership.
One of the things I've noticed about poorly aligned partners–whether in business or in marriage– is they often complain about each other, often viciously, and the complaints are usually about perceived character flaws. When I want someone to follow me and they want to go somewhere else, for different reasons, at a different speed or in a different way, it's very easy for me to attribute the gap to her deficiencies as a person rather than with a deficiency in the mission. My ex has created a very successful and happy life that looks very different than what I've created after almost three decades. She is not a bad person and neither am I. We just belonged in different lives and businesses and this is very obvious to our adult children.
Functional relationships overcome personal flaws with good structure.
In the current book in the blindspotting series, my coaching partner Tina Mathas and I profile the very successful and enduring partnership between Jeff Belford, a highly-respected private equity investor from Triwest Capital Partners and Terry Bendera, the visionary CEO of Prostar Energy Services, a company revolutionizing the energy service industry. The conversation is candid, vulnerable and full of useful insights from two people who have great relationship mastery and two people still learning.
You can order yours here. It's a short read, full of big ideas you can use right away to improve the quality of your partnerships. Please share this article with someone that is struggling in a partnership or team. Help is at the ready.