Most entrepreneurs are strong and independent thinkers and the ones who learn to collaborate with others win big. While there is a certain artistic pride in the accomplishment of individual aspirations, the things that make a significant impact tend to come from people working in concert with a common purpose. Complex partnerships and teams achieve even greater aspirations but are highly prone to soul-sucking conflicts and alignments. At the core of this misery is poor agreement creation and execution.
I have climbed more than my share of frozen waterfalls solo without a rope and alone in the back country. That’s about as far away as a team sport as someone can reasonably get.
My introduction to team sports was also on ice. I was ten when it was my turn to play goal against the city champions. Most of our really good players just didn’t bother to show up . I faced wave after wave of breakaways and we lost fourteen to none. I don’t play team sports anymore. I do do things with climbing and biking and golf partners but I've learned to rely on my own skills and judgement. But I know I'm missing out sometimes on something bigger.
Relationships breakdown when agreements fail to deliver mutual value.
We just finished the sixth book in the blindspotting series on the topic of resolving conflicts and misalignments in complex team and partnership situations. The irony is not lost on me. We profile what I think is a very functional relationship between Jeff Belford from the private equity firm Triwest Capital Partners and Terry Bendera from Prostar Energy Services. Triwest invested in Prostar to exploit a massive technology disruption in the rig business. Terry is the CEO and Jeff the board Chair.
Agreements are the backbone of effective human relations.
One of the reasons they work so well together is how they manage their agreements. We use a four-part model to manage the agreement cycle not just between Jeff and Terry but between Terry and the rest of his leadership team. The parts of the cycle are somewhat linear but can be done in parallel and iteratively.
The first part is establishing common interest on some issue of mutual benefit to both parties. This requires getting each person off of their original ideas long enough for each to understand what is really important to the other. Many people jump into negotiating terms right away and get bogged down in conflicts. The second part is getting everyone on the same page literally and this is best done in writing so there are fewer misunderstandings that will sabotage execution of the agreement. The third part is for each side to deliver what they said they were going to deliver. The last part is confirm that each person is at least somewhat happy with how everything went down. This part often gets skipped. A relationship is the repetition and refinement of this cycle over time.
effective teams and partnerships leverage each others strengths.
Each part of the agreement cycle requires conscious and constructive intention. Book six offers more detailed explanation of the methodology and its application to the business partnership between Jeff and Terry–a rare and vulnerable glimpse into a high functioning relationship. Order yours here.