Quite regularly we come across business partners who are opposite to each other. I don’t just mean in a small way, but in big, obvious ways. One is incredibly fast paced and hardly looks at any details, the other deeply focused on the smaller elements, considered and thoughtful. One may be hard to communicate with as they check in relentlessly on progress, the other far more self-motivated when left to their own processes. One is a people person and loves managing, the other wants to just build the business or do the work.
These types of partnerships from the outside look like they might have the potential to self-combust (and many do) but they also can they work beautifully.
The self-combusting opposites
These relationships are the ones that believe only one way of operating works, and it’s theirs. They are frustrated with being asked to operate differently to their normal protocol and cannot see the benefit of looking into their own style. You might see this in the manager who talks openly to their team about their partner’s downsides, like a parent trying to convince their children which side of the divorce to sit on.
If you see this behaviour:
- Ask the person to stop.
- Ask the person to consider their own approach and then to look at the benefits of having both
- Do not add to this negative conversation.
If you are exhibiting this behaviour:
- Take a step back and first look at your own approach to things
- Is there anything you could learn from this other approach?
- Determine what it is the business needs, then discuss with your partner / colleague how you might accomplish that using both your skills and styles.
The productive opposite relationship
The difference we see between those opposite partnerships that work and those that don’t? Self-awareness and lack of ego.
These individuals see and respect the strengths in the other person, and let them thrive. They are aware enough to know that other people do not have the same qualities that they do and therefore, have no expectation that their partner will be able to do what they do. Each person works to their strengths.
They help each other identify areas of the business that are best for them to work on and areas that they are best to keep away from. If there are frustrations (which there still can be), they acknowledge them and work through them with open conversations.
Most importantly, they support each other. When there are other team members who are finding it difficult to work with their partner’s approach, they help them through it. They do not add fuel to the fire.
Finding great partnerships
If you are entering into a new partnership, or perhaps reviewing an existing one, spend some time discussing your strengths and focuses. Ask the other person what they think their greatest traits are and then share yours. Discuss your ‘blind spots’ too (see our earlier blog on this topic) and help each other identify what these are.
Chances are that if you are leading a business together, the wider organisation will be hugely appreciative to have both your styles. We’ve seen businesses fly who have worked this approach out and oftentimes these are partnerships that are formed and last for many years, even across multiple businesses.