Resources: Blog Post

March 27, 2016

Are You Good At Business Relationships? 10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Right Now.

Sue Nador 3.24

I’m a management consultant who blogs about romantic relationships. This makes me exceptionally popular at cocktail parties (the “blogger” part I mean). Everyone has a relationship story, dilemma or curiosity and who doesn’t want to talk about juicy topics like the ethics of an affair. But what has become crystal clear is how much romantic relationships parallel business ones.

You are probably someone’s significant other at work—the person who contributes the most to their spirit and success. So, how good are you as a business partner? Here are 10 questions to ask, based on what I’ve learned from writing about romantic relationships.

Do you talk about your expectations, and theirs?

Your business partner is not a mind reader, and mismatched expectations are the death knell of any relationship. It used to drive me crazy when my husband offered to “help” me in the kitchen (oh, I guess I’m the leader then). But rather than fume (a common go-to strategy) about the injustice of division of labour, a better approach may be to take the time to discuss two-way expectations with your business partner in a calm and rational way.

Can you put yourself in their shoes?

It’s ok to have expectations of your business partner, but have you considered what they probably expect from you? Looking at things from their side sometimes demonstrates that things are not as out of whack as we first believe them to be. Perhaps it’s not unreasonable for me to take the lead in the kitchen given my husband takes the lead on so much else. Take stock of your partner’s contribution before you have a melt down over feeling like a martyr.

Do you put “we” ahead of “me”?

Every relationship requires compromises and sacrifices. How well do you put “we” ahead of “me” in your day-to-day and longer-term strategic thinking for the greater good of the business? Do you bully your partner into submission, or do you listen fully and without judgment to their ideas? You have no more ‘right’ to shove a work idea down their throat as you do to insist on spending every Thanksgiving with your family.

Do you celebrate their small victories?

Of course your business partner needs soothing words and a shoulder to cry on during those tough times, like after a complete belly flop in their presentation to the Board. But it makes more of a difference to your relationship to support them in their little day-to-day victories—perhaps they got a compliment from a tough client, or handled internal politics deftly. Would you passively say, “that’s nice dear” when your spouse shares something that excites them, even if it’s not all that exciting to you? Hint: No.

Do you brag about them?

A good partner promotes the work and talents of his or her partner, doesn’t gossip about them behind their back, or steal credit for their work. It always warms my heart when my husband tells people about my blog, and I’m the first to admit he’s the one who drops everything to help the kids with their essays (even though he often has less time than me). A good partner knows enough about the other’s talents and accomplishments to endorse them with conviction.

Do you invest the time?

There is no substitute for being “present” in a marriage or a business. Do you give your business partner your undivided attention when they are speaking, or do you react like a Pavlov dog to a ping on your mobile device? Do you keep your meeting and lunch appointments or do you bail because you are ‘too busy’? By the way, have you noticed that really busy and important people bail less—and make it home for dinner too?

Do you respect boundaries?

Being a business partner doesn’t mean you are entitled to know everything that’s on his or her mind. Some degree of autonomy is important. I don’t quiz my husband on the details of his day, and would be appalled if he snooped on my iPhone. Your business partner is going to pursue opportunities, attend meetings, forge networks independent of you. And as long as he or she is transparent about things that concern you as a team, that’s ok.

Do you provide excitement?

Business relationships can become dull in the same way passionate marriages can turn to flannel and hot cocoa before bed. Do you continue to invest in yourself by stretching your thinking, on-going development, and forging new networks to make yourself ‘exciting’ to your partner (and to yourself)? What are you working on with a passion that is contagious?

Do you fight fair?

Conflicts are inevitable, and make a relationship stronger if handled the right way. Are you direct, objective, and respectful in dealing with conflict—or do you point fingers, throw your partner under the bus, or bring up their past failings ad nauseam? Jabs like, “no sane person thinks this way” doesn’t work any better in the business world than it does at home.

Do you convey optimism about your future?

The world is changing at dizzying speed, and it takes even more dedication to not only keep up, but to distinguish oneself in a competitive space. Are you able to articulate a forward-thinking and ambitious plan for growth that combines and capitalizes on your unique talents and passion? Are you excited about the possibilities you will create together, or are you covertly checking the “personals” as an exit strategy?

Business partnerships require the same commitment and personal accountability as marriage or other significant personal relationships. We all know phenomenal people who end up in seriously flawed relationships at home or at work. That’s life. But if we bring our A-game to our business relationship, chances are the bar will be raised by our own good example for the benefit of the business.

Sue Nador

Originally published on Sue’s weekly blog: The Relationship Deal

Photo credit: Flickr/US Embassy

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