Before you embark on a partnership or alliance for yourself or if you’re in one already, take the time to complete the following Challenge.
While this is a lengthy exercise, it will increase your awareness of your natural abilities and vulnerabilities in collaborative relationships. Successful partnerships and alliances depend on complete honesty, open communication, self-awareness, and a commitment to resolve conflicts for mutual benefit.
Challenge: Your Collaborative Profile
The following questions are meant to raise your consciousness of the important issues to ponder before you initiate a collaboration, or to help you improve your relationship with potential or present partners or people with whom you already have an alliance. Be totally candid in your answers. Have you ever been called any of the following adjectives or do you know them to be true about yourself? Check off any adjectives that apply. Note that many of these adjectives are purposely negative to help you confront your weaknesses:
- overly nice
- laid back
- too quiet
- a conflict-avoider
- a flip-flop decision-maker
- a loner
- a team-player
- a clear communicator
- a person of integrity
- a people-person
- Group your adjectives together and analyze the patterns. Now, tell the truth. If someone else thinks you’re a loner, is it true or false? Sometimes we are accused of things by other people that simply are not true. Which adjectives are accurate and which are not? Sort them out by category. For example, if you have a pattern of adjectives that point to being bossy, domineering, and insensitive, then collaborations could prove difficult for you without some planning and coaching. Note your strengths and the positive qualities that you bring to the table in relationships. Partnering is a match-up process.
- Are you by nature an extrovert or an introvert? Extroverts love to process ideas with others and feel energized by groups, while introverts think of plenty of ideas on their own and can work for long hours independently. Some of us are also a balance of the two extremes. Perhaps we are extroverted at work but more introverted at home or in a transition of some sort, needing different kinds of experiences with people. Log your behavior for two weeks and see what kinds of interactions you want or don’t want with others.
- Honestly review your relationship history with partners, groups or organizations. If you have a history of failed partnerships, what makes you think you even want to partner with someone? How do you need to change to make a relationship work? On the other hand, if you have a long history of collaborations, that’s an encouraging sign. What kinds of people have you worked best with? How well have you managed conflicts with others? Also, how do you connect and disconnect from relationships? Do you end things on a friendly note or in a courtroom? Your relationship record has much to teach you.
- Are you a good listener or a poor one? What is your communication style—quiet, succinct, aggressive or terse? Do you need to learn some improved ways of communicating effectively?
- Are you able to assertively express your thoughts and feelings to others or do you hide your real opinions?
- Are you an effective negotiator? Can you mediate on your own behalf as well as for others?
- What irritates you most about other people? How well do you handle these challenges?
- What characteristics in yourself do you feel most defensive or vulnerable about? Think back to a few times when people have really “pushed your buttons” and how you handled it.
- Do you enjoy the people aspects of managing others, i.e., advising, training, listening, joint problem-solving, etc? If not, spare yourself and them the agony of working for you. But if you want to be a positive people manager, get some coaching or training.
- What kinds of people energize you and what kinds of people drain you?
- What kinds of social events or leisure activities do you enjoy sharing with people?
- What parts of your work do you love and want to do on your own?
- What kinds of work do you enjoy sharing with others and in what format?
- Are you able to effectively delegate tasks?
- What tasks in your work/business do you least enjoy or truly dislike and would prefer to have someone else handle? What kinds of skills or experience in another person would compliment your talents and preferences? Do you really want a business partner or just a referral source or another kind of affiliation?
- What models of partnership appeal to you? Describe your vision of what kind of model would work well for you, given your personality, work style, needs and relationship history.
- How well do you handle money? What sales and marketing abilities do you have? What kind of knowledge do you have about accounting, bookkeeping or financial planning? Are you a tightwad or overly generous? How do you or have you handled financial negotiations in other relationships? What kinds of safeguards do you need around money to make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of? Do you have a reputation for cheating people? What kind of financial skills do you want to learn or need help with? What are your “hot buttons” around money? Do you have a prosperity mind-set or a scarcity mind-set?
From these questions, compile a list of both strengths and potential pitfalls for yourself. Use them as a guide to making decisions about potential collaborations. They will prevent many of the stumbling blocks that ruin relationships and businesses.
There are many tragic stories of both personal and business relationships that ended as lawsuits or feuds, costly both emotionally and financially. Several of the women I interviewed had tales of betrayal and dishonesty in their history but chose not to include them in this book. Yes, there are clearly some lessons to learn from them. First, integrity and respect are essential ingredients of any positive partnership. If one person lies, withholds information, or blackmails the other person, disaster is the result. In my opinion, the vital foundation for a solid relationship is self-knowledge on the part of each person involved and a commitment to joint abundance. Some people should never be partners with anyone; they can’t be trusted to work collaboratively, to tell the truth, or negotiate conflicts with respect and mutuality. One woman told the story of a male partner who had so many secrets from his partners that he was constantly getting caught in his own lies.
In my professional practice, I have coached numerous potential business partners out of teaming up together. I often use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an inventory of preferences, as a discussion tool, and have both partners compare scores and workstyles. I also use the collaboration profile above to help me to screen out potential conflict areas with them. (While this profile is comprehensive, be sure to acquire any legal or business advice you need before moving forward). Sometimes it also helps to “try on” a relationship first, e.g., work on one project together and see how you cooperate and communicate.